Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Flashpoint Flashback

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 14th, 2011

DC Comics has begun to bombard its core audience with teasers and other promotional hyperbole for its next big summer event book, Flashpoint. Taking its cues from the success of the Green Lantern-centered Blackest Night event book, this time around, the story is going to be built around the publisher’s Flash family of characters. Judging from the teasers, the story will feature alternate-reality versions of DC’s super-hero icons. Sounds like it could be fun. We’ll have to wait and see what writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert have in store.

What some readers may not realize is that this isn’t the first time DC has published a limited series entitled Flashpoint. And that previous series also featured alternate-reality versions of familiar super-hero characters. Flashpoint was a three-part series released in late 1999. Published under DC’s then-active Elseworlds imprint, it was written by Pat McGreal and illustrated by Norm Breyfogle. I had a vague memory of not only reading the series, but reviewing it as well. A quick web search revealed that I did write about the comic (or at least the first issue) during my days as a staff writer for the now-defunct comics website Psycomic.

I’ve reproduced it below. The original, brief review is followed by a couple of new comments.

Flashpoint v.1 #1
DC Comics/Elseworlds imprint
Writer: Pat McGreal
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Colors: Noelle Giddings
Letters: Rick Parker
Cover artists: Stuart Immonen & Jose Marzan Jr.
Editors: Paul Kupperberg & Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics/Elseworlds imprint
Price: $2.95 US/$4.50 CAN

Elseworlds has proven itself to be one of DC’s more interesting endeavors. It’s brought us Kingdom Come and JLA: The Nail, and I would presume, it’s brought DC some nice profits. Flashpoint is perhaps the strongest Elseworlds limited series yet, not only because of the strong story, but because it’s not in the expensive prestige format.

In 1956, the Flash — the first super-hero in this Elseworld — appeared and quickly made the world a better place. Within a few years, the Scarlet Speedster helped to bring down the Berlin Wall and to prevent war in Vietnam. He also saved the life of President John F. Kennedy, but at the cost of his own mobility. Today, a downtrodden and quadriplegic Barry Allen is an industrialist whose interests extend as far as Mars, where one employee, Dr. Wally West, uncovers an artifact that accelerates his own metabolism.

The above synopsis only scratches the surface of what’s going on in this comic. Vandal Savage is a corporate ally and a friend to Allen. Most of the Flash’s Rogues work for Savage or Allen. Detective Ralph Dibny has been hired by a mysterious stranger — obviously the Martian Manhunter — to find out what’s going on on Mars. McGreal has assembled a rich story that surprises the reader in every panel.

Breyfogle is best known for his work on Batman and Detective Comics years ago. He was the reason I read those comics at the time, and I’m delighted to see him back on monthly basis, even if it is only on a short-term basis. Just as he captured the darkness and mystery of the Batman, he depicts the speed and wonder of the Flash just as well. To be honest, though I liked the Stuart Immonen/Jose Marzan, Jr. cover, I was disappointed Breyfogle didn’t handle it himself.

Flashpoint represents a goal for which DC should have strived long ago: an affordable Elseworlds book. McGreal has captured the sense of the epic that make such books so popular, and I imagine there’s a good chance more people will read this book thanks to the price. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. 10/10

2011 comments: This comic book was priced at about $3 US 12 years ago, and today, we see DC renewing its commitment to that price point. In this context, it might strengthen the argument for $4 pricing (but let’s hope not). And speaking of pricing, look at that Canadian price! Today, the Canadian and U.S. dollars are at parity. The notion that Canadians would have to pay 50 per cent more for their comics seems like a ludicrous idea. Of course, I wonder if DC, Marvel Comics or Diamond Comics Distributors might be able to access Canadian sales data from that era to determine if $4 (or more) for a standard comic was a viable price.

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One Response to “Flashpoint Flashback”

  1. Aussiesmurf Says:

    Just on the price comparison :

    The Australian dollar is at practical parity with the U.S. dollar, but because all comics are imported, my LCS charges as follows (and these prices are AFTER a 10% discount for being a regular order customer) :

    $2.99 US = $4.45 Australian
    $3.99 US = $5.95 Australian

    So remember this next time someone from the US complains about price points!