Welcome to the latest installment in our series of annotations of classic DC Comics stories starring the Flash!
We’re taking a break from The Trial of the Flash to look at Super-Team Family #15 (December 1977), written by Gerry Conway and featuring a team-up between Flash and The New Gods! This book contains major unheralded moments in the history of both Flash and The New Gods, as well as foundations for future stories that would go untold. Links to artwork and research are included throughout this post. For previous annotations, click here!
COVER: José Luis García-López is featured. He was involved with four Flash covers in the Bronze Age, inking two and earning full credit for two others. Orion is planet-sized, for perspective.
Before we get started, a little background on why we chose to spotlight this story. First off, there were a couple other original stories in the short-lived Super-Team Family title featuring Flash:
Those were fun stories, however issue #15 is quite notable. It features two of DC’s signature properties in a first-time team-up and at least two major moments in New Gods lore that seem to have faded into obscurity. When Final Crisis began and Barry Allen’s return was announced, I was certain this story would be critical to explaining his resurrection. I am a Fourth World novice so I’ve enlisted the help of a learned fan for this post, but if you have any corrections or insights please feel free send them along or post in the comments. Off we go!
PG 1: The story begins In medias res, with Flash and Lightray in outer space. Flash’s comment “If only the Justice League were on Earth…” does not appear to be a reference to a specific storyline. It is interesting that there was no issue of Justice League of America published in December 1977, which was a great month when you look at what was hitting stands. Maybe everyone was at Superman vs. Muhammad Ali?
PG 2 & 3: Orion is suspended between the Earth and the Moon, “like some awesome, ill-shaped planetoid.” He continues to grow, already half the size of the Earth. Conway is joined by Arvell Jones and Romeo Tanghal on pencils and inks, respectively. Jones is perhaps best known for his 18 issues of All-Star Squadron from 1984 to 1987. Tanghal is credited in over 500 DC issues and was the main inker for George Pérez on The New Teen Titans.
The term “Gulliver Effect” has been used in fields as disparate as economics and psychology. Interestingly, Fourth World architect Jack Kirby had used the same title in Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth! #31. The term itself is a reference to Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
PG 4: Metron joins the party. Lightray explains that Orion is being kept alive by his Mother Box. Metron suggests Flash should explore the device, noting that a Mother Box is also allowing Flash to communicate and move in the vacuum of space.
PG 5: Flash vibrates inside of the Mother Box in a sequence that provides the first look at the inner workings of the fabled device. Fourth World fan Ellen Igor was kind enough to provide some commentary and insight, and confirmed that to her knowledge no diagrams nor other such depictions had appeared prior to 1977. This scene is similar to one in Flash # 290, where Barry Allen vibrates into the Central City Police Lab computer to “find” a piece of information. Jezebelle was not a Jack Kirby creation and is a pretty obscure New God.
PG 6 & 7: Mother Box almost immediately expels Flash. Metron then produces a Boom Tube, destination…”Orion’s mind!” He emerges, recalling only two images: “Darkseid on Apokolips…and the Promethean Galaxy!”
PG 8 & 9: Lightray flashes-back forty-eight hours. An editor’s note points readers to The Return of the New Gods, which is the 1977 continuation of the original Kirby New Gods series. The first series ended in 1972, but the numbering was maintained when it resumed. Here is a great recap of those years, though it refers to this particular issue as “unessential.” Orion’s “dual heritage”: Darkseid is his father, yet he was raised by Highfather on New Genesis (in exchange for Scott Free, a.k.a. Mr. Miracle). Orion’s Mother Box also conceals the physical attributes he inherited from Darkseid. A water demon, referred to here as “elementals…evil personified…the most potent agents of the dissembler Darkseid!”, attacks Orion. Check out this page at KirbyMuseum.org for a complete rundown (including scans) on Orion’s Astro-Force, which is on display here.
PG 10 & 11: The New Gods were spending a lot of time on Earth those days. Here’s why, per The Masked Bookwyrm:
The arc of the [Return of the New Gods] series is that evil Darkseid has deduced that the anti-Life formula (for which he has long sought) resides in the sub-conscious of six humans — so it falls to hero Orion and various other New Gods to protect them. The various familiar New Gods split up, each to bodyguard a different charge.
Orion crashes in the desert, unconscious, and begins to grow uncontrollably.
PG 12: Metron arrives in Barry Allen’s lab, requesting his aid on behalf of Highfather. Flashing back to the present, the two New Gods and Flash plan a trip to the Promethean Galaxy. Metron is concerned.