With so many epic, life-changing events happening here in the late spring/early summer (high school and college graduations, weddings, etc.), this might be as good a time as any to look at three more random aspects of superhero comics that made an EPIC, LIFE-CHANGING impact on me (or, at the very least, are pretty cool. In a random kind of way).
1. The Cosmic Treadmill: Once you accepted that Barry Allen could invent a ring that shrunk, stored, and expanded his Flash costume, its was easy to accept that this same forensic scientist could also figure out a way to break through the time barrier! Making its debut in Flash #125 (1961), the Cosmic Treadmill converted Barry Allen's tremendous speed into specific vibrations that could launch him forward in time, backward in time, or to alternate dimensions. Sure, it looked just like any treadmill you'd see down at the gym...and the concept of mechanical gears being able to withstand reality-melting friction was patently ridiculous... but those are exactly the reasons why I love comic book contraptions like the Cosmic Treadmill. Utterly nutty, but if it could allow a man to literally run through time, I'm all in.
2. Kirby Krackle: Of all the many contributions of artist Jack Kirby, one of his greatest wasn't a specific character or concept...but a visual effect! During his 1960's stint at Marvel Comics, Kirby gradually developed a technique using formations of simple dots to give the illusion of seething power or vast cosmic energies. Many artist adopted the technique, but nobody could lay down the krackle quite like King Kirby (click the covers for a larger view).
3. Spider-Man's "I am SO screwed" thought balloons: Covers of the 1970's were probably the wordiest in comic book history, most of them featuring heroes blurting out some kind of alarming Statement of the Obvious to amp up the drama. Of all that wonderful melodramatic dialogue, my favorite remains the "I am SO screwed" thought balloons of Spider-Man. Yeah, every hero engaged in this sort of pessimistic cover-talk from time to time, but Spider-Man's hard-luck "Charlie Brown" status only seemed to amplify the almost comically pessimistic attitude he exhibited on so many covers. Which just goes to show you, with great power comes great melancholy!
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