The Retro Cover of the Week: The Flash of 1971 tries to keep his wife from going back to the future

The Flash Vol 1, #203, February 1971, DC Comics, Cover by Neal Adams.

"The Flash Vol 1, #203" cover by Neal Adams

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the ‘70s, a decade when squeaky spinner racks were full of comics costing 15-20 cents, which were still printed on cheap, pulp paper that yellowed with age.

Eventually I am sure I will get beyond the early 1970s to show other covers and artists from the rest of the decade, but the first few years were very dynamic and game-changing in many ways, with the arrival of Neal Adams. Adams brought with him his ad agency experience and knowledge of printing techniques that were not yet being put into practice in the down-and-dirty comics industry. One technique Adams loved to experiment with was merging illustration with photography, placing DC heroes in the real streets of New York City.

One effective example of this is the first copy of The Flash I ever owned, issue #203. The cover perfectly captured the drama and emotion of the interior story about Barry Allen (The Flash) discovering his wife Iris was actually a woman displaced in time, and she was mysteriously being pulled 1000 years back to the future, depicted in a brilliantly simple split-screen design. Adams’ cover was so realistic looking, with the anguished Flash desperately trying to hold on to his wife as she was slipping out of his grasp into a city in a far distant era (with bizarrely beautiful Neal Adams architecture, hairdos, and fashions!), it was both fascinating and horrifying to my empathetic young self. Fifteen cents was a very small price to pay to find out what this story was about!

Adams very capably shaded and colored The Flash and Iris to blend in with the people and background in the black-and-white photo, which was also expertly colorized to merge seamlessly. Today, this type of photo manipulation is commonplace, but in 1971, this was cutting-edge comics art and printing fool-the-eye special effects.

Next week: A cover from the 1980s!

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