Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Flash Facts: The Early Days of Dr. Alchemy

A Flash foe that wasn't really a part of the rogues, and barely appeared in Flash comics of the Silver Age, Dr. Alchemy was still a deadly mix to any Flash story, and quite the threat to Barry Allen and his friends.

Here's a showcase of his early history....

Master Of The Elements

Al Desmond first appeared in Showcase #13 (March-April, 1958 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia) taking on the Flash with his henchmen, robbing jewelry stores as Mr. Element, using his knowledge of the elements to throw obstacles in the way of the super-speedster, even sending Flash into Barry time to figure out a way to defeat his elemental foe.

But, what does this tale (reprinted in the Flash Annual #1 of 1963, Flash Archives #1 of 1996, Flash Annual Replica of 2001, Flash Chronicles #1 of 2009, Flash Omnibus #1 of 2014 and the Flash: The Silver Age of 2016) to do with Dr. Alchemy?

The Man Who Changed The Earth

Dr. Alchemy premiered in Showcase #14 (May-June, 1958 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia), as Al Desmond escaped prison, armed with the knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone from his cellmate, Ben Sniper, which allowed the owner of it to transmute elements.  Taking on the new identity of Dr. Alchemy, Al embarked on another crime spree, with the Flash (alerted by reporter Iris West), but it took some time and a few little battles for Barry to finally figure out a way to take down the newly powered villain, and Flash throws the stone into space.

This tale was reprinted in 80 Page Giant #9 of 1965, , Flash Archives #1 of 1996, Flash Chronicles #1 of 2009, Flash Omnibus #1 of 2014 and the Flash: The Silver Age of 2016.  

A Little Crisis

Dr. Alchemy must have found a way to get his stone back, maybe with some help from his new friends of the Crime Champions (like Felix Faust or the Wizard) in Justice League of America #21 and #22 (August and September, 1963).

More on the Crime Champions can be read here, but it took the heroes of two worlds to defeat these villains (including Flashes Barry Allen and Jay Garrick, as members of the Justice League and Justice Society), all in their first Crisis together!

Our Enemy, The Flash

Al Desmond returned again in Flash #147 (September, 1964 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella), this time reformed, with no plans to restart his criminal career (planning instead to marry the lovely Rita)....until Al gets hypnotized by the Reverse-Flash, and reset as an evil man, as part of a plan to have Desmond stabilize an "Element Z", to give Professor Zoom his super-speed powers again.  This leads Mr. Element into conflict with the Flash, in which Al is successful, makes an amulet of "Element Z" to power Eobard Thawne, who escapes back to the 25th Century, leaving Mr. Element to hang for his crimes (but Flash follows him there, defeats Reverse-Flash, and comes back home to clear Al's name, and prevent Thawne from having the amulet as well).

This tale was reprinted in Flash Archives #6 of 2012.

The Mightiest Punch Of All Time

Reverse-Flash finds a way out of prison by fooling an examination machine in the 25th Century in Flash #153 (June, 1965 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella), and plans to come back to the 20th Century to enact revenge on Barry Allen, by turning Al Desmond evil again, and getting the mayor of Central City to outlaw super speed!  This makes it touch for Barry to defeat Eobard Thawne, but he does, hitting Professor Zoom so hard he loses his vibrations which sends the time traveler back to the 25th Century.  Flash also takes the newly criminalized Mr. Element there, where scientists are able to cure Al Desmond of his criminal tendencies (and Al Desmond is able to marry Rita sometime after this, as revealed in Al's next appearance, not as a villain, in Flash #165 of 1966, but that tale does involve the Reverse Flash, so read more on it here!).

This tale is reprinted in Flash #196 of 1970.  

The Curse Of The Dragon's Eye

Al Desmond returns as Mr. Element in Flash #216 (June, 1972 by Cary Bates, Irv Novick, Frank McLaughlin and Dick Giordano), turned back into a criminal and using a gun which can transmute elements.  It was a ring that Al wears which turned him evil again, where this ring has had influence from the stars (and that Al has had this hanging over him his whole life, with a flashback to his parents, Professor and Mrs. Peter Desmond), and if Barry wasn't able to stop him, Mr. Element could have become a human nova, ending all life on Earth in a fiery blaze!  Thankfully, Barry was able to save Rita's husband in time.  Al and Rita even have time for a peaceful meeting with Barry (at least for them) in Flash #221 of 1973.
Sadly, this tale has yet to have been reprinted. 

The Fury Of The Fire-Demon

Dr. Alchemy returns in Flash #230 (November-December, 1974 by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin), with Al being possessed by a demon named Vadtara, resuming his evil identity and battling the Flash with a slightly more magical use of his alchemical least until Barry finds a way to save the day, freeing Al from the demon's influence, and pretty much ending the criminal career of Al Desmond for a time, and being a good place to stop the issue by issue look at the life of Al Desmond as Mr. Element and Dr. Alchemy.

This tale has not yet been reprinted.

Dr. Alchemy vs. Mr. Element

Dr. Alchemy returned later in Flash's life as well, and even faced off against Mr. Element?  This odd tale took some time, and is something to be looked at later as Al Desmond and the life of Dr. Alchemy take an odd turn, turning into something else....the basic idea of alchemy!

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