On February 11, 2006 “Flash and Substance” debuted. It was the premiere episode of Justice League Unlimited and in it the Flash was honored for his heroism with a celebration dubbed “Flash Appreciation Day.” Every year since, fans of the Scarlet Speedster celebrate the day.
On the tenth anniversary of this episode, ourselves and eight other websites are paying honor not just to the Flash, but also helping raise awareness for his creators, and all of the comic creators in need of help. Today, we’re asking for you to help chip and help support The Hero Initiative.
Formed in 2000, the Hero Initiative is a nonprofit that helps as a “financial safety net” for comic creators. In 2001 it was officially a nonprofit and since then they’ve granted over $700,000 to over 50 comic vets helping with emergency medical aid, financial support, and an avenue back into paying work. As they say on their website, “it’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.”
Created during the Golden Age of comics in January 1940, The Flash first appeared in Flash Comics #1 published at the time by All-American Publications. Writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert have the credit and their creation is still known today, not just by his superhero alter ego, but his regular name of Jay Garrick, a character that has a prominent role on today’s television series The Flash.
But, there’s been many iterations and people who have donned the mask. The one that might be most familiar to people is the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. First appearing in Showcase #4 in October 1956, this second Flash was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino.
Kanigher is a name many comic fans are probably are unfamiliar with. Not as well known as Siegel, Shuster, Kane, or Finger, Kanigher ushered in the Silver Age of Comics and rebooted characters such as The Flash and Wonder Woman, he also created the Batman villain Poison Ivy and also the character Ragman (along with creator Joe Kubert), as well as a major impact on classic “war comics.” In 2014 Kanigher was recognized with the Bill Finger Award, 12 years after he had passed.
Infantino had a long career, not just as a penciler, but also as DC Comics editorial director in the late 60s and DC Comics’ publisher in the 1970s. Infantino would also create another Flash, Wally West, as well as a large part of his supporting cast including Iris West, Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, as well as Elongated Man and Batgirl. In 2004 he sued DC Comics and Time Warner for the rights of those characters, which he created while a freelancer. He withdrew the lawsuit shortly after as the case was settled out of court for an unknown sum.
And that gets us back to the Hero Initiative. Looking at the latest issue of The Flash, or the television series, you wouldn’t know the names Gardner Fox, Harry Lampert, Robert Kanigher, or Carmine Infantino. While their names are listed in IMDB, they have never benefited from the cross media explosion of the characters they created. In other words, while DC and Time Warner have made millions from the Flash, the creators behind him have not and never will.
It’s unfortunate that something like the Hero Initiative has to exist, creators should be treated fairly, but we live in reality not fantasy and there is a need. The concepts of creators rights were foreign, with it being the late 70s and 80s before they become a movement, and the idea of those creations being on the big or small or computer screen were decades away for some. Many never benefited from their creations while their bosses did. That’s reality.
Be a hero like the Flash, there’s a lot you can do to help creators, the easiest being chip in $5 and help support them. It’s a small thanks for the enjoyment they’ve given us.