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Showcase #4 was a big hit. You could say it sold out in a “flash”, if you wanted to be a real unfunny prick about it. Point is, DC Comics knew they had something on their hands with the Silver-Age Flash. DC rushed to get Flash back into the pages of Showcase, and fit in two Flash stories in issue 8. In a sure sign that DC wasn’t sure who or what would sell a comic, the cover story for Showcase #8 is for the Flash story The Secret of the Empty Box!, in which Flash goes up against a bunch of thieves dressed like magicians. Not a great story, and as far as I know, these thieves never showed up again.
The second story - the one that really should have been the cover, in my opinion - was The Coldest Man on Earth! This short story introduced Leonard Snart, a common criminal who was looking for a way to deal with Flash in case they should ever cross paths. While reading the paper (I’m guessing it was the Central City Citizen, though you can’t see the name of the paper in the comic), Snart comes across an article about an article that will be published in a science magazine about Flash. Instead of waiting a few days for the magazine (the name of the magazine, by the by, is Scientific Magazine) to come out, Snart breaks into the offices of the mag and steals a copy of the article. This seems like an unnecessary crime to me, but I’m not a criminal, so what do I know?
From the Scientific Magazine article, Snart learns that scientists believe Flash could be beaten with a cyclotron. Snart decides to break into the Central City Cyclotron lab and douse a gun he designed with radiation from the cyclotron. At first, Snart thinks his plan failed, but when he accidentally fires the gun at a security guard, the security guard is frozen in place. Snart, realizing that his gun can freeze things instantly, goes home, makes a costume, and comes up with a name.
Snart also builds a base out of ice, which seems weird: it isn’t like he’s now immune to the cold.
Captain Cold also figures out that, with his new cold gun, he can create mirages (the thought being that, as with the heat in a desert making people see things, the reverse - someone entering an extremely cold, near absolute zero area - would have the same effect). The first mirage the not-so-good Captain creates is a polar bear, which seems a little on the nose, but whatever.
With his cold gun in-hand and a new name, Captain Cold goes out to rob a bank and beat Flash. Captain Cold freezes the entire building, uses a little hammer to destroy the vault door, and fills his pockets with cold, hard cash. Then he freezes the ground and makes Flash slide around like a goof, and gets away. Boy was Flash peeved!
In their next encounter, only a few days later, Captain Cold lured Flash to the park, setting up a frozen area. Almost as soon as Flash enters Cold’s lair, he begins to hallucinate. The first mirage Flash sees - and I haven’t worked out the deeper meaning of this - is a series of autonomous escalators (or as Flash calls them, traveling staircases - were they called that at some point in time?) that surround Flash. Flash runs around in a circle, which causes the escalators to go away. The second mirage Flash sees is a pretty awesome looking merry-go-round of weird creatures.
They’re all horse-based, sure, but man those things are neat-looking! Carmine Infantino, one of the greatest Flash artists of all time, has never really been given the credit I think he deserves for his stranger creations. This next image isn’t from Flash but I think it shows how awesome Infantino’s monster designs were…
Anyway, the third mirage Flash sees is a series of buzzsaws. Flash figures out that what he’s seeing are hallucinations, and he - being the hero that he is - beats Captain Cold.
When Flash moved from Showcase to his own book, it wasn’t long before Captain Cold showed up again. Cold set up what became a recurring format to Flash villains: they were basically bank robbers with gadgets, almost like lighthearted versions of Batman’s villains. Unlike Batman’s enemies, Flash’s decided to team up in order to try and take down the fastest man alive. They called themselves the Rogues.
The Rogues stuck to some simple rules, with rule number one being: “No killing”. Snart knew that if they were to start killing people, Flash would have to get real serious with them. Pretty quickly, the focus for The Rogues went from bank robbers to guys who mainly showed up just to mess with Flash. They wanted to one-up him, to show him they were better, which turns out to be exactly what Flash wanted: as long as Captain Cold and his team were focused on the Scarlet Speedster, the citizens of Central City were pretty safe.
The Rogues were so buddy-buddy that Captain Cold didn’t mind when one teammate started dating his sister, Lisa Snart. Lisa was a professional figure skater who went by the name Lisa Star. She met Leonard’s brother-in-arms, Roscoe Dillon (aka The Top), and asked for his help with her chosen profession. Dillon had taught himself to spin so fast that he could deflect bullets (I suppose he also taught himself how to not vomit from spinning endlessly, but that was never really talked about in the comics). In a storyline that would later be ripped off by the classic film, The Cutting Edge, the good girl ice skater fell for the bad boy, and vice versa. It must have been true love for Lisa to look at this guy and not snicker.
Sadly, and through no fault of the Flash, the Top died in battle. His ability to spin real fast stirred his brain up and gave Roscoe psionic powers. These newly activated brain cells died when Top came within close proximity of Flash, due to Flash’s own weird vibrations. Roscoe Dillon died a few days after his final battle with Flash. Lisa Snart didn’t take it well, and she promised to get her revenge. Lisa became the supervillain Golden Glider.
Leonard wasn’t too keen on his sister taking on Flash alone, so he made sure to always be there with her.
Snart’s reasons for being so protective of his sister have more to do with guilt than familial love. When they were children, Leonard and Lisa’s father was abusive. Shortly after the death of their grandfather, who protected the siblings from their father, Leonard ran off leaving Lisa to fend for herself. The guilt weighed on him, and Leonard swore to keep her safe from then on. So it was that Captain Cold and Golden Glider became constant thorns in Flash’s side.
Then Flash died saving all of existence during the classic series Crisis on Infinite Earths. Kid Flash (Wally West) became Flash, and the Snarts didn’t really have any beef with him, so they went straight and became bounty hunters. They would even save Wally’s life once, which was real nice of them. The other Rogues also went into retirement, but once a year, they would get together and reminisce over the good old days when they would fight Barry Allen, and how Barry was, all in all, a pretty nice guy. They even invited Wally to one of these reunions.
Sadly, the quiet life would not last for Leonard and Lisa Snart. Leonard and some of the other Rogues sold their souls to a demon called Neron during the event series Underworld Unleashed. Flash got their souls back for them, but not before Golden Glider decided to go her own way. With her brother refusing to go back to crime, Lisa found a few airheaded bohunks, made a costume for them to wear, gave them Leonard’s gear, and called them Chillbaine. Lisa would use these guys more as a distraction for Flash so she could get away rather than actual partners in crime. One airheaded bohunk was a little less airheaded than the previous Chillbaines and figured out what Golden Glider was doing, so he killed her.
Leonard Snart found this particular Chillbaine, froze his skin so that he couldn’t move but was still alive, and pushed him out a window to his death. Yes, this did break Captain Cold’s “No killing” rule, but I think we can understand his actions, even if we don’t agree with them.
Along with The Rogues, Captain Cold started a new era of crime in Central City, causing all kinds of headaches for Flash. Still, The Rogues did not kill, they knew better (for now).
As it tends to be with Flashes, Wally vanished during another Crisis (Infinite Crisis) and was replaced by Barry Allen’s grandson, Bart. Bart didn’t last long, either due to readers hating the way the book was being done, or because DC had a plan to bring back Wally all along; it all depends on who you want to believe (personally, I don’t think DC was planning to bring Wally back. Dan Didio, the big cheese of DC Comics, wasn’t a fan of Wally being married with kids and wanted that aspect of Flash to go away. Two years after Wally came back, Barry returned, pushing Wally to the wayside). Either way, Bart’s run as Flash lasted for 13 months*.
The Rogues killed him. It made no sense in the comic. It made such little sense, in fact, that the next time The Rogues showed up, even they were confused as to what happened. Still, they knew that what they did was a step too far, and the Rogues, including Captain Cold, were on the run from every speedster in the DC Universe, as well as the Justice League.
Captain Cold showed up a few more times before DC Comics rebooted everything with New 52. While it was never explicitly stated, in order to atone for their sins the Rogues started to show up during major events to help protect Central City. This concept for The Rogues would follow them into the New 52. They would still fight Flash from time to time, but mainly they pop up in order to help protect people. Captain Cold is, as with everything in the New 52, more “gritty” than he was before. In one story, Cold freezes the leg of a person he is fighting, then kicks the guy’s leg off. Kinda messed up.
During the event series Forever Evil where the Justice League is defeated by the Injustice Society from Earth-3, the villains of the DC Universe, led by Lex Luthor, save the world. Captain Cold and the Rogues save Central City from an invasion of Gorilla Grodd and his army of super intelligent apes. The Rogues then broke into the headquarters of the Injustice League and, alongside Lex Luthor and Black Adam, beat the hell out of them. After Forever Evil Captain Cold was pardoned for his crimes and joined the Justice League.
Captain Cold has powers in the New 52 reality, though he did use the cold gun at some point. It is made clear early on that The Rogues all went through a procedure to gain powers, though most of them now regret it. Oh, and Leonard got a new costume.
Lisa, meanwhile, is not dead in the New 52. She almost died from a brain tumor, but she made it through. When she was last seen, Lisa had gained metahuman powers and was putting together a team to take on Flash. Captain Cold and Pied Piper** stopped her.
I’m a fan of Captain Cold in the comics. I like that he - along with the other Rogues - really stands out from the comics' other baddies. The “No killing” thing is a big part of it, but the addition of The Rogues showing up to help the heroes from time to time is a great touch. I like that Snart takes pride in his city and gets pissed when people from the outside mess with it. Writer Geoff Johns deserves a lot of the credit for making Captain Cold more of a three-dimensional character. He really took to Leonard during his time writing Flash, and it showed. In reality, Johns was the first person to really make good use of The Rogues in decades. Johns is the current writer of Justice League, so I think we know why Snart is part of the team.
On the TV series, we’ve seen Leonard and Lisa Snart a few times now, and overall, I like them. I do wish that Lisa was more like the comic version, with the skates and whatnot, but I get why she isn’t. I do like the way they’ve done Captain Cold’s costume on the show, which makes me all the more bummed that Golden Glider looks so blah
Also, it wasn’t until I found this pic that I ever noticed the weird ribbing on Flash’s butt. Is that ribbing? I don’t know much about fabrics and that kind of thing. Whatever it is, it looks kooky.
In the latest episode (A Family of Rogues), the show’s writers did a great job of using the Snart family. The way Leonard and Lisa’s father was presented was dark: it retained the "abusive father" thing as part of the character, but the episode itself never got too grim and gritty (which is impressive considering a guy’s head explodes). I really like the way the relationship between Barry and Leonard has formed over the course of the episodes featuring Cold; the uneasy respect they have for each other shines through nicely.
Oh, and before all the talk talk talk starts, I want to be clear - Captain Cold made his first appearance a decade before Mister Freeze. The Icicle, who I think was the first cold based supervillain in comics, appeared in 1947, twenty years before Captain Cold.
*The Bart Allen Flash series, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive was written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, the guys behind the 90’s Flash TV show. The comic was pretty terrible. It had the distinct feeling of a comic that was being messed up by editorial decisions, something DC would be accused of often in recent years, most famously by Rob Liefeld and George Perez, both of whom returned to DC at the start of New 52 and left shortly after because of the problems they had with DC’s higher ups constantly changing their minds on what they wanted. George Perez claimed that when he was writing the New 52 Superman, DC editorial couldn’t tell him if Ma and Pa Kent were alive or dead. This is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why the New 52 ended up falling flat for DC.
I think it's only right that I also mention that George Perez said the problems he was having did not come from Dan Didio, who was no longer the last word at DC. If Dan Didio, who at the time was (and I believe still is) Co-Publisher of DC with Jim Lee, wasn’t the last word, then who was? I don’t think Jim Lee would be the guy causing these issues either - Jim Lee left Marvel over editorial issues in the 90s, and was one of the founders of Image Comics. He formed his own publisher, Wildstorm, which he ran for over a decade. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to meddle constantly. Someone get the Question on this conspiracy quick!
**In the comics, Pied Piper is in a relationship with Captain David Singh, Barry’s boss. On the show, Captain Singh is still gay, but he is not with Piper. Sad face.