FLASH Facts: Samuroids

Possibly the most racist Flash story ever told.

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The amazing thing about comics is that the coolest concept is often shoved in with the worst stories possible. Take, for example, the Samuroid.

The name itself is the kind of thing that makes people take notice. Clearly these are android Samurai, and the mere idea of that digs right into the part of our brain that is forever a little kid and fills our imagination with stories. There is no denying the implicit cool of the name, and when you add in the design (a very basic Samurai look), how can you not want to know more about these guys?

Well, I’m here to stop you. I’m begging you, please, do not ever read Flash volume 1 issues 180 and 181. If you want to go on loving the Scarlet Speedster, stay as far away from these issues as you can. Along with a poorly written Barry Allen, they are filled with some of the most atrocious bits of racism ever to appear in a comic book, and while the issues came out in the not-very-progressive-by-today’s-standards 1968, even then I can’t help but think readers thought to themselves, “Dude…ease up on the racism”.

The story finds Barry Allen and Iris West landing in Japan for a vacation. Barry, being something of a workaholic, promises Iris that they will get on with their vacation as soon as he meets up with his good pal and fellow officer of the law Hashi, so he can deliver some info about a Japanese criminal who was chased out of Alaska.

As soon as they land, Barry and Iris are greeted by Hashi, who Barry calls Hash, and…well…I’ll let the panel do the talking on this one…

Throughout the two issues, Japanese characters are colored yellow, speak in broken english, and often have “R”s where “L”s should be. It makes reading the comic pretty tough, but I don’t want to spend too much time on that: we can all agree this stuff is gross and the world is better off without such childish crap.

Anywho, the Japanese criminal, Baron Katana (Rao give us strength), is well aware that Barry is going to tip off the Japanese police about him, so he’s sent his guys to the airport to kill Barry. The method these criminals choose is, to be honest, pretty overdramatic: they steal a fighter jet and shoot two heat-seeking missiles at Barry. Thinking fast, Barry pours on the speed (moving so fast that to everyone looking, it appears as if Barry is still with Hashi and Iris) and redirects the missiles into the fighter jet, killing the thugs. This, mind you, is not the way Barry does things - Barry doesn’t kill. Like I said, crap story.

Soon enough, Baron Katana reveals his…well, not "plan", exactly. He doesn’t have much of a plan. All he wants is to send out his Samuroids to cause massive amounts of destruction around Japan. Katana is angry that Western Civilization has crept into Japan and wants things to be the way they were when Samurai hung around. So, I guess killing everyone in Japan will make that happen somehow?

Whatever. We’ll move through it quick - Barry, with the help of Iris, Hashi, Toshira (a filmmaker who specializes in Samurai movies) and another cop named Tushi (I know, I know) figures out that Katana has built Samuroids. Barry switches to Flash mode (and now the writer of the issues keeps talking about Flash reaching “penetration-speed”; why he has to make Flash’s vibrational ability sound so icky is anyone’s guess) and heads off to Katana’s base.

Once there, Flash quickly learns that the Samuroids are all but indestructible. The only thing that appears to hurt them is their own weapons, so Flash does what any superhero would do - he causes a vortex to try and get away from the Samuroids but instead sends himself flying into the air, slamming his noggin on the ceiling and knocking himself out.

Meanwhile, Iris, Hashi, Toshira and Tushi are come up with a plan to infiltrate Baron Katana’s castle. Since they can’t get a warrant (no explanation why they can’t, mind you) the police will all dress as Samurai and show up at the castle with film equipment. They’ll act like they’re making a movie and slowly move closer to the castle, surrounding it - and Katana - before revealing the truth.

The plan goes sour quick because Baron Katana isn’t a complete idiot like Flash and his pals.

Flash wakes up when he hears Iris crying out for help and gets to work saving the day. Remember like two seconds ago when we learned that only their own weapons can hurt the Samuroids? Well, turns out that tackling them also works, since Flash does that to one and it shorts out. He then takes out the remaining Samuroids by dropping them into the ocean.

It's very lame.

The Samuroids have shown only a few times since then: once, in a Batman story where we learned that Doctor T.O. Morrow actually invented them (leading to Penguin's attempt to use the Samuroids to kill Bruce Wayne). Most recently, they popped up for a quick cameo in the Flash/Batman crossover “The Button”.

Despite their few appearances, the Samuroids have always held a special place in the hearts of comic nerds because of their super awesome name and great design. The massive amount of racism in their initial story is surely one of the reasons you don’t see them pop up too often in the comics these days, but now that the show has created a new origin for the Samuroids, maybe we’ll see them pop up more in the comics. From the looks of it, we’ll definitely be seeing more of them in the show this season (which is off to a solid start).