“Circea” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from March 22 to May 29, 1954. This lighthearted story begins with Zarkov encouraging Flash to propose to Dale. Just as he starts to ask her to marry him, the gravity of the area around them is thrown off and Flash and Dale find themselves hurtling past the clouds while the oxygen grows rapidly thinner.
They recover consciousness to find themselves in a rocketship hurtling through space. They leave our galaxy and pass through a comet unscathed before entering the atmosphere of an unknown planetoid in a far distant galaxy. They are brought to rest through the skylight of a large installation perched high on a cliff. They find themselves facing a beautiful woman named Circea who has observed Flash from afar and become infatuated with him.
Circea’s dangerous obsession with Flash has gone far beyond abducting him from Earth. Jealous of her rival, she sends Dale to her death by pitching her off the edge of the building into the sea of fire below. An anguished Flash jumps off to either die with Dale or save her. Distraught at losing the object of her desire, Circea operates an enormous asbestos net to captures Flash and Dale just before they plunge into the sea of flames.
The fiery sea is more than a figure of speech as they are next menaced by a giant swordfish that jumps from the flames to try and pierce their net. Incredible as that may appear, they are then attacked by the roc from Persian folklore, which nearly carries them off until Circea intervenes. Her next scheme is to hypnotize Flash into believing he is in love with her. What follows is an embarrassingly silly sequence of Circea and Dale taking turns making out with Flash to see who can win him over.
This sad display is interrupted by the appearance of Jiro and his gang on the scene. It seems the installation is a maximum security prison on Nebula Island where Circea’s father is the warden. While his daughter stalked and abducted Flash, a prison break was in progress and her father is now held hostage. Jiro knocks Flash out and when he recovers consciousness, he feigns amnesia. The goofy sight of Flash scatting to jazz music and calling out, “Dance, pretty girls” makes one relieved when his antics cause him to plummet off the precipice back toward the sea of flames.
Of course, it is all a ruse so he can rescue Thorlin the warden, who is held captive in the level below. Circea’s father is bound with electrified cords. Senselessly, he tells Flash that if he is strong enough to withstand the force of the shocks, Flash will develop an unlikely immunity to electricity. There’s a nice bit of encouragement for kids to follow. This being a 1950s comic strip, it works and Flash, now granted the ability to bounce like a rubber ball by the electricity, overcomes Jiro and his men. Flash tells a heartbroken Circea he loves Dale and no other and Thorlin happily returns them to Earth.
“The Deadly Touch” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from May 31 to August 30, 1954. This is a much stronger story, although pure comic book hokum. Flash and Dale return to Earth, but Flash now exhibits superhuman strength he is unable to control. He inadvertently crushes Dale’s engagement ring; he pulverizes a baseball; he foolishly gets behind the wheel of a car and nearly kills the pedestrians at a crowded intersection while bringing down a lamp post. The final straw is when he embraces Dale and nearly crushes her.
Zarkov and a team of doctors subject him to a battery of tests and conclude that his exposure to the sea of flames has vulcanized him. Flash continues to wreak havoc wherever he goes by destroying a statue at a university, breaking a little boy’s model rocket, and crushing the Space Kids’ wood carving of him. He finally resolves to go into exile to stop harming others. However, Flash doesn’t choose a remote wilderness for exile, but rather to send himself into space. Ridiculously, Zarkov agrees to assist him in this desperate act.
Of course, Dale steals her own rocket to join her one true love in exile from Earth. No sooner does she leave, then Earth is beset by pellets hurling from the sky at such force they shatter windshields on cars and airplanes and even bathyspheres, as well as telescopes. Dan Barry clearly enjoys drawing these scenes of catastrophic collisions all over the planet. Dale’s rocket is struck by a storm of the interstellar pellets and Flash goes out into space with a jet pack to rescue her. Barry makes the rescue suitably dramatic and concludes the sequence with Dale’s rocket crashing on the surface of Earth’s moon.
They discover a cannon is firing the pellets at Earth. The cannon is operated by an invasion force from the far distant planet of Horokko. Using his superhuman strength, Flash is able to survive the execution ordered by the Horokko leader, Hordo. He and Dale escape. However, the invasion force launches their attack and their advanced ships are able to avoid detection by Earth’s radar. Flash and Dale offer to sacrifice their lives by placing their rocket in front of the invasion fleet to create a target for Earth’s military forces. Miraculously, they survive the assault which destroys the alien fleet. Even more miraculously, Flash’s superhuman strength has finally worn off as he and Dale embrace at last.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press) and The Destiny of Fu Manchu (2012; Black Coat Press). Next up is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke, The Triumph of Fu Manchu, and a hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com