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Cover Date: September 1961
Cover Price: US $ 0.10
Issue Tagline: None.
Format: Color; Standard Comic Issue; 36 pages
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80 Page Giant (1964) #9
Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups (2005) TPB vol. 01
DC Comics Classics Library (2009) HC vol. 05
Flash (1979) #15/16
Flash Archives (1998) HC vol. 03
The Flash Chronicles (2009) TPB vol. 04
The Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2007) TPB vol. 01
The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told (1990) HC
The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told (1990) TPB
Millennium Edition:... (2000) The Flash 123
Showcase Presents: The Flash (2007) TPB vol. 02
This issue might well be considered the second part of Showcase #4. It shows that Barry Allen's love of comic books is not just a gimmick, but an actual plot point in the development of his character. In a sense, it has to be The Flash that cracks open the multiverse, not just because of his particular power set, but more importantly because of the nature of the relationship between the two primary Earths. If the adventures of Earth 2 happened in the comic books of Earth 1, then only a known comic book reader, like Barry Allen, could make sense of that world when he encounters it.Though the story itself is fairly typical Silver Age fare, the implications of this issue are still being felt in the DCU to this day. This issue is really why Barry Allen was chosen to die so heroically in Crisis on Infinite Earths. He ushers in the era of the multiverse with this story; it is only poetically fitting that he should give his life to close it. His sacrifice inspired Superman (I) to finish the battle of the original Crisis to save a world that would've honored that sacrifice--and when the unified Earth appeared to be going down a path that failed to honor what Barry died for, it became a reason for Superman (I) to return in the 2005 Crisis to try to "right" things.Consequently it is no exaggeration to say that this issue (along with #129 and #137) are absolutely foundational to a solid understanding of the nature of the whole DC universe. Judging by the story lines of 2005, their importance has only increased over time.
In the interests of anal retentiveness, it should be pointed out that, technically, there were other, minor explorations of "alternate earths" prior to this one. Green Arrow and Speedy, for instance, travel to the "Earth of Dimension Zero" in Adventure #232-3 exactly three years before this issue. There, they meet "Xeen Arrow" and eventually find a way to get back to the familiar DCU Earth. What makes the Flash's adventure here so special, however, is that a) it's the subject of an entire comic (as opposed to a minor back-up story), and b) it's clearly a part of a larger narrative thread that would be continued across several titles until eventually creating a "cornerstone" of storytelling in the DCU. Still, it's interesting to note that there were other abortive attempts at telling tales set on alternate Earths prior to this issue.
[The second Earth does not get its name, "Earth 2", here, but will have to wait until its fourth appearance, in JLA, v. 1, #21 for its "official" designation.]
For an indepth discussion on this issue:
Tom vs. the Flash - Tom vs. The Flash #123 - Flash of Two Worlds!
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