The Flash — 1990

June 19, 2015

Since all our regular TV shows finished for the season, this week for our Monday dinner-and-TV extravaganza, we pulled out the DVD’s of the first Flash TV series from 1990, specifically to watch the Trickster episodes, which some of our party had not seen.  Here, have some opening credits:

So. Much. Nostalgia.

I loved this show when it first aired.  By the late 80’s we were completely starved for any kind of superhero media at all.  The glory days of the late 70’s to early 80’s had dried up, and there really wasn’t anything — until 1989 and the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie.  I remember how revolutionary that movie was.  How dark and menacing and awesome.  We ate it up like popcorn.  Now of course, in hindsight, the Burton Batman movie is to the current crop of Batman movies what the 1960’s TV show is to the Burton Batman movie.  So dated.  So cheesy.  Never would have thought that could happen.

The 1990 Flash is direct result of the success of the Batman movie.  You can tell they mined the same aesthetic — the art deco gothic setting, the over-the-top everything, the molded latex suit (I got to hear John Wesley Shipp speak at DragonCon in 2007, and he said they would lysol the suit out at night and it would never quite dry completely by the next time he had to wear it, and it got pretty rank. *shudder*).  The theme song is by Danny Elfman.  And at the time the show really did feel dark and serious and mature and…

Well.  Watching it now?  It’s freaking adorable.  That flying hair trick to show that Barry has left the room?  The new show uses that trick too, but somehow on the old show it’s deeply hilarious.  The whole thing is silly, but the silliness is seamless and the actors manage to play it straight.  It’s lovely seeing John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, and Mark Hamill in their original Flash incarnations.  It’s really lovely seeing all the easter eggs the current Flash has slipped in referring back to the old show with love.  The Trickster warehouse from the new episode?  The costumes?  Perfect recreations.

The 1990 Flash only lasted a season, which is too bad, because I think its heart was in the right place.  It’s dated, but it’s fun, and we enjoyed watching it.

Here’s my big question:  I pretty much believe that Mark Hamill landed the role of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series because of his stint as the Trickster, where he managed to convey psychopathic evil under the outrageous Trickster antics.  But here’s the thing I’d forgotten:

Trickster acquires a sidekick named Prank.  Prank is a pretty woman who develops a very unhealthy infatuation with the Trickster and devotes herself to supporting his cause, while constantly throwing herself at him.  Sometimes he relents and returns her affections, sometimes he rejects her — all this keeps her coming back for more no matter what.

Prank predates Harley Quinn by at least a year, near as I can figure.

Do any of the comics/superhero wonks out there know if there’s a direct connection/inspiration between the two characters?  Because dang, it’s a little obvious watching that episode now.



One Response to “The Flash — 1990”

  1. The Vulture ran a piece about the creation of Harley Quinn late last year – they attribute Harley to Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, as inspired by Paul’s actress friend Arleen Sorkin, who voiced the character in the cartoons. If your mom watched the same soaps my mom did, you’ll remember Arleen as Calliope Jones from ‘Days of Our Lives’.

    They make no mention of the Harley/Prank duality, but you’re not the first to spot this connection.


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