Seven years before The Feminine Mystique made women’s careers a matter of national concern, Robert Kanigher, John Broome, and Carmine Infantino in 1956 debuted a new version of the Flash in the pages of DC’s Showcase whose girlfriend had a job at Picture News. Modeled on the venerable Lois Lane, hard-charging reporter Iris West had a biting wit which she employed to put mild mannered Barry Allen in his place by chiding him for being tardy: “Barry! You’re always late! Why are you so slow?” Setting aside the irony of directing this accusation at the “fastest man on earth,” we may wonder at the power dynamic played out in the pages of The Flash. By keeping his heroic identity a secret from Iris, Barry lets her claim victory even as he knows better. In their daily interactions, her job as reporter trumps his as police scientist—and here we may well read male anxiety at the thought of being eclipsed by a spouse’s success. But in this contest Barry holds a secret trump card, his highly successful public role as the Flash, a hero to whom Central City has dedicated a museum, and whom Iris holds up as an example for Barry to emulate: “Why can’t you be more like Flash?” The comic presents Iris’ intelligence and independence as a threat that can only be contained through duplicity, for by that means her critique of Barry is redirected into praise of him in his alternate guise. My reading of the Kanigher/Broome era of the series (1956-72) will be informed by reader letters on the topic of Barry’s relationship with Iris, as well as contemporary debates over the place of women in society—once known as “The Battle of the Sexes.”

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