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By Thomas Wheeler

Can a Flash be late? Well, I don't know about that, but he can certainly be overdue. And I'd certainly say that was the case with Jay Garrick, DC Comics' Golden Age Flash, who probably should have been part of Mattel's line of DC Universe action figures well before now.

But, what the heck, better late than never, right? Or better overdue and finally turning up than not appearing at all.

Certainly Jay Garrick isn't the first Golden Age hero to be brought into Mattel's DC Universe lineup. In fact, if you include him, Wildcat, the Alan Scott Green Lantern, the Golden Age Hawkman and Atom, Starman, Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and a few others, you can pretty well bring together the original Justice Society of America from the 1940's in a very nice collection of modern day action figures. Some would even throw in the Silver Age Batman figure from the Batman Legacy line as a good way to represent the "Earth-2" Batman, and they've got a decent point.

Sort of thing that makes me wish I had a time machine. I'd take these figures back to the 1940's, find the offices of the comic company, and see what sort of reaction I'd get with them. Could be fun. But I digress...

The Golden Age Flash is the first entry in Mattel's new DC SIGNATURE COLLECTION, a line of DC Universe Classics-style figures being offered through a subscription, known as Club Infinite Earths, on Mattel's Web Site, MattyCollector.Com. It's also possible to purchase the figures on a monthly basis on the Web Site directly. This works much the same as Mattel's Masters of the Universe Classics line, which can be purchased monthly, or subscribed to through Club Eternia.

It wasn't long after DC Comics announced its planned overhaul of the entire DC Universe into what is currently known as the "New DC 52" or the "DCnU", for "DC new Universe" -- as well as by a host of far less polite terms by anyone who respects the DC characters -- that Mattel announced that Wave 20 would be the final wave of DC Universe Classics characters available at retail. Instead, they would begin to offer the figures on a monthly basis online -- provided they got enough subscribers.

Technically -- they didn't. But they went ahead with Club Infinite Earths anyway, I believe in part because there was enough of a fan response, that still might have been reluctant to subscribe, to warrant it. I'll admit, I was reluctant to subscribe. I really don't like subscribing to much of anything. The only reasons I subscribed to Club Eternia this past year was to save a some money on the cost of the figures, and I was getting fed up with having to track down faster computers than those I use at home, middle of every month, and then hope that the "hold screen" vanished and I could place my order before supplies ran out. It just got to be a monthly stress-out that I didn't need.

I subscribed to Club Infinite Earths because I wanted to see the DC Universe Classics line continue however it could. I will maintain that this is the finest line of super-hero figures ever created. The Four Horsemen sculptors and designers have done just an outstanding job across the board and throughout the run of the line, and continue to do so.

Admittedly, I'm not fond of receiving action figures in the mail. When I buy action figures, I like to inspect the merchandise before I put my money down. Some things I don't mind ordering online. Books, CD's, DVD's, fine and well. I tend to think the only thing that I'd be more reluctant to order online than action figures would be food, something I certainly don't see myself doing. But in the case of Masters, and now DC, if I want them, that's how I have to get them. So be it. With all the chaos surrounding the current state of DC -- and for that matter some parts of the action figure world -- I'm just glad to be getting them, and I hope that Mattel's DC Signature Collection has a long and healthy run.

For now, let's have a look at the first character in the series -- Jay Garrick, the original Flash. Let's consider his history, and then, the figure.

Jay Garrick was created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, and first appeared in Flash Comics #1, in January 1940.

Jason Peter Garrick is a college student prior to 1940 (later retconned to 1938) who accidentally inhales hard water vapors after falling asleep in his laboratory where he had been working (later stories would change this to heavy water vapors). As a result, he finds that he can run at superhuman speed and has similarly fast reflexes (retcons imply the inhalation simply activated a latent metagene). After a brief career as a college football star, he dons a red shirt with a lightning bolt and a stylized metal helmet with wings (based on images of the Roman god Mercury) and begins to fight crime as the Flash. The helmet belonged to Jay's father, Joseph, who fought during World War I. He has been seen using the helmet as a weapon/type of shield, as seen in Infinite Crisis. He has also used it to direct a beam of light at Eclipso.

His first case involves battling the Faultless Four, a group of blackmailers (Sieur Satan, Serge Orloff, Duriel and Smythe). In the early stories, it seems to be widely known that Garrick was the Flash. Later stories would show him as having his identity secret, and that he was able to maintain it without the use of a mask by constantly "vibrating" his features, making him hard to recognize or clearly photograph. The effectiveness of this is debatable as he later blamed his lack of a mask for Joan (his girlfriend) deducing his true identity.

During his career he would often find himself embroiled in semi-comical situations inadvertently initiated by Winky, Blinky, and Noddy, a trio of tramps known as the Three Dimwits, who tried their hand at one job after another, and never successfully. (Whataya want, it was the 1940's...)

It was later revealed that a professor found the last container of heavy water vapors and used it to gain superspeed, becoming the Rival. He briefly took away Jay's speed after capturing him, making him super-slow, but Jay used the gases again and was able to regain his superspeed and defeat the Rival.

Like the Flashes who followed him, Garrick became a close friend of the Green Lantern of his time, Alan Scott, whom he met through the Justice Society of America.

The Flash soon became one of the best-known of the Golden Age of superheroes. He was a founding member of the Justice Society of America and served as its first chairman. He was originally based in New York City, but this was later retconned to the fictional Keystone City. He left the JSA after issue #6, but returned several years later (issue #24, spring 1945) and had a distinguished career as a crime-fighter during the 1940s.

Several pieces of retroactive continuity filled out early Garrick history. A story explaining the retirement of the JSA members, including the Flash, explained that in 1951, the JSA was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee for possible Communist sympathies and asked to reveal their identities, which was later revealed to be partly caused by Per Degaton. The JSA declined, and Garrick, who recently married his longtime girlfriend Joan, retired from superhero life. As a trained scientist, he ran an experimental laboratory for several decades. All-Star Squadron Annual #3 states that the JSA fought a being named Ian Karkull who imbued them with energy that slowed their aging, allowing Garrick and many others - as well as their girlfriends and sidekicks - to remain active into the late 20th century without infirmity. The 1990s Starman series notes that the Shade prompted Garrick to come out of retirement in the 1950s, but the details of his activities during this time are hazy at best.

Garrick emerged from retirement in 1961 to meet the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, from a parallel world. Garrick's world was dubbed Earth-Two, while Allen's was Earth-One. The rest of the JSA soon joined the Flash, although their activities during the 1960s (other than their annual meeting with Earth-One's Justice League of America) were unrecorded. That he and Green Lantern (Alan Scott) were good friends is clear, however.

Garrick was a key member of the JSA's 1970s adventures (as chronicled in All-Star Comics and Adventure Comics), as well as helped to launch the careers of Infinity Inc. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, all the parallel worlds are merged into one, and Keystone City became the twin city across the river from Allen's Central City. An updated story suggests that Keystone in this new continuity was rendered invisible and wiped from the memories of the world for many years through the actions of several supervillains.

In the early 21st century, many of Garrick's JSA cohorts have retired or died, but Garrick remains active with the latest incarnation of the group. He is physically about 50 years old thanks to the effects of several accidental anti-aging treatments, but his chronological age is closer to 90. He was one of the few surviving members of the Justice Society of America after Zero Hour. Of the three original JSA members still on the team (along with Alan Scott and Wildcat), Jay takes a more fatherly approach toward his teammates and the DC superhero community in general.

Jay and his wife Joan have guardianship of Bart Allen after Max Mercury's disappearance. During the events of Infinite Crisis Jay states that the Speed Force is gone after a battle in which many speedsters, living and dead, wrestle Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force and disappear. Jay is left behind when he reaches his limit and cannot follow. Bart Allen returns, aged several years, and had absorbed the entire Speed Force during his pursuit of the escaped Superboy-Prime. Jay claims that without the Speed Force, his own power is less than before: like Wally West in the Crisis on Infinite Earths aftermath, he can only run close to the speed of sound. He also stated that as the Speed Force is no longer retarding his aging, his speed is diminishing with time. After Bart left Keystone City for Los Angeles, Jay once again is the city's sole guardian.

Jay is continuing his work as a member of the re-formed Justice Society of America, under the leadership of Power Girl. After the death of the Flash, Bart Allen, Jay's full speed returns. Jay is currently the mayor of Monument Point, where the JSA is now based.

As to his powers and abilities, As the Flash, Jay can run and move his limbs at superhuman speeds, and possesses superhuman reflexes. His aura prevents air friction from affecting his body and clothes while moving. Unlike Barry, Jay is a metahuman and while he has a connection to the Speed Force, it was not on the level of the other Flashes. Jay possesses the ability to steal speed from other speedsters. When the Speed Force was absorbed into (and only accessible by) Bart Allen following Infinite Crisis, Jay's top speed was the speed of sound. After Bart's death and Wally's return, the Speed Force returned to its normal functions and Jay can now reach near-light speeds that let him keep up with even Zoom. However, since his body is slowly but steadily becoming frail with age-related issues, he cannot strain his body as he used to; an overuse of his speed may bring forth grave complications, like cardiac episodes.

Jay's words in Infinite Crisis #7 indicate that his metagene was always present but inactive until the Speed Force was 'destroyed' or perhaps until the formation of New Earth took place. He later confirmed this theory in The Flash: Rebirth #1, when he marks his first meeting with Barry Allen as the moment in which he was finally able to overcome his metagenetic ability to run at the speed of sound. He suggests that the absolute mastery of the Speed Force shown by Barry took some undisclosed part in connecting the older speedster to it (it's later revealed that the Speed Force actually is Barry Allen, or later the leftover kinetic energy left by his super speed, encompassing all the space-time, and Jay Garrick, since his meeting with Barry, had become subconsciously able to tap into it.)

So, how's the figure? Incredibly impressive, but first I'd like to say a few words about the packaging. I know that packaging isn't something I'm in the habit of discussing very often in my toy reviews, but in this case I'd like to make an exception.

The DC Signature Collection figures will not be carded. They're boxed. The box is mostly black, with some blue trim, and a yellow and orange "explosion" backdrop behind the figure, who can be seen through a front and side window.

The top front of the box reads "DC Universe Signature Collection", with a very nicely done logo. I like that the DC logo that appears on the box, including on the side, is the DC logo from before the "New 52", which about six months in introduced a new DC logo that I have yet to find anyone that likes the thing. I've even spoken with professional graphic artists, and they hate it. I don't know how long the Signature Collection will even be allowed to use what is now a "previous" logo, but the longer, the better.

The back of the box features a very nice and detailed painting of Jay Garrick, a portion of which is also duplicated on the size. The details of the painting reveal some interesting details about the costume. It's not shown to be skin-tight like the average super-hero costume. If anything, it looks as though Garrick is wearing a red sweatshirt, blue jeans, and red sneakers. This is probably a little much, especially the jeans and sneakers, since I don't think such fancy sneakers existed in the 1940's. Then again, I'm not sure spandex did, either, so the sort of fancy tights that are common to super-heroes these days might have been a little harder to come by back then.

There's a brief origin story for Garrick on the back of the box, that starts off with an interesting sentence. "After accidentally inhaling vapors of a radioactive liquid..." Okay, that's one way of putting it. It's interesting that over the years, the original notion of "hard water" was changed to "heavy water". That's scientific progress for you. But technically, heavy water is not radioactive.

And it's not likely to induce super-powers, so it's a good thing that Garrick had that metagene in him. As for "hard water" -- heck, where I live, I have to deal with that all the time, mostly in the sinks and shower. I frequently see commercials for cleaning products that promise to remove it from tile and glass, and they've probably got a lot worse stuff in them than the hard water. I don't think any of them will likely induce super-powers, either, which is a bit of a shame. Might make cleaning the place a bit easier. So much for today's science lesson.

One other note about the packaging. Jay Garrick is posed in a very basic stance in the package. This was something that Mattel promised to do, and I'm pleased that they followed through with it. I can understand the visual appeal, and potential sales boost, of placing a figure in a dramatic pose, but honestly, it can be a pain in the neck to extract the figure from the form-fitting internal plastic bubble. It may look cool to have Green Arrow crouched down on one knee, bow raised to fire and arrow, both arms raised and ready to shoot, but try to get him out of that mess, and then hope that you haven't damaged the figure, and that he doesn't have any stuck parts (an unfortunate occasional problem in the line), so that you can get him into a normal stance for display purposes. NOT fun. Mattel wants to keep these figures in a basic, neutral stance, it's fine with me.

As to the figure, Mattel and the Four Horsemen have really done an outstanding job with Jay Garrick. The headsculpt is excellent. He really looks like the character from the comics, and has just a bit of a smile on his face, almost reserved to one side. For the character it's not inappropriate. The features make Jay Garrick look slightly older than average, but not excessively so. His hair is mostly brown, but there is some gray around the temples, much as the character has been portrayed in the comics for some time.

Especially notable is the helmet. Garrick doesn't wear a mask. Instead, he has a helmet, somewhat reminiscent of certain images of the mythological Mercury, but as stated in the origin, the helmet is really based on a World War I helmet, with Mercury-like wings attached to it. It is certainly present and accounted for, and positioned on the figure at a slightly crooked angle, just to give the figure a little more personality.

In the comics, the helmet is traditionally portrayed as silver, with gold wings. Mattel went a step further with the figure, and I suppose to make the figure just a little more special for the Signature Collection. They CHROMED the helmet. The wings are still gold, and not chrome, but the helmet itself is a brilliant silver chrome!

Not only is this really a nice touch, but I think this is the first time a figure has had chrome detailing since the Steel figure, which was really part of the DC Super-Heroes series, the predecessor to DC Universe Classics. For something like this helmet, it works very nicely.

Garrick is dressed in his traditional Flash costume. This consists of a red, long-sleeved shirt, with a rather wide neck, and a large, wide, stylized yellow lightning bolt on the front. It's always struck me that Garrick's lightning bolt emblem is unusual as such things go, because it's actually pointed upward, rather than the more traditional downward.

Garrick is wearing blue tights on his legs, with a black belt that has a silver buckle with a yellow lightning bolt on it. He has red boots, that are somewhat loose-fitting on the tops. The feet of the figure feature the same treaded soles that can be found on other Flash figures. I've seen these feet used on every version of Barry Allen, as well as Professor Zoom, and Johnny Quick from the Crime Syndicate set. Hey, if your power is running at super-speed, the last thing you want to do is slip and fall, right?

For the most part, the figure uses the standard male body molds that a significant percentage of figures in the DC Universe Classics and affiliated lines use. It's an excellent design, and the ongoing use of it lends a consistency to these figures that I sincerely appreciate.

There are a few variances. Naturally, the head is distinct. The belt is an additional part of the assembly, but any number of figures over the years have had belts. The only really new body parts other than the head are the lower legs, with the loose-fitting boot tops.

Admittedly the overall look of the costume is not as sleek or sophisticated as Barry Allen's costume. But again, we need to consider the time period in which Jay Garrick first appeared. Really fancy, sophisticated costumes just weren't that common. Your average super-doer had to make do with whatever he could find on his own. Still, Jay Garrick's ongoing presence in the Justice Society of America has resulted in his being almost as iconic a character as the modern-day Flash, and the character can also be credited, at least halfway, for the storyline that brought the Golden Age heroes back from over a decade of obscurity.

All of the painted details on this figure are superb, especially the facial details. And of course, The Flash is extensively articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Any complaints? None. The outward movement of one of the legs is a little looser than I'd like, but I've encountered worse, and it's certainly within tolerable levels. I'm thankful that the figure doesn't have any double-jointed elbows or knees. I really hope we've seen the last of that.

Before I conclude this review, I'd like to take this opportunity to address a few matters regarding Mattel and their DC Universe product. I am sincerely pleased that the DC Universe Classics line is continuing as the DC Universe Signature Collection, and it is my sincere hope that it has a very long and very healthy run. I can think of a wide range of characters I would like to see brought into this line, that to one degree or another I feel deserve the figure treatment, and are overdue. Geo-Force. Saint Walker. Captain Marvel Jr. And there's still plenty of Legionnaires out there.

What I'm concerned about more, however, is the rest of the DC action figure universe. As of this writing, I have recently learned of quite a few bits of bad news. The Young Justice line has been canceled, despite the ongoing very impressive animated series. There are no plans for a Green Lantern Animated line, despite considerable potential and a very cool show. The Batman Legacy line has been canceled. Plans for a "Reign of the Supermen" set have been scrapped.

Worst of all, the proposed successor to DC Universe Classics, called DC All-Stars, has been canceled after one assortment, which hasn't even hit the stores yet, and among the cancellations within the line are a two-pack that would have featured a Sinestro Corps version of Hal Jordan and a Blue Lantern version of Kyle Rayner, not to mention the individual figure of Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, whom I was especially looking forward to (and still hope he might show up, maybe in the Signature Collection).

At this juncture, all Mattel is saying is that they're reworking their retail plan for 2013. Whatever that means. I mean, how vague can you get!?

To what degree this is fallout from the "New DC 52", I really don't know. I am no fan of that whatsoever, but I'm not sure to what degree it can be blamed here. I do know this. I don't want to see the DC Universe, in its present action figure form, vanish from the toy shelves. Certainly the basic design of the figures does not need to be changed. Certainly there's no shortage of characters -- from the "pre DCnU" world, that deserve to be rendered in plastic. It's conceivable that retailers such as Walmart and Target don't want to carry the line anymore, which presents Mattel with a problem. Ultimately, they sell to retailers, and retailers sell to us. If the retailers don't want the product, it doesn't happen.

I honestly don't know what's going on here at this time, but I'll be blunt -- I'm worried. These are amazing figures, and they deserve to continue -- and they deserve to do so beyond the Signature Collection. I pray they get the opportunity to do so, and hopefully these last few paragraphs will be a brief, grim aberration in the history of the lines.

Okay, I've said my piece. So, what's my final word? This is an extremely impressive figure, and certainly one representing a character whose place in the overall DC Universe line cannot be questioned. Jay Garrick has been a popular part of the DC Universe for decades. He is an iconic Golden Age hero, and the DC Universe line has not been the least bit afraid to present those characters when they can. The Golden Age Flash does a nice job of rounding them out.

Mattel and the Four Horsemen did a really superb job with this figure, and the chrome helmet is a really nice touch. Of course, the entire figure is truly excellent, and if you're any sort of fan of the DC Universe, and of the DC Universe action figures, then you'll certainly want to add this one to your collection.

The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE COLLECTION figure of JAY GARRICK, the GOLDEN AGE FLASH, definitely has my highest recommendation!