Golden Age _The Flash_: why "hard water"?

I’ve just picked up a reprint anthology of the Flash comics from the Golden Age (1940s).

As DC afficionados know, Barry Allen wasn’t the first man to be called “The Flash”. That moniker was first bestowed on Jay Garrick, a mild-mannered college student who was lousy at football until he accidentally inhaled some distilled fumes from “hard water”.

When I first read this on the page, I couldn’t help but guffaw. Hard water?! You mean, the city water with mineral impurities that people install water softeners in their houses to fix? The scientist in the comic book claimed that “hard water makes a person act much quicker than ordinarily,” which made me wonder whether “hard water” was slang for water laced with amphetamines or something.

But it did get me to wondering. This was 1940, after all. Was there some news, or perhaps propaganda, that had come out in the late 1930s that linked hard water with improved reflexes? Was there a specific reason why the comic book writers chose hard water instead of, say, Mystery Chemical Z or a glow-in-the-dark X-ray machine?

Maybe they were thinking of heavy water, deuterium?

Maybe they meant “Heavy Water”, which was an essential element for producing Atomic Weapons at the time(when the manhatten project got up to speed)?

Granted, being exposed to it still won’t make you super fast, but it makes slightly more sense then “Hard Water”.

Or, maybe they just thought ‘Hard Water’ sounded suitibly fantastic for a superheroic origin.

Remember, the other major speedster of the time got his speed by reciting the formula ‘3X2(9YZ)4A’, so Flash’s ‘Hard Water’ isn’t too out there, relatively speaking - it’s at least vague enough to not be quite so instantly obvious.

And a third speedster at the time (The Whizzer) got his powers from a transfusion of mongoose blood. Not radioactive mongoose blood or magical mongoose blood, mind you. Just any old mongoose blood will do.

I believe that they intended to say “heavy water”.

No, it was hard water. Remember, it was the “fumes” that caused the change, not the water itself.

But this was in the 40s. No one cared about scientific plausibility when it came to creating superheros (and how is “heavy water” any more plausable as an origin than “hard water”? As a matter of fact, what exactly is scientifically plausible about any super-powered hero?). Plastic Man fell into a vat of acid, for instance.

Spoken like someone who’s never irradiated a spider and then had it bite him.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have these web-shooters to work on. I think it won’t be easy going, since I graduated high school sixteen years ago.

Pffft. Mechanical web shooters are so over.

You know, the word “maus” is German for “mouse”.

Maaaaybe it wasn’t a radioactive spider that bit you.
In which case, that ain’t a long, stickey string of webbing coming out of its @ss. :eek: :stuck_out_tongue: :eek: :stuck_out_tongue:

I knew there was a reason I’m so good at running and hiding.

Yep. Here’s a webpage with some scanned images of the crucial comic book panels from that Jay Garrick Flash’s origins:

True – and to some extent, that’s still true today.

What I’m wondering about is if they specifically chose “hard water” because, perhaps, hard water was a new thing that was in the news a lot in those days. Had water softeners just been invented or something?

Don’t forget that Iron Man’s original armor was transistor-powered!

That’s like saying something is vacuum tube-powered!

Fenris, that’s damned funny. I wonder if a transfusion of dog-blood would make my sidekick more loyal?

That’s no worse than Microsoft’s second “Windows CE” logo that had to appear on all devices that ran Windows CE.

Said logo proclaimed that the device was, quote, Windows Powered.

It might – but you also run the risk of transforming him into … Butt-Sniff Boy!

Because heavy water is related to processing Nuclear Material, and Nuclear Material/Radioactivity can make animal grow gigantic sizes or give people super powers(being bitten by a radioactive animal can give you super powers).

Unless you’re adam west, who just got Lymphonia.

Oh? Was it hard-cover? I’ve come across ten-issues-per-volume anthologies of the first Spiderman issues, and various other volumes, DC and Marvel. Are they available at Barnes & Noble? Borders?

Other chains?

(That first Flash story was peculiar in several ways. And I think the artist was dozing in class all the days they covered perspective.)

True Blue Jack

And don’t forget that Mon-El turned out to be vulnerable to lead. Specifically, LEAD RADIATIONS !!! Things had not gotten much better by 1960.

Oh, and only the presence of Kryptonite can neutralize the effects.

Cute. :rolleyes:

So, if I wash my clothes in hard water, without detergent, I can become the Flash, too?

My aunt will love that.

Yes, as long as the clothing is in the washer and not on your body, you are The* Flash**er!*