So let’s get back to the Golden Age villains and to start off the week I’d like to talk about rouges galleries.
It think it’s safe to say that a hero is really only as good as the villain he or he fights. A good villain can provide the perfect foil for the hero, confronting the main character and by extension the reader with challenging questions like what is the true nature of evil? Can a hero always be “good” or is he corruptible? Or just how difficult is it to get rid of a bomb?
To that extent it is safe to say that Batman has one of the greatest collection of super villains in comic book history.
Each of the characters is unique, interesting, and provides their own special challenge to the Dark Knight. But I’m not here to talk about Batman, I want to talk about another rogues gallery that is just as interesting and almost as famous as the caped crusader’s: the rogues gallery of Batman’s friend and everyone’s favorite speedster The Flash.
While the Flash’s Rogues Gallery has gone through several variations over the years villains like Gorilla Grodd, the Pied Piper, and Captain Cold (my personal favorite and what I think is the best thing about the Flash TV show on the CW) have made sure that the Flash has remained a popular and enduring superhero.
With that being said, characters and ideas like this take time to develop and the Flash’s current Rogues Gallery didn’t just spring up over night. Like everything good there was a lot of trial and error before getting the right collection of super villains together and today I’d like to talk about one of Flash’s stranger and less practical villains: The Turtle.
Origin and career:
The original Turtle super villain first appeared in All Flash #21 in 1945. This is the cover.
As you can probably guess he isn’t the most menacing super villain on the planet.
His gimmick was simple. While the Flash was the fastest man alive the Turtle decided that the best way to defeat the Flash was to…slow down. That was it, he was a super villain who thought the best way to defeat a speedster was to move and act very, very slowly. It turned out there was a very good reason for this, the Turtle was a smoker and couldn’t move very fast since all those cigarettes had damaged his lungs.
To be fair his logic was somewhat sound (for a comic book) and be believed that since the Flash was moving so fast it would be easy to trick him into making mistakes, especially with enough prior planning. However, his planning went about as well as you’d expect and the Turtle was captured by the Flash with little to no difficulty.
He would later adopt a turtle themed costume to fight the Flash and was able to give a semi decent account of himself in the 1940’s by tricking the Flash into running into things.
However, by this time the Golden Age was coming to an end and the original Turtle decided to fade into the background of the Flash’s city and slowly build up a criminal empire.
So what happened?
Apparently the idea that a person who was slow and methodical could beat a man who possessed super speed was such a good one that when it came time to replace the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick with the Silver Age Flash Barry Allen
It was decided that the Turtle, or in this case a criminal inspired by the Turtle, would be the first costumed gimmick super villain the new Flash would face.
Since the original Turtle was still in hiding a bank robber who admired the previous exploits of the original Golden Age Turtle decided to adopt the identity and gimmick of his idol and call himself…Turtle Man.
While it may seem confusing at first this new villain was quite a bit more competent than his predecessor. Like his idol Turtle Man was known for slow and methodical planning and for using the Flash’s speed against him. For example, he painted his silhouette on a wall and tricked the Flash into running into it (and yes it’s exactly like this)
or he once used the Flash’s speed against him by forcing the Flash to run on water and using the shock waves to propel his own boat forward at the same speed.
However, this Turtle Man’s greatest difference is that he decided to apply some Silver Age comic book science to his crimes and used a vast personal fortune and scientific know how to create gadgets that could slow down others around him. It’s also worth mentioning that in later appearances he adopted at more turtle themed appearance as well.
Interestingly enough, Turtle Man would actually go on to meet his Golden Age idol and the two would be come partners in crime.
The two attempted to take over the Golden Age’s home of Keystone city but were foiled when their underground lab was destroyed with the Turtle seemingly dying underneath the rubble and Turtle Man being taken into custody.
It would later be revealed that the Turtle survived the explosion and in his last appearance it was revealed that he had the ability to steal speed from others and make it look like they were moving in slow motion.
So that’s the Turtle, a lesson in that no matter how strange or inadequate a character can be all you need is time, and a seemingly endless number of re vamps and re writes, to turn that character into a competent super villain.
By the way, I also think that the modern Turtle would make an excellent addition to the Flash tv show on the CW. Who’s with me?