Comics Bulletin has published an English translation of a short article Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote for the Spanish science-fiction magazine Nueva in 1968 about Flash # 163 – which also happens to be Grant Morrison’s favorite comic of all time. I’ve never read it and had no idea the villain of the comic bore a remarkable resemblance to Gurdjieff.
Are Infantino and Broome aware that the strange gentleman is Gurdjieff? The resemblance is striking: the same bald head, the same features and moustache. The content of the parable could very well belong to the philosophy of this enigmatic being.
What does Flash signify? He is a man who possesses superspeed. Upon acquiring it, he can go around the world in less than a second, can walk through walls, can be in two places at once, etc. He is, in synthesis, the king of superficiality, always running from one place to the other, never being “AT THE THING”. Superspeed prevents him from anchoring himself to reality. Objects become inconsistent and human communication impossible. By walking through objects everything becomes superficial. People admire him because of “HIS DEEDS.” He is the perfect example of those who Gurdjieff described like this: “They are so lazy at helping themselves that they want to help others.”
[Note: The actual quote is “They are too lazy to work on themselves, and at the same time it is very pleasant for them to think that they can help others.”]
The teacher, wanting the character to be conscious of his inner emptiness, proves that his existence, by being so “from the skin outwards,” depends on others. If the others stop paying attention to him, he does not exist, the reason being that all his values are based on the opinions of the rest. Flash lives not for himself, but for others. He exists in those who see him.
By no longer being seen and admired, the artificial self behind which he hides evaporates. By becoming naked, depending on his own values, he realizes that he is nothing. Gurdjieff says that man is born without a soul and that through huge and systematic efforts he must create it for himself. Flash never made an effort to create himself. At that moment of crisis, instead of stopping to ponder, reflecting on himself and working on his inner being, he decides to go after the girl he had impressed with the classic miracle of walking on water.
I don’t have my copy of Supergods handy, but here’s what Morrison wrote about Flash # 163 for the Guardian:
This was from the time of pop art comics in the 1960s when DC Comics had go-go chicks, and almost Bridget Riley-style op-art across the top. It’s a great cover that shows the head and shoulders of The Flash, holding up his hand to the reader. He’s yelling out, “STOP! DON’T PASS UP THIS ISSUE – MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!” A supervillain sets up a machine whereby everyone forgets that The Flash ever existed, and his body begins to attenuate into this red mist; there’s a very odd, paranoid feel to the story. In the end he’s only saved because there’s this little girl sitting by the side of the docks who still believes in him.