Flash and Betty part 1: Prologue to the Affair


Why a lookback on Flash Thompson’s romance with Betty Brant? One reason is because the couple is being prominently featured in “Venom” and it might be time for a refresher on their long “up and down” history. A big deal was made on some messages boards about Slott bringing them back together in “Big Time”. Quite frankly, they do have a very long and unusual history. Another reason is because, frankly, I kinda felt like it and I’ve been on a bit of a Ms. Brant kick lately. This is tagged as “Bertone Hates Betty” because it’s Betty Brant related, but consider this more of a tie-in or “summer special” companion to that series. Some of you may find it a bit fun, some of you may find it a bit pointless. Either way you can enjoy the pretty pictures!

Betty and Flash are a very unique couple in the Spider-verse. There are some couples like Martha/Robbie who have been together as long as we remember. There are brief couplings like Aunt May and Willie Lumpkin which happen and are then over and forgotten. There are long couplings like Liz/Harry or Jonah/Marla where it ends in death (or retconned European vacation). Then there are the couples like Flash/Felicia or Harry/Mary Jane where they are attached at the hip, but then break up and spend many years without interacting.

Since the 80’s Betty and Flash have been a couple (long or short term) on four different occasions. They’ve broken up and dated other people, but always seem to find their way back together. It’s either very Ross and Rachel from “Friends” or Jackie and Kelso from “That 70’s Show”.  Aside from Peter Parker related romances, I can’t think of any other relationship in Spider-Man similar to it. It’s a fun history full of ups and downs and I thought it would be fun to look through. Betty and Flash started out as basically a revenge driven affair. But what brought them to that point?

This first part will show us the evolution of Flash/Betty from their early encounters to the start of their affair. This could almost be considered a prologue as we don’t even get to the beginning of their romance until the last few images.  A huge chunk of this post is chronicling their lives and how it led to their affair. Originally I didn’t think there would be a point in showing all the scenes they shared prior their affair because I thought there would be too many of them. To my surprise there were very few. I suppose it makes sense. Betty was mostly in the Bugle crowd and Flash was mostly in the school crowd. Those two groups didn’t intersect as much as everyone thinks they did. So because there aren’t many shared scenes between Flash and Betty, and even less words exchanged between them, I thought for the sake of completion and giving a full chronicle of their relationship that I would include them all. There are exceptions. If they were both in the same room, but it was a crowded room and they weren’t in the vicinity of eachother (such as the “Spider-Man Fan Club” meeting in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 17), then I won’t include that. If I did, it would be a very slippery slope in terms of inclusion criteria. Otherwise, if I’m there isn’t many Betty/Flash scenes prior to them getting together, why not show them all?

The supporting cast doesn’t always make sense because some writers only use them as background pieces or plot devices. Alot of these early Betty/Flash encounters have no relevance and just served a purpose to get Peter in a scene with the supporting cast. I will try to find meaning in some of this stuff that was never meant to have meaning. This isn’t because because I’m looking for something deeper, or in denial of the purpose of these scenes. It’s merely me chronicling Flash/Betty and looking at old meaningless scenes with hindsight from a modern sensibility (if you could call me sensible). So be prepared for pointless musings…

One of the things that make Flash and Betty unique is that they are both characters who date back to the very early Ditko issues. Although both regular cast members of the Ditko run, the two didn’t wind up in the same scene until issue 15 of “Amazing Spider-Man”.

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Flash and Betty are in the same scene for the first time, but really don’t acknowledge eachother. They are both too focused on the fact that their perspective partners are flirting with one another. I suppose they could have bonded over that?

According to some chronologies lists, this story from the 90’s is the next scene they share. It’s an “Untold Tales of Spider-Man” one shot called “Strange Encounters”.

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Here we have the first chronological interaction between them, albeit indirect. I do love the cameo by Mary Jane before she met Peter.

Untold Tales also played with the Betty/Peter/Liz/Flash tension. Here is what could technically be considered Betty and Flash’s first date together in issue 18.

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When I said their first date together, I probably should have mentioned that it was a double date where they were each with other people. I joked on “Amazing Spider-Man Classics” that I wonder if, during times like these, Betty and Flash gave each other mutual looks about starting their own mutual affair as revenge. I even imagine a retcon in my mind where Flash approaches Betty about the very subject.

Hijinks continued in issue 19.

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And that was pretty much it for Flash and Betty’s interaction (or lack thereof) in “Untold Tales”. Let’s go back to the publishing history with their next chronological “meeting” in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 17….

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…and then issue 21..

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..and their last scene together in the Ditko run, issue 25.

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Even though they’ve shared a few scenes together, this future couple hasn’t once interacted (not counting “Untold Tales”) or even acknowledged that the other exists.

Flash-forward to the Romita run. Peter and Flash are attending Empire State University, while Liz has left both of their lives. Betty and Peter are no longer seeing eachother and she is engaged to fellow Daily Bugle employee Ned Leeds. This brings us to “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 47 where Betty Brant first acknowledges that Flash exists.

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Betty saying “of course I do” kills me given the future of her relationship with Flash. Truth be told, her and Ned attending the party together is also interesting given what Flash means to the future of their relationship.

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Ned and Betty seem so out of place here. Like they are chaperons. It always feels weird when I see an “ESU character” relax with the Bugle cast (except those like Randy who have connections) and visa versa. Despite the many pinup homages to the Silver Age which include Betty and Ned chilling with the gang, it isn’t really something that happened. Somebody forgot to tell Luke Ross when he drew this photo album (depicting the above party) from”Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 250.

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Betty mostly kept her distance from the gang in the actual issue. Here they make it look like she was another classmate. Where was Ned? Taking the picture? Not that it means anything now, but for the sake of chronicling their early relationship this may be considered the first “physical contact” between Flash and Betty. Scratch that…it doesn’t mean anything.

Not that it’s important either, but for completion, the next scene Flash and Betty share is Gwen’s funeral in issue 123. They even stand by eachother…..which isn’t important but my OCD made me point it out.

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As seen in issue 47, Flash and Betty’s relationship has now progressed to the point where they are going to parties in honor of the other person. Oddly enough, Flash is among the guests at Betty and Ned’s engagement party in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 151. Ned and Betty really need more friends.

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Somehow Flash earned an invitation to the actual wedding in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 156.

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I suppose Betty and Ned became friends with all these people off panel. Liz and Betty haven’t seen each other since issue 25 (and they parted as enemies). This type of thing didn’t matter though. If there was a special event in the lives of the supporting cast, the whole supporting cast went even if it didn’t make sense. I’m sure if Aunt Anna got married we would have seen Miles Warren attend. Supporting cast members came together for group stuff and it wasn’t important. Again, at this point we haven’t seen any on panel interaction with her and Flash.

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See what I mean about having no friends? Ned couldn’t even get a best man! He had to borrow one of Betty’s exes! After this Betty and Ned took an extended working honeymoon in Paris. They were absent from the books for a while.

Then Sha Shan returned to Flash’s life. She is a really important player in Flash and Betty’s relationship. Sha Shan isn’t really much of a character, and more of a plot device. Introduced in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 108 under Stan Lee, after her initial multiple part story she wasn’t seen again until the early issues of “Spectacular Spider-Man” where she became a reluctant villainess called “Sister Sun”. Flash and Spider-Man rescued her from her evil husband “Brother Power” and lifted the curse. It’s as dumb as it sounds. After that Sha Shan and Flash got together and their relationship moved very quickly as “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 19 shows.

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They get interrupted so we never did find out what Flash was going to ask. Get pre-engaged? Who knows. Flash and Sha Shan were in a big love cloud during this period. When you think about it, she was his first serious girlfriend. Looking at Flash’s past relationships,

* Sally Avril: They walked off together in “Amazing Fantasy”. Not much else.

* Liz Allan: High school relationship where she also belittled him and his intelligence in front of everyone he knew. She also openly flirted with his rival. Once the cap and gowns were on, she got as far away from him as she could. She then resurfaced to date and marry his roommate! Ouch!

* Gwen Stacy: He liked her alot more than she liked him. It’s clear from what went on in the issues that he cared for her deeply, but she just wasn’t biting.

* Mary Jane Watson: Yea, these two dated for a bit during the Len Wein. She did it to mess with Peter and had no regard for Flash’s feelings.

Early issues of “Spectacular” frequently showed Flash and Sha Shan happy together doing couples stuff. Here is an example from issue 22 that was a recent “Spidey Memories“.

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Notice the mention of Betty and Peter in panel 1? At this point Betty had returned. She had grown tired of Paris and Ned always being away on Bugle business so she left her “working honeymoon” and attempted to restart her relationship with Peter. This put her in some situations where she ran into Flash again like Peter’s graduation in Amazing Spider-Man issue 185.

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Next time they are together is “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 24. As featured in “Bertone hates Betty”, we see Sha Shan and Betty meet for the first time.

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It’s friendly enough. We also get another milestone in Betty and Flash’s relationship.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the first interaction between Betty Brant and Flash Thompson! Flash and Betty are not the main attraction to the book, so there was no writers, artists, editors or readers keeping track of these things. Nobody cared that Flash was at Betty’s engagement party or wedding. The supporting casts were there to support and their relationships with eachother were just assumed to be in place. It was all window dressing compared to other matters like Spidey’s girl problems or fights with the villain of the month.

That doesn’t stop me from tracking it for the purposes of this post though!

Betty gathers Flash and Sha Shan for a boat ride in Amazing Spider-Man issue 188.

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Flash and Betty have their second interaction (third if you count “Untold Tales”) in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 28.

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At the time the titles were playing up a Mary Jane/Betty rivalry. The results were sometimes more awkward than others. Betty and Flash are now sharing scenes together on a more regular basis.
“Amazing Spider-Man” issue 192 has Betty gathering the supporting cast for a surprise party bound to go wrong.

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Is Betty calling them on a payphone? How did she know they would be there? Did she call the restaurant and ask the manager for them ala “Cheers”? Come to think of it Harry/Liz sure double date with Flash/Sha Shan alot. Must be awkward given the history of Flash/Liz. I do love the irony of Sha Shan smiling as Flash and Betty talk on the phone, because she won’t be smiling about their interactions very soon. This appears to be Betty and Flash’s third and final pre-affair direct conversation.

Ned Leeds returns and strong arms Peter into breaking up with Betty. Flash and Harry witness this.

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Flash comes to Peter on Betty’s behalf in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 199.

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Once again I note that those two couples are sure together alot. I understand it’s for the convenience of plot, but I can’t help but wonder how awkward it was in-universe. Well, Harry and Flash are roommates. Speaking of awkward, Betty rooming with Liz must be full of some weirdness considering how their relationship was in the Ditko days. There must of been lots of making up off-panel. Nothing really Earth shattering about Flash speaking on Betty’s behalf, but it’s interesting in hindsight given their relationship now.

Next comes a period in Spider-Man where everything changed for a bit. The old supporting cast was written off. Mary Jane left Peter. Betty and Ned disappeared. Peter was fired for the Bugle (for more than few issues) and he graduated college. This meant new supporting characters in the graduate department and co-workers at the Daily Globe (Peter’s new place of employment). I really enjoyed this era for the way it was trying new things.

Flash was written out in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 32.

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This is like the 97th time (and won’t be the last) where Peter notes the irony of him being friends with Flash. Flash did cameo now and again, but for the most part he was out of the books for the next few years. We catch up to him and Sha Shan (who now live together) in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 63.

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I didn’t post the next panel, but it has Flash noting to Sha Shan how ironic it is that he and Peter were enemies and now friends. Writer Bill Mantlo felt the need to mention it alot.

I know this post is suppose to be about Betty and Flash’s history, but the development of Flash’s relationship with Sha Shan is very important. The fact they are now living together is interesting. As I’ve said before, it’s the most serious relationship Flash has ever had. Unfortunately, with cohabitation comes other problems. At this point Betty and Ned have returned to the books and have attempted to give their marriage another shot. In “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 85 their is a big luncheon with the supporting cast to announce Liz’s pregnancy. Flash and Betty don’t interact, but are there with their perspective partners.

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Please forgiive me for bringing this up again, but I still find it very jarring to see Betty and Liz so chummy!

We get the first hints of Flash’s relationship problems at the end of the lunch.

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Remember when I said that Peter notes the irony of being friends with Flash alot? There it is again!

The subplot is continued and we get various  pages throughout the next issues of Flash talking to mysterious people and disappearing without telling Sha Shan where he is going. Eventually Sha Shan goes to Peter to ask what she thinks the problem is. Flash witnesses this in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 94 and gets the wrong idea.

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The subplot continues in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 95. It reintroduces the readers to the idea of trouble in the Leeds marriage.

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Note the Osborn’s having money problems. This is before the recon of “OSBORNS HAVE ALWAYS HAD MORE MONEY THAN DONALD TRUMP”.

All the pieces are now in place. Time to get to the beginning of the affair subplot. At this point Flash and Betty have interacted with eachother directly on panel three times (four if you count “Untold Tales”). From here on out, the number will get too big to keep track of. It all starts in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 96. Flash is walking in the snow fuming about Peter and Sha Shan having an affair behind his back when a chance encounter takes place.

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And so it begins!

When we return for part 2, things get a bit more scandalous as the couple does a very poor job of covering their tracks. Ned confronts Flash, Sha Shan tries to leave and more.

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(25) Comments

  1. Darthfury78

    Now if we only get the opportunity to finally see Peter Parker and Liz Allen in a romantic relationship.

  2. Bertone - Post author

    Big compliments Doc! Glad I was "print worthy"! Love UNTOLD TALES. Some of my earliest Spidey books. Also helped me get to know Betty.

  3. Donovan Grant

    Oh, Josh and I love Untold Tales by Busiek. That's what heleped get me into the Spidey comics as a kid.

  4. Doc Folsome

    Great work Bertone, the scale for this surpassed my 'reading off the computer screen' limit...so i had to print it out...that's an accomplishment for sure! Couple of things I know a lot of people aren't very approving of Busiek's work on Untold Tales, but I'm a huge fan of his in general and also his work on that series. Your presentation here strengthens my convictions of UT b/c he incorporated aspects like having Flash/Betty interact, making their future relationship seem a little more feasible, despite their lack of dialogue in the core titles. Nice job for pointing that out and also for incorporating UT into the chronology. "Note the Osborn’s having money problems. This is before the recon of “OSBORNS HAVE ALWAYS HAD MORE MONEY THAN DONALD TRUMP"." This is actually a little more complicated than it seems, and the retcon that is prevalent today, may actually work. In ASM #62, Jonah (after a weird interaction with Norman) notes to himself that Norman's chemical plant makes him one of the 'richest men in town'. By today's standards, the wealthiest New Yorkers are all multi-billionaires, so I'd imagine Norman was at least a multi-millionaire during that time period. In ASM 121 the stock plummets and Norman loses a shit-load of money, but I'm not sure we know exactly just how much he lost. We know he rebuilt the fortune after he met Emily while in cahoots with Stromm, we also know that he made a ton a money during his exile in Europe too. One could argue that Norman (post ESU) usually had a good amt of cash around. I know its off-topic, but i figured i mention it (I know i'm glossing over the years harry ran the company, but for the most part he was an executive at a big company, so Harry had to have a reasonable amt of dough during that time too)... I'm not sure if anybody else keeps making this mistake, but I've reading 'Neddy' in my head everytime i read Ned/Betty...just figured i mention it ;) Nice job, looking forward to part II.

  5. mustached avenger

    Its kind of sad how little we know about a man who at one time was going to be the green goblin and was for a long time the hobgoblin. Plus, he was a romantic rival for the hero OF THE FRIGGIN BOOK!!!

  6. Proto Goblin

    To be fair I don't think we ever saw any evidence that Betty had any actual friends back in the Lee/Ditko days. And we never saw much of Ned outside of Betty for that matter.

  7. Bertone - Post author

    @Spider-Dad, I'm glad someone else noticed these little things and were also bothered by them! It drove me nuts! Especially with back issue hindsight! @Pete Wiggins and TNR, TESTIFY

  8. tnr105

    I suppose it is their way of implying Betty has cold tone. She is a horrible person after all!

  9. tnr105

    @Bertone I feel more from Robbie's self doubt in that second to last pic than Betty whining that her husband is off making money to care for his wife.

  10. Spider-Dad

    Interesting start. I like how you find all the window dressing scenes and how the relationships seemed forced. I remember reading the Ned and Betty wedding as a kid and wondered how Peter\MJ were best man and maid of honor for them. Sheesh, get some friends, etc. Of course, it was more lame that Mirage showed up at their wedding. Talk about silly. Looking forward to the next installment. BTW: The formatting is fine in IE9 with compatibility view...

  11. hornacek

    - Peter at Gwen's funeral not wearing black? Now that I look again, no one is - disgraceful! - Guy Lomardo?!? - Is Betty wearing a bikini top and pants in Amaz. 188? I guess it was the 70s. - In Spec 85 Peter is wearing a bow-tie and Harry is wearing a tie. In the old days it was always the opposite. - Chrome rules!

  12. BD

    Just read the whole thing, it was outstanding. You're giving JR a run for his money as the Spider-Yoda. Bravo!

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