Flash and Betty part 2: Anything Illicit


Thank you everybody for the enthusiastic response to part 1! I was originally going to call this installment “Indiscretions”, but I love Betty and Flash’s conversation in the preview picture so much that I had to include a quote from it. The soap opera meter is going to be off the charts with this post. Instead of tracking through a few decades of shared scenes and coincidences like I did last time, here we have the Flash and Betty’s relationship in it’s early stages. How will it affect their significant others? What happens when Peter finds out? How is the Hobgoblin involved with all the retcons going around?

All this and what may possibly be some of the worse things Flash has ever done. Read on and don’t forget to leave a comment!

The Flash/Ned/Betty/Sha Shan storyline going on during this era was one of the many subplots around this time which made the era so great. On the criminal side of things we had the Rose and Hobgoblin gearing up for their war against the Kingpin, Mary Jane and Peter’s friendship adjusting to her revealing she knows he’s Spider-Man and so much more. I talked about in part 1 how sometimes supporting cast members were just props. Here they move the story along and make the book even more interesting. I remember an interview around “Brand New Day” (can’t remember by whom) which stated that there was lots of ideas for the supporting cast but ultimately they wanted the book to about Peter and not what Robbie or Harry was up to. That’s good logic, but I believe the era I’m covering here found a great balance. You wanted to keep reading to see what would happen to Sha Shan and Flash or what the Black Cat was planning with Foreigner. It’s Spidey soap opera at it’s finest and I wish we could see something like it again in “Big Time”.

Onto the story though. When we last left off, Flash thought Peter and Sha Shan were fooling around. Betty was feeling neglected due to Ned going on undercover assignments for extended periods of time. They ran into eachother during a blizzard which was advertising a Thor or Avengers event.

Flash and Betty discuss their mutual adventures from the “Crossover Blizzard” in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 97.

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As William Shakespeare says, “methinks the lady doth protest too much”. All Peter did was note that he didn’t realize she and Flash had a friendship…period. I feel the same way looking at some scenes from my last installment.

Whatever their relationship is at this point, it’s bad enough in Betty’s mind that she feels the need to overly justify it.

I joked about Betty and Flash’s first date in part 1, but we now get to their real first date in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 98.

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Oh boy! Where do I even begin? First of all, nothing says you’re doing something like repeating over and over again “there is nothing wrong with this”. And what’s this about Betty never thanking Flash for helping her during the “Crossover Blizzard”? Isn’t that exactly what happened last issue? Interesting that Betty feels she has taken the back seat to Ned’s career, as Betty has constantly given Ned the back seat to….everything! I do love Flash’s response to Betty trying to fool herself into thinking that they aren’t doing anything illicit. At second glance, it’s seems to be the first time that either of them drop the pretense that whatever they are doing is perfectly innocent. The bashing of Sha Shan and Ned supports the theory that the relationship was initially out of spite and revenge. Flash’s logic is kind of funny here. “Sha Shan doesn’t trust me eh? Well I’ll show her! Let’s see her not trust me as I cheat on her!”

Betty continues to play the unnecessary denial card when Peter talks to her in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 99.

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If you thought Betty protested too much in issue 97, this scene blows that one out of the water! All Peter had to do was mention Flash and she gave a whole defensive speech. Rather jumpy isn’t she? Does she do this at the mere mention of Flash? Or even the word flash? If Lance Bannon says “the flash on my bulb is broken”, will Betty break into a speech about how there is nothing wrong with giving Flash a lapdance while Ned is away on an assignment for a few hours.

Then Betty deflects the adultery spotlight (which Peter wasn’t even implying) from her to Sha Shan. Smooth move Ms. Brant. Remember at this point Flash (and I suppose Betty) are convinced that Peter and Sha Shan are seeing eachother. Part of that makes it dark irony…Flash and Betty’s relationship started due to a misunderstanding. Oh what unfortunate implications that brings! By the way, in the three issues I’ve shown so far, is Betty written as any sort of likeable character? I told you she was a horrible person.

“Betty once made a play for me when Ned was out of town. Is this business with Flash a repeat performance?”

What a big understatement by Peter involving his own indiscretion during the Marv Wolfman run.

“It’s beginning to play like an episode of As the Spider Turns”.

Indeed Peter. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Spider-Man works really well when his supporting cast goes through their own interesting subplot developments. This era had some of the best.
The soap opera continues in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 100. Once again Flash leaves Sha Shan to go with mysterious men and do mysterious things. We’ve seen Flash with these guys a few times and the implication has been they are criminals trying to recruit Flash to their gang. Sha Shan calls Peter and asks him to follow Flash, which he does as Spider-Man. It turns out that crowd Flash was hanging out with was football players. If you’ve seen all the subplot pages involving this mystery it makes the payoff very…odd. Spider-Man is just relieved that he didn’t find Flash with Betty. His relief only lasts a split second.

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I love Spidey’s “adultery facepalm” in panel 3. Flash and Betty are sure getting a little too relaxed with their sneaking around. They are now showing some public displays of affection. This isn’t sneaking around, this is embracing on a football field in broad daylight. A FOOTBALL FIELD! Interesting to note that whatever Flash’s issues with Shan Shan are, he shared this new life development with Betty and not her.

This Flash/football development went nowhere. After the Hobgoblin development (see the end of this article) fallout it was forgotten about. That’s the way things usually go with developments for supporting characters.
What about the Flash/Betty affair? Now Peter knows about it. Will he tell Sha Shan? How does this affect Ned?

These are questions that aren’t even addressed for almost a year!

All the issues I’ve shown in this post so far have been Al Milgrom written issues of “Spectacular Spider-Man”. He introduced the Flash/Betty storyline and had been the only writer dealing with it. He left “Spectacular Spider-Man” after issue 100. After that the title went all over the place until Peter David started his run. “Web of Spider-Man” also started but was similarly finding trouble with it’s direction. Despite the momentem with the Flash/Betty affair storyline, it just wasn’t addressed for a while. We did get this brief hint of it in “Web of Spider-Man” issue 4.

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Aside from this, the affair wasn’t addressed. Flash Thompson and Peter even had a nice chat in “Web of Spider-Man” issue 11, even though Flash is suppose to be mad at him for “having an affair” with Sha Shan.

Although Flash wasn’t mentioned, we are reminded of the Leeds martial problems in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 271.

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Once again, this would be a convenient time for him to remember Betty’s affair. It surely gives their marriage problems more depth than “Ned works alot”.

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As bad as Betty is, Marvel did everything they could to make Ned look worse. Depending on what year it is the explanation is either “he’s the Hobgoblin” or “the brainwashing from the Hobgoblin is making him crazy”. I maintain that at times he was more aggressive with Betty than he needed to be, but I personally don’t feel it justifies the way she’s treated him ever since the Ditko days.

Tom Defalco finally picks up ball in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 273 and deals with Peter’s knowledge of the affair.

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Yes, Ned is an ogre here. I still think that in the bigger picture of their marriage and relationship (she left him on their honeymoon) Betty has more offenses than Ned does. This doesn’t make Ned totally innocent. I won’t deny he was a jerk. But Ms. Brant was no saint either. Peter never liked Ned? Always felt uneasy when he was around? This must be a setup (or red herring) for him to be the Hobgoblin because Peter and Ned were downright chummy in the 70’s! Peter was even Ned’s best man!

Later that issue Ned catches Flash and Betty together.

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I am not sure how much has transpired between the panels, but Ned seemed to have an inclining of what was going on before he saw the evidence for himself. How did he find out? How did he suspect? Even though Peter hasn’t said anything, who is to say that somebody else didn’t see them and gossip about it. Betty mentioned the rumors herself in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 99.

Remember when I said that Flash and Betty were getting more relaxed about sneaking around? Here it’s ridiculous!

Of all the places to meet, the front of the Daily Bugle building is the worse! Off the top of my head..

* The most obvious reason is that Ned works there.

* The second most obvious is that all their friends work there. Friends who are reporters!

* It’s the middle of a very crowded street where people are sure to see them. In daylight.

Even Betty’s apartment would have made more sense than this! At least then Ned would have less of a chance of walking in on them because as Betty whines, he’s always away on assignment.

Now comes the major turning point. Everything has been leading up to this. Things are going to explode like a powder keg. Spidey soap opera at it’s finest! It all goes down in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 275.

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One of Flash Thompson’s darker moments. I wish I could say this was his rock bottom. It wasn’t. Flash seemed at ease with Peter over in “Web”, here he’s mad about Peter “seeing” Sha Shan again even though it’s been over a year since it’s been mentioned.

Did Sha Shan just called Betty a tramp? I think she might be my new favorite Marvel character. This does brings up a question. How did Sha Shan find out? We were meant to assume Peter never told her. I assume that, as I hypothesized with Ned, someone else saw them together despite their “sneakiness” and it got back to her.

Flash appearing out of nowhere to basically say “so it’s true” somewhat mirrors a scene in the 90’s Spider-Man Animated Series episode “The Awakening”. You can watch it here at the 4:54 mark. In case you are either lazy or it’s been taken down, it’s Flash Thompson appearing in a scene as if from nowhere to accuse his girlfriend Debra Whitman (it was the 90’s) of being sweet on Morbius the Vampire (it was the 90’s). The randomness of Flash’s entrance has always cracked up our resident 90’s show reviewer Donovan.

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We are in the midst of the Hobgoblin mystery and Flash, Ned and Lance all being mentioned as MIA in one panel was meant to be a suspect rundown. Betty’s affair with Flash Thompson has gone beyond “fun” or “revenge”. She is now considering “choosing” between them. Could this mean her making the decision to leave Ned for Flash? Or is she falling for Flash so deeply that she wants to cut it off before it gets too serious? Does she even know herself?

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There have been a few explanations offered for Ned’s secret undercover assignments.

*He was harassing Richard Fisk as seen via flashbacks in “Web of Spider-Man” issue 30.

*He was gathering information for the spy story he’d go to Berlin for in “Spider-Man vs. Wolverine”. He tells Robbie as much in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 285.

*He was brainwashed by Kingsley and doing his bidding.

I suppose it could have been a combination of three.

Gotta hand it to Betty. She sure knows how to get sympathy. Imagine showing up at work, crying about your personal problems and not being able to do your job. Robbie is more understanding to her antics than most bosses would be.

Sha Shan packs her bags to leave because nothing kills a relationship like getting punched in the face. Ned shows up and runs into her.

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Ned looking at the Greyhound ticket is a nice subtle touch given what happens later in the issue. The Hobgoblin retcon has made it null and void though.

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I love Flash’s evil version of the floating heads of guilt. I guess we could call these ones the floating heads of hate.

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Two men fighting over a woman? Have I stumbled upon “Twilight: The Graphic Novel”? Are you on Team Flash or Team Ned? Do you even want to support a team who fights for the hand of Betty Brant?

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See that last panel? This is where Sha Shan should be filing the restraining order. I once again remind you that he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. See that anger? Isn’t it scary that he has the Venom symbiote now?

The anger Flash (and to some extent Ned) was displaying at the time may have been for red herring purposes to set both up as Hobgoblin suspects. The very next panel was a suited up Hobgoblin talking about needing to calm down. He goes to the bus station and kidnaps Sha Shan at random. Or was it random? At the time when Hobgoblin was believed to be Ned Leeds this was meant to be payoff from the panel of him eyeballing Sha Shan’s bus ticket. But since the Hobgoblin was Kingsley, it’s now just a coincidence.

Spider-Man saves Sha Shan from being stuffed in a fridge so she can instead go to comic book limbo. Before she heads to limbo she goes to hospital to recover from the Hobgoblin’s attack. Flash visits her in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 276. He hasn’t learned his lesson.

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People give Hank Pym grief about one slap, but Flash punched his girlfriend in the face and went to her hospital room to bully her while she was recovering from a near death experience. I know some members of this site are not fans of the “woman slaps man” scenes, but I think Sha Shan was well within her rights here. But maybe I’m wrong…let me know in the comment section.

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“I’ll be back”. DEAR LORD FLASH STOP TALKING! YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE! Hmmm maybe a “Flash Thompson is a horrible person” series would have been more suitable.

Unfortunately for Flash, he doesn’t stop talking and it winds up being his undoing.

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Anyone else notice the irony of Flash saying the Hobgoblin is a “big bully who terrorizes defenseless women”? Lance fulfills his duty as red herring and promptly takes off. Betty is concerned about her hot stuff on the side. Her concerns are valid because as we see in the second panel, the Hobgoblin did indeed see this.

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We get a timeframe of how long Betty and Flash have been seeing eachother, a few months of sneaking around. Whatever the state of their relationship is, Flash is having doubts about Betty’s intentions and wondering if she is using him for revenge. Isn’t that what he was in it for as well? Flash doesn’t seem too confident or trusting of anyone at this point though.

As you can see in the last panel, Hobgoblin runs into Flash. Cut to Hobgoblin goading Spider-Man into a fight, luring him to a warehouse, setting off an explosion and placing an unconscious Flash Thompson in a Hobgoblin costume for Spider-Man to find.

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Back when continuity stated the Hobgoblin was Ned, this scene was a good follow up from Ned swearing Flash would pay after he decked him. According to “Hobgoblin Lives” and it’s cliffnotes, framing Flash was Kingsley’s idea and had nothing to do with the Ned/Betty/Flash triangle.

Sha Shan and Flash are through. Ned knows about the affair. Flash is in jail. Where does Betty and Flash’s relationship go from here? To part three of course! Keep your eyes out for it!