April 1, 2011

Cobalt Blue, Classic Rogue?

Category: Opinion — By @ 3:00 am

“Chain Lightning” (Flash #143–150, including the lead-in) is a polarizing Flash storyline. Some fans love the look into the future of the Flash legacy. Others can’t stand that it hinges on Barry having an evil twin. (I’ve never been entirely sure how much of the objection is to the evil twin trope in general, or to the fact that Cobalt Blue is Barry’s evil twin.) Even Mark Waid admits that it didn’t work, though he maintains in The Flash Companion that the idea was sound, he just screwed up on the execution.

But then I had a thought: What if Cobalt Blue had appeared during the Silver Age instead of the late 1990s?

The evil twin trope hadn’t been discredited yet, so there would have been few objections on that basis. And with Barry as the new, current Flash rather than a fond memory, there would be no sense that DC was tarnishing a cherished hero’s legacy.

Consider: The Flash’s opposite number, who could have had his life but for a twist of fate, who fights against the law instead of for it, who uses magic instead of science. There’s some solid appeal there. And being a conceptual opposite makes him fill a different role than the Reverse-Flash, who is basically the Flash, but evil. (Sort of like Savitar vs. Zoom)

Obviously the big 6-issue epics didn’t exist back then, but I can imagine Chain Lightning as a recurring type of story, where once a year or so, the Flash has to go into the future to help another future Flash fight that generation’s Cobalt Blue.

So…

Is Cobalt Blue that much worse a name than Captain Cold, Professor Zoom, Pied Piper or Abra Kadabra? (Admittedly, Waid says in the same interview that he wanted to use the name Wildfire, but DC nixed it.)

Is a literal evil twin that much harder to swallow than a clone (Inertia), a mimic who has been known to alter his appearance to match the original (Professor Zoom), the product of an imperfect duplicator ray (Bizarro), or an alternate universe version (Ultraman)?

Is the concept that much more hokey than a gang boss who dresses as a clown (Joker), a talking telepathic gorilla (Grodd), a villain who spins (The Top), runs around in a parka and snow goggles in the heat of summer (Captain Cold), or throws trick boomerangs (Captain Boomerang, of course)? Look at the reactions to Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge from people who don’t read The Flash. They were surprised to find that the Rogues were compelling characters. Readers outside the Flash fanbase look at the Rogues’ names, costumes, and powers and figure that they’re nothing but lame jokes, but when used properly, they transcend the cheese factor.

What do you think? Am I totally off-base here, or could Cobalt Blue have worked as a classic Silver-Age villain?

(Originally posted October 2008. Expanded from a remark I posted on Twitter earlier, itself condensed from a post on Comic Bloc in response to Heatwave the Rogue’s assertion that Cobalt Blue is the Mopee of the modern era.)

20 responses to “Cobalt Blue, Classic Rogue?”

  1. Jason West says:

    heck yes he would’ve! i think they should bring him back in The Flash in the next couple of years. he would’ve easily worked back then, he could probably work now (w/ a twist now that Barry’s back…)

    i’m still waiting for DC to release this storyline in book form (as well as Dark Flash/others)

  2. Alan Trehern says:

    I think he would have worked too! I also agree that the twin concept was a stretch. Maybe if they could have explained it as a Barry from an alternate world left behind from the remains of the multiverse? That way he looks like Barry, but isn’t really a biological twin.

    Maybe Johns will correct Cobalt Blue’s origin in Flash?

    .-= Alan Trehern’s latest blog post: A Legend of Zelda Movie? =-.

  3. M. J. Springer says:

    What if that’s NOT Barry that’s recently returned, but Cobalt Blue instead ?!?!?!

  4. Mike Y says:

    I was just reading this and thinking how a lot of people though Barry Allen might be the Libra running around. What is they were half right? What if it was Cobalt Blue under the mask. Just an interesting thought, but probably totally untrue.

    I’m surprised to hear that Waid has said that the Cobalt blue idea failed, because I loved that run of the Flash, Chain Lightning is one of if not one of my favorite Flash stories. Reminds me of how they are currently expanding the Green Lantern mythos.

  5. Luke says:

    I too think Cobalt Blue would have worked well in the Silver Age. I mean, I can pretty much see how your recurring story would go. Barry would be in the lab, and suddenly, a future version of the Flash would show up and ask for his help. And Barry would (very helpfully) say, “You must have run into my twin brother, Cobalt Blue! A twist of fate seperated us at birth… and now he is my exact opposite!” And then it’s Cosmic Treadmill and 18 pages of super-speed and Flash Facts. (And, at some point Elongated Man would tag along.)

    I liked Chain Lightning because, to me, it took the concept of the Flash being “generational” to the final logical conclusion. The Flash is one of the best properties in the superhero world at taking all that has come before and making it somehow work. Batfans will wring their hands and gnash their teeth at te goofy 50s science fiction tales, but Flash fans seem to more readily accept everything from Mr. Element to Rainbow Raider.

  6. West says:

    I could see CB working in the past and thus being more accepted in the future*. But the twin thing is problematic in that, for me anyway, it prompts questions about Barry’s parentage (which could be a good thing, actually) and it shows up on the back end of a half-century of silence about this twin who supposedly existed all along.

    I’d want to see some serious tracks laid down to prepare us for this bombshell. Before Waid had Wally go talk to his younger self, he injected the previously non-existent life-changing moment into Wally’s history, then let us get used to it.

    So, as you say, a lot of the “lamest” stuff works when it’s done properly. The problem is that it has to be done really, really, really well and not many creators are up to the task, imo.

    * kinda like how having named someone “Captain Cold” a looooong time, ago, makes the character more palatable than if he were created now

    .-= West’s latest blog post: Where Credit’s Due =-.

  7. Cobalt Blue would have absolutely worked in the Silver Age. Evil twins were part and parcel back then.

    I’ve always disliked the Cobalt Blue storyline, but your Silver Age idea paints it in a whole new light. I may have to go back and re-read that story again.

    Keep up the great work!

    The Irredeemable Shag
    http://onceuponageek.com

    .-= The Irredeemable Shag’s latest blog post: List Week: A Variety of Geek Lists =-.

  8. Joe says:

    I’d like to see what Geoff Johns could do with this guy.

  9. Craig MacD says:

    One of the worst Flash characters ever, second only to Mopee.

  10. Steve says:

    Barry has had several different dopplegangers during his life. Comics has had thousands. The concept would have worked in the Silver Age with the right execution (hecked, it was just pulled again in the last issue. WHOAH, ANOTHER BARRY ALLEN!). The hate generated for the character mostly had to do with the fact that he was an evil twin of Barry’s that didn’t appear in a Barry Allen story. And since the original CB was a small part of a much grander story, he also didn’t have enough page time to flesh him out as anything other than the source of the Cobalt Blues. If he appeared in a Silver Age story, there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be held up and praised as a classic Flash villain.

  11. Lia says:

    Hey hey hey, spinning is not lame 😉

    Generally I agree with you that he would have been a lot more palatable in the Silver Age and we’d probably look back on him more fondly now, but the evil twin is still an overdone trope. And even though the Rogues are classic now, people are still making fun of some of their sillier schticks 😉 so we wouldn’t necessarily embrace Malcolm whole-heartedly even if he had debuted in 1961.

    But Steve also has a point suggesting that if Malcolm had been more fleshed out he might be more interesting; as it is, he’s not a deep character and seems little more than a cliche. Having 50 years of (possibly erratic) characterization would surely have helped with that, so that’s another point in a Silver Age origin’s favour.

  12. Eyz says:

    He could have been quite something…
    Perhaps against Barry it would have actually made more sense…
    (though the evil twin still sounds a bit far-stretched)

    • Malcolm says:

      Right, because talking gorillas are so much more believable than separated-at-birth twins.

      • Lia says:

        Who let you out of your cage, Malcolm? Don’t you have some highly-venomous spiders to play with?

      • Eyz says:

        I was more talking about the relation to the hero (as in, Cobalt Blue vs. Barry Allen rather than Wally West) rather thant powers.

        And, come on! Talking gorillas are pure “pulp” styled villains. Separated at birth evil twin sounds like something from a Soap TV show..

  13. Mr Maczaps says:

    maybe i’m just the odd evil twin, but I enjoyed this run!

  14. Perplexio says:

    I tend to agree with Waid’s remarks from interviews that it was a sound idea, just poorly executed.

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