January 6, 2014

Thoughts on Kid Flash’s New 52 Origin – SPOILERS

Category: Opinion — By

Teen Titans 26 CoverAs hinted at in our review of the issue, Teen Titans #26 reveals at last the New 52 origin of Kid Flash, a.k.a. Bart Allen.

Stop reading now if you don’t want to find out.

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SPOILERS!

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Read the rest of this entry »

November 18, 2013

Flash Personalities: The Breakdown

Category: Opinion — By

Four Flashes (Flash Companion cover)

A character is more than his or her code name, costume, and power set. He’s more than his civilian job, or external circumstances. A compelling character must have a personality, and similar characters must have different personalities.

I’ve tried to distill a core personality set for each of the major Flashes at DC Comics, in a way would set them apart from each other even if you put them all in the same outfit.

Jay Garrick: The Gentleman Adventurer. In his younger days as the Flash, Jay Garrick was a bit of a practical joker, toying with the criminals whose plans he foiled. He never lost his humor, but it evolved into more of a dry wit as he began to face more challenging villains and superheroics became a lifelong career. Eventually he grew into the role of elder statesman, mentoring younger heroes and serving as an example to a new generation.

Barry Allen: The Methodical Scientist. Long before he became the Flash, Barry Allen trained as a forensic scientist. His police training means he approaches super-crime as an investigator, not just a fighter, and his scientific approach allows him to come up with new and creative ways to use his speed. He discovered time travel, vibrating through objects, creating whirlwinds, and more in his time as the Flash. Barry is also a lifelong comic book fan, who maintains his collection with the same meticulous care that he uses in the crime lab.

Wally West: Living the Dream. All his life, Wally West wanted to be a super-hero like the Flash, and once he gained super-speed, he reveled in it. Barry might have felt embarrassed by things like the Flash Museum, but Wally welcomed the attention and fame.* (Exception: When Wally’s speed was killing him, he avoided everything related to it when he could.) This lends him a bit of a temper when things don’t go his way. While he doesn’t take Barry’s experimental approach to his powers, he’s quite willing to seek out experts when he needs to, incorporating knowledge and techniques from such varied sources as Max Mercury’s zen philosophy, Johnny Quick’s speed formula, and Savitar’s knowledge of the speed force.

Bart Allen: The Impulsive One. To Bart, super-speed is normal. He’s never known anything else.  Growing up in a virtual reality left him with no sense of danger. Combine the two, and you have someone acts at the speed of thought without considering consequences. When consequences do hit (Carol’s disappearance, or the death of one of his scouts), they hit him hard. He struggles to keep himself from tearing off at the speed of light, but most of the time, he just doesn’t worry about it.

How Does it Track?

It fits quite well for all the comics and cartoons up through Flashpoint. Looking at animation: For Justice League Unlimited you drop Wally’s specific fandom for the Flash, but everything else fits. For Young Justice, you actually enhance it (he deliberately recreated Barry’s origin), and you drop the VR/danger non-sense from Bart. Jay, especially, in the Flash episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Live action shows have changed things a bit more. The Flash TV Series from 1990 offloaded a lot of the scientific approach to Tina McGee in favor of just having Barry punch people really fast, though he did retain the detective mindset. Smallville’s version of Bart Allen was a bit more mopey, and of course skipped the origin entirely, but he still had the careless attitude more typical of Bart than the other speedsters.

As for the New 52: Barry Allen is more like his old self now than he was under Geoff Johns’ pen, but Jay Garrick and Bart Allen are different enough that I gave up trying to reconcile them and just stayed with the pre-Flashpoint versions. Bart has incorporated the haunted-past element from Smallville, though it’ll be interesting to see how much that lasts after his history is explored over the next few months. And, well, there is no New 52 Wally West yet to worry about working in.

*Nightwing once speculated that Wally West deliberately draws villains’ attention to keep them focused on himself instead of the general public.

Image: Cover of The Flash Companion.

September 24, 2013

5 Reasons Wally West Should Appear in The Flash TV Show

Category: Opinion — By

Today’s guest post is by Steve Henel

Wally West. What is going on?On July 30th, the news broke that a live action Flash series would soon be joining the successful “Arrow” show currently being broadcast on the CW network. The character of Barry Allen, now appearing in comics as the “New 52” version of the famous speedster, will be introduced on Arrow before spinning off into his own adventures. As most comic fans know, Barry Allen is not the only person to wear the crimson and yellow, and the question of whether or not he is the most popular (or most “iconic” as DC has branded him) is still a matter of heated debate. His comic book sidekick-turned-successor Wally West is both a fan favorite character and the Flash many people best remember, due to his appearances in the animated Justice League, Teen Titans, and Young Justice cartoons. Of course Barry will be the star of the new Flash series, and he is certainly the face of the franchise that Dan Didio and Geoff Johns want the world to see.

That being said, there are many reasons why including Wally West in the CW show makes a lot of sense. These range from the simple storytelling potential he provides to the ways that he can attract fans who have never picked up a comic book before. For several years, the DC powers-that-be have purposely kept Wally out of comic books, partially due to the fear that another Flash would take the focus away from Barry Allen and make him appear less special as a superhero. This opinion piece is meant to reveal just how Wally West could actually enhance and deepen the appeal of Barry Allen in a television show. Here then, are 5 reasons to include Wally as a member of the supporting cast: Read the rest of this entry »

June 28, 2013

What The Flash #21 Says About Bart…and Each of Us (Commentary)

Category: Opinion — By

Flash 21 coverNote: This is an opinion piece, and it represents just my own opinion here…

I have been very interested in the reactions to The Flash #21, and in the variety of reviews for this issue.  Some have been glowing (including my review) and some have been not-so-glowing, which happens to a lot of comics these days…but the source of the debate seems a bit more consistent than with other issues.  It comes down in no small measure to the characterization of Bart Allen and how different fans feel about his depiction in this issue.  I stand by my review for reasons I’ll explain in must a moment…but I do understand how others feel about this subject.  It hearkens back to the debates about the launch of the New 52, and to other changes in continuity over the years – and it says a lot about how we feel about these wonderful characters and about continuity changes in general.

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May 20, 2013

Jay Garrick Loses a Good Friend – Robinson Departs Earth 2 and DC

Category: Opinion — By

20130520-063633.jpg As most fans are aware by now, James Robinson has announced in a series of Tweets that he is leaving Earth 2 and DC Comics. This marks the beginning of some uncertain times for Jay, Alan, Kendra, Khalid, Al and company. This has been a consistently excellent series, one near the top of my pull list for some time. The fact that it has done so well is testament to Robinson’s talent as a creator, and he will be sorely missed. There is certainly time for DC to try to make this right, as they previously have done wih Gail Simone on Batgirl…but just in case this is a good time to say a few words about James Robinson’s excellent run on Earth 2.

Earth 2 has been both a critical and sales success, with Robinson taking on one of the most difficult and controversial changes in the New 52 – the complete redesign of the Justice Society.  Robinson took the Golden Age Heroes who for years had literally been the elder statespersons of the DC Universe and made them young again, placing them on a parallel Earth for the first time since before the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s.  In doing so, he revamped both the look and origin stories for characters long cherished by DC fans, with many fans (including myself) waiting for the results with skeptical eyes.  What we got was something truly special, and something that has been one of the great success stories of DC’s lineup.

Jay Garrick in particular had caused some early concern.  The initial drawings released to the public didn’t cast the new uniform in the best light, and while the first issue allayed that concern with a very interesting new look it also cast Jay as a bit of a slacker who couldn’t keep his life together.  Yet, over the issues so far we have seen Jay grow as both a person and as a hero.  Jay Garrick didn’t ask for his powers, but he didn’t shirk the responsibility that came with them.  And, he is still growing and becoming both a true hero and a leader.  Jay as the everyman hero has become a great character in this series.

Even the change that generated the most news in the mainstream media, revamping Alan Scott as gay, was handled expertly by Robinson.  We find an Alan Scott who is noble, brave, truly heroic, and a strong leader who happens to be gay.  It is one part of who he is, not merely a stunt to generate controversy or sales.  In remaking these characters, Robinson has taken the best of their Golden Age and Silver Age qualities and reshaped them to fit the sensibilities and realities of today.

I could go on and on about the characters created for this series, from the great Hawkgirl to the wonderful new Doctor Fate, to the new Al Pratt and the new Mr. Terrific (who doesn’t seem so interested in “fair play” at the moment, if you are following the storyline).  This is a series that I didn’t want to like, didn’t want to believe in…yet James Robinson won me (and a lot of other fans) over with his excellent storylines and characterization.  He has proven that writing matters, that good writing can make most any character compelling, and that a good story is always worth reading.

I’m still holding out hope that something can be resolved a la Gail Simone and her return to Batgirl.  If not, DC will have the very difficult task of finding someone who can effectively continue James Robinson’s excellent vision for this team and this series.  Jay Garrick and company have lost an excellent friend…and so has the DC Universe.  Wherever you go, Mr. Robinson, we will anxiously await your next work.  Thanks for a great ride with Earth 2!

April 9, 2013

Of Robins and Flashes…Endangered Species?

Category: Opinion — By

flash v3 issue 12SOME SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T READ SMALLVILLE SEASON ELEVEN

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out just what is more dangerous in the DC Universe – to be a Robin or to wear a lightning bolt on your shirt?  There seem to be a lot of beloved characters falling by the wayside lately, and it bears some examination.  After all, Jason Todd, Stephanie Brown, and now Damian Wayne have all died while wearing the symbol of Robin.  It hasn’t been the safest role to take on in the DCU…although I would make an argument that running fast seems to attract even more trouble.

In the latest print issue of  Smallville Season Eleven we find the conclusion of the story arc that features Bart Allen, the Impulse of the Smallville-verse.  In this story, Clark and his good friend Bart are reunited in a globe-hopping battle against the Black Racer, the enemy of Flashes past and present.  In the end, Bart saves the day…but sacrifices himself to do so.  All we are left with are Clark’s plans to build “a big statue” to Bart, and another Flash that has left some form or other of DC continuity.

This adds to the demise of the Wally West of Earth 16 in “Young Justice”, and the deaths and disappearances of Flashes over the years.  Let’s take a partial toll here:

  • Barry Allen died saving the Earth in Crisis on Infinite Earths, remaining basically “dead” until Flash Rebirth.
  • Jay Garrick and the rest of the JSA died over and over again soon after CoIE while in a continual time loop, fighting the battle of Ragnarok.  This is where they stayed for several years until they were brought back into DC continuity.
  • Wally West has been in and out of the Speed Force, presumed dead more than once, killed in the Flashpoint series without ever having taken on the mantle of Flash, and now does not even exist in the New52.  He was killed once again on Earth 16 in Young Justice as noted above.
  • Bart Allen was pummeled to death by the Rogues while serving as the fourth Flash, being brought back to life some time later.  And, as noted above, his Smallville-verse self just took a one-way ticket (presumably) into the Speed Force.

This doesn’t even start to list other dead or missing speedsters like Johnny and Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, or Wally’s kids.  It really doesn’t seem safe to run fast these days.flash tfma 13

The toughest part of all this for me is the way the actual deaths are being handled lately.  Bart’s passing in Smallville felt forced…it wasn’t truly necessary.  Yes, he got rid of the menace…but how did that help Clark and the rest of the Smallville gang?  Believe it or not…exposure to Speed Force energy somehow cleansed Clark of the tracking radiation Luthor was using to follow Superman’s every move.  This allowed Superman to resume acting as Clark Kent without being found out by Luthor.

In other words…Bart’s sacrifice was made so that he could act as a “spot-remover” to some radiation that was creating an inconvenience for Clark.

I have supported (and continue to support) the New52 volume of The Flash, as it represents some of the finest scripting and art in the DC lineup today.  I’m not the guy that would ask “Where’s Wally?” for the thousandth time to Dan Didio at a con.  I do like most of what I see from DC – I’m a DC guy and have been for over 40 years of collecting.  I’m just sad to see the plot device of killing off speedsters used so much.  It seems that being a Robin or a Flash means you are wearing a red shirt in the metaphorical sense as well as in the literal sense…and both roles are simply too valuable to the history of the DC Universe to continue to be treated in that way.