April 28, 2014

Wally West: The Flash and Legacy Identities

Category: Opinion — By

This is something that’s been percolating in my head for a while, and I thought I should post it before the Wally West conversation becomes totally dominated by this week’s Flash Annual. This isn’t about the New 52 version, but about the two decades in which Wally West was DC’s primary Flash, and how that relates to Barry Allen and the “ownership” of the Flash identity. I’ve seen it suggested that legacy characters like the post-Crisis Wally West are like stalkers or identity thieves. It’s probably no surprise that I don’t see it that way.

What’s in a Name?

The way I see it, there are two kinds of super-hero identities:

  • Who you are.
  • What you do.

Nice Suit!For Bruce Wayne, Batman is who he is. It’s the way he deals with his childhood tragedy. While Dick Grayson as Batman is interesting, he has less of a personal connection to the mantle than Bruce does.

Green Lantern is what Hal Jordan does. For Jay Garrick (at least when he’s younger) and Barry Allen, the Flash is less who they are and more what they do. Bart Allen? Impulse is who he is (pre-Flashpoint, anyway), and Kid Flash is what he does. (If you think about it, “Kid X” almost invariably implies a “What you do” identity, because kids grow up.) Arguably, being the Flash is more a part of Wally’s personality than it is of Barry’s, which is built more around his scientific outlook.

“What you do” identities can be passed along a lot more easily than “who you are” identities. They’re careers, businesses that can bring on a partner and move on to a successor. That’s why we’ve got four-plus in-continuity Robins (DC even referred to the Robin identity as an “intern program,” which fits perfectly)…but Batman successors in the present day (i.e. not Beyond) always hand the cowl back to Bruce within a year or so.

Succession

My take: Wally West didn’t steal his uncle’s identity. He inherited the family business.

Imagine the Flash Detective Agency, with Barry Allen as sole proprietor. He brings on his nephew Wally West as an assistant, shows him the ropes, takes him on as partner, and when Allen meets his untimely end, West steps up to keep the agency going. He takes over any open cases that Barry was working, sees a lot of the same clients, inherits a cell phone full of contacts (some of whom will talk to him, some of whom won’t)…and also inherits a lot of the enemies that the Flash Detective Agency has made over the years. Like anyone taking over an existing business, he’ll do some things the same and others differently. He’ll lose some old clients and win over new ones. He’ll make new enemies. And eventually he’ll make the business his own.

This is a bit more literal for Jesse Quick, who inherits QuickStart Enterprises from her father as well as taking on a variation of his superhero identity.

Or to take a non-comic book example, it’s easy to imagine that Veronica Mars will one day take over her father’s detective agency for good. That won’t make the agency any less the real Mars Detective Agency, nor will it make her accomplishments any less valid. The same goes for Wally West as Keystone/Central’s resident super-speedster.

Of course, the chances are rather slim that Keith Mars will come back after 20 years, take back the business, put Veronica on receptionist duty and then rewrite company history without her presence…

April 24, 2014

SPOILER ALERT – Wally’s Appearance in Flash #30

Category: Fandom, Opinion, Reviews — By

After the jump we will have a major SPOILER to discuss regarding Wally West in FLASH #30 – do not go forward unless you’ve read the latest issue (or unless you don’t mind being spoiled)…

SPOILER AHEAD – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

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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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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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