I should start by mentioning that I’ve never seen an episode of Arrow before, and thus many of the established characters and ongoing storylines were a bit of a mystery to me. That said, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out what was happening. Spoilers after the cut.
So as I am writing this Arrow has ended about 4 minutes ago and I’m extremely jazzed up from watching it. I’m just going to give my overall impressions and then after the break you can look forward to some details on the Barry bits. I will also add that I’m a huge fan of the show and it alone has made me care more about Green Arrow than I ever have before. With every episode I believe the show improves and I love keeping an eye out for all of the easter eggs and little nods. So many just in this night’s episode alone.
As far as this episode goes…while a lot of the Barry Allen stuff was extremely heavy-handed I can also understand why they chose to go that route. Overall they did a fairly good job introducing Barry Allen to new fans although does anyone else find themselves getting a Peter Parker vibe from Grant Gustin? I guess it doesn’t help that I rewatched Amazing Spider-Man last night. I do like how right in the first episode, we’ve established Barry’s general temperament, what he brings to the table as far as skills and resourcefulness, and his motivations. Bing, bam, boom. I can’t say that I am thrilled that certain aspects of his revised Brightest Day/New 52 origin were retained for that adaptation but I also can’t say I’m totally surprised as that was kind of the point of doing the New 52; streamlining origins and making characters easier to relate to. We also got some great hints of things to come, including a certain opposite who has yet to get his due in live-action.
Please do not read any further if you do not wish to read Spoilers. Spoilers are after the break.
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.
Today’s guest post is by Steve Henel
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 »
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.
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!
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.
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.
Today’s guest post is by Tony Laplume.
I first encountered Max Mercury in 1993’s The Flash #78. This was part of Mark Waid’s “The Return of Barry Allen” arc, which did not actually feature Barry Allen, but rather Wally West’s first encounter with the Reverse Flash. Barry was the Silver Age Flash and Wally’s mentor, but he’d been gone since his death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The arc was all about Wally finally moving past his feelings of inadequacy and embracing his own legacy. It was a seminal moment in Waid’s long run on the series, setting the stage for many other stories, including the introduction of the Speed Force, from which every DC speedster draws their ability.
Max Mercury was just another speedster in the arc. Along with Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, and Johnny Quick, Max was representative of an earlier generation. He was a character Waid cobbled together from another Golden Age speedster, Quicksilver, renamed to avoid confusion with his Marvel counterpart. Memorably, Max was referred to as the Zen Master of Speed. I guess this was his first true mark of distinction for me, the fact that he was identified as an expert on the topic that defined the series. He was all but the Yoda of Flash lore.
Of course, Max fares poorly against Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, in the arc, although some solace can be found in the fact that he does little better than Jay Garrick or Johnny Quick. It’s Wally’s fight to win. Max is just there to inspire new confidence in him. By the end of the arc, Max disappears back to wherever he came from in the first place. Waid moves on as well, allowing Wally to enjoy being the Flash for a change, until the appearance of Bart Allen, whom Wally soon enough dubs Impulse, the new and future Kid Flash.
Bart quickly gains his own series, Impulse, also written by Waid, and resurfacing for the occasion is Max Mercury, who is given the unenviable task of helping the excitable youth discovery maturity. It’s Max in the role glimpsed during “The Return of Barry Allen,” the consummate mentor, who may be better instructing than actually doing. We discover Max’s true history, how he became a speedster in the nineteenth century and made several leaps through time, eventually depositing him in the present, an experienced and wise old man, allowed the white hair most superheroes never know. Bart’s own tenuous experience with time is something he can appreciate, if not Bart himself, who constantly exasperates Max, but this is fine, because he has a soft spot for family.
Max is a perfect personification of the kind of family Waid brought to the Flash franchise. At a time when comics were beginning to appreciate the working benefits of legacy, famously within the pages of James Robinson’s Starman, Waid started to understand the interconnectedness of a family of loners. Aside from the famous “Flash of Two Worlds” story in The Flash #123 in which Jay Garrick and Barry Allen meet (thereby initiating the era of the multiverse), the generations of scarlet speedsters had about as much to do with each other as Alan Scott and Hal Jordan’s Green Lanterns. True, Wally was the original Kid Flash and as such had an extensive history working alongside Barry, but Barry was gone by the time Wally took on the full cowl for himself, and it wasn’t until Waid that a writer finally addressed what kind of impact that had on his life.
In fact, as “Return of Barry Allen” proves, he didn’t stop there. Waid brought Jay back into the fold, and then Johnny Quick with his unique formula and daughter Jesse, who was also Quick. Max was something different, representative of the lineage but a character without a print background, and thus a part of Waid’s own emerging narrative. Waid didn’t always concentrate on this part of his own emerging legacy, at least not at first, not even following “Terminal Velocity,” which completed Wally’s journey toward awareness of the Speed Force. Subsequent arcs like “Dead Heat,” “Race Against Time,” and “Chain Lightning” continued the tradition and united the speedsters as never before or since.
It wasn’t until Impulse that Max could truly shine, guiding Bart along and deepening the sense of family. In the course of this series, Max reunited with a daughter he never had a chance to know because of his time hops. Every speedster needs grounding, seemed to be Waid’s message. Wally found his in exploring the depths of the Speed Force, while Bart and Max found each other as unlikely equals, even if both were reluctant to admit it. Max could sometimes come off as gruff, but it was a front, much as Wally’s life prior to “Return of Barry Allen” hid his longing to move past his mentor’s shadow. The man who began as a mystery and pegged as the expert not only became exposed as one of the biggest victims of the previously unknown Speed Force but one of its biggest beneficiaries as well.
Max Mercury will always fascinate me. He’s the manifestation of everything that made Mark Waid’s Flash great, even if he remains a fairly obscure element of it. While everyone else clamors to see Wally West again, I wish Max could make a comeback. If there’s anyone in that strange family who still has a story to tell, it’s him.
Today’s guest post is by Nick of The Culture Cast.
September 2009. I had just returned to school for graduate studies after teaching for a few years, and in an amazing example of poor decision making and bad timing, I started collecting comics again after a six year break. Just one though: Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl. An unusual choice perhaps, but I guess it was the right comic at the right time for me.
One night, I was wandering through Wal-Mart when I came across the DC Universe Classics “The Flash” action figure. I was somewhat in awe of it. Of course, I was fully aware of the Flash. What DC Comics fan couldn’t be? But I was never really into the character. His powers were cool, but I always thought his enemies – the Rogues – were kind of lame. Still, there was something about this toy. Nicely sculpted with a great paint job (that classic red sure popped). It was an all-around solid figure.
Part of me wanted to pick it up, but being a grad student (ie: poor), and being not really all that interested in amassing action figures, I passed on it. Over the next month, anytime I went to the store, I looked at that Flash figure. Then one day, it was gone. Just as well, I thought. No longer there to tempt me!
March 2010. Batgirl #8 had an extremely thin crossover with Red Robin #10 which I didn’t realize until after I was suckered into buying the latter. At the end of that Red Robin issue (incidentally enough, drawn by Marcus To), there was a preview for The Flash #1 written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Francis Manapul. I was immediately struck by Manapul’s artwork. The lines, the coloring, the cartoony look without it being too cartoony – it all worked for me. Most striking was Manapul’s ability to make a static image seem like it is going 100 miles per hour. I hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. It all seemed to work and felt completely right for a character I hardly knew anything about.
I kept going back to that preview. I loved the look, but I wasn’t sure about collecting a second monthly title (first-world problems, I know). In grad school, you need to spend your “fun money” wisely. That’s when I came across the Flash: Rebirth collection. I decided to check that out and, if I liked it, I’d go ahead and jump into the new series. Though I wasn’t crazy about the art, I loved Rebirth. You can imagine my surprise at the somewhat negative reaction I later discovered the story had online. Since I never followed this character, I had no preconceived notions on who Barry Allen was, is, or should be.
May 2010. I picked up the first two issues of The Flash. I was enthralled. I love superheroes generally considered “boy scouts”. Superman was my first love. Captain America was my guy in high school. Cyclops was always my favorite X-Men from the 90s cartoon. And, now Barry Allen Flash could be added to that list. There is something about a character doing good for the sake of doing good that just appeals to me.
Summer 2010. I learned all I could about the character. I completely revised my opinion about the Rogues. Oh, I still thought they were lame, but being lame is exactly what made them cool and, ultimately, unique for a group of villains. I learned Bart Allen wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I was previously led to believe. I read some heated online Wally West debates (if only those fans knew what was right around the corner). I learned more about Jay Garrick, who I felt was incredibly awesome (to the point that I was him for Halloween that year). I even sat down and watched through the 1990 The Flash TV series. Needless to say, I had a lot of spare time that summer.
I also came across some Flash blog during this time. Can’t quite remember what it was. Speed Flash? Flash Force? Something like that I think. It’s not important.
Spring 2011. Sadly, my excitement for The Flash died down considerably as new issues were continuously delayed. I dropped it after issue 6, deciding just to wait for the trades. I followed the solicits, but tried to stay spoiler free. Then, news hit about Flashpoint and the New 52. Shocked and surprised like any comics fan, I didn’t know what to think. It was then revealed that Manapul was staying on the book as artist and co-writer. My excitement returned in full force.
This was the perfect new jumping on point for me. I enjoyed the then-current title, but I still felt like an outsider with so much continuity baggage. Now everything is brand new again, and I could get in on the bottom floor. What more could I possibly ask for?
September 2011. I found that new Flash comic was terrific. It was exactly what I look for in a comic book. It had great storytelling, great art, and was just plain fun. Barry was never truly rebooted before, so it provides bold new territory for all fans.
Today. The focus on Barry has been a cause of contention for some fans (particularly those of Wally). I suppose I understand why, but it doesn’t bother me. I never followed Wally. I came in after him, and I’m loving every minute. Now, I think back to that action figure I saw at Wal-Mart over three years ago. If I knew I was to become the Flash fan I am today, I would have bought him. Not only was he a Barry-Flash, but I can’t find him anywhere now!
You can find Nick over at The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick, where he posts monthly reviews of The Flash.
Today’s guest post is by by Joe Grunenwald.
The Flash was gone. Wally West was dead, having entered the Speed Force after saving Barry Allen’s life from Cobalt Blue. Then, out of the night sky, a bolt of lightning, a crack of thunder, and a new speedster appeared – older, scarred, but familiar, and known to the precious few to whom he unmasked.
Walter West was only around for a handful of comics (ten issues of The Flash, one issue of JLA, and six issues of Titans, plus a couple of annuals), but he left an indelible mark on me. “Chain Lightning” and the ensuing story that came to be known as “The Dark Flash Saga” hit at the very height of my Flash fandom, and the mystery of who the new Flash was had me baffled. I was convinced, up until the moment of the reveal, that it was Barry Allen, so to see a blue-eyed Wally West under the mask was quite the shock, and the rest of the story, detailing how he came to be in the ‘main’ hypertimeline, along with Wally and Linda’s eventual return and Walter’s tragic departure, are still some of my favorite Flash comics of all time. I waited for years for Walter to show up again, to no avail.
One of Walter’s less memorable adventures.
But man, how great that reappearance could have been!
Walter’s status quo as it was at the end of The Flash #159 leant itself perfectly to more stories. A speedster, hopping through hypertime, trying to find his way home – who wouldn’t read that? It’s Sliders meets Quantum Leap meets the fastest man alive. He can’t stay in any timeline for too long or he risks destroying it, so there’d be a built-in sense of urgency behind every one of his adventures. There’d also have to be a change of scenery/universe for each different story, which would be a fun opportunity to see alternate versions of the DCU. He could get sucked into problems in each new timeline he visits – perhaps problems that he causes himself when he arrives unexpectedly – and he could make enemies or even a big bad who somehow tracked him during his world-jumping.
And then there was Angela Margolin, Walter’s ladylove from whom he was separated at the end of the original story. A scientist herself, it’s easy enough to envision her trying to find a way to cross hypertime to find Walter. Throw in Rip Hunter as a recurring foil, or even the Challengers of the Unknown (who were left exploring hypertime themselves at the end of the “Hypertension” storyline in Superboy). This series – or miniseries, or series of backup stories in the Speed Force title that never materialized – could have had it all.
Alas, it clearly was never meant to be. Hypertime was underutilized and ultimately disavowed by DC editorial. Where Mark Waid told sweeping stories that spanned time and space, Geoff Johns took The Flash in a different direction, telling grounded stories that built up Keystone City and Wally’s rogues gallery. Now, over ten years later and with a rebooted universe in which Wally was never The Flash, the odds of an alternate universe Wally showing up are likely slim to none.
But it’s fun to consider what could have been, isn’t it? After all, this is comics we’re talking about – anything is possible.
Joe Grunenwald writes about comics at NerdSpan.