March 23, 2015

Flash-back: Zero Month & Terminal Velocity, 20 Years Later

Category: Flash History — By

Flash #0

In 1994 DC Comics published Zero Hour, a five issue mini-series designed to not only serve as a major summer crossover but also fix some of the continuity problems that had plagued their universe after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Some have suggested that Zero Hour caused more problems than it fixed but at the time it was the dawn of an exciting new era for DC.  To kick off this new age DC followed Zero Hour with Zero Month.  As the name suggests all of the main DC books were rolled back to zero though each one had a different approach to the idea  Some books featured a new origin.  Some contained tweaks to the existing origin.  Some contained brand new versions of old characters.  All of them served as a jumping on point for new and old readers alike.  
To celebrate this new era (or perhaps to bury it) some of us in the comic book blogging community have banded together from remote galaxies to discuss how the characters we cover were rebooted/revamped by looking at the solicitations of our character’s zero issues as well as delving into the Wizard Magazine Zero Hour Special, which was a magazine published around the time of Zero Hour to promote the series, what was coming next and the history of DC in general.

Back in the Day…

With Zero Hour being sort of a follow-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths, someone at DC thought that killing off the Flash — or at least appearing to — would be a way to tie back to the already-classic story. But the Flash creative team had other plans.

In 1994, Wally West had been the main Flash for eight years and his series was approaching issue #100. (This was back when the typical comic book story ran one or two issues, maybe three. Four-issue stories were occasions, and a six-issue story meant Serious Business.) Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo had just introduced Impulse, Wally’s cousin and Barry Allen’s grandson, and brought back Iris Allen from the future. And they had slowly been bringing together DC’s other speedsters: Semi-retired Flash Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick, a renamed Max Mercury (originally called Quicksilver), and Johnny Quick’s daughter Jesse Quick.

Wait: a Crisis needs a dead Flash, and we’ve got a lot of speedsters around?

That’s right: it was time to play pick the successor.

But not right away.

Wally did vanish during Zero Hour, but didn’t die. He bounced around in time, met a younger version of himself at a critical moment in his past, and made it back just in time for his optimistically-named Welcome Back party to avoid admitting to itself that it was really a wake.

But he’d seen a vision of the future — one without him in it, or his then-girlfriend Linda Park — and something had changed in himself: Now, whenever he started running too fast, he began transforming into energy, losing a bit more of his humanity each time.

Terminal Velocity and the Speed Force

Zero Month set the stage for Terminal Velocity, which brought all the speedsters together and introduced the Speed Force. It’s been expanded greatly since then, but in those pages the idea was simple: It was an extra-dimensional energy field that all speedsters tapped into for their powers. The downside: they ran the risk of losing themselves if they drew too much. Max Mercury had come close many times only to pull back at the last moment, finding himself years in the future each time. An emotional anchor could help: Jay Garrick had felt the call, but held fast to earth and his relationship with Joan.

It was a neat trick: It tied all of DC’s speedsters together. It provided an easy answer to “Why doesn’t the Flash burn out in five seconds?” and similar questions — the energy’s coming from somewhere else. And it put a damper on the powers, one that could be adjusted as each plot required it.

By the end of Terminal Velocity, Wally West did indeed lose himself to the Speed Force. It felt like heaven. It held all the answers he’d ever wanted.

But he came back.

Because Linda wasn’t there.

A few years later, I read something Mark Waid had written about Terminal Velocity (maybe the afterward in the collected edition). Some readers had given them flak for having Wally return after all that talk about how nobody ever returns. Waid’s response: Whenever you start a story by explaining that no one has ever returned from the cave of death, chances are good that this is the story about the first person who does it.

Another bit from the same article: Amid all the epic destruction and battles, when it comes down to it, they were writing a love story.

And you know what? That’s what sticks in my head too. Not the near-destruction of Keystone, or the conflicts between Wally, Jesse and Bart, or the super-speed antics, or everyone in the DCU going up against Kobra’s organization. And sure, the consequences were far-reaching: It was ages before Jesse trusted Wally again. He and Bart could barely stand to be around each other. And knowing about the speed force gave Wally a few extra tricks up his sleeve, and of course that leads to the question of who else might know even more about the speed force…

But for me, the key moment of Terminal Velocity is right there at the end, when everyone’s convinced Wally’s gone, and Linda runs off, and Wally finally makes it back to her.

Everyone else can get the good news later.

Zero Month Solicitations: Flash Beyond Zero Hour: Flash

As this is a blog crossover be sure to check out the links below to find out how other characters were treated during ZeroMonth.

Thanks to Michael Bailey of the Fortress of Baileytude and Jeffrey Taylor of From Crisis to Crisis for organizing this event, providing scans (except for the cover, which is from comics.org), and writing the introduction text.

May 31, 2010

Speed Reading: Recommendations

Category: Round-Ups — By

The linkblogging catchup continues!

Comics Should Be Good features Flash #54: “Nobody Dies” (William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRocque) in their Year of Cool Comics. It’s one of my favorite one-issue stories from Wally West’s run, and not surprisingly it made the reader-selected list of top 10 Wally West stories a few weeks later.

A bit off topic, CSBG also reviews Mysterius the Unfathomable. It was a fun fantasy/horror/comedy miniseries last year, and is now available as a trade paperback.

Multiversity Comics recommends the new Flash series. Among other reasons: “he has a secret identity which actually gets used, instead of being forgotten for more exciting superhero stories.” And of course, “Flash has some of the best and most fleshed out rogues in the business.”

Update: One more! Several Flash storylines appear in CSBG’s Greatest Mark Waid Stories Ever Told list: Dead Heat, Terminal Velocity and The Return of Barry Allen.

May 23, 2010

These Are The Greatest Wally West Stories Ever Told

Category: Fun — By

Comics Should Be Good has posted the results of their reader poll for the Greatest Wally West stories ever told. It’s technically a top ten list, but they included eleven stories because the #10 winner was essentially a prologue for one of the other winners.

It’s interesting to break down the results by writer:

  • 7 by Mark Waid (including the top three)
  • 2 by Geoff Johns
  • 2 by William Messner-Loebs

In a way it’s surprising that Geoff Johns, DC’s current superstar writer, isn’t more heavily represented, but it also makes sense. Mark Waid’s run on The Flash was very much about Wally West and his journey through young adulthood (Messner-Loebs’ run even more so!), while Geoff Johns’ run tilted a bit more toward the Rogues.

Head over to Comics Should Be Good for the full list!

February 21, 2010

Answering Searchers’ Questions

Category: General — By

It’s always interesting to see what searches bring people to the site. Every once in a while I look through for questions, or implied questions, that aren’t already answered here.

Current Events

Why did Reverse Flash have a Brightest Day symbol?

We don’t know for sure yet, but the implication is that Brightest Day is related to characters who come back from the dead after or at the end of Blackest Night.

Is Jesse Quick back?

Well, she seems to be…but then she’s still appearing as Liberty Belle in Justice Society of America and the second features in JSA All-Stars, so it’s hard to tell. Maybe those take place earlier, maybe she goes back to the other costume, or maybe she’s just going to switch costumes depending on who she’s teaming up with that day.

Did Jay Garrick die in Smallville?

He only appeared in flashback, when Checkmate was rounding up the Justice Society and arresting its members on false charges. He was mentioned by other characters as if he was still alive. (Spoilers for Absolute Justice.)

Is DC working on an animated Flash movie?

If they are, they haven’t said anything about it. A Newsarama article more than a year ago included the Flash in a list of upcoming projects, but there’s been no mention of it since then.

Looking Back

What comes before Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge?

Rogues’ Revenge concludes a sort of trilogy, which you can follow in these collections:

  1. Flash: The Fastest Man Alive – Full Throttle
  2. JLA: Salvation Run
  3. Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge

It also takes place after the end of Flash vol.2 and during the first three issues of Final Crisis.

What year did the Flash superhero gain lightning?

That depends on what the lightning in question is:

  • The symbol dates back to Jay Garrick’s first appearance in 1940.
  • Lightning in the Flash’s origin goes back to Barry Allen’s first appearance in 1956.
  • Lightning effects used to convey speed were used occasionally in the early 1990s, became more prominent when Mike Wieringo worked on the book (1993-1994), and really became established during Terminal Velocity (1995).

Slightly Off-Topic

What is Dan Didio’s twitter name?

As far as I’m aware, Dan Didio isn’t on Twitter.

Who was the female speedster in Heroes?

The character’s name was Daphne Millbrook, and she was played by actress Brea Grant.

Flashforward novel how did it know the pope’s name?

It’s off-topic, but I get a lot of these since I posted a review of the novel.

Author Robert J. Sawyer explains in this video interview that he looked at the list of past popes’ names for those that had good reputations and might be “ready for a comeback.”

February 20, 2010

Speed Reading: Flash in the 1990s

Category: Flash History, Round-Ups — By

Strangely enough, a lot of the sites I’ve linked to on Twitter or Facebook over the last few weeks were looking back at the 1990s and Mark Waid’s run on The Flash

Max Mercury.High Five! Comics profiles Max Mercury: The Speedster Time Forgot (for a while). Of course, Max goes back farther than — he started as Quality Comics’ Golden Age hero, Quicksilver — but the version of the character known today was established in “The Return of Barry Allen,” “Terminal Velocity,” “Dead Heat” and Impulse.

Terminal VelocityFor Valentine’s Day, Comics Should be Good’s Year of Cool Comics spotlights Flash: Terminal Velocity and a key event in the relationship between Wally West and Linda Park.

Westfield Comics’ Josh Crawley looks back at Mark Waid’s first run on The Flash, picking up with Flash #0 and running through “Terminal Velocity,” “Dead Heat” and “Race Against Time.”

Mania spotlights the 1990s Flash TV series in 15 more shows that were canceled before their time over the last 25 years. It’s an interesting mix of shows I remember fondly (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), shows I remember hearing about but never watched (Murder One), and shows I’ve completely forgotten (Street Hawk?). It also reminds me that I never got around to watching the last few episodes of Journeyman.

September 11, 2009

High-Speed Déjà vu: Race Noble & the Flash

Category: Other Speedsters — By

A repost from 2005.

I’ve never really considered Noble Causes’ Race Noble to be a reference to the Flash beyond sharing the speedster archetype—especially since the Nobles owe a lot to the hero family concept pioneered by the Fantastic Four—but a scene from Noble Causes #6 has me ready to change my mind.

The Nobles are both heroes and celebrities. Race, the middle child, shocked his parents—and the world—by marrying an ordinary bookshop owner instead of another super-hero. At this point, Liz has become completely overwhelmed by the life she has chosen, and needed to take some time off. Read the rest of this entry »