Flash Companion Preview: Cary Bates Interview

The following is a 1-page excerpt from the upcoming book, The Flash Companion. The full interview appears in the second section of the book. It is printed here with permission of the book’s main author, Keith Dallas.

The Flash Companion is scheduled for a July 23 release.

Cary Bates: A Scarlet Speedster for the Seventies (excerpt)

By Jack Scott

SCOTT: Was [the serialized storytelling] your decision or a DC editorial decision to change how the Flash stories were being written? I’m wondering if there was a DC mandate to become more like its competitor Marvel Comics.

BATES: I don’t think going the serial route was an official mandate or anything. It just seemed like a natural way to proceed at the time, dictated by the story-lines more than anything else. It first began the last couple of years Julie [Schwartz] was editing the book, in the form of 2-4 issue arcs (like the Golden Glider stories). And with Ross [Andru] and Ernie [Colon], who were more Marvel-oriented guys, the full-on serialized mode pretty much became the status quo. Although I do recall a temporary return to more self-contained stories for awhile, when Mike Barr was editing and Carmine [Infantino] first returned to the book.

SCOTT: Speaking of the co-creator of Barry Allen/Flash, Carmine Infantino returned to pencil the book with issue #296 in 1981. How did it feel to get to work with one of the original creators of the book?

BATES: As I’ve mentioned, when I was growing up, Carmine’s distinctive artwork made a huge impact on me as a fan (and an aspiring amateur artist), so it was a great thrill to finally be working with him on Flash. Carmine and I always got along well, but when I first met him, he had given up his drawing board to serve as DC’s editorial director, although he still laid out most of the covers for other artists. In 1976, after Warners hired Jennette Kahn to take over that job, Carmine went back to penciling, and for a year or two he was working almost exclusively for Jim Warren on books like Creepy and Eerie. Ironically, it was here where our first collaborations took place, as I was writing occasional Warren stories for Louise Jones, who was the editor at the time. I think Carmine and I must have done 3 or 4 one shot horror stories that have long since been forgotten.

SCOTT: How far did you plot out stories?

BATES: The stories were plotted one month at a time, usually under tight deadline constrictions. For the first 15 years or so I was at DC, I had always written full script, but during the early 80’s I was persuaded to switch over to so-called “Marvel style,” where panel breakdowns were written first and the dialogue was added later, on top of the artist’s pencils.

SCOTT: How much freedom did you have plotting a character like the Flash?

BATES: As for creative freedom, in comparison to today’s standards I guess it would be considered practically “limitless.” Back in those days, at DC (unlike Marvel) there was no “overriding company continuity” yet interlinking all the books, so individual editors and writers had their own fiefdoms where for the most part they were on their own. This would all begin to change, of course, after the Crisis series.

SCOTT: Do you see the “overriding company continuity” as a good thing or a bad thing? Do you feel this puts too many limits on today’s writers? I’m curious about your thoughts on the matter.

BATES: It’s difficult for me to be objective about DC’s first “Crisis” crossover, considering how things turned out for my old friend Barry. But in general I think the trend toward overriding company continuity is here to stay because it has a positive effect on sales. There are drawbacks, however; too much emphasis on crossovers can discourage new readers from coming aboard, or can even confuse regular fans if not carefully coordinated. Also, it seems to me, the connecting threads should be organic; if there’s no underlying logic or believable motivation, some readers will lose interest, while others may resent the whole endeavor if they feel the company is just milking continuity ad infinitum. Marvel’s recent Civil War series was one of the best crossovers in recent memory in my opinion. The core idea was easy to grasp, even for people who never read comics before. You could understand the different points of view of the various heroes, and you could buy why they would split up and take sides, even if you didn’t always agree with their rationales. Best of all, beyond all the hero vs. hero vs. villain fights there were underlying real-world issues (I guess we have the Patriot Act to thank for that) which everyone could relate to.

The full interview runs eight pages and is accompanied by illustrations from the comics.

As mentioned above, TwoMorrows’ The Flash Companion is scheduled for a July 23 release.

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