Did the Flash Save Comics?

This essay was originally posted on K-Squared Ramblings in 2008.

When the New York Daily News broke the news about Barry Allen’s return, they brought up the hero’s key role in launching the Silver Age of Comics. Superheroes had fallen out of favor in the early 1950s, and comics were exploring genres like westerns, horror, romance, etc. When DC successfully relaunched the Flash in 1956, there was an explosion of new super-hero titles.

The Daily News quotes former Flash scribe Geoff Johns as saying, “Without Barry Allen, we’d still be reading comic books about cowboys.”

I don’t think that’s precisely true. Not to discount Barry’s contribution—it’s entirely possible, even likely, that super-heroes would have remained a background genre. But for one thing, we’re looking at half a century of ephemeral pop culture. For another thing, let’s consider: why were comics going after the western, crime and horror genres when super-heroes failed? Because that’s what was popular in movies and television at the time.

I’d guess that, without the Flash revitalizing super-heroes, we would have seen more science-fiction comics in the 1960s, more police comics in the 1970s, sitcom comics in the 1980s, and so on. Comics genres would probably have followed along with trends in pop culture instead of becoming heavily focused on a single genre.

We wouldn’t be reading cowboy comics today; we’d be reading reality comics.

Perhaps the presence of multiple genres would have eventually gotten rid of the “but, you know, comics are just for kids” mentality. (Not that it’s worked for cartoons or video games yet, but video games are still relatively new, and cartoons have similarly been dominated by the musical fairy tale and slapstick comedy short.)

Eh, who knows? Maybe they’d be all about pirates.


2 thoughts on “Did the Flash Save Comics?

  1. Perplexio

    Do you know where I can sell my “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” #1? I’m also looking for “Jersey Shore” #5 with the alternate cover… know where I can find that?

    *pinches self*

    *phew* Thank God it was just a bad nightmare!

  2. Ken II

    You seem to be blaming Flash for the predominance of Cape Comics and the cultural stigma. This is flawed because the Child Mentality predates the 50’s Super Hero Renaissance, to the origin of comic book collections BEFORE original material like Action Comics #1 which was the genesis of the Super Hero genre. Also, those genres you mentioned that you seem to believe Flash “killed” are exactly what we saw in the books of those days. Comics always follow pop culture, and just because one genre supports the industry while all the other genres exist as fringe elements of the industry unable to support comics as a medium is no reason to blame what makes our hobby possible. Also, Flash is like Stan Lee, it’s more about a time and place. Super Heroes would likely have had a Renaissance with or without them, but they happened to be there when it happened. As for reality TV comics… http://www.comics.org/series/26114/


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