This week, former Flash editor and writer Brian Augustyn will return to the character he built for over a decade.
From 1989 – 1996, Augustyn was the editor on highly regarded runs by writers William Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid, including the landmark issue #50, “Born to Run,” “The Return of Barry Allen” and “Terminal Velocity.” In 1996, with issue #118, Augustyn joined Waid as co-writer. Save for a year-long break over 1997 – 1998, he would remain on the title until issue #162 (2000).
Augustyn will be joined by artist Mike Bowden on this week’s Retroactive installment. We reached the writer via email and asked about the new issue, his Flash run and the fate of Wally West.
Q: How has it been returning to work on the Flash? Can you tell us anything about the story we’ll see in your Retroactive issue?
BRIAN AUGUSTYN: I love the Flash, and feel very attached to the Wally West version, of course. I set myself a challenge to find a place in my run on the Flash where Wally was unaccounted for so I could place the Retroactive story “between the cracks,” as it were. So my story takes place between the end of “Racing Through Time,” and the middle of the “Dark Flash Saga.” As Wally goes missing he winds up in a strange alternate world, meets a brand new speedster, fights a god-like villain and an old Flash villain. And it all hinges on the Speed Force.
Q: Accounting for your tenures both as editor and co-writer (with Mark Waid), you worked on Flash for right around 11 years. What were the challenges in coming up with a story for the Retroactive issue that you had not already had a hand in telling?
BA: That’s why I was so determined to find a place just outside of continuity where the story could fit. While Wally was missing and presumed dead during those issues, he never explained where he’d been when he returned. Other than that I felt immediately that to fit into that period of Flash stories, there were themes that we relied on and I felt it was only logical to make them part of my one-shot. Those themes were the extensive lineage of speedsters, the unifying mysticism of the Speed Force and Wally and Linda’s love for each other.
Q: What do you think about the way the Wally West character has been handled recently?
BA: I’m sorry to see that he’s been essentially phased out of the DCU, other than that, I always enjoyed what Geoff Johns did with Wally.
Q: A major theme in your Flash work was the importance of Wally West’s relationship with Linda Park. We interviewed Flash artist Paul Ryan, and he made a point to say about these stories, “No matter how cosmic the villain or catastrophic the disaster it all came down to the human experience.” How concerted was the effort to keep a foot in both worlds, to keep Wally West both ultra-powerful and a relatable character?
BA: Mark and my strategy in creating our perspective on Wally was to write him from the inside–that is, write it from his POV and to remember that Wally was a man first, and super being second. As a result, we figured that Wally should find a relationship which would be his human center. It was actually less difficult to do because we knew the characters deeply as a result of that focus.
Q: Another major theme was the aspect of “replacement” Flashes, from John Fox to the “Chain Lightning” story, culminating with the Dark Flash Saga. These, along with Wally’s trial for negligence and his temporary banishment from Keystone City, were fundamental challenges to Wally’s very existence as Flash, both in-story and out. Were these stories designed to strengthen the Wally West character, or to show how far Flash concepts such as legacy, time-travel and family could be taken? Or both/neither?
BA: A lot of those stories were in fact done to explore the human side of superhero stories–writing the character from the inside. We were also gradually growing Wally up–in the early run of the title, Wally was intentionally a shallow jerk. The legacy and unity of the Speedsters, along with the familial nature of the characters, were all part of the humanizing aspect and a shared belief in the connectedness of life in general. Time travel we did because Mark Waid loves time travel stories and it was a unique thing that Flashes do.
Q: Mark Waid has stated he was not approached by DC Comics to do the Retroactive issue, and that he would have agreed to if asked. Given your lengthy collaboration on the character, what was it like to take this look back without Waid? Do you know why DC did not ask him to join you on this issue?
BA: Working with Mark on Flash was some of the most fun I ever had working in comics, and working in comics in general was never less than a blast. We created comics that we would love and challenged each other to stretch and grow constantly. Mark and I also worked hard to make the character ours, to thoroughly understand him down to the bone. We were very connected to the work. As a result of our long-shared love for the characters, comic and our process, I couldn’t write the Flash without in someway still collaborating with Mark. I have no idea why DC didn’t approach Mark, I had been given the impression that they had. Maybe they assumed he was tied up contractually at Marvel or Boom!
Q: Do you know which of your stories will be reprinted?
BA: I asked for the delayed honeymoon issue I did with Scott Kolins (issue #160, I think), but I don’t know if they’re using it. I guess I’ll find out when the issue hits the stands this week.