An Open Letter to Flash Editorial Re: Wally West

Today’s guest post is by José Luis, an aspiring comic book artist in Ecuador whose blog can be seen at Mastering Art.

Let me start stating that although this seems to be a non-crucial matter, bordering into the banal realm, for me is a very serious topic. For everybody who thinks otherwise, well, I guess they should be a little more respectful for what people consider important in their lives. Yeah, I feel very passionate for my comics, heck; I’m planning a career out of it. My favorite character since I was 12 (I’m 33 now) has been Wally West, the Flash, the fastest man alive. Let me assure you that this is not an anti-Barry thread. Au contraire, this is an open letter to the editors and writers of DC Comics that maybe could help clarify our feelings for this special character and why we want him back.

Granted, I didn’t get the chance to read Barry as the Flash until I was 18 and read all silver age Flash comics, and I loved it! But by then I was a teen from the 90s and grew up reading Wally! For me what I felt more passionate about was that he was just a normal guy, with his own problems in growing up. I think we all can identify with that. Barry on the other hand, had his own character flaws, like being late for instance, but he was practically the ideal superhero who just wanted to help out those in need. Remarkably yes, but I guess if we get superpowers we wouldn’t be doing that particularly. So, it is easier to identify with Wally. I remember when Wally became Kid Flash. He grew up under the tutelage of his idol, this perfect hero, and to tell a long story short, Barry Allen died, after 20 years of continuity, a hero’s death, saving the universe, the way a true hero could and would want to die. Ok, this was shocking and Wally was a great character by then, he even had his own costume as Kid Flash. It was HIS costume, not Bart’s (grandson of Barry who in the DCnU launch will be donning Kid Flash’s costume). Why do I emphasize on that? Well, I remember perfectly when he got his costume through a machine that can produce someone’s thoughts (I guess it was the 60s so bear with me). He by then had his own identity! He, as a character, has been around since Barry Allen, and I remember him growing up as a kid, as a sidekick, as a member of the Titans, and through his doubts and motivated by his love and respect for his uncle Barry who he loved as a father, he donned the costume of the Flash to HONOR him! It was the right thing to do and IT WORKED!

It had a slow start in the eighties and people weren’t accepting him as the true Flash, but you know what, neither was he. He was trying his best but he was always running under Barry’s shadow. He knew it and he was doing all that he can to help other. The superhero community treated him as a kid, and he practically was, but he had been around since he was a child. He learned a thing or two from his uncle but then he learned new stuff based on his humble experience. He was growing, and we were growing WITH him. It is also important to notice that he grew up always thinking “what would Barry do?” since he was his idol. We always had Barry as the great Flash, and that memory and love made him better. Then, it came the best era of the Flash form me and I have to give credit to the authors: Mark Waid, Brian Augustin and Greg LaRoque. The Return of Barry Allen was my most beloved arc of my Flash collection. Why? Not only because Flash 74 was my first comic that I bought (when I decided to collect them), but because this was the time he finally lived up to the mantle of the Flash. It was graduation day, and I could only imagine Barry smiling from wherever he was, after all, he was like a son to him.

After that there have been great stories, good stories, and bad stories, as any comic series; but in my mind there was no doubt Wally West earned his role as The Flash, the fastest man alive. He has been running since the eighties until the end of 2010. That means 30 years of continuity, not even counting the time he was Kid Flash, which would mean that he’s been running for 50 years! That’s a lot! Ok, at the end there were some bad stories, but we all know by now that if a superhero character gets married, and worse, has children, it is difficult to create good stories (not impossible) and the way things got handled by then made things even worse. But wait, although Wally’s comic books were unstable, his name lived on through the animated series Justice League Animated and after that Justice League Unlimited. Kids who were not into comics loved Wally because he was impulsive (Ok, his attitude could be an amalgam between Wally and Bart), but still, that was a younger Wally in my mind and he also earned the respect of his teammates when he saved them all. It was an epic episode but I still get goose bumps when he got inside the speed force and came back. He never ran so fast and he almost died to save them all. He earned the respect from his fictional teammates, and for his new fans! Great times, but all things have to end right? Agreed! But should they be forgotten? HELL NO! Should they be erased from continuity and make as they did not happen at all! Theoretically you could, if you’re willing to break some hearts from hardcore fans! And they did!

Why did they bring Barry Allen back? I’m not sure. I really loved Geoff Johns’ long run on The Flash (Wally West). He loved continuity back then and it was one of the things I loved about his writing. He made all inconsistencies make sense. I even remember a great comic about Toyman, an enemy of Superman, who has been used too many times by many writers, and all of those characters were totally different. Well, this issue really told us what really happened and IT ALL MADE SENSE. The reason I mentioned this is because I really liked the way Johns wrote his comics, we could all see that he was truly a comic book fan and mostly a DC comic fan! There was no reset button, and it was genius the way he brought Hal Jordan back. Green Lantern Rebirth is awesome! But really, why did they have to bring Barry back? I really like Barry, but wouldn’t it have been better to modify Wally’s story? Well, I have my theories and opinions, but they are only that: writers and editors grew up reading Barry Allen, I’m sure they even played with Barry’s action figure from the Kenner Super Powers collection, I know I did and I was way younger, almost an infant. So there’s no doubt that they remember Barry as the true Flash (we didn’t forget about that since that would be ungrateful to the legacy) and due to the success of the return of Hal Jordan and the reexamination of the Green Lantern mythos, I guess they thought the same formula should be applied to the Flash!

It was worth a shot, yes! And believe me when I tell you that although I was sad to see Wally as a secondary character, I’d love the idea of the Flash family running again alongside Barry. The splash page of the Flash family was excellent and gave us hope of what was coming. But nothing happened! We never saw a hint of the Flash family. What is the reason for this? Because Barry’s comic was never any better from previous Flash comics. I don’t have the actual numbers but we can all agree that his Rebirth was not as successful as Green Lantern’s. If it had been, I’m sure we would have the promised “Speed Force” book featuring the Flash family. The Flash family is no more, and they have to focus ALL their efforts to Barry. That means that in order for him to continue as the Flash he has to be marketed as the only Flash. I don’t like to assume, but we can see proof of this anywhere in DC comics. I have seen few appearances from Wally and they all have been Barry centered. I understand, really, I do. But shouldn’t you realize that the character was NOT the problem? Even worse, like a fellow forum writer said, “this new stories from Barry Allen, and the nonexistence of Wally, had severed my link to Barry.” I loved reading old comics from Barry, and even new ones when Barry traveled through time. I thought I knew Barry, and then the writers changed his personality! WHY??? For me, I know this Barry as much as I know John Fox! So this strategy didn’t work, and then, out of a need for a LAUNCH they decided to restart the whole DC continuity. I don’t know how Flashpoint is going to be related to that, but I do know the end result and I don’t like it. Also, it is unfair to see that Green Lantern (because of his success) keeps his history, and Wally is nowhere to be seen. Ok, Francis Manapul said that we will see Wally sometime in the future. I don’t think this is going to work either, because Wally is a character not based only in his superpowers, but his HISTORY in the DCU. If he appears in the comic as a secondary character who happens to be Iris’ nephew and then becomes a different kind of Flash, well, it doesn’t work for me and I guess I speak for a lot of Wally’s fans.

What really disappointed me (to say the least) is that he got erased because he didn’t fit anymore to DC plans. That’s even worse than dying a heroic death. That is going to Morrison’s graveyard and this character does not deserve that. Now Bart is Kid Flash, using Wally’s costume! Nightwing is still there, but what about his best friend Wally? As of today he’s nowhere to be found, he is totally erased. I don’t want to jump into conclusions, but without a comment from Geoff Johns I just feel uneasy with Wally’s fate. Please, reconsider! I know that if someone can is Johns, and I hope he still cares for Wally West.

This is not an anti-Barry Allen post; this is a pro Wally one. It is not intended to create a division, but rather to express my love for the character. For people who don’t feel as strongly, I guess this post is not for you then. I don’t feel ashamed to feel passionate for a character. I have been reading him every month for at least 20 years. I think because of this loyalty I’m entitled to express my opinion and therefore spend a couple of hours writing this entry. Maybe nothing will be done about it and I know in comics anything is possible, and in some future there will be a writer or an artist (or both) who will push Wally West into reappearing again and that will be a good day. Support the industry! Keep paying for good stories. I love comics and I hope we will get our money’s worth from this new direction of comics, but to have a Frankenstein comic and not a Wally West one, it just does not make sense. I can be sure that Wally has a great number of fans, don’t disappoint us and try to fix this. It is just a sincere request from a loyal DC comic book fan.

Godspeed,

José Luis

José Luis’ blog can be seen at Mastering Art.

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