Today’s guest post is by Nick of The Culture Cast.
September 2009. I had just returned to school for graduate studies after teaching for a few years, and in an amazing example of poor decision making and bad timing, I started collecting comics again after a six year break. Just one though: Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl. An unusual choice perhaps, but I guess it was the right comic at the right time for me.
One night, I was wandering through Wal-Mart when I came across the DC Universe Classics “The Flash” action figure. I was somewhat in awe of it. Of course, I was fully aware of the Flash. What DC Comics fan couldn’t be? But I was never really into the character. His powers were cool, but I always thought his enemies – the Rogues – were kind of lame. Still, there was something about this toy. Nicely sculpted with a great paint job (that classic red sure popped). It was an all-around solid figure.
Part of me wanted to pick it up, but being a grad student (ie: poor), and being not really all that interested in amassing action figures, I passed on it. Over the next month, anytime I went to the store, I looked at that Flash figure. Then one day, it was gone. Just as well, I thought. No longer there to tempt me!
March 2010. Batgirl #8 had an extremely thin crossover with Red Robin #10 which I didn’t realize until after I was suckered into buying the latter. At the end of that Red Robin issue (incidentally enough, drawn by Marcus To), there was a preview for The Flash #1 written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Francis Manapul. I was immediately struck by Manapul’s artwork. The lines, the coloring, the cartoony look without it being too cartoony – it all worked for me. Most striking was Manapul’s ability to make a static image seem like it is going 100 miles per hour. I hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. It all seemed to work and felt completely right for a character I hardly knew anything about.
I kept going back to that preview. I loved the look, but I wasn’t sure about collecting a second monthly title (first-world problems, I know). In grad school, you need to spend your “fun money” wisely. That’s when I came across the Flash: Rebirth collection. I decided to check that out and, if I liked it, I’d go ahead and jump into the new series. Though I wasn’t crazy about the art, I loved Rebirth. You can imagine my surprise at the somewhat negative reaction I later discovered the story had online. Since I never followed this character, I had no preconceived notions on who Barry Allen was, is, or should be.
May 2010. I picked up the first two issues of The Flash. I was enthralled. I love superheroes generally considered “boy scouts”. Superman was my first love. Captain America was my guy in high school. Cyclops was always my favorite X-Men from the 90s cartoon. And, now Barry Allen Flash could be added to that list. There is something about a character doing good for the sake of doing good that just appeals to me.
Summer 2010. I learned all I could about the character. I completely revised my opinion about the Rogues. Oh, I still thought they were lame, but being lame is exactly what made them cool and, ultimately, unique for a group of villains. I learned Bart Allen wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I was previously led to believe. I read some heated online Wally West debates (if only those fans knew what was right around the corner). I learned more about Jay Garrick, who I felt was incredibly awesome (to the point that I was him for Halloween that year). I even sat down and watched through the 1990 The Flash TV series. Needless to say, I had a lot of spare time that summer.
I also came across some Flash blog during this time. Can’t quite remember what it was. Speed Flash? Flash Force? Something like that I think. It’s not important.
Spring 2011. Sadly, my excitement for The Flash died down considerably as new issues were continuously delayed. I dropped it after issue 6, deciding just to wait for the trades. I followed the solicits, but tried to stay spoiler free. Then, news hit about Flashpoint and the New 52. Shocked and surprised like any comics fan, I didn’t know what to think. It was then revealed that Manapul was staying on the book as artist and co-writer. My excitement returned in full force.
This was the perfect new jumping on point for me. I enjoyed the then-current title, but I still felt like an outsider with so much continuity baggage. Now everything is brand new again, and I could get in on the bottom floor. What more could I possibly ask for?
September 2011. I found that new Flash comic was terrific. It was exactly what I look for in a comic book. It had great storytelling, great art, and was just plain fun. Barry was never truly rebooted before, so it provides bold new territory for all fans.
Today. The focus on Barry has been a cause of contention for some fans (particularly those of Wally). I suppose I understand why, but it doesn’t bother me. I never followed Wally. I came in after him, and I’m loving every minute. Now, I think back to that action figure I saw at Wal-Mart over three years ago. If I knew I was to become the Flash fan I am today, I would have bought him. Not only was he a Barry-Flash, but I can’t find him anywhere now!
You can find Nick over at The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick, where he posts monthly reviews of The Flash.
I, for one, cannot recall a day in my youth that I thought The Flash wasn’t the most interesting and most promising character and superhero of all comicdom.
Nice to hear stories of comic-informed people who’ve come to similar conclusions 🙂
I admired Barry Allen growing up, he always seemed like such a nice guy for a superhero. There were other nice guys as superheroes, but none as relatable as Barry. There was a reason why Wally idolized Barry.
interesting point of view. i came into comics just before Barrys departure in the 80s, mostly just random issues during the trial and then grew up on Wally. I would say I like the new series, but see no reason why you cannot have all the Flash family, ‘specially if Batman can have so many Robins… Great write up, hope to hear more!
From Bob Harras this week: “I would say  that no, we won’t be considering that [doing a book based on the old universe]– we only have one universe, and that is the universe we are presenting right now.”
So no Wally even though the “one universe” manages to contain Earth 2’s different Trinity (now deceased, but still existed) plus a few other titles that are not in said one universe.
If it wasn’t for a passing interest in Flash and Kyle Rayner, I would no longer be bothering with DC. Kyle, because I liked his relationship with Wally before and at least he’s one of the lucky few who got to basically keep their Pre-52 background (if the latest preview is any indication.)
Yeah, the hypocrisy heap from DC just mounts.
Good write-up. I’m a Barry Allen fan myself; to me Wally will always be Kid Flash. I hadn’t bought comics in years, when in 2009 I began buying again. Flash was on my pull list then and has been ever since. I had quit shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths when Barry died back in the late 80’s. Coming back to Barry again was like being welcomed by an old friend. And Manapul’s art is wonderful! Barry’s bright blue eyes shine through that mask, don’t they?
I related to your story on the late reinvigorated comic collecting. I waited til 26 after 6 years in the military to stop by the comic shop on the way to work. I then saw some one dollar 1980’s flash’s in a box and little over 2 years later I am 24 comics short of the Barry Allen stretch of comics and over half of the Wally West (a few old Garrick ones but they are pricey). Always loved the flash but my fandom took off as I became immersed in the character. So I salute you as a born again comic collector and doing so when less than wealthy.
Fortunately, by the time the New 52 started, I had my degree and rejoined the workforce (though my comic buying habits stayed the same – I’m not falling into that trap!).
Hey! Thanks again for letting me participate in the guest blogger feature!
Nice write up man. I’ve always loved The Flash, particularly the Barry Allen incarnation. Always seemed like a nice down to earth guy who’d be cool with you hanging out with him as far as comics went. First comic I ever read was the Secret Origins Annual number one I think…with the Brian Bolland cover. It had origins for my key JLA members, all of my favorite ones (Batman, Superman, GL, Martian Manhunter, and The Flash of course…and then finally the JLA). It’s what got me into comics and made me a fan of The Flash. Great stuff.
Long live The Flash. Long live Barry Allen. Long live DC!