Today’s guest post is by by Joe Grunenwald.
The Flash was gone. Wally West was dead, having entered the Speed Force after saving Barry Allen’s life from Cobalt Blue. Then, out of the night sky, a bolt of lightning, a crack of thunder, and a new speedster appeared – older, scarred, but familiar, and known to the precious few to whom he unmasked.
Walter West was only around for a handful of comics (ten issues of The Flash, one issue of JLA, and six issues of Titans, plus a couple of annuals), but he left an indelible mark on me. “Chain Lightning” and the ensuing story that came to be known as “The Dark Flash Saga” hit at the very height of my Flash fandom, and the mystery of who the new Flash was had me baffled. I was convinced, up until the moment of the reveal, that it was Barry Allen, so to see a blue-eyed Wally West under the mask was quite the shock, and the rest of the story, detailing how he came to be in the ‘main’ hypertimeline, along with Wally and Linda’s eventual return and Walter’s tragic departure, are still some of my favorite Flash comics of all time. I waited for years for Walter to show up again, to no avail.
One of Walter’s less memorable adventures.
But man, how great that reappearance could have been!
Walter’s status quo as it was at the end of The Flash #159 leant itself perfectly to more stories. A speedster, hopping through hypertime, trying to find his way home – who wouldn’t read that? It’s Sliders meets Quantum Leap meets the fastest man alive. He can’t stay in any timeline for too long or he risks destroying it, so there’d be a built-in sense of urgency behind every one of his adventures. There’d also have to be a change of scenery/universe for each different story, which would be a fun opportunity to see alternate versions of the DCU. He could get sucked into problems in each new timeline he visits – perhaps problems that he causes himself when he arrives unexpectedly – and he could make enemies or even a big bad who somehow tracked him during his world-jumping.
And then there was Angela Margolin, Walter’s ladylove from whom he was separated at the end of the original story. A scientist herself, it’s easy enough to envision her trying to find a way to cross hypertime to find Walter. Throw in Rip Hunter as a recurring foil, or even the Challengers of the Unknown (who were left exploring hypertime themselves at the end of the “Hypertension” storyline in Superboy). This series – or miniseries, or series of backup stories in the Speed Force title that never materialized – could have had it all.
Alas, it clearly was never meant to be. Hypertime was underutilized and ultimately disavowed by DC editorial. Where Mark Waid told sweeping stories that spanned time and space, Geoff Johns took The Flash in a different direction, telling grounded stories that built up Keystone City and Wally’s rogues gallery. Now, over ten years later and with a rebooted universe in which Wally was never The Flash, the odds of an alternate universe Wally showing up are likely slim to none.
But it’s fun to consider what could have been, isn’t it? After all, this is comics we’re talking about – anything is possible.
Joe Grunenwald writes about comics at NerdSpan.
I just finished reading that arc yesterday!
I always like to believe that Walter’s Earth was the same as the Kingdom Come Earth and he met an Angela Margolin there, and she gave birth to Iris and Barry West. How do I support this theory? Look at the family tree at the end of the The Life Story of the Flash.
Love Walter West!
Never seen anyone cosplay this…but I’ve got too many on my plate already.
The Good Old Days…. Times gone by… Man, those were some awesome tales…
I don’t think anything in the ‘old’ (I prefer to think ‘hidden in a pocket universe safe from malicious editors) DC ever made me as angry as that they left Walter hanging like that. Only the death of characters like The Dibneys and the whole Max Lord screwup comes close.
I can actually see Walter returning one day, but only plotwise. Editorially, he’s deader than Wally is. Maybe a future generation of editors will remember them both when the New 52 because the Old New 52 in some future relaunch.
A Walter West series as you envisioned it would’ve been great. And it would be called…Flash Forward.
Loved that arc and we’ll probably never see anything like it again. It’s all been ok, or just lame since.
Agree, Yranigami, and guest blogger. I L-O-V-E-D Chain Lightening, and the Dark Flash arc. This period of time was when I was getting out of buying comics.
What a way to go out, wouldn’t you say…?
Some Waid comics I never got to read. Good to know he was still doing intriguing material at this late point!
Walter West’s story reached a definitive conclusion. I don’t think there was much left to do with the character that wouldn’t be better served with the real Wally.
The -real- Wally? I’ll have you know I really liked Walter. That different universe version of Wally was interesting in his own way and had a lot of potential as as has been outlined above. In the same way, I always viewed the older Superman of COIE as just as much The Man of Steel as younger Superman of the ‘main’ universe.
(Man, I miss the multiverse. All the possibilities it had. Like Neapolitan ice cream versus just vanilla. <back in the days when there were basically only three ice cream flavors, heh.)
I’d somewhat forgotten just how wonderful the last part of the story (and artwork) Chained Lightning was (the story that preceded Dark Flash.) Scans_Daily has posted the scene where Barry saves Wally and they talk. What a gorgeous, gorgeous piece that was. (I love Barry’s little ‘doh!’ movement in the background.)
There should be a series on all the lovely Barry with Wally moments through the DCU years.
I LOVE Walter West.
Great story, and an absolutely AWESOME costume!!
I was bummed when it became clear we weren’t going to see him again. Compounded by the current DC edict that Wally can’t exist as Barry’s former protege, but somehow Batman can have half a dozen Robins over 5 years… AND a kid at least 10 years old.
That’s DC logic, if they were to have completely have rebooted they could of added old characters in slowly but no some events still happened Bruce has had 4 robins most likely to his 5th and has batman Inc while during the 52 superman meets his cousin and clone and Steel, Barry meets his grandson, Aquaman has no sidekicks, and all or most of the Batman sidekicks have or are main stars in a book outside of batman.
I know this is an old story thread, but I’m wondering if the Flash TV show is setting up a Dark Flash storyline for season 4 but with Barry/Iris instead of Wally/Linda. I liked the Dark Flash concept, LOVED the costume but I thought it could have been better executed and I think the writers from the TV show might be able to better execute the story than Waid was able to do with the original story.
When Savitar is about to kill Iris, the timeline splits in two. In one (main) reality Barry saves her in an alternate reality, Barry fails and Iris is killed. Barry’s suggesting that Killing Grodd might be the only way to stop him is a sign that there is a bit of darkness creeping into him. Losing Iris to Savitar could/would push him past that point. Season 4 could start with everything seeming okay, Barry saved Iris but then Iris starts to see an older guy that looks a lot like Barry lurking in the shadows following her around… Just thinking out loud…
I really like this idea!