5 Reasons Wally West Should Appear in The Flash TV Show

Today’s guest post is by Steve Henel

Wally West. What is going on?On July 30th, the news broke that a live action Flash series would soon be joining the successful “Arrow” show currently being broadcast on the CW network. The character of Barry Allen, now appearing in comics as the “New 52” version of the famous speedster, will be introduced on Arrow before spinning off into his own adventures. As most comic fans know, Barry Allen is not the only person to wear the crimson and yellow, and the question of whether or not he is the most popular (or most “iconic” as DC has branded him) is still a matter of heated debate. His comic book sidekick-turned-successor Wally West is both a fan favorite character and the Flash many people best remember, due to his appearances in the animated Justice League, Teen Titans, and Young Justice cartoons. Of course Barry will be the star of the new Flash series, and he is certainly the face of the franchise that Dan Didio and Geoff Johns want the world to see.

That being said, there are many reasons why including Wally West in the CW show makes a lot of sense. These range from the simple storytelling potential he provides to the ways that he can attract fans who have never picked up a comic book before. For several years, the DC powers-that-be have purposely kept Wally out of comic books, partially due to the fear that another Flash would take the focus away from Barry Allen and make him appear less special as a superhero. This opinion piece is meant to reveal just how Wally West could actually enhance and deepen the appeal of Barry Allen in a television show. Here then, are 5 reasons to include Wally as a member of the supporting cast:

The Flash Family

1. Legacy is what makes The Flash special as a franchise.

If Barry Allen is the sole focus of a Flash series, it is far too easy for newer fans to draw Batman/Superman comparisons.

“OK, so the show is about this guy who can run really fast!”

“Like Superman?”

“Yeah, but…you know…he takes a much more scientific approach to crime-fighting!”

“Oh, like Batman?”

“Yeah, but he’s more of a symbol of hope for the common man.”

“Like Superman.”

“Yeah, but he has a better collection of Rogues, including a guy with an ice gun and an evil clown-like genius.”

“Like Batman.”

“Yeah, but he dates a reporter, and—oh just forget it.”

Composite Superman/Batman
Pictured from right to left: Barry Allen.

To get an idea for how ridiculous this has become…Barry’s big revamp during Rebirth involved him being orphaned at an early age and becoming a detective instead of a forensic lab technician. So…basically, they added a dash more Batman to the formula, diluting the originality of Barry Allen even further. I understand what DC was thinking when they made Barry the focus of the franchise again. They wanted to take things back to the beginning. Back to the origin of the modern Flash series. However, (and this is a problem with most superhero movies as well) what they don’t realize is that revealing the origin of a popular superhero should never be a bigger priority than revealing what makes that hero unique, special, and interesting.

There is no reason the Green Lantern movie couldn’t have begun with the Sinestro War, for example. That is what both fans and moviegoers would have been far more excited to see than an average Joe finding a dying alien, being given a ring, and deciding to become a superhero. We know he becomes a superhero. We can see him on the movie poster and in the trailers as a superhero. It’s a foregone conclusion with no real emotional stakes. Why not start the movie with Green Lantern already a superhero and just write some brief snippets of dialogue to explain it later? Why not focus on the unique aspect of an intergalactic peacekeeping force actually keeping the peace in the galaxy? Can it really wait for a second or third movie?

Likewise, viewers would be less thrilled with entire episodes showing them yet another lab accident create another unlikely superhero than they would with a relatively new concept in movies and television: that of the generational superhero. Legacy is what made the Flash franchise unique, and the sooner it is introduced into the television show, the better. Having Wally West waiting in the wings provides that opportunity. The opportunity to start at the part of the Flash story where things become different from Batman, Superman, or Spider-man. Even if Wally never fully becomes the Flash, the idea that he might have to fill in for an episode or two is something that would generate interest and watercooler conversation.

One could easily throw Jay Garrick into the mix too. Not as a comic book character in the world of Barry Allen, but a real superhero during WWII whose existence was kept classified. It would make the universe that DC is trying to build feel fleshed-out and lived-in instead of a place where the mere concept of superheroes needs to be newly addressed and explained every time we see a new one. As exciting as DC’s writers and editors seem to think a blank slate is for a reboot or an adaptation, it gets old FAST. To invoke Patton Oswalt for a moment, just because we’re excited about ice cream doesn’t mean we’re excited about rock salt, sugar and ice.

Sherlock and Watson

2. Every detective character needs a “Watson.”

Ever wonder why Batman never seems like much of a detective in the movies? No Robin. By virtue of that fact, even the campy Adam West Batman of the 60’s seems like a better sleuth. And it’s all because he has a Robin to explain things to. The sidekick character serves a very important function in mysteries: to be a stand-in for the audience and ask all the questions that we would in that situation. Wally West, whether it’s as Kid Flash or just Barry’s nephew, would serve such a purpose. Not merely for Barry Allen the superhero, but also Barry Allen the scientist. Who else is he going to reveal all of his famous “Flash Facts” to? Presumeably, the show could create another character, likely a fellow policeman, for this purpose; but there’s something else every superhero needs…

3. Every superhero needs someone who knows his secret.

Flash 149: The Flash reveals his identity.Alfred; The Kents; Chloe; Diggle…all these characters were pivotal in the shows that featured them because they gave the heroes an opportunity to talk about their double life. These characters also helped preserve the secret identity of their heroes during their more vulnerable moments. Even though Barry Allen can move at the speed of light, having a job means he can’t be everywhere at once. And what better person to serve as Barry’s eyes and ears when he’s on-duty than the nephew of a reporter? With Barry monitoring the police and Wally monitoring the press, they have the plausible means to stay one step ahead of everybody trying to uncover the Flash’s secret.

4. The Justice League Movie

Justice League Vol.1: OriginThe question on everyone’s mind after news of the Flash series leaked is how the star would keep up a weekly show while also appearing as the Flash in the Justice League film and any possible sequels. With Wally West, that problem is easily solved. You now have two Flashes to work with. Either Wally steps up to be the main Flash in the Justice League movies, or the TV show runs a storyline where Barry is out of commission for awhile (perhaps an ambiguous “death,” perhaps he is jailed following the famous “Trial” storyline from the comics) and Wally takes over for a few episodes. This allows the actor playing Barry to film the movies before making a triumphant return to the television show.

5. The Five Word “pitch.”

For years, Geoff Johns and DC have “pitched” Barry Allen comics, TV shows, and potential movies the exact same way. “It’s like CSI with superheroes!” That’s the phrase that was used to generate interest in everything from Flash: Rebirth to the upcoming CW series. And there’s one big problem with that. America had already seen the glut and decline of police procedurals long before Barry Allen was even resurrected. There were four kinds of Law and Orders, and almost as many CSIs. While there may still be a place for these programs on TV, it’s no longer accurate to call them fresh or original. They’ve lost their luster. So let’s look at what’s popular now. Do we know of any current shows that feature an analytical scientist working with a hot-headed youth on matters that aren’t strictly legal?

Walter and Jesse

Five words, people. “It’s Breaking Bad Meets Batman.” The mentor/protege relationship between Barry and Wally is precisely what should be highlighted in the marketing. With his wisecracking streetsmarts, Wally is the perfect Jesse Pinkman to Barry’s Walter White. You want a pitch that gets viewers, DC? That’s how it’s done. Barry Allen and Wally West: Breaking Bad Guys.

35 thoughts on “5 Reasons Wally West Should Appear in The Flash TV Show

  1. Scarlet Speedster

    I agree with alot of reasons above, & I’d love to see Wally live-action as much as the next guy, even as the Watson to Barry’s Sherlock, but I have a feeling it probably won’t happen. Just like the JSA won’t be appearing in anything, & pretty much retconned out of everything, I feel DC has the same handling of Wally. And, I feel they want to focus on only one Flash in the comics(besides Bart & the new Jay on Earth 2), and I’m almost certain they’ll probably follow suit on the new show, the focus will be on Barry, & as much as we fans would like to see it, I think DC feels that too many speedsters muddys the waters. Like many fans, I don’t agree with that, I love the richness of the Flash legacy, but I know that’s the way things are. For the forseeable future, Wally’s out of the media- but luckily we have shows like JL & JLU that he’s appeared in to remember him by & watch over & over again. In the meantime I’m trying to be optimistic that this show will represent Barry well, & make a Flash media renaissance.

    Reply
    1. Kyer

      “And, I feel they want to focus on only one Flash in the comics(besides Bart & the new Jay on Earth 2)…”
      This line nearly had me laughing in public.

      I agree that their putting Wally in anything new is unlikely.

      Am also afraid cast a guy with a neon mohawk, multiple piercings, and rated R tattoos and call him Wally West, because, you know, for some reason I have no faith whatsoever in TV to do anything right.

      Reply
      1. Scarlet Speedster

        What I really meant was the only other speedsters in-comic right now are Bart & the Earth 2 Jay- “focus” on them is a term I use loosely. But I agree with ya- I don’t have hardly any confidence in tv, especially CW- if we ever get Wally he won’t be anything like the one we know & love, & I definitely have my doubts about them portraying Barry right- but time will tell.

        Reply
    2. MisterNefarious

      I sort of both agree and disagree.
      I agree with the presumed opinion of dc that too many speedsters muddies the waters in terms of: if a bunch of dudes are as fast as the flash, why is he special among them?

      Easy answer is some of what they are laying down in new 52: he is this speed force conduit. He has awesome power beyond his speed, extending into time. As more speedsters are introduced, I hope dc keeps this as an important distinction for the flash alone (I mean, grodd and reverse flash are good indications that other speedsters are going this way)

      But on the other I agree with you: the flash is very much defined by his relationships to his mentors an other speedsters. We will need this to play out in at least some way

      Reply
  2. Nick!

    I’d be surprised if Wally didn’t appear. Honestly, if they do introduce the character, I hope it is naturally. Everything at once might be too much of an overload. But if they bring him on like Arrow gradually introduced Roy, it could be great seeing the Flash mythology unroll.

    Reply
  3. Mack Nathan, Flash Neighbor!

    I think we should let Barry have some spotlight time. Wally got JLU which pretty much boosted his popularity (though to be fair he was an amalgam Flash, with many personality elements taken from Bart Allen and the majority of the backstory, villains, city, etc coming from Barry Allen).
    And plus since this Barry is a young adult, wouldn’t Wally be a teenager?

    Reply
    1. Diego Calazans

      Exactly. I agree with you. Specially when you talk about Wally on DCAU. I’ve been saying the same through years.

      I don’t agree with the text, but I do think Wally will actually appear soon enough on Flash series, basically the same way Roy appeared on Arrow. It’s almost unavoidable. I think he’ll be just a few years younger than Barry, like Roy is not so much younger than Ollie.

      I believe “legacy” is a way of seeing the Flash series, but it’s not its essence. Its essence is the amazing absurdist physics that makes possible to create great concepts, like the Multiverse, and even to break the fourth wall through science fiction. But I love the idea of many characters connected by Speed Force and the idea that they see themselves as a family, not as a team. Like the Rogues, that are also a family, more than a team. The idea of friends that are connected and act as a family… this is a constant on Flash series and would really work on TV.

      I disagree that reasons 2, 3 and 4 make necessary the presence of Wally. See Arrow. Ollie has a team that knows him and works with him on his cases, but Roy is not a part of the team yet. See 1990’s Flash series. He had Tina to talk to. New 52 Barry has Patty. On TV, he could have Patty, Iris or even Felicity, if she moves to Central City with him. And in Justice League movie, the Flash could be Barry as well. As Ollie could be Green Arrow if they choose to use him. I don’t see any trouble with it. Wally isn’t necessary to the series, BUT he will be on the series at some moment. Like Roy on Arrow.

      And I don’t think they should go with Breaking Bad as a model. A really great Flash TV series should be something more like Fringe with colored costumes.

      But, as I said, they WILL use Wally probably on the first season already. Don’t worry.

      What I’d like to see, more than anything else? A good TV version of Flash of two worlds with Barry, in the first episodes, reading old Jay’s comic books and using them as inspiration to become the Flash (here in Brazil, Jay is named Joe Cyclone and the name “The Flash” was used first by Barry, so we’re used to see Jay as inspiration to Barry, but not as the first Flash, and this is a way that could work on how he should appear on the show) and, later in the show, he could vibrate through universes and visit Earth 2 and meet Jay there and his Justice Society. And he could say “but you’re all comic book characters, you’re not real!”. The best thing about silver age Barry Allen is how his comics used to break the fourth wall and talk to the reader, and how the absurdist physics of his series made possible concepts like the Multiverse. I think they should use it to expand DC universe on TV.

      There are literally worlds of possibilities on a Flash series, if well done. And it would be really great if they introduced the Flash family, with, for instance, Max, Bart and even Danica. I’d love to see them. I believe that they showing the Flash family, as a whole, with Barry in the center, would be a better way to go than introducing Wally only to make him replace Barry in the future.

      Reply
  4. MisterNefarious

    I don’t agree with EVERY point but this was a good read and there are two points I absolutely adore:
    1) foregone conclusion:
    I had a colleague explaining why a JL movie wouldn’t work without each character getting a solo flick and that’s crap and real fans know it. My grandmother knows who flash and Wonder Woman are. One line of dialogue explains it, we don’t need two hours. With the exception of the relationship between Thor and Loki, avengers does not need much explanation. A few lines do it fine. The characters and motivation are clear to audiences: why would JL be any different?

    2) breaking bad meets batman:
    Take all of my damn money right now

    Reply
    1. Mack Nathan, Flash Neighbor!

      The audiences of today don’t know Wonder Woman’s background. The same goes for Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter. And on top of that you have to reintroduce Green lantern. Solo movies are the better option.

      Reply
      1. MisterNefarious

        I disagree. Their back stories are plenty interesting in their own right, but they likely don’t inform the plot of a team film much if at all.

        In my avengers comparison, Thor was the only prerequisite viewing for audiences to understand the plot and characters. EVERY other character is adequately explained in motivation, power and history through dialogue or actions.

        We don’t require individual films of each bank robber in Oceans 11, and we only think we do for comics because we’re fanboys. From a storytelling standpoint it just plain isn’t a strict requirement. No other genre needs that level of backstory on a per character basis. Wonder Woman is an amazon warrior who can fly and is strong. Unless the baddy is Ares, how much more would audiences need to understand her? Not two hours, that’s for sure

        Nobody said each JL character needed solo films until avengers came out. We frothed at the mouth for a JL movie to release anyway. After avengers we all seem to think that’s the only way to tell an ensemble story and I just have to entirely disagree and say I think that’s incorrect

        Reply
        1. Mack Nathan, Flash Neighbor!

          But its a better business model. Having individual solo films can capture audiences who will go see a genre they like and then will go see their favorite hero in a team up. Solo films also allow you to have a character developed to a certain extent so you won’t have to waste time on that during a team up movie. Having Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and a rebooted Green Lantern just coming out of the woodworks and wasting time having to explaining who they are, their backgrounds, their abilities, etc. would waste to much time from a Justice League movie.

          Reply
          1. MisterNefarious

            While I don’t disagree that this is a “better” business model (it certainly is. rakes in mad cash, gives each character more chance to shine), I’m just saying it’s not the requirement we all act like it is.
            I would GLADLY go see a full film of any of these characters, and they could all hold one. At the same time, I feel like the pertinent information to tell a group story is either easily and quick to transmit to the audience, or is already just inherently known to a degree in our culture.

            If Joe Schmoe saw a JL film, within ten minutes of appropriate writing (even if that writing is ALSO explaining a buddy like GL) he could accurately see that the Flash A) runs fast B) is analytical/a cop and C) is relatively humorous and who on the team he reacts well to.

            We see the character for ten minutes on screen, using their powers and speaking some dialogue and we understand them at least on a base enough level to relate and enjoy. That’s all I’m saying 😉

            Doesn’t take too long to invest people if you write it correctly. Both models are perfectly acceptable and workable, and both have their own strengths and limitations. That’s all 😀

            Reply
  5. @Rün Kumar

    I heartfully love Barry, heck I idolize him in some ways but that was until the New 52. When some of the Wally’s history or elements were used in Barry’s by completely erasing Wally from the continuity.
    And the response for that from Dan didio is: “We benched him because we wanted to de age Barry and if there’s Wally he would be old”
    now how stupid is that? Batman can have dick,Tim, Jason and heck even a son Damian… Now how old should batman be?

    Reply
    1. Scarlet Speedster

      I agree with everything you said about the de-aging thing. Especially for Flash & Batman- chararcters with “family”- it’s ridiculous. Like them de-aging Dick Grayson to 23, & I feel like they killed Damien because his presence “aged” Batman. With the Flash, I think you could have a young Barry(late 20s early 30s) and Wally existing alongside him in the same age range, because Rebirth establised that the Speed Force was youth, and made every speedster and their loved ones(even Iris & Joan Garrick)younger in appearance than they should be chronologically. Because of that principle, I think Wally could’ve existed in the New 52 alongside Barry very easily. But the “laws” of the Speed Force seem to be different now. But, I still see it as a way Wally could’ve existed without “aging” anyone in Didio’s goofy words.

      Reply
      1. MisterNefarious

        I don’t mind Wally being MIA because I really like what they are doing with Barry. I’d like to see Wally back some day, because I like the mentorship and such, but I’m in no rush. They can take their time to reintroduce.

        On the flip side, I think Damian was the most interesting thing to happen to the Batman mythos (and I think made more sense as Robin in many ways), and killing him off was IMO a REALLY bad move all around. I do not like it.

        Stopped reading Batman about the time I got into Flash and GL, so no big deal there for me… Still…

        Reply
        1. Scarlet Speedster

          I know what you mean- I’m enjoying the ride with Barry as well. On the flip side, I can understand how Wally fans feel with him out of the picture- but on the other side of that, I can imagine how Barry fans felt for 23 years post-Crisis. I imagine we will see Wally in some form one day- but like you, I’m very interested in everything they’ve done with Barry thus far, & moving forward- & I’m gonna keep on enjoying the ride! On the subject of Batman, they had already screwed him up for me long before Damian’s death- that was the last coffin-nail of my Batman interest. I’m more into Flash, GL & Aquaman anyway. Flash being #1!

          Reply
    2. Mack Nathan, Flash Neighbor!

      Yet you aren’t angry when Wally West from Justice League Unlimited utilizes Barry’s history and elements from Bart Allen?
      Hypocrisy, thy name is @Rün Kumar.

      Reply
  6. Steve

    I think “Young Justice” really helped to illustrate just how much of the JLU Flash was Wally West and how much were the other characters. That show did a fine job of keeping Bart, Barry, and Wally distinct, separate characters, and you could see which one of them lined up the most with the personality of the Flash from JLU. Visiting the CN messageboards after the pilot aired, I was surprised to see many of the kids simply calling Wally West “Flash,” since he retained so much of what made the JLU character entertaining. I agree that the Wally from JLU contained some elements of Barry (he had his job for a hot second onscreen, after all!), but I believe those elements were mandated by the questionable need to have an origin story that was close to the comics. No Barry Allen meant Wally West needed to be in that forensic lab so that the lightning could hit the chemicals and yadda, yadda, yadda. Again, your mileage may vary, but to me, a lot of origin stories from the silver age of comics are like an albatross. They didn’t need to recycle any of that stuff. They could have made an original, Speed Force-related origin that didn’t need the forensic lab or the chemicals. Because the Wally West I know from the Justice League books, the Silver Age Titans stories, the Mark Waid Flash series, and the wonderful and underrated Amy Wolfram Titans: Year One comics was out in full effect during the Diniverse era of cartoons.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      What’s also interesting about the few seconds of Wally as a scientist that we did see is that not only does it conflict with the character of Wally West, it also conflicts with the Flash character they had already established. There are a lot of words we could use to describe him, but “keen analytical mind” is not one of them. If you rewatch the series, the sheer amount of malapropisms and ignorance of scientific theory the character displays does not line up well at all with the idea that he is a Barry Allen-level scientist. This is another case of a devotion to the comic book origin coming at the expense of consistent characterization and in-world logic.

      Reply
      1. Scarlet Speedster

        Yeah- JLU Wally doesn’t seem like a scientist at all, & it is contradictory to his in-show character & kinda laughable to think of him as such in retrospect. He is fun & funny as heck, though. I think another reason they used Barry’s origin for him is because Barry’s origin is so iconic- it’s one of the best & most interesting origins in all of comicdom, fanatastic imagery and it was the birth of the scientific accident origin story Marvel would come to use with most of their characters. As for Wally on YJ- he got the shaft at the end & it totally ruined the show for me- him & George Eads as Barry were the only things I enjoyed in that series anyway.

        Reply
  7. Realitätsprüfung

    Most of these 5 “reasons” are just justifications for bringing back a beloved / lost character. Which is fine.

    But fallacies abound, such as the first point about “legacy”. It heavily implies you “need” Wally West to sell Barry Allen. That’s flat out incorrect; Barry was the Flash, one of the founding characters of the DCU. All the important elements of the Flash concept and its history stem from those 50s/60s stories with Barry. Legacy only became important in the late 80s….to sell Wally West to post-Crisis fans.. So the character to whom legacy is an important element is Wally, not Barry.

    But the truth is that DC got along just fine without Barry Allen starring in comics for 20 years, and is getting along just fine now without Wally West.

    There simply isn’t an imperative reason is to bring back Wally West. Other than – a lot of older fans would like to see new adventures with him. Which is a perfectly good reason, but it’s not the reason DC will eventually, someday, bring him back; which is, to shock and titilate us in a crossover.

    Reply
    1. Scarlet Speedster

      One thing I really agree with in the article is that the Flash who is the most “iconic” is debatable. Every generation has their own “iconic” version of the Flash, & have very valid reasons for them to be “their” Flash. For example, you ask my mom or dad who the most iconic Flash is, & they’ll tell you Barry Allen. And I agree with them. If you ask alot of people my age(29) & older, the iconic Flash is Wally West, & I would agree as well. To my grandpa, Jay Garrick was the iconic Flash & I couldn’t argue. All of them are iconic- & this generation will have their iconic Flash, which for the forseeable future will be Barry Allen. But who knows what incarnation of the character will become iconic in the future? Maybe in the future the wheel will turn again, as it did with bringing Barry back, & Wally will return for a new generation. Or maybe some new iteration. I admit I’m intrigued by this prospect, & curious as to what future generations will see- but for the here & now, I’m happy to have Barry as he is.

      Reply
      1. Realitätsprüfung

        No offense intended, but the idea of “iconic” being generational kinda ignores the meaning of the word, which is an image or aspect that’s recognizable (and perhaps a bit timeless) beyond its origins.

        Which means what is “iconic” about the Flash is the red suit, the rogues, the GL team-ups, Reverse Flash, the races with Superman, etc. That stuff is what makes the Flash a well-known, decades-old concept. All of it was ported over to Wally wholesale, so it isn’t a definitive element of his solo era. If you want to pinpoint the origins of that stuff, most of it goes back to the late 1950s / early 1960s stories by Fox, Broome and Infantino.

        To them, the credit belongs.

        Reply
    2. Steve

      Filming schedules, imaginary pitches, exposition opportunities, and marketing potential are tied more into the Flash TV series than the comic book world, so I don’t see how it deals with Wally being brought “back.” He was never lost in this world. He never existed in this world. In fact, before the pilot airs, this world never existed, period. It’s true, you don’t need legacy to sell Barry Allen, but it’s ONE of the things that makes the Flash franchise as a whole something special that distinguishes itself from its contemporaries. And it’s a smart idea for any potential franchise to put its best foot forward and present those things as soon as possible. Because if it’s too much of something people have already seen before, there’s always another superhero show/movie to see in today’s entertainment landscape. A LOT more.

      Reply
      1. Scarlet Speedster

        I believe if they focus on Barry being a “science hero”, dealing with scientific threats & villains, & solving mysteries related to time-travel & other realities, & strange anomalies, it will be a unique show. Kind of like a superheroic Fringe, but without its own “two Earths” mythos weighing it down. An episode that adapted a story like Robert Bloch’s “Doorway to the Unknown” would be great & showcase that super-scientific, CSI-superhero with a dab of suspense/mystery angle that made Barry so unique to begin with, that made him so popular & usher in the Silver Age.

        Reply

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