A “Flash”back to COIE

When reviewing FLASH comics and TV episodes, I get the joy of writing about my favorite character in comics, a hero I’ve followed for my now 52 years of reading comics (hey, that’s a coincidence for a DC fan, huh?). But, there was a time that this Flash fan was truly bummed out…which takes me all the way back to…well, a “Flash”back to COIE in 1985.

For today’s Flash fans, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths is just history…and in some respects even that history has been revised by a variety of other “events”, not the least of which is the conclusion of Convergence supposedly re-writing the end of that original universes-shattering event. For me, as a 20-something years old comics fan returning to my favorite medium after a break, it was a very bittersweet time. I saw my childhood being swept away in a flood of death and destruction that saw the Silver and Bronze Ages being moved aside. Supergirl died. Superboy no longer “existed”. And, worst of all, Barry Allen died.

My Flash died.

Today, that is being hailed as a seminal moment in comics. At the time, it didn’t feel that way. The series for our favorite speedster wasn’t drawing very well, and it had in fact been cancelled. And, even though his sacrifice saved what was left of the DCU, it felt a lot more like DC was merely using Barry to put an exclamation point on the end of the Silver Age. The only saving grace for that part of the story for me was having him turn into the actual lightning bolt that granted him his speed.

And, my Flash died.

At the same time, Wally was just finding that he could run again – but limited at the time to the speed of sound. Jay was not far from being stuck in an endless time loop with the rest of the Justice Society, fighting and re-fighting Ragnarok. It seemed like a sad time to be a speedster.

After all, my Flash died. But, at least we did have a Flash, and I had been a fan of Wally since the Teen Titans were formed (and yes, I did buy the first issue of their team up when they fought the “Separated Man”).  So, I was more than willing to give the “new” Flash series a try. I’m glad I did.

Wally found his own path to being a hero and we were off on a terrific volume of new Flash stories. We received a teaser from Mark Waid in “The Return of Barry Allen” (a really great arc, but still not a real return). And, years later, we finally did get a “Rebirth” that returned Barry Allen, my Flash, to the DCU.

I have been a fan of every DCU speedster, from Jay to Barry to Wally to Bart, from the Quicks to Max Mercury to Don and Dawn Allen to XS and…you get the idea. I refuse to get into arguments over who was the best Flash – they are all great to me. But, for every fan there is a moment that lets you know things will never be the same – not in that hyped up “read this arc” way that you see in ads all the time. No, there is a moment when you realize that the comics of your childhood simply don’t exist anymore.  The death of Barry Allen in COIE was that moment for me.  Even though he’s back, and even though I’m still a fan, that moment in 1985 is something I will always remember.

 

2 thoughts on “A “Flash”back to COIE

  1. Steve

    For me, that moment came when a character who devoted his life to preserving his predecessor’s legacy had his own legacy erased. A tragic moment of irony that was never even addressed in print to any real degree.

    Honestly, though, I’ve never really been bothered by “Which is your favorite Flash?” arguments. Another article on this site asks that very question of the professionals who created that dynasty for us, and I do not resent the fact that they have an opinion. On the contrary, I would question their appreciation of character if one was as good as the other to them. If George Perez prefers Barry, it does not hurt my feelings, nor does it hurt Wally West’s feelings.

    What does bother me, though, are the “Which fandom has had it worse?” arguments. It bothers me because instead of putting the focus on fictional characters in a fictional world, it becomes a very shallow way of saying “I’m a better fan than you.” These arguments are absolutely toxic, and I’ve seen them destroy more than one community. Really, it shouldn’t matter to anyone how many Flashes someone likes; whether they are die-hard Jay Garrick fans who ONLY like Jay Garrick or they love every Flash character equally. The 6 year-old who picks up a Justice League coloring book is ABSOLUTELY as much of a fan as I am, and while I would not think twice about talking to him about my favorite Flash, I would never try to make him feel guilty about liking Barry Allen, nor would I believe that my 10 years of reading Wally West comics (or 5 years of being unable to read Wally West comics) made me an authority on how they should appreciate those characters or when it was time to “move on” if he could no longer read those characters. If he grows up composing open letters to DC about how they’ve betrayed him as a fan for something that happened years ago, it’s no concern of mine.

    Fans have favorites, fans have gripes, fans have baggage. It’s part of the territory. The important thing is to respect each other even when we do not respect the plot, the characters, or the product. The exception to this is when certain fans are acting as gatekeepers to everyone else. There should be no tolerance for racism, sexism, or any other narrow mindset that decrees what “true fans” are. As someone who is saddened at how widely this sentiment has spread in my favorite communities, that is one of the few things I cannot abide as a fan.

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  2. Phantom Stranger

    It devastated me when DC killed Barry in Crisis. He was the character that had brought me into comics and it was painful at first to realize I wouldn’t be reading his monthly adventures. I eventually grew to love Wally as well but I never understood why DC kept Barry on the shelf so long. It was especially tough when Jay became a big part of the Flash comics again and I wondered why they couldn’t bring Barry back as well.

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