Category Archives: Flash History

Return of the Supervillain Self-Help Expert

You’ve probably seen this panel of the Rainbow Raider triumphantly shouting, “I believe in me!” (especially if you follow Lia’a Rogues blog). It’s from Brave and the Bold #194 by Mike Barr and Carmine Infantino. As a motivational therapist, Professor Andrea Wye approaches Bivolo and D-list Batman villain Dr. Double-X about their failures as super-villains, and convinces them to “Trade heroes and win.”

So Rainbow Raider goes after Batman, and Dr. Double-X goes after the Flash. The heroes aren’t used to fighting each other’s villains, and actually get captured. Of course they turn the tables before she’s able to learn what she wants from them, and overpower the villains before going after the mastermind. She escapes, but Flash figures she’ll return sooner or later. As far as I knew, she disappeared at that point.

I recently discovered that she does return, after all, in the opening two-parter of the 1985 Outsiders series — no surprise, also written by Barr. This was when the team had just split off from Batman, causing a title change, and moved from Gotham to Los Angeles.

In “Nuclear Fear,” Prof. Wye stages a fake terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant near Los Angeles to observe how the city reacts. It’s research material for her next book on the psychology of fear. (Ethics, schmethics, right?)

The Outsiders stop her team before it can make a scene, but the scientist she contacted to help plan the raid wants to go further. He wants to actually blow up Los Angeles in order to make people understand the horrors of nuclear war, and he sends a group of robots modeled after his dead family to do it. Naturally they’re called The Nuclear Family, and they’re this weird idealized 1950s family — except for the fact that they want to kill everyone. (Strange that nuclear war and twisted nostalgia for the 1950s are suddenly topical again.)

Once Wye learns about her ally’s plan, she hightails it out of town. Meanwhile the Outsiders are in a race to find the robots before they detonate themselves. In the end, the only thing they can do is destroy the robots in a normal explosion before they go critical and take out the city. The Nuclear Family is never seen again, as far as I know…and neither is Professor Wye.

I wonder if she ever finished her book?

Magic Speed Formula: Mort Meskin’s Johnny Quick

Created by Mort Weisinger and debuting in More Fun Comics #71 (1941, less than two years after Flash Comics #1), Johnny Quick and his “3X2(9YZ)4A” speed formula enjoyed a 13-year run between More Fun and Adventure Comics. He even outlasted the Jay Garrick Flash, staying in publication in solo stories through 1954. A speedster who occasionally took to the skies, his secret ID of Johnny Chambers was a newsreel photographer.

More Fun 094-11

Between 1941 and 1948, the artist behind the majority of Johnny Quick’s adventures was Mort Meskin. Sometimes listed as Mort Morton, Jr., Meskin is credited on 57 Johnny Quick stories, according to DCIndexes.com. DC reprinted six of those stories between three issues of the 1956-1985 Flash series, a separate Flash 100-Page Giant, an issue of Most Dangerous Villains, and a 2001 “Millennium Edition” reprint of More Fun #101.

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The Enduring Appeal Of Flash Villains

Why do people like Flash villains so much? They’re arguably just as beloved as the Flashes themselves, and even many comics creators rank them as being among the best rogues galleries in comics.

There are many reasons for this, some of which simply come down to them being very memorable and entertaining characters, and in some cases even lovable (your mileage on the latter may vary, however). You might be surprised by how many dedicated fans there are of the Rogues and/or the Reverse Flashes. But there are other reasons for their popularity as well.

Firstly there are the villains’ powers or gimmicks, most of which complement or neutralize the Flashes’ speed. The Reverse Flashes obviously match the speed of their nemeses, allowing for some extraordinarily epic races and forcing the heroes to get faster or more creative with their powers. The Flash television series has shown this quite well, with Barry Allen being pushed to go ever faster to combat the superior speed of Eobard Thawne and Zoom. And many of the Rogues’ powers combat speed in some way by slowing down motion, such as Captain Cold’s cold gun and the Turtle’s kinetic black hole. Still others have devised inventive ways around the Flashes’ speed, such as Mirror Master’s near-magic mirror tech, the Top’s vertigo power, and the Pied Piper’s hypnosis. They’re all extremely well-suited to fighting the Flash, and are very good at what they do. Several of the Rogues have noted that fighting other heroes almost seems like it’s happening in slow motion because they’re so accustomed to combat with speedsters.

Another reason for the villains’ popularity is that they’re an excellent contrast for the Flashes’ heroism. The Reverse Flashes — particularly the obsessive Professor Zoom, who’s alternately been a tremendous fan of Barry Allen and at other times wanted to take his place — show us just how terrifying and awful the Flashes could be if they were bad people (or in Zoom’s case, deranged). The Reverse Flashes are a dark mirror to demonstrate the noble qualities of the heroes. This was especially hammered home when Professor Zoom murdered Barry’s mother and we saw that tragedy didn’t twist him as it did Hunter Zolomon.

In the same vein, the similarly poor upbringings of the Rogues and Wally West showcase the differences between them; Wally came from a broken home and still became a hero, while the Rogues became anti-social criminals and at least some attributed it to their dysfunctional early lives. Wally said of Double Down “Like most Rogues he blames his predicament on someone else”, and that seems to be the key difference between him and them.

Flash 132 And finally, a major reason for the popularity of at least some Flash villains is the ‘gentleman thief’ aspect many of them embody. Not all of them are like this, of course, but the Rogues have held that appeal since the Silver Age (at left is a letter published in Flash v1 #132, circa 1962) and it’s only become more pronounced in the modern era with the establishment of Captain Cold’s Rogue Rules. Many fans like them for their principles even if they don’t always live up to them, but the Rogues are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. The fact that they even care about rules sets them apart from many other villains, and makes them distinctive and easier to root for. Readers can genuinely care about Captain Cold and want him to succeed when he has a set of ethics and refuses to cross certain boundaries.

So there are good reasons for the enduring popularity of Flash villains amongst readers and creators, and their success is no accident. They’ve been well-crafted over the years to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the Flashes, and are interesting characters in their own right. It’s been wonderful to see some of them finally appear in live action television over the past two years, and hopefully they’ll continue to be showcased and introduced to an entirely new audience in the years to come.

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.

 

It’s Flash Appreciation Day!

Some super-heroes are loved by the cities they protect. Others are feared. But Central City and Keystone City celebrate the Flash. They raise statues to the Scarlet Speedster.

They built a Flash Museum.

Flash Museum

They celebrate Flash Day.

Flash Day

Make no mistake: Central City loves the Flash.

Well, most of the time.

Flash #333

With his powers, the Flash can do more than just fight bad guys and rescue people from disasters. Across comics, cartoons and live-action versions we’ve seen Wally West and Barry Allen pitch in with everything from large-scale rebuilding to small-scale good deeds like fixing a car that’s broken down in the middle of rush hour. Sure, Keystone might have a higher budget for road repairs than most cities of its size, but the Flash is more than just a guardian flying above the city or swinging from the rooftops: He’s running alongside the rest of them.

In the “Flash and Substance” episode of Justice League Unlimited, which aired on February 11, 2006, Central City declared Flash Appreciation Day. At least nine comic book fan sites are getting together this year to celebrate our favorite red-suited speedsters!

Bounding Into Comics picks the top 5 moments from the TV show.
Comics Bulletin looks at the strengths of the three main Flashes: Jay Garrick, Barry Allen and Wally West – plus the Morrison/Millar run on the book and answers the question: Why the Flash?
FlashFans.org talks to artists and writers including Brett Booth, Van Jensen, Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur.
The Geeked Gods tackles the impact of the TV show on the Flash’s popularity.
Graphic Policy
Multiversity Comics reviews Jay Garrick’s first appearance, Emergency Stop, and JLU’s Flash and Substance, plus has a piece about Bart Allen aka Impulse aka Kid Flash aka the Flash, and finally interviews Mark Waid about why he loves the Flash.
Nothing But Comics looks back at the original Flashpoint, Wally West’s debut, and obscure Rogues.
Outright Geekery reviews Flashpoint and looks back at the history of the Flash.
Speed Force recalls a pivotal moment in Flash history: Barry Allen’s death in the Crisis on Infinite Earths – and considers the enduring appeal of Flash villains.

Please check each of these other sites as they update throughout the day!

Finally, more important than Flash Appreciation Day, we’re also spreading the word about the Hero Initiative. The comics industry isn’t exactly known for pensions or insurance benefits, and many artists and writers find themselves with emergency medical bills (remember Oliver Nome’s crowdfunded brain tumor surgery?), or in need of disaster recovery, or just forgotten by the industry. The Hero Initiative helps comics creators in trouble with their medical bills, covers rent or utilities, and helps them get back on their feet. Please take a look at the charity’s site and consider helping out the people who make the comics you love!

Hero Initiative

A Brief History of the West Family

The West family has been a key part of the Flash supporting cast since the 1950s (and in fact one West was the main character of the series from 1987-2006), but they’ve changed a lot in that time.

1950s

Reporter Iris West is introduced, dating Barry Allen. Little is said about her family.

1960s

Wally West, Iris’ nephew, first shows up visiting his aunt in Central City. He meets Barry Allen (as the Flash), is struck by lightning and chemicals in a freak repeat of the original accident, and becomes Kid Flash. Wally’s parents appear in his solo stories when he goes home to Blue Valley.

Strangely, I can’t find any instance of Iris and her brother interacting on-page anywhere. Not even in the later Wally stories of the 1990s or 2000s.

Iris’ father Ira West is a college professor, brilliant but absent-minded. We never see or hear about his wife until much later.

1970s

Iris is revealed to be adopted. Born to Eric and Fran Russell in the distant future, she was sent back in time to save her from a terrible war. A flashback shows Ira and Nadine West as they discover the time capsule.

1980s

With Wally West as the main Flash, his parents get more attention — and names: Rudolph and Mary West. Rudolph is revealed to be a sleeper agent for the Manhunters, and the illusion of an idyllic family life is shattered.

Wally’s aunt Charlotte and his uncle Edgar Rhodes are mentioned, but I’m not sure they ever show up, and it takes a while before anyone cements which side of the family they’re on.

1990s

“Born to Run” retcons Wally’s childhood into a dysfunctional one more in line with the way things turned out once his father’s true colors were revealed. Iris, rather than just being Wally’s aunt, is now the only member of his family who really understands him.

The future heroes the Tornado Twins, Don & Dawn Allen, are revealed to be Barry and Iris’ children. Don’s son Bart Allen travels back in time with his grandmother Iris to the present day.

2000s

Wally West and Linda Park marry and have twins, whom they name Iris West II and Jai.

2010s: New 52

DC restarts their entire line, establishing new versions of some characters and younger versions of others.

As with the Silver Age, we begin with Iris West. After a while we meet her younger brother Daniel, who becomes the Reverse-Flash and tries to use his power to go back in time and kill their abusive father William (who turns out to be worse than Rudy ever was in the pre-Flashpoint universe). Their mother isn’t named. All we know is that she died giving birth to Daniel.

Later we find out about her older brother Rudy, who skipped out on his wife and their son Wally some time ago. Wally’s mother disappears (presumed dead) when Central City is taken over by Grodd and the Crime Syndicate, and Iris, who barely knows him, takes him in as the only family he has left.

TV Show (2014 on)

Iris grew up with her father, police detective Joe West, and believed her mother died when she was young. When she was around 11 years old, her friend Barry Allen lost his parents, and Joe took him in.

Francine West hadn’t died, but ran away after checking into rehab. Unable to find her, Joe decided it would be kinder to tell his daughter that she had died rather than abandoned her.

Years later, Francine reached out to the family she left behind in Central City…and Iris learned about her long-lost brother. At the end of the fall finale, we left off with the first meeting of Wally West and his sister Iris and father Joe.