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.