Tag Archives: Infinite Crisis

Didio: Bart Was a Step in the Road Back to Barry

An interesting revelation from the latest 20 Questions with Dan Didio at Newsarama. He’s previously claimed (though many fans remained unconvinced) that Bart Allen’s death in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 was planned from the start, but we’ve got a new twist. Here’s part of his answer to question #15:

Bart was always going to go away, and I think the mistake was that we probably pulled Bart a little too soon, but quite honestly again, that was the problem of lining stories up with Countdown. The Bart story was due to be extended a little bit longer, but due to how things were lining up, he had to leave sooner.

That story’s not complete yet. We’re going to see more of what that story was about shortly – it was always the plan for Bart. He was going to be the Flash of the moment as we made our way back to Barry. [emphasis added]

Okay, not a big surprise that they shuffled things around to match with Countdown.* But am I reading that right? Is he saying that they planned to bring Barry Allen back as long ago as Infinite Crisis? Didio continues:

I think Mark Waid did an admirable job of stepping in and trying to find a different slant to Wally and the family, which we found out, was a more difficult story to tell than when we planned it. I think Mark did as best a job as possible – he put so much thought and effort into fleshing out that family, and I think we have a couple of rich characters in the children because of that.

This is the other thing that gets confusing, depending on who tells it: When was the plan made for Wally to return, and when was the plan made for Bart to be killed? Mark Waid’s interview in The Flash Companion suggests that he, at least was led to believe that Bart’s move up to lead Flash was intended to be indefinite, not a fill-in gig, though he predicted it wouldn’t catch on. And Didio’s remarks here about Waid “stepping in” suggest that they did bring him on unexpectedly — though that could simply be the result of moving up the timetable. (Which, now that I think about it, might explain artist Daniel Acuña’s sudden departure.)

I’ll agree with Didio on this: the West Twins are promising characters, even if most of the comics readership seems to want to throw them under a bus.

But at the end of the day, there’s a certain expectation of what a Flash story is, and what you want to see in a Flash comic book. While we expanded the Flash family, people really wanted to see the Flash.

And that seems to have been the main criticism of issues #231–243: Not enough of the Flash in The Flash.

But the goal for me, always, was to get back to Barry in the same way the goal was to get back to Hal in Green Lantern.

Whoa, hold on a second. Now he is saying that they were planning to bring Barry back from the beginning?

Well why didn’t they do that in the first place?

Seriously, Infinite Crisis would have been a perfect time to bring Barry back. Sure, a lot of us would have been pissed off that they were getting rid of Wally just because it was a Crisis and going back to Barry just so that they could bring back the guy who was the Flash when they were twelve — but you know what, we’re pissed off anyway. Plus we’ve got the frustration of three years of mismanaged Flash stories on top of that.

So, to sum up: DC considered Bart as a temp from the beginning. And DC never had any intention of bringing Wally back after they kicked Bart out, at least not as the primary Flash. It was all about Barry from the start.

*I find it amusing — in a banging-my-head-against-the-wall way — that people were so annoyed with the way some stories were stretched out during Countdown for the sake of lining books up, and people are annoyed now with Final Crisis because they’re not trying to line everything up.

Welcome Back, Barry Allen!

Today’s Final Crisis #2 marks an event that many Flash fans have been anticipating* for years: the return of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash.

Barry made his debut in the 1956 comic book, Showcase #4. In the early 1950s, super-heroes had faded from popularity, and most of their series had been either canceled or converted to another genre. (For example: the Justice Society’s book, All-Star, became All-Star Western.) DC Comics decided to try reviving the genre, and started by redesigning the Flash. They gave him a new origin and identity, a sleeker costume, and a more sci-fi flavor to the stories, and published him in their try-out title.

The Flash was a success, and after three more appearances in Showcase, they gave him his own series in 1959. Revamps of Green Lantern, the Atom and other heroes soon followed. In fact, the Flash is often credited with launching the Silver Age of comics. (The other hero most often cited is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Ironically, he was just killed in Final Crisis #1.)

After 30 years, though, DC decided it was time for another relaunch. Sales on the book were flagging, and DC was preparing Crisis on Infinite Earths, an event which would make sweeping changes to its entire line. In essence they were launching a new age of DC comics. The death of the Flash symbolically represented the end of the Silver Age.** Barry met his end in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (1985), and his former sidekick Wally West carried on his legacy as the Flash of a new era.

Over the next 23 years, Barry Allen was part of a small group of comic book characters whose deaths seemed permanent. He showed up occasionally in time travel stories, and was placed in various afterlives — including a tribute story at Marvel and the concept that gives this site its name: the speed force, a Valhalla for speedsters. And of course there was the 1993 storyline, “The Return of Barry Allen,” in which he appeared to be back…only to eventually be revealed as an impostor.

But eventually, even Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes returned from the grave.

Speculation started with the build-up to Infinite Crisis. It became clear that Wally was going to follow his mentor into comic-book limbo, and fans started trying to figure out who would take over. Would it be Barry’s teenage grandson Bart, the current Kid Flash? A rejuvenated Jay Garrick? Would Barry return? Would several Flashes somehow be fused into one? Ultimately, DC transformed Bart into an adult and gave him a shot at the lightning.

One year later, the Justice League/Justice Society/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover, “The Lightning Saga” was working up toward resurrecting someone. Signs pointed to either Lightning Lad or a Flash, and when the news hit that Bart’s series was ending, fan speculation again went to Barry. This time, it was Wally who returned.

Another year later, with Final Crisis looming and continuing discontent with the relaunch, fans started to see clues that, once again, hinted at a possible return for Barry. Among those clues was a poster that appeared at the New York Comic Con that looked a lot like Barry — and was painted by J.G. Jones, the artist on Final Crisis. Then there was the summary for Final Crisis #2 and its “spectacular return from the dead.”

Then on April 30, DC Universe #0 hit the stores. The book served as a lead-in to multiple storylines, all tied together by an unseen narrator who starts the issue at one with the universe. As the story progresses, he begins to remember more of his life and his connection to various heroes, and the narration boxes slowly change from black to red. By the last few pages, they’ve picked up a lightning bolt. The final splash page shows a large, white moon against a red sky, a bolt of lightning cutting diagonally in front of it. The same day, the New York Daily News ran the story of the Flash’s return.

With Barry’s return confirmed in subsequent interviews, it was only a matter of figuring out when he would appear on-panel. When the “next issue” blurb for Final Crisis #2 showed that Flash painting and mentioned “the return of a long lost hero,” the answer was clear.

Of course, many questions remain. How long will Barry be back? Permanently, or just for the duration of Final Crisis? If he stays, will he take over the lead spot in The Flash? And what does that mean for the current Scarlet Speedster?

* And, to be fair, others have been dreading it, given the way DC seems to like killing off “redundant” characters these days. Those fears gained new fuel last year when DC killed Bart literally in the same moment that Wally returned (Justice League of America #10, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, and All-Flash #1).

**The 1970s and early 1980s are often referred to as the Bronze Age, but the difference is mainly in the tone of the storytelling.

Frustrations with DC

One of the strangest things to hit comics fandom last week was the furor over DC EIC Dan Didio’s rumored ouster. It didn’t happen — in fact, his contract was renewed — but in response, Collected Editions has posted a list of 3 things Didio has done right for DC:

  1. Revitalized the summer event crossover.
  2. Greater continuity in publishing (ex: Countdown, Full Throttle, and The Lightning Saga all fitting together).
  3. Emphasis on a good story (including support for low-selling, but critically-appreciated books).

#1 is a matter of perspective: if you like big events, it’s a good thing. If you don’t, it’s not. Personally, I’m getting tired of them.

#2 is a bit of an odd choice for a wait-to-trader, since you don’t get the impact of, say, Bart’s death and Wally’s return hitting simultaneously if you’re reading the trades months later.  Though I suppose it’s sort of like looking at the way the various pieces of Seven Soldiers interlock.

#3 I absolutely agree with. I’ve lost a number of favorite books to low sales in the past, and while I haven’t gotten into, say, Manhunter or Blue Beetle, it’s nice to see some of these books given more of a chance.

My Frustrations

That said, I’ve found myself very frustrated with DC over the last few years, for the following reasons:

1. As mentioned above, I’m tired of mega-crossovers. I was actually prepared to skip Final Crisis until I found out it was being written by Grant Morrison. (Of course, it’s since become clear that I would have had to pick it up anyway for research material!) Edit: This is, of course, not unique to DC. Marvel is just as focused on big events. It occurs to me that my current favorite series are Fallen Angel (IDW), Dynamo 5 (Image), Fables (DC/Vertigo) and Girl Genius (Studio Foglio) — all of which are stand-alone series. Of those, only D5 even takes place in a shared universe.

2. Mishandling of the Flash after Geoff Johns left. Six creative changes in three years. Two relaunches, and possibly a third coming up. A high-profile launch with writers who hadn’t adjusted to the medium. Starting both relaunches with slow burns instead of hitting the ground running.

There was no need to relaunch the book after Infinite Crisis. DC just figured “You can’t have a Crisis without a dead Flash” (or whatever the quote was). On the relaunch, Bilson & DeMeo were learning rapidly, but not fast enough to turn around sales. Marc Guggenheim was brought in to kill Bart, and response to his story made it clear that DC didn’t need to replace him.  I’m very much enjoying Tom Peyer’s arc on the book, but just as it got going, DC announced a new creative team.  It feels like DC has no idea what to do with the character, and is flailing around in a panic, grasping at everything without actually taking hold of anything long enough to let it build.

Since Flash is the only ongoing DCU book I read regularly these days, that makes a big difference.  I can only hope that the attention the Flash is getting through Final Crisis and Rogues’ Revenge will turn things around.

3. The wholesale slaughter of “redundant” and C-list characters to make a point. That’s just throwing away long-term story potential for short-term shock value. Yes, you can bring them back, but every time you do, it makes the threat of death that much less credible for the next story. And no, this didn’t start in the last few years — I’ve seen more than a few favorites killed off within months of their series being canceled back in the 1990s — but it seems to have accelerated drastically from Infinite Crisis onward.

I can’t say how much of this is Didio’s fault, however, which is part of why I stayed out of the discussion last week.  That, and it had turned into a virtual lynch mob.  It was downright eerie watching the same thing happen, focused on the recent Flash editor, Joan Hilty, over at Comic Bloc — yes, Comic Bloc, the place that Newsarama posters think is full of rainbows and ponies enforced by a fascist dictatorship of moderators.  I’d like to refer readers to this xkcd comic strip.  Or, if you’re okay with swearing, Penny Arcade’s Greater Internet ——wad Theory (NSFW language) sums it up succinctly.