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January 11, 2006

Alan Kistler's Profile On: THE FLASH - Part 2

Sorry for the delay, folks. Let’s just say I was uber-busy and leave it at that.

So, to continue our discussion of the Flash. We’ve covered Jay Garrick’s early career. We’ve spoken of Barry Allen, his successor on Earth-1, and Barry’s sidekick (and later nephew) Wally West AKA Kid Flash. And when last we left off, Barry had just sacrificed himself during The Crisis On Infinite Earths and Wally had taken on the mantle of the Flash, becoming the third hero to carry the name.

But of course, the story doesn’t end there. And I don’t just mean for Wally. Jay’s career continued afterwards as well. And even Barry wasn’t left alone. What, you think a little thing like being dead would mean people would stop writing about him?

So continue reading and see what I’m talking about.

This is continued from Part One, which starts HERE.

ALTERED HISTORY

The major side-effect of THE CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was that it led to a lot of history and continuity being altered. For one thing, the story had ended with the major DC parallel universes merging into a new unified reality with a single timeline.

In the new history, Barry Allen was still the successor of Jay Garrick, but now history recorded that they had always lived on the same Earth. In fact, their homes of Central City and Keystone City were now said to be neighboring “twin cities”, one being in Missouri and the other being in Kansas (respectively), with the border just between them.

In the original history, Barry had originally believed Jay Garrick to be a fictional character in a comic book series and later discovered he was a real person on a parallel Earth. In the new Post-Crisis continuity, Jay was obviously a historical figure in his identity of the Flash by the time Barry was born. The comic books Barry read as a child were “based on true historical exploits” of the famous mystery-man. This wasn’t that out there. In our own real world, there have been many comics based on historical figures or loosely based on historical events. Marvel did a comic book all about Pope John Paul II many years ago, for instance.

Likewise, the rest of the Justice Society and many other Golden Age heroes were now all considered to be historical predecessors, rather than other-dimensional counterparts, to the modern day heroes. The Justice League of America was now said to have taken its name in honor of the original JSA many years before.

Some changes were not as subtle. For instance, it was decided that Wonder Woman was now a new hero rather than one with a few years of history like Barry Allen or Superman or Batman. Thus, she could not have been a founding member of the original JLA. Her place in history was taken by the second Black Canary.

Many years later, Mark Waid would write JLA: YEAR ONE which would showcase the new version of how the original Justice League first came together and began to mesh as a team. One thing he added into continuity was that an attraction had developed between Barry and the Black Canary, who flirted with him often. Although Barry did feel an attraction, he simply felt too strongly for Iris and the Black Canary backed off. The story also showed that Barry had been the original chairman of the JLA not because of a vote but simply due to an unspoken agreement among the team members (except for Hal Jordan), who all believed that he was simply the natural leader. Quite a compliment for a guy, considering he was on the same team as the brash Aquaman and the tactically ingenious Martian Manhunter.

YearOneJLA.jpg

Mark Waid was responsible for another history re-write. Rather than completely throw out the story in which Barry had discovered Jay by accidentally vibrating into his reality, he simply altered the circumstances. This is what happened in the new history, in which parallel realities could not be involved.

TOGETHER AGAIN ... FOR THE FIRST TIME!

Some years after Jay and many of his contemporaries had retired, three of his enemies (the Shade, the Thinker and the Fiddler) used their combined abilities and resources to shift Keystone City out of phase with time and space. This allowed them to lull the entire city (save for themselves) into a deep sleep, including Jay, during which they could rob the entire place blind.

A side-effect of this was that people on Earth suddenly became clouded on memories of Keystone City. Some of them could remember there had been such a city, but not where. And they could remember vaguely a man called Flash (his teammates even remembered his adventures and that he was really Jay Garrick), but couldn’t remember where he’d gone.

A couple decades passed on Earth while Keystone itself was held in near suspended animation. In Central City, Barry grew up and got his powers and became the Flash and joined the JLA. He asked Black Canary if she knew anything about what had happened to the original Flash (her mother, the original Canary, had been a teammate of Jay’s), but she said no one knew what became of him.

Eventually, Barry realized that when he hit a certain vibration, he’d hear faint music in the distance. Experimenting, he found the vibration again and could now see a city magically appear just across the river. He raced over to it and saw Keystone City, just as it had been depicted in his old comics. He found the three criminals and realized what had happened and then rescued Jay. Together, the two Flashes foiled the three villains and Keystone resumed its proper place in reality, reunited once more with the rest of the Earth.

“Don’t Call Me Kid!”

Following Barry’s death, Wally had a hard time adjusting to his new role as the Flash. As shown in later stories, he had actually been in denial about Barry’s death for a short time, convinced his uncle had merely been lost in time or transported into another dimension and would be back shortly. When this belief lessened, Wally became more and more bothered by the fact that many people still saw him as “Kid Flash”, a teenager trying desperately to fill his mentor’s shoes and who just didn’t measure up, especially now that his speed had been greatly reduced during the Crisis. After hearing a few comments like this, Wally became so paranoid that EVERYONE believed this that he acted defensively all the time. His attitude became a cynical “if I can’t measure up to Barry, I won’t even act remotely like him” and he started behaving like a bit of a jerk.

He won the lottery and then lost all the money. At one point he played around with the idea of charging for his services. He met a scientist named Christina McGee and while she was separated from her husband she and Wally had a fling. Later, her husband Dr. McGee came back, hopped up on a super-speed drug called Velocity 9 (created by the immortal villain Vandal Savage), turning him into the insane speedster called Speed Demon.

mcgee1.gif Speed Demon

Wally also encountered some Russian speedsters, two teams of them whom had been given their powers through experimentation. One of them, Blue Trinity, he fought and defeated. The other team, Red Trinity, he befriended. The Red Trinity team then came to the states and set-up shop not as heroes but as a super-fast delivery service called Kapitalist Kouriers.

Wally continued on, developing a rep as a bit of a womanizer and a shallow would-be comedian of the super-hero set. DC had intended to make Wally distinct from Barry so that the problems Barry had suffered through (“he’s so good, he’s boring”) wouldn’t touch him. And while they did give Wally some interesting qualities (a public identity for one thing, the fact that he had to consume mass quantities of food in order to fuel his speed for another), the fact was he wasn’t rising above second-string character because readers didn’t much like this new jerk portrayal, especially as it didn’t make sense to some of them who had known Wally for years before.

RAGNAROK

And what about Jay? Well, after the Crisis, DC wasn’t quite sure what to do with the JSA. It was believed that having the older team was quite redundant when the JLA was around now and they didn’t want to confuse readers by having two Hawkmen and two Flashes and such running around the same planet (though they evidently didn’t care that they were also over a half-dozen Green Lanterns on Earth alone after the Crisis). So, in a comic entitled simply “THE LAST DAYS OF THE JSA”, the entire team discovered that an old spell of Hitler’s was coming to fruition. During the closing days of the war, Hitler had tried to use the Spear of Destiny to bring about Ragnarok (the twilight of the Norse gods), which would then spill onto Earth and cause the world to be destroyed. The JSA journeyed into Limbo where they saw Ragnarok taking place. They joined forces with the Norse gods and fought the evil army, including the great fire demon Surtur. Some of them died, but in the end they won the battle.

ragnarok.jpg

And then a strange thing happened. Time reversed itself on the battle field. Those who had died on both sides were resurrected and the battle started all over again. Dr. Fate deduced that Hitler’s spell was too stubborn to be defeated and therefore had caused a timeloop which would not end its cycle until the evil side finally won. Believing that this was their fate, as the Earth was now protected by a younger generation that didn't need them, the JSA (with the exception of Dr. Fate, the Spectre, Power Girl and the original Star-Spangled Kid) all remained in Limbo in order to keep Ragnarok at bay, even if it took all eternity.

So while Wally was on Earth, Jay was fighting a literally never-ending battle in another dimension. Perhaps another reason why Wally became such a jerk. He had lost not one but two father figures after the Crisis. Maybe with Jay’s guidance, he might’ve lightened up.

During this time, another Superman/Flash race was set-up, this time by Superman’s enemy Mr. Mxyzptlk. Superman was forced by the rules to only use his running abilities rather than his flight. Post-Crisis, this made it a very even race between himself and the now-less-powerful Wally West, because the Superman writers had significantly lowered all of Kal-El’s power levels across the board. Flying, he would’ve won easily, as he could go several times beyond the speed of sound no problem. But running, he was forced to actually use his muscles (his flight is caused by mental manipulation of gravity) and this affected his stamina as well. Superman tried his best as the two literally raced around the world, but Wally beat him by a few inches. Finally, there was a definite winner in the Flash/Superman races. Wally had shown the world that he was indeed “the fastest man alive.”

If only readers cared more.

THE TV SHOW

Following the success ofTim Burton's BATMAN movie, DC was revving to get another live-action super-hero project in the works. What came out of it was a live action TV series on CBS (just out on DVD this week) that starred John Wesley Shipp (who would later play Dawson's father on DAWSON'S CREEK). It had a theme by Danny Elfman, fair special effects for a primetime show and a not bad looking outfit. The script even had a valid reason as to why the costume was needed: it was made of a fabric that didn't disintigrate due to air-friction when the Flash ran at superhuman speed (evidently, they felt audiences wouldn't buy the explanation that his powers provided a bio-electric aura that protected him from friction). The costume, by the way, was designed by the boys who did the Rocketeer suit.

barryTV.jpg flashTV.jpg

Sadly, the show was trying to make the Flash into a dark hero and it just didn't work. In the TV show, Barry Allen was a police scientist who got his powers when lightning struck the chemicals on his rack in the crime lab. Okay, well done. But after that, things were of a darker feel and very akin to Tim Burton's BATMAN. There was a street gang terrorizing the streets. Barry's older brother Jay was later targetted by the gang leader becuase the two had once been partners on the force. Jay was murdered and this gave Barry a revenge motivation to use his new powers to bring the gang to justice.

This was not the celebrity hero who was beloved by Central City. This Flash was cold and silent much of the time, striking mysteriously and playing it angry and mysterious. In an interogation scene where Barry, in his civilian guise, was asking a criminal about the Flash, he described his masked alter-ego as a demonic being who was "red as blood." Basically, they got the powers right but the atmosphere and motivation wrong (and that's not even mentioning the fact that they turned Iris from a journalist into a modern artist). Barry's sidekick in the series was not Wally or even Iris but rather Dr. Christina "Tina" McGee, who helped him try and figure out his powers when they went wonky at times and served as an unrequited love interest. Like Wally now in the comics, Barry had to constantly consume vast amounts of food in order to keep from passing out due to all the energy he used up with his speed. Also, while he was fast, he usually couldn't use his and couldn't move quite fast enough to cut through the barrel of a gun as his comic counterpart could.

The show had some entertaining episodes, but some often it got hokey. Also, the show couldn't make up its mind on whether or not to be a campy super-hero series or a crime drama where one guy happened to have power. While the stories themselves might have been cheesy at times, with villains often being over-the-top and cops seeming so ineffectual as to be laughable, the one thing that was never cheesy was Barry Allen himself. After the darkness of the pilot, John Wesley Shipp actually seemed to do quite an honest and faithful portrayal of the police scientist turned super-hero. He fought dark criminals, but never let that darkness consume him or make him cynical. He believed in people and in his city and after a while he made no mention whatsoever of his mission being about vengeance. Instead, he seemed to be a hero that really cared about people and who would've helped them whether or not he'd had a tragic origin story. He was also a man who could laugh at himself, as was often seen in his banter with Tina (and what nice chemistry the two had too!).

A few episodes were quite interesting. There was an episode featuring a retired vigilante called Nightshade, who seemed to be quite analogous to DC's Sandman. In this, Barry found himself connecting to a kindred spirit. Another episode had Barry try to out-race a heat-seaking missile and somehow wind up in the future, forced to see what the world would be like if he vanished for several years. Although the explanation for how the time-travel was accomplished was a bit flimsy, the fact that the show was willing to risk such an off-beat story (not off-beat for comics, but certainly off-beat for what was primarily a prime-time action show with just a smidge of sci-fi) showed that they weren't afraid of being a little different, and some of the scenes were quite interesting.

Mark Hamill (known to many as Luke Skywalker and to comic fans as the voice of the Joker and the Hobgoblin) appeared on two episodes as the Trickster. While his performance wasn't bad at all, the script was. A slightly more successful translation came when Captain Cold was introduced into the show as a contract killer hired to take out the Flash and was actually kinda cool (pardon the pun). In a later episode, a somewhat oddball version of Mirror Master showed up, played by David Cassidy.

tricksterTV.jpg The TV Trickster

One episode gave us a sort of Reverse Flash. In "Twin Streaks", a scientist cloned Barry and put him in a blue version of the Flash costume. But rather than go with the tried and true "evil twin/evil clone" ploy, the show portrayed Barry's clone has possessing his abilities but only having the emotional maturity/instincts of a child, which is quite realistic when you think about it (although somehow the blue costume just seems much sillier than the same costume in red).

flash_blue01.JPG "It's clonely at the top."

Sadly, there were other episode that simply felt hokey, as mentionrd before, such as an episode where Barry was outrunning a heat-seeking missile and somehow wound up a few years into the future, only to discover that because he had not been around for the years in between, Central City now looked like Bludhaven on a really bad day and it was illegal to even mention the name Flash. It was a predictable story that no doubt weirded out several prime-time viewers perhaps not used to comic book science/logic.

On top of that, the show kept getting moved in its time-slot, which confused fans when it would be shown next. For a while, it even had to compete with the same time-slot as THE SIMPSONS. Finally, CBS decided it wouldn't be renewed for a second season. Which is a shame, because I think the cast could've kicked some ass if they'd just had some better direction and better scripts (and maybe just a TEENY bit more money for special FX). And I'll say it again, except for the hooked down nose-piece, the costume looked pretty damn good!

BACK TO THE COMICS

Wally continued on with his adventures. He fought classic Flash villains like Gorilla Grodd. He fought the immortal Vandal Savage a few times, a guy who was usually handled by the JSA. He had a girlfriend for a while named Connie. He had a friend named Chunk who sort of possessed a space-warp in his stomach.

Speaking of Flash villains, Scottish writer Grant Morrison introduced a new Mirror Master, a Scotsman named Evan McCulloch who found Scudder’s old stuff and decided to use it to become a mercenary. Meanwhile, two of Barry’s other enemies turned a new leaf. The Trickster tried going straight and worked with the Blue Devil for a while, later becoming a con-artist with a heart of at least semi-gold and even later joining the FBI while a new, more violent teenager took on his criminal identity.

The Pied Piper also stopped with his crimes and became a frequent ally of Wally’s. During a conversation about whether or not the Joker was gay, Wally asked the Piper out of curiosity if he knew about any criminals who were gay. Piper remarked casually that surely Wally knew that HE was gay. At this point, Wally remembered something urgent he had to do and ran off. By the end of the issue, Wally came to realize he was being silly and what did it matter if Piper was gay? They continued their friendship afterwards and the Piper became somewhat involved in being a gay rights activist.

Family wasn’t as easy to get along with. During the MILLENIUM story, Wally found out his father was an agent of the Manhunters, a cult led by evil robots that had originally been created as predecessors to the Green Lantern Corps. For years, Wally had believed his father to be quite supportive of him and his chosen career and now was faced with the fact that, unwittingly or not, he had just been spying on Kid Flash for the Manhunters. And you think you have trust issues with YOUR folks?

Editor Brian Augustyn was concerned about Wally being portrayed as a jerk. He wanted Wally to be a good guy again, but didn’t want this to just happen immediately and without explanation. So in a SECRET ORIGINS themed annual, readers got a possible explanation not only for Wally’s change in temperament after the Crisis but also for his powers being diminished.

Meeting with a therapist, Wally talked about a desire to get his speed back. He talked about Barry and how right and true Barry had been. He talked about the adventure in which an alien weapon had let Barry mentally change his costume. And he talked about his own feelings of inadequacy, how he felt Barry would be disappointed in what he’d been doing in the years since his death. The therapist came up with a couple of theories, the biggest one being that Barry’s memory was holding Wally back, that he wasn’t allowing himself to live and was focusing always on the fact that he was a replacement rather than a successor to the role of the Flash.

The seed was planted. All it needed was someone to take it a step further. That someone was Mark Waid. In his first issue as the new Flash writer, Mark began a Wally West: Year One story entitled BORN TO RUN. Through flashbacks (pardon the pun), he had Wally relive the day he received his powers, as well as some of the first adventures he’d experienced with Barry. Unlike some writers who glossed over what a ridiculous coincidence it had been that Barry and Wally would suffer the exact same accident, Waid pointed it out in the story itself and had Wally’s grandfather Dr. Ira West (a friend of Barry’s) remark that perhaps Barry was somehow responsible, albeit unconsciously. Dr. West later told Wally that the human body simply couldn’t produce the speed that Barry was capable of attaining. Perhaps he’d tapped into something greater than he realized.

This added a new spin on things, one which would be explored later.

In that same annual, an alternate origin story was given concerning Barry. In this version, the lightning bolt froze in space a moment before striking the chemicals and he heard a voice offering him a choice. If he put a certain chemical onto the rack, he would be struck by the lightning and the chemicals and gain great power, but his death would come much sooner than otherwise. Iris was in danger and Barry decided he wanted the power. The same story showed that when Barry died, he had actually turned into energy and through a time-warp he became the very same lightning bolt that had granted him powers years before.

The story was not considered to be in continuity, but elements of it were used later.

HAPPY RETURNS

DC finally decided to let the JSA have a chance in the new Post-Crisis universe. During the crossover ARMAGEDDON INFERNO, the JSA were freed from the timeloop in Limbo and were welcomed back to Earth with open arms. They became semi-active again and the world now had two scarlet speedsters. Jay looked at Wally as a favorite grandson he was proud of and Wally was glad to have the original Flash back in action.

But for some people, two speedsters wasn’t enough. Even though he’d been dead for years now, DC kept getting letters asking “When’s Barry coming back?” DC was not willing to move on this. Barry was their first official saint. Furthermore, while he had been a character they liked nostalgically, many felt that he was simply too stiff, too good to have interesting stories about him today. What’s more, they didn’t want to just get rid of Wally or make him redundant.

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn discussed what a shocker it would be to Wally. For a few issues now, Waid had been slowly having Wally come more into his own. He was enjoying a relationship with a reporter girlfriend Linda Park. He was starting to be less of a jerk, less of a show-off. He even changed his costume a bit in order to distinguish that while he was the Flash, he was not Barry. His costume was now of a more reflective material, with a slightly different belt, mirrored eye lenses, and no wings on the boots.

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Wally's costume vs. Barry's

So what a shock it would be if his mentor came back and made all his doubts come back, made him think of himself once again as a sidekick and not a hero. The story possibilities there were interesting. What’s more, what if what seemed to be a good thing at first (the return of a hero) turned out to be horrible later? “Be careful what you wish for” and all that.

During a battle with Dr. Alchemy, readers saw a flash of lightning in the distance and a figure in rags emerge from nowhere, weak and confused. Later, as Wally, Jay and friends got together for Christmas, they were greeted by this same stranger, who looked up and was revealed to be Barry Allen.

Thus began THE RETURN OF BARRY ALLEN. Barry, if that’s who it was, claimed that the last thing he remembered was fighting in the Crisis, though that and much of the time before it was hazy. He looked like Barry. He had the same incredible speed that surpassed Wally. The same ability to vibrate through solid matter. Green Lantern’s ring said he believed his story, so this wasn’t a case of some shape-shifter lying to them. As Wally spent more time with him, he found that this man knew details about Barry’s life no mere impostor could, such as how he’d proposed to Iris. Finally convinced, he was glad to have his uncle/mentor/hero back in action.

But as time went on, Barry started acting strangely. At one point, hearing a soldier claim he had killed Wally and hearing him gloat he’d “killed the Flash!”, Barry flew into a rage, screaming not for vengeance but rather that HE was the real Flash. Finally, during a fight, he abandoned Wally to a villain’s trap, claiming that Wally had usurped his identity and had made the city forget him. It seemed Barry had gone round the bend.

Jay Garrick had foreseen this behavior and became worried. Knowing that an insane Barry Allen would be dangerous, he recruited Johnny Quick and thensought another person. Readers had by this point nearly forgotten the old hero Quicksilver from the 40s, but Mark Waid hadn’t. Jay Garrick found the former “laughing Robin Hood”, now an older man but still blessed with super-speed. Waid then instantly added to Quicksilver’s character by having Jay mention that the old hero had gone by OTHER names as well, such as Max Mercury, and inferred that he was older than he looked and had led SEVERAL costumed identities.

Max Mercury donned his old Quicksilver outfit and joined forces with Johnny and Jay as they fought the insane Barry. In between battles, Max approached Wally and told him that Wally’s powers were instinctual and natural and thus he shouldn’t waste time thinking about how fast he was running or where he was running, he should just let the speed flow through him. Furthermore, he claimed that Wally himself was responsible for his reduced speed after the Crisis. He said that Wally was desperately afraid of replacing Barry rather than honoring him and that he subconsciously believed if he were just as fast as Barry then that would be exactly what he was doing.

Finally, Wally discovered the truth behind Barry’s madness. This was not Barry Allen at all. It was Eobard Thawne, Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. This was not the Prof. Zoom who had spent many time travel adventures going back and fighting Barry. This was a much younger Prof. Zoom who had only recently gotten his powers and made his first trip into the past. As far as he was concerned, he’d never met Barry Allen. Not yet.

Thawne explained that he idolized the heroes of legend, particularly Barry Allen. One day, he found the fabled Cosmic Treadmill and killed a store clerk for it, believing it was his destiny to meet his hero. He found a way to duplicate Barry’s powers and had his face altered to look like him as well (not for the first time either), and then used the Treadmill to go back in time. But the Treadmill was old and Thawne wasn’t prepared for how hard time travel was. He had arrived some time after Barry’s death, his mind rattled and confused by the stresses. Believing that perhaps destiny had brought him to this point so that he could be Barry’s proper replacement rather than Wally, he’d gone to the Flash museum to familiarize himself with the Flash's enemies. While there, he saw the display of the Reverse-Flash and was shocked to see that history recorded that HE had been this villain. Realizing it was his destiny to be killed by his own hero, to become his worst enemy, he became unhinged. As he left, he convinced himself that he was in fact Barry Allen himself and no one would take his place as the Flash.

Wally fought Zoom and during the battle he realized that Max was right. He was afraid of replacing Barry and had been holding himself back. But he was more afraid of letting Professor Zoom tarnish his name and reputation. This realization unlocked his self-imposed barriers and suddenly Wally once again had the blinding speed that rivaled Barry’s. In the end, he forced Thawne back into the future. The time trip home was just as stressful, leaving Eobard Thawne with no memory of fighting Wally, though instinctively he now felt a deep hatred for Barry Allen for reasons he didn’t fully understand.

Wally began a new stage in his life. He had his old speed back. He had come to terms that he was his own man, no longer in Barry’s shadow. And what’s more, he had found a book Thawne had brought back with him, a biography of Barry Allen’s that had been published in the not-too-distant future by an author named … Iris Allen. Wally had always believed Iris had been killed by Thawne years before, but now knew she was alive somewhere out there and would be back soon.

And sooner than he imagined. Not long after that, Iris returned. She explained that she had been living in the 30th century with Barry and that soon after Barry had left to fight in the Crisis, she’d found she was pregnant. Her twins Donald and Dawn had been gifted with super-speed and became “The Tornado Twins.” Afterwards, they had retired and both married. Donald’s son Bart had been born with superhuman speed but had aged rapidly as a result. By age three, he was physically 13 years old. To keep up with his body, his mind had been placed in VR. This was only a temporary solution however, soon he would age into death. Thus, Iris brought Bart to Wally, hoping he could help the boy.

maskless.bmp Bart Allen

Wally recognized Bart’s problem and helped his body stabilize, letting him age normally now. Still one problem, though. Having spent the equivalent of 13 years in virtual reality and knowing nothing else, he saw all of life as a video game. He didn’t understand there were dangers and that you could be injured or killed. He knew this, but emotionally didn’t believe it. In his mind, everything could be handled with a reset switch. He was a living example of extremely impulsive behavior.

A later story depicted that Batman, seeing Bart in action, warned Wally that the kid was a walking impulse and Wally decided the name stuck. During ZERO HOUR, Bart saw so many heroes with masks that he assumed it was some kind of law to wear a mask if you had powers and so began doing so. The big-footed teenage speedster with yellow eyes now had his own super-hero identity. Impulse!

impulse.gif

EVERYTHING’S CONNECTED

Mark Waid wanted to show a connection between the various speedsters. Bart Allen was the son of Donald Allen and the grandson of Barry, both of whom had been speedsters. So that was just genetics. There was Jesse Quick, a relatively new character introduced as the daughter of Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. Okay, so you also had genetics there as a plausible explanation.

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Jesse Quick

You had Barry’s fantastic accident and Wally suffering the same the exact same thing a while later. Weird, but he had already implied that Barry had somehow influenced events to give Wally the same abilities, so you had that connection as well. Max Mercury appeared to be a Zen guru of speed and had no origin as of yet, so he wasn’t really a problem and could be figured out later. Speed Demon, Blue Trinity and the Kapitalist Kouriers had all been genetic experimentation to duplicate what had happened to Wally. But Jay Garrick’s accident … that was the one that bothered Mark Waid the most. He had been able to retcon Johnny’s “magic formula” by saying it was actually just a representation of a 4th dimensional construct that, once pictured in the mind, unlocked your brain’s power and gave you the speed and flight. That made a bit more sense to him than simply reciting a "magic" mathematical formula. But Jay Garrick inhaling fumes of hard water just didn’t work for him.

Mark Waid first retconned Jay Garrick’s origin slightly so that he had been experimenting with the purification of not hard but HEAVY water, which has radioactive qualities. While supercharging a sample of heavy water he'd been treating, he had inadvertently inhaled its fumes. This made it SLIGHTLY more plausible, but it still bothered him as not being good enough. He wanted a connection between all the various speedsters.

Speed team.jpg DC's Major Speedsters

And it occurred to him, what if there were a connection that was intangible, that had to do with energy? In Marvel comics, the speedster known as Quicksilver had his speed explained as a superhuman strength (focused in the legs) and superhuman stamina. He was not as fast as the Flashes nor could he vibrate through matter. And that explanation didn't work for DC, because it had been shown many times that none of the Flashes had super-human strength when they were just standing still. So how could their legs and bodies be capable of generating enough energy and force as to allow them to lap the planet? Why WEREN'T their muscles specially developed? Unless they were drawing on that energy from somewhere outside of themselves.

A Speed Force.

Waid decided Wally would discover the true nature of his abilities. First he mentioned that for years, one of the things that had kept Wally going when he was a boy was that at a family reunion, not long before he got his powers, he'd been visited by a man claiming to be a relative, a man who had drawn a sketch of what would be his second Kid Flash costume and who had told Wally that his dreams would come true "like a bolt from the blue."

During ZERO HOUR, Wally attempted to cause a time-vortex to collapse in on itself. Instead, he found himself speeding off into the timestream, leaving only his costume behind. The image harkened back to Barry’s death (especially because Zero Hour was considered a sequel to The Crisis). But in this case, there wasn’t ever really a question that Wally was still alive (at least, not amongst readers). Wally found himself bouncing through his own timeline and in the process visited his younger self at a family reunion. He became the very same “relative” that had inspired him years before.

flashback.jpg

During the same trip, Wally witnessed the same accident that had given him his powers. As he watched, he felt a connection of energy when he saw the accident happen and suddenly knew that there was nothing normal about the lightning that night. It wasn't mere electricity, it was something else.

As Wally returned to the timestream, he found that he was now trailing what looked like little lightning bolts in his wake. The faster he ran, the more his body became charged with that energy and the more he felt an internal calling towards something beyond the world, beyond the barrier of lightspeed.

Seeking advice from Max Mercury, Wally was told the story of a young army scout named Max who had been blessed by a Native American shaman. The shaman painted a red lightning bolt on Max’s chest and moments later the young man found that at that moment in 1838, he was the fastest man alive. He was called Awhehota or "Windrunner." Years later, he felt a calling and pushed himself to the edge of the speed of light. He felt that he was about to join with the same force that gave him his speed, the force that the shaman had connected him to, but at the last moment he had doubts and fears and thus was instead flung years into the future. This happened time and time again. With each time jump, he would start over, creating a new identity for himself as a speedster, waiting for the moment when he felt the call of this Speed Force again. At different times, he was called Whip Whilrwind (a hero whose exploits helped inspire Jay Garrick years later) or Thunder or Quicksilver or Max Mercury.

Max said that this force reached out to certain people, taking advantage of accidents that altered their bodies or perhaps causing those same accidents. Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen, Jesse Quick. All had been connected by the Speed Force reaching out to them and granting them its gift, whether they knew it or not. Barry’s connection had been very strong and thus Max believed he had subconsciously influenced the Speed Force to reach out to Wally in the same way it had once reached out to him.

Now Wally himself was feeling the Speed Force call out to him. He knew now that if he approached the speed of light, he would die as Barry had, taken into the same energy field that gave him his powers.

During a battle with the international terrorist Kobra, Wally was faced with either holding back on his speed to preserve his own life or slamming down on the gas to save Linda. Just as Barry would have felt, there was no choice for him. Wally not only went into his own top speed, he used Johnny Quick's speed formula to push time to a stand-still for him, giving him a few precious moments to tell his love good-bye. Then, he vanished in a burst of light.

The others mourned Wally and continued to fight against Kobra's forces, with Linda leading the charge. At a moment when it seemed that Kobra was about to win, lightning slammed down and a being made of light and energy emerged, healing his friends who had been injured and stopping Kobra in his tracks. It was Wally. He had done what Max had believed impossible ... He had journeyed into the Speed Force and stepped out again, unwilling to leave Linda behind. Wally defeated Kobra and afterwards realized that while the other speedsters tapped
into the Speed Force, he himself now had a direct line into it. Before, he'd been at the top of his game. Now he was learning how to walk again with a host of new abilities. He could vibrate through solid matter, but now he left behind such a strong kinetic charge that it would cause the object to explode. He could also lend speed to things already in motion. Thus, Wally was able to finally give Linda a taste of what his life was like by allowing her to run alongside him at super-speed (though he couldn't make her nearly as fast as he was and this also resulted in his own speed slowing down somewhat). Later on, he'd learn to absorb speed from other objects in motion, stealing their momentum. More than ever before, he was now, in all respects, the fastest man alive.

FLASH-FORWARD

Other stories came that explored the nature of the Speed Force and Wally's new life. Wally met Savitar, a dark villain who saw the Speed Force as a connection to God and was jealous of Wally for mainlining its energy. During the battle against Savitar, Johnny Quick sacrificed his life to save his daughter’s, realizing in his last moments that Max had been right, there was indeed a force beyond the speed of light that acted not only as a power source but as a Valhalla for speedsters.

savitar1.gif Savitar XSsmall.gif XS

During this adventure (entitled DEAD HEAT), Wally met Bart's cousin Jenni Ognats, the daughter of Dawn Allen. Jenni also had super-speed and was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (a team of heroes in the 30th century) under the codename of XS.

During a time travel trip soon afterwards, Wally met Don and Dawn Allen and was instrumental in convincing them to become the heroes known as the Tornado Twins. Wally remarked that their example might in the future inspire "a whole LEGION of super-heroes."

twins1.gif Don and Dawn Allen

Wally also met John Fox. John Fox was a scientist from several centuries in the future who had attempted to recruit the help of a Flash before, making three time travel trips. None of them bore fruit, but as a result of the temporal energies he found himself becoming a speedster as well. Eventually, he was replaced by super-speed robotic police known as Speed Metal.

fox-old.gif John Fox2.jpg
John Fox in his original and second costume

John and Wally did not meet on the best of terms. Fox had been convinced that Wally wasn't coming back from his own time travel adventure and had started making moves on Linda. By causing Linda doubt, her faith in Wally weakened and this caused Wally to lose the mental tether that allowed him to navigate to his home timeline. Wally did return eventually and John Fox went off to join the Justice Legion A of the 853rd Century.

fox-1m.gif Justice Legion A costume

During a short story told later, readers also found out that John Fox had met and helped out the Russell family and had been involved in the events that led to them sending their infant daughter Iris back into the past to be adopted by the Wests.

Wally and readers also learned that he and Barry would be the progenitors of an entire dynasty of Flashes, many of whom would be directly related to one of them. One of them we got to see in Mark Waid’s now-famous KINGDOM COME.

Taking place a couple decades in the future, KINGDOM COME showed us that Wally would eventually become akin to a speed-god, always in motion, constantly vibrating between dimensional planes, and wearing a hat that harkened back to Jay. It was also shown Wally had produced a daughter, Iris West aka the new Kid Flash. In his follow-up story THE KINGDOM, Waid later showed that Iris was born one of twins and had a brother named Barry who, unlike her, was not interested at all in continuing the legacy of the Flash or in even doing anything productive, despite his super-speed abilities.

kcflash.gif kingdom2.gif

Eventually, Mark Waid published THE LIFE STORY OF THE FLASH, as told through the eyes of Iris Allen. The first reference held a revelation that some readers didn't even notice at first, as it was mentioned so off-the-cuff and was not referenced again throughout the whole book. The first line stated that Barry was "born one of twins."

WHAT?! We'd met Barry's parents, how come we'd never met a twin before?

Around the same time, Waid published a story taking place in the past in which Wally and Barry had fought a guy called Cobalt Blue. The villain was seemingly consumed by the energies of the gem he used as a power source, but not before Wally got the barest glimpse of his face and thought it looked familiar. In the same story, Barry had, for the first time, felt the presence of a force outside of himself that he was drawing energy from and pondered to Wally if he was less human than he'd believed. Wally laughed, saying Barry was the most human guy he knew. Readers suspected this Cobalt Blue might have seemed familiar due to the fact that he was Barry's somehow long-lost twin. Answers would not come for a while.

cobalt-old.jpg

But in THE LIFE STORY OF THE FLASH, Waid continued the theme that even if he didn't have a name for it, Barry had indeed come to the conclusion that he was drawing power from an unknown energy field. Using this, Waid was able to add and insert new scenes into Barry's life, such as a very touching moment where Barry said that the reason he didn't immediately tell Iris who he really was after they got married was because it suddenly occurred to him that this energy might have made him inhuman or incapable of having children and he'd been ashamed. When he learned that the energy hadn't changed him several biologically, he told Iris the truth about his powers and his identity, only to learn of course that she had known for some time.

Concerning Barry's death, a few more touches were added. In a retelling, John Ostrander showed that in his last moment Barry had been connected with various key-points of his history as well as the history of others connected to him. It implied that Barry had literally and deliberately reached out with his Speed Force energies and touched his soon-to-be-born children while they were in utero, likewise reaching out to Wally on the afternoon he got his powers in almost the same instant.

In his CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS novelization, Wolfman claimed that in his last moments Barry realized the full nature of the Speed Force and confirmed that he did indeed reach out into the past and grant Wally his powers years before, ensuring that he had an heir and a partner who would help him through the years and who would be able to pick up the mantle as soon as he was gone.

MENTORS AND TEAMS

And what about Impulse? Well, Wally didn't have the patience to put up with him and was no doubt afraid that with the bratty little teen running around at super-speed he and Linda would never have a moment alone. So ... he gave the kid to Max. Under the name Max Crandall, Max Mercury moved to Manchester, Alabama and took in Bart as his "nephew", determined to raise and mold him into a lad who would one day be a proper inheritor of the Flash mantle. He had his hands full, considering the boy had no patience and tended to think of everything as a cartoon or video game.

ImpulseMAX.jpg

Eventually, Impulse got some support and guidance from people closer to his own age. Teaming up with the third Robin (Tim Drake) and the young hero Superboy (an attempt to clone Superman), Impulse found himself as the founding member of a new team called Young Justice. Together, the three became friends and eventually got other members in on things as well.

yj1.jpg

Not long before that, Wally got back into a team as well. With the rest of DC’s Big Seven (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter), Wally helped found a brand new incarnation of the Justice League. Written by Grant Morrison, the new JLA title further proved that Wally was not a second-string version of Barry but a powerful hero who stood on his own. Batman, often dismissive of superhumans, referred to Wally as “one of the most formidable superhumans” on the planet. When facing a guy who had Superman-level powers, Wally remembered one of Barry’s famous “Flash-Facts”, namely that the faster an object’s momentum, the greater its mass. So he literally LAPPED the planet, building up enough mass into his fist so that when he punched the nasty villain the guy actually reached escape velocity. This wasn’t the guy full of self-doubt who felt like Barry’s stand-in anymore. Wally West really was the Flash.

Jay Garrick also got back on a team when the JSA reformed. And Jesse Quick joined the new Titans. The speedsters were going strong in the DCU.

NEW THREADS

During a brief fill-in stint writing for THE FLASH, Grant Morrison put a whole new twist on Wally's threads. When he was temporarily crippled by a villain called the Suit (Wally's super-speed allowed him to recover fully eventually), Wally actually focused enough Speed Force energy to create a suit out of it that allowed him some mobility. Later, he caused the suit to resemble his normal Flash outfit, except that he now let his eyes be visible just as Barry's mask had allowed, telling Linda "the Batman look" didn't really work for him. When Wally wanted to be in civvies, he condensed his Speed Force energy suit into the shape of a ring on his finger. It was a whole new twist on how unique the Flash costume ring had always been.

wally4.gif FlashCostume3.jpg

THE OTHER DYNASTY

For his swan song, Mark Waid finally delivered some answers to dangling plotlines. Cobalt Blue was revealed to indeed by Barry Allen’s twin brother. The kid had been born on the same night a couple known as the Thawnes had come into town. The Doctor had been a wee bit drunk and lost the Thawnes’ baby. Fearing malpractice suits and criminal charges, he took one of the Allen twins that was born and gave it to the Thawnes, telling the Allens that one of the twins had died in stillbirth.

This boy, raised as Malcom Thawne, eventually came to know about his brother who was successful and respected and was a witness to the accident that turned him into the Flash. He became resentful and enraged. The Thawne family had been a family of con-artists but more than that they were involved in magic. They had a cobalt blue gem of great energies. Thawne grabbed it and used it to become Cobalt Blue. He did not die and later came to attack Wally himself. During the storyline, it was revealed that the gem would survive throughout the ages and that many Thawnes over the years would try to destroy the Allen and West dynasty out of misguided revenge. This added some weight to the motivation of Eobard Thawne himself, as readers now realized that part of his revenge fixation on Barry was no doubt due to the family fued that had existed between the two lines for centuries.

cobalt.gif
Malcolm in his second costume

Of course, this fued weakened by the 30th century when Donald Allen married Meloni Thawne and the two produced Bart Allen. Meloni’s father was enraged by this and sought his own methods of revenge later, one of which was the creation of an evil clone of Bart he called Inertia. Inertia's growth had been slowed down so that his brain could be carefully programmed, making him Bart's apparent superior in terms of intelligence, deductive reasoning and tactical abilities. Eventually, Inertia realized he was a puppet and forsook his "father."

inertia.gif

At the end of this story CHAIN LIGHTNING, Wally went into the 30th century and fought just about every Flash that would appear over the course of the next millennium, all of whom had been possessed by a piece of the Cobalt Blue gem. Aiding him in this fight was Barry Allen himself, who at this point was still living peacefully in the future and had not yet left to fight in the Crisis.

Wally won and in the end he went back in time but found himself in a parallel reality instead. While he was gone, he was replaced by a “Dark Flash”, a version of Wally from that same other reality who was named WALTER West (our Wally’s name is short for “Wallace”) and had blue eyes rather than green. This dark Flash was around for a while before eventually leaving.

darkflash.gif

JOHNS STEPS UP TO THE PLATE

Mark Waid eventually left FLASH after a good run of several years and later Geoff Johns used the fact that the various speedsters were pretty occupied as an excuse to make the book more about Wally rather than all the speedsters as a whole. What’s more, he went to work on making Wally’s classic Rogues a mite more threatening, as well as introducing new Rogues into the mix.

And speaking of classic villains, the title JSA brought back Edward Clariss AKA Rival to fight Jay Garrick. Now an energy being, Rival later possessed the body of Max Mercury, turning Impulse’s former mentor into an enemy. JSA also brought a new revelation concerning Jay Garrick when readers discovered that for a short time he and his wife Joan had adopted a child, a boy who sadly died just a week later. The tragedy of this death and the fact that Jay never spoke of it added weight to his constant habit of looking out for the “youngster” heroes.

A little while later, Young Justice disbanded and formed into the new Teen Titans. Impulse joined but was by now aware that he was a bit of an annoyance to people and overheard Wally say that he had no real faith in the teen ever becoming ready to be the next Flash. During the new Teen Titans’ first battle, Impulse got his kneecap blown off. After getting out of the hospital, he decided he’d had enough and needed improvement.

One quality that Bart had that other speedsters didn’t was the quality we know as a “photographic memory.” Using both this and his super-speed, he went to a nearby library and literally read every book in the place, memorizing it all instantly, filling his head up with tons of information and becoming a living encyclopedia. He then donned a new costume he designed and fabricated himself and rejoined the battle as the new Kid Flash. Although he still has his classic impatience at times, Bart is now a somewhat more focused hero and acts with the confidence of a person who can look at pretty much any gun or machine and instantly remember what it is, what it does, and how to pull it apart.

kdflash2.bmp

In FLASH, Johns emphasized a new supporting cast for Wally, having him hang with the cops a bit more, including a super-villain profiler named Hunter Zolomon. Hunter had his own psychological demons and after a while he was injured seriously by Grodd, losing the use of his legs in the process. When Wally refused to use the Cosmic Treadmill to prevent the attack from ever happening, Zolomon took matters into his own hands and tried to use the Treadmill instead. The thing exploded and bathed him in temporal energies that allowed him to step out of synch with time, giving him an altogether different kind of super-human speed that was not tied to the Speed Force. This power boost also messed with his mind, causing him to lose it. He became convinced that Wally was not as good a hero as he could be because Wally didn’t understand loss, having led a charmed life (uncle was a super-hero, got powers when he was ten, became a celebrity/super-hero himself years later). To “help” Wally, Zolomon decided to use his new speed to become his new worst enemy, visiting tragedies on Wally that would make him a better man in the end. He became ZOOM, a new version of Barry’s old nemesis.

zoom2.gif

As Zoom, Zolomon attacked Linda, who was by now happily married to Wally and pregnant with twins (which made us all think of Kingdom Come and The Kingdom, where Wally had twins). Zoom attacked Linda and in his attack on her forced a miscarriage. Although Wally defeated Zoom, he had to deal with the fact that he had lost his children. What’s more, he was faced with the fact that Zoom had known how to attack his family due to the fact that for years now he’d had a public identity.

Visiting Barry’s grave, Wally was visited by Barry (who had traveled back in this point in history and was aware now that he would soon leave his future-home to fight and die in the Crisis). Barry was joined by Hal Jordan, who at that point had become the current Spectre (angel of vengeance). Barry said he knew what Wally was thinking, that it would be better if no one knew who he really was, and said that he understood and agreed. The Spectre could make it so, make it that no one remembered who the Flash was. The side-effect would be that they would all forget about Iris’s biography and would forget that Barry had been the old Flash (otherwise they’d be able to connect the dots to Wally’s secret I.D.), but Barry assured his nephew that this was all right. He’d run his race and Wally needed to do what was best for him. So, the Spectre cast a spell basically that had no one remember that Wally West was the Flash.

Unfortunately, this seemed to include Wally West and Linda as well. Eventually, with Batman’s help (the world’s greatest detective figured it out, natch), Wally regained his memories. Linda left for a while, upset that her mind had been messed with. Dark times seemed to continue. During IDENTITY CRISIS, Captain Boomerang was set-up to get killed and his son wound up taking up his mantle. His son had some super-speed and it was later revealed that his mother was Meloni Thawne, making him and Impulse half-brothers. During the same story, Wally learned that Barry had been part of an operation by several Leaguers to magically lobotomize the villain Dr. Light. What’s more, he found out that after the Top’s apparent death after possessing Barry’s father, the villain had returned again and Barry had used the same methods to reform HIM as well. The Top lost some of his mental stability though and then went ahead and mentally forced some other Rogues to reform, such as Heatwave, the Trickster and the Piper.

The Top remembered this now and went back to restore his old friends to their “proper” states, escalating what was already being called the “Rogue War.”

RogueWar.jpg

To add to the madness, Hunter Zolomon returned and used the Cosmic Treadmill to bring back-up: Eobard Thawne himself. Wally looked like he was in some serious trouble when all of a sudden Barry Allen showed up. This Barry had traveled into what he deemed the “future” from a point mere moments before he was fated to kill Professor Zoom.

team-upbarrywally.jpg

Together, he and Wally defeated the two Zooms and in the course of the battle a small portion of time got reversed. Linda was immediately not only pregnant again but in labor. The Rogue War finished, Wally was overjoyed that he now had two beautiful twins and a second chance at starting a family. The dark times seemed to be over.

OTHER MEDIA

CBS made a live-action Justice League pilot that Mark Waid later described as "90 minutes of my life I can't get back." The effects sucked, the costumes were lame, and the writers evidently had only the barest knowledge of the comic on which it was based. In this pilot, Barry Allen was the Flash, yes. But he was not a scientist. He was not even at all smart. Here, Barry Allen was a simple-minded guy who was unable to hold a single job for more than a few days (such as when we find out he got fired from being a mailman) and was practically homeless, constantly crashing on friends' couches and often proving to be an insensitive nuisance.

FLashCBS2.jpg

Later on, the SUPERMAN ADVENTURES cartoon gave a Flash that was far more familiar. Although never named, the Flash that showed up here was very clearly a nod to Wally West (though perhaps closer to when Wally was a little more of a jerk right after Barry died). This version of the Flash was brought back when the cartoon JUSTICE LEAGUE series later came about, though this time he was voiced by Michael Rosenbaum who also played a young Lex Luthor on the show SMALLVILLE. This version of the Flash was confirmed to indeed be Wally West and although he was not quite as powerful as his comic counterpart, he became a favorite as the comic relief of the team, tossing jokes as he fought super-villains with blinding speed. As the show went on, he showed more and more that he wasn't just the comedian of the group (nor the dumbest one) and that he was quite formidable when he needed to be. In one episode, he even fought an android construct who resembled the Reverse-Flash.

flashJLU.jpg

In the fourth season of SMALLVILLE on the WB (a show that depicts a young Clark Kent growing up), the Flash made an appearance as the first fellow super-hero to cameo on the popular show. But this was not a Flash who comic fans recognized.

bartsmallville.jpg

In the TV show, Clark was visiting Metropolis when a speeding car was about to hit his father. Clark watched in shock as an adolescent boy ran and moved his father out of the way at super-speed, robbing Pa Kent in the same process. Clark found out that this kid was named Bart Allen and had suffered a strange accident involving lightning not too long ago, an accident that made him faster than the Kryptonian. Bart had eventually left home, as his parents believed him to be a freak, and had been surviving as a super-speed street thief, taking what he could when he could. This was a street-smart kid with a mouth that wouldn't quit making digs at everyone around him and if Impulse was arrogant in the comics, THIS Bart Allen was an egomaniac. The only references to the comic was when Bart one time joked to a girl that he was "from the future" looking for romance. Also, when Clark went through Bart's things, he found several fake IDs, with the names "Jay Garrick", "Barry Allen" and "Wally West."

Bart eventually showed he wasn't a completely bad egg, but other than the Flash symbol on his backpack and his suggestion that he and Clark should find others like him and form some kind of "league", he had no real resemblance to any of the scarlet speedsters so popular in DC comics. At the end of the episode, he ran off, thanking Clark for showing him that he might have friends in the future and that maybe crime was not the only option in life.

As an aside, the Flash got a notable mention in the movie CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and the TV show ANGEL. In CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (based on a real story), the main character uses the alias "Barry Allen" at one point, based on his love of the Flash comics. In DARKWING DUCK, the title character got super-speed temporarily in one episode. In the same adventure, he performed some experiments involving super-speed science, during which he consulted with "Doctors Allen and Garrick." In the Buffy spin-off ANGEL, when the heroes witness a super-speed assault, the character Gunn says that the person "pulled a Barry Allen." When the others looked at him in confusion, he went on, "A Barry Allen. A Wally West. Jay Garrick. Nevermind." Cute, eh?

CONCLUSION

So that's a wrap. The Flash in a couple of nutshells. Though now, in the midst of the INFINITE CRISIS, many Flash fans are nervous. This story has been hailed as a sequel to the original CRISIS, which begs the question … will another Flash die this time as well? Will Wally, Jay or Bart be safe when all is said and done?

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

If you wish to see Barry Allen's other appearances since his death, click on the link HERE.

Posted by Alan Kistler at January 11, 2006 07:03 AM

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Comments

Another great profile that does justice to a character that does not get enough credit. But with all the different speedsters The Flash's story might be now more confusing than Hawkman. Seriously sommebody needs to make a family ttree chart or something.

KISTLER'S RESPONSE:
Thanks for the kind words. Though personally, I will always find Flash more straightforward than Hawkman. I mean, at least they never invented a character who was supposed to have been around in BETWEEN Jay and Barry. While the details of certain stories and how their powers exactly worked may have changed, the Flashes have been fairly straightforward in terms of who was wearing the suit. Jay, then Barry, then Wally. And who next? :-)

Posted by: Mullon at January 11, 2006 12:58 PM

Don't forget the final episode of last year's Justice League Unlimited, where it was Flash who defeated Luthor/Braniac after the rest of the team had been incapacitated.

KISTLER'S RESPONSE:
I actually left that out intentionally to not spoil it for Flash fans who hadn't seen the episode. :-P

Posted by: Scott [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2006 12:59 PM

I think the major thing that hurt the 1990s FLASH TV series was CBS' inability (or unwillingness, depending on how one wants to see it) to give the show a steady timeslot for viewing.

KISTLER'S RESPONSE:
A totally valid point. That definitely (and understandably) did hurt the show quite a bit. How do you watch it if you never know when it's on?

Posted by: Vic George at January 12, 2006 02:02 PM

I have noticed a number of reviews of the Flash television series I have read over the years (including, if memory serves, one by Michael Hutchison) focus entirely upon the pilot episode and/or the Trickster episodes. This leaves me with the impression that the principal source for the review of the series was one or both of the two VHS tape releases and not the full 23 episodes that aired.

I cannot say for certain that you did not view the full series. But whether or not you did, the summary and review of the series you provided is, in truth, a summary and review of no more than the pilot episode with a passing reference to the Trickster episodes.

Given the thoroughness and detail which generally characterizes these articles of yours, this doesn't meet the standard I have come to expect from you.

Nicolas

KISTLER'S RESPONSE:
I understand what you're saying and appreciate the feeling. Let me clarify. I have seen the whole series, which was only one season. I mentioned the pilot episode because the rest of the season grew very much out of it in terms of the character motivation and the kind of world he operated in. Also, my main focus for the article was the comics and not the series that much. But since you bring it up, I'll look over that section and see if there's not some other things I can mention. Thanks for your comments.

Posted by: Nicolas Juzda at January 19, 2006 01:15 PM

While the series did grow out of its pilot, in the sense that all series do, I find your review is misleading in that it summarizes the pilot in a manner that suggests this is the plot for the entire series.

"Sadly, the show was trying to make the Flash into a dark hero and it just didn't work. In the TV show ... [Edited for space, essentially this section just repeats the next part of the article up to] ... described his masked alter-ego as a demonic being who was "red as blood." Basically, they got the powers right but the atmosphere and motivation wrong (and that's not even mentioning the fact that they turned Iris from a journalist into a modern artist)."

Questions of the general mood of the series are subjective, though I'd argue that it was lighter than you suggest, and I'd also argue that over the course of the series, Barry himself is far less angry, "cold and distant", then you leave your readers to imagine.

As to specific plot points you mentioned: The street gang plotline is resolved in the pilot. The head biker returned in exactly one episode out of the 21 that followed. Jay's death is mentioned occasionally as a motivating event for the Flash, but Barry really doesn't angst about it constantly. And Iris' profession as an artist isn't that relevant since she heads to Europe between the pilot and the next episode, gets one mention to explain her disappearance, and that's that.

The series was not perfect. IMHO, "Tina Is That You" is third season Star Trek bad. But episodes like the Invisible Man one or the two with Nightshade are great, and while Captain Cold himself wasn't that well realized a character I thought his episode was pretty cool.

(Incidentally, I just bought the DVDs, but I haven't opened them yet. I did, however, tape every last episode of the series when it aired, so I've watched them repeatedly over the years.)

Nicolas

KISTLER'S RESPONSE:
As I said before, I agreed with you that I was being unfairly brief and I'm going to look over that section and see what I can add in. And I was indeed going to mention the Invisible Man and Nightshade episodes, as well as the fact that the show had an interesting twist on a blue reverse-flash. I have other jobs that actually pay me, so please be patient and understand it's going to take me a bit before I can sit down and give that section the thorough re-write it deserves.

As for subjective, this is all subjective based on the fact that I'm writing it and I am a human being with opinions. I make no illusion that others will disagree with me, such as when I spoke of my preference for BIRTHRIGHT in the Superman article which I know several people didn't like at all. So, my apologies for that. Take care.

Posted by: Nicolas Juzda at January 19, 2006 03:31 PM

Sorry, I didn't mean to rush you. I didn't expect you to have the article revised already. I was just responding to your response to my earlier post "message board style".

Nicolas

Posted by: Nicolas Juzda at January 19, 2006 04:30 PM

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