John Rants About The Flash(Comic Books)

Hi. Hello. Just a quick disclaimer. As I said above, I will be ranting about The Flash, as I most likely have done before in small doses. But I wanted to clarify which The Flash I plan to complain about. I will not be yelling about The Flash, the 2023 movie starring (Notoriously garbage person)Ezra Miller, nor will I be droning on and on about The Flash, the badly-written and poorly cast CW series that started back in 2014 and will soon be ending. I also do not plan to erupt over The Flash, the short-lived 1990 CBS series starring John Wesley-Shipp. I’ve seen some of that show. It’s pretty good. No, this time around I plan to speak about The Flash, the DC comic book series that has been running semi-consistently since Barry Allen’s first appearance in 1956. If you enjoyed my post “Why Do I Love Superheroes?” and you’re in the mood for lots of convoluted comic book mumbo jumbo being poorly explained to you, then you should enjoy this. For those of you who don’t want to hear a twenty year old man complain about how a company that makes comic books doesn’t know how to properly handle his favorite fictional character, you should probably tune out now. And stay tuned for The Flash movie’s June release, before which I will probably write another post about how seemingly idiotic the Warner Brothers executives are. Also, I apologize if this one is a bit long. I’m gonna be reciting a lot of comics info from memory. Enjoy!

An Introduction:
So, for those of you who do not know, the Flash is a DC superhero that can run super fast(A power that comes with several other ill-defined abilities/side effects like increased metabolism, phasing through solid objects, time travel, lending and borrowing speed, rapid healing, creating speed avatars, and basically anything a writer needs the character to be able to do.) and uses this ability to fight blue-collar criminals in silly costumes. The Flash, no matter who is under the cowl, typically wears a full-body red and gold super-suit that makes him look super awesome. This costume is usually kept in a gold ring the Flash wears, and when he presses the ring the suit pops out and he runs into it. In main continuity, four different people have been the Flash at this point in time. Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, and Bart Allen. I’ll briefly touch on all of them, but I’m mostly going to focus on Barry and Wally. This blog post will mostly be about Wally and why he’s a great character, and why I’m particularly frustrated about a recent announcement DC has made. So I’ll start with a brief explanation of the four Flashes and some other important speedsters, before delving into Wally’s history as a character and the behind the scenes editorial fuckery that has gotten us to this point. It will most likely be very confusing. But I really want to write this post, so I’m going to. Here goes.

The Flashes:
Something important that you should remember about the four main Flashes, and other tangential Flash characters that I’ll cover briefly- there are a few things that every Flash has in common. They all have a soulmate(Lightning rod has become the term for speedster’s soulmates that keep them grounded so they don’t get absorbed by the speed force), a speedster nemesis, and a super-team that they helped found. Some of the more tangential speedsters have only one of these things.

Jay Garrick, the first Flash, debuted in January of 1940 in the pages of Flash Comics #1. Jay Garrick was a college football player and, in most continuities, a scientist, who got super-speed powers when he accidentally inhaled hard water vapors in a lab. In real life, that would be the equivalent of drinking mineral water. But instead of having his thirst quenched, he became the Flash! Specifically the one at the very front of the above cover, with the big bowl for a helmet. Jay went on to found the Justice Society of America(The Justice League, but older and more distinguished. They fought in World War 2 and disbanded for a while because fictional America thought they were communists and they got stuck in a time vortex of something I think.) and is basically the Grandpa of the Flash Family, always on the verge of being too old but not quite. His soulmate is Joan Garrick, a character I remember nothing else about. His speedster nemesis is Edward Clariss, AKA Rival, another scientist that was jealous of Jay. I want to emphasize this initial speedster nemesis because, as I said above, every Flash character has one. We’ll get to the others.

Barry Allen was a forensic scientist with two parents who were both alive and not in jail. He grew up reading Flash comic books about Jay Garrick(Who at the time existed in a different universe) and decided to become the Flash himself after he was struck by lightning and struck with weird forensic scientist chemicals. He ran around for years, fighting blue-collared criminals in silly costumes and going on silly Silver Age misadventures. The Silver Age references 1956-1970, in which comic books became more commercially successful and sillier. The introduction of Barry Allen in 1956’s Showcase #4 is widely viewed as the start of this era. Barry went on to form the Justice League, and has remained a founding member of the team in most iterations of DC continuity. The love of Barry’s life and star reporter Iris West was eventually killed by Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash(SPEEDSTER NEMESIS!), leaving him devastated. Eventually Barry managed to move on and planned to marry a different woman, but at their wedding, the Reverse Flash arrived to kill another love interest, and was stopped by an enraged Barry, who killed his foe. This led to the Trial of the Flash, in which a heavyset juror is eventually revealed to be Iris, who was actually from the future. Her parents thought the future was going kablooey, so they sent her back in time, last-survivor Superman style. But the future didn’t explode. So when she was “killed” they brought her consciousness back to the future, and eventually she reached out to Barry and the two of them reunited in the future and were happy and had kids and stuff. Still with me? Not long after this, Barry died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s big “Let’s try and make this mess of multiversal bullshit we have less complicated” event. Unlike most comic book characters that die and come back every five minutes, Barry remained dead for twenty-three years, only to be brought back in another Crisis event. At this point Barry’s past was retconned to give him a tragic backstory, because Barry is a very boring character with not much to him. It was revealed that upon rejoining the land of the living, the Reverse Flash ran back to the past, killed Barry’s mom, and framed Barry’s dad. For some reason, the DC executives decided that they’d keep him as the main Flash again. More on that later.

Wally West was the nephew of Iris West and the Flash’s number one fan, which was convenient, because his aunt was dating the Flash. In an attempt to impress Wally, Barry decided to “introduce” Wally to the Flash(Barry is like “I’ve got work to do so I’m gonna walk out this door but the Flash will be here shortly anyway bye I gotta use my super-speed to put this costume on and run back into the room lol this is super obvious”) and showing him a replica of the chemical rack that gave him his speed powers. And miraculously, at this exact moment, a lightning bolt strikes through the window and douses Wally in chemicals and lightning, giving him speed powers of his own. Later on they introduced the Speed Force, which is the entity that gives Flash characters their powers, and claimed that Wally’s origin was due to Barry subconsciously wanting a sidekick and drawing the lightning towards them on a 100% sunny day. That may be the explanation now, but it’s still a stupid origin. Do I care? No. It’s funny and comic booky. And I like that they haven’t changed it. I like dumb comic book origins. Originally, Jason Todd, the second Robin, was not a tough kid on the streets of Gotham stealing Batman’s tires, but a circus kid whose parents died in front of him in a trapeze act gone wrong. You may not know this, but that is exactly the same origin that Dick Grayson had. So Batman adopted two circus orphan kids that lost their parents in the same way. They changed it after Crisis on Infinite Earths, but those comics still exist. So Wally became Barry’s sidekick Kid Flash. Another funny thing. Originally Wally’s costume was a replica of Barry’s, just smaller. For four years, between The Flash #110 in December of 1959 and The Flash #135 in March of 1963, the Flash and Kid Flash wore the same costume. I just think that’s hilarious. What a stupid thing to do. Anyway, in #135, Wally got a predominantly yellow costume with a mask that showed off his red hair. Like the Flash costume, this costume has remained mostly the same in design since it’s introduction. Wally founded the Teen Titans with his best friend Dick Grayson and eventually retired from super heroing to go to College. Then Barry died and Wally became the Flash. After Barry came back Wally disappeared from continuity for a while, but is now the main Flash again. More on that later. As I said above, Wally founded the Teen Titans, as well as the Titans, which is the grown-up iteration of the founding members. Wally’s soulmate is Linda Park-West, a reporter, then a med student, then a reporter again and now a writer. They have two kids, Irey and Jai West. Wally’s speedster nemesis is Hunter Zolomon, AKA Zoom. More on him later too.

Bart Allen was not the Flash for very long, and most people forget that he ever was. He was introduced in The Flash #91 as Impulse. Bart is the grandson of Barry and Iris from the future that began aging at a rapid rate, aging outwardly from the age of two to twelve in the matter of days. He was placed in a virtual reality machine that simulated a world which kept pace with his rapid aging. Living in this virtual world made Bart unaware of the dangers and boundaries of reality and as a result he acted impulsive and without any real thought. Iris brought Bart back in time to Wally so Wally could fix his accelerated aging before he aged into an old man and died. Wally and Linda’s twins would later have the same problem, turning eight years old in the span of a year. Impulse learned how to be a better and more patient superhero from Max Mercury, the Zen master of speed(More on him in a bit) and eventually founded Young Justice(Basically the 90’s Teen Titans) with Superboy(Clone of Superman and Lex Luthor) and Tim Drake(Third Robin). After a while, Young Justice disbanded and many of those members became the modern iteration of the Teen Titans, which is about when Bart became the new Kid Flash. I think from memory he got shot in the knee by Deathstroke, and while recovering he read every book in the San Francisco Public Library, only to come back in a Kid Flash costume. He wasn’t Kid Flash for very long, because in Infinite Crisis, him and the other speedsters trapped Superboy Prime(Too difficult to explain right now) in the speed force. In the process of doing that, Wally and his family were trapped in the speed force for a year and Bart aged a whole bunch and became the Flash. Again, he wasn’t the Flash for very long. But while he was the Flash, he met his lightning rod, Valerie Perez, who was the daughter of Manfred Mota, a villain who has battled every iteration of the Flash. He also battled his younger, evil clone, Inertia(SPEEDSTER NEMESIS!), who goaded the Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery(Abra Kadabra, Mirror Master, Captain Cold, the Trickster, the Pied Piper, Heat Wave, and the Weather Wizard(Gloriously ridiculous names, I know.)) into killing Bart brutally. Seriously, it’s a weirdly intense murder. Bart was later brought back to life in a younger clone body during a big thing with the Legion of Superheroes and went back to being Kid Flash, only to disappear during DC’s big continuity reboot. Now he’s back as Impulse, because someone else is Kid Flash right now. This is probably not interesting or fun to read, I’m sorry. I’m having fun though. Alright, I’ll run through a few other important speedsters quick. Let’s do a lightning round. Heh.

Max Mercury is an occasionally appearing Zen speed force master and mentor.

Johnny Quick is a Golden Age speedster that becomes fast by reciting a formula.

Jesse Quick is his daughter, and a member of the Titans and the Justice Society.

Wallace West is Iris West’s nephew. He was introduced in the New 52(DC’s new continuity) as the new Wally who was younger and African American, in keeping with the version that they planned to introduce in the TV show. Fans did not respond well to this, because lots of people love the version of Wally that already existed. So eventually Wally was reintroduced to DC’s regular continuity and it was decided that Wally and Wallace were cousins with the same name. Wallace has a soulmate in Red Arrow, Green Arrow’s sister, he helped found the most recent version of the Teen Titans, and he has a speedster nemesis(A dead one, but still) in the second Reverse Flash, his dad Daniel West. That’s three for three!

Avery Ho is the Flash of the Justice League of China and I think she’s also a member of Justice Incarnate which is a multiverse thing.

Godspeed is an anti-hero named August Heart that was a cop and a good friend of Barry Allen. Then he got speed powers in a weird storm and started killing people to get more speed and find the guy that killed his brother. There. You now have almost all the knowledge you need for my rant to make sense. Almost.

A Few More Names To Remember:
Just a couple of editorial/writer names I’ll explain quickly so I don’t have to stop and explain who a bunch of people are during a rant. That’s why I explained the characters, too. This thing I want to rant about requires lots of context for people who are even casual fans of the TV show because the comics are so much different. These are the main people that have contributed to(Or actively worked to end) the stories of the Flash family in the last forty years. Don’t worry. I’m gonna name four or five people, not like twenty or thirty. I want some people to read this.

Dan Didio was Co-Publisher(Head Honcho) at DC from February 18th, 2010 to February 21st, 2010. It was reported that he left his position at DC willingly, but there were also reports that he was fired. In his ten years as head honcho of DC, Dan Didio actively tried to diminish the publication of comic books starring Wally West or Dick Grayson. This was done under the belief that legacy characters that have aged over the years are issues shouldn’t have the emphases on them. He worried that if they were to keep aging they would surpass their mentors in age and they have to stop aging eventually, which is what pushed reboots like The New 52. So for some reason even though this is a ridiculous comic book universe he cares about how old the characters are. Peter Parker has been like 27 years old for about forty or fifty years. These were his exact words about Wally:
“For me, Wally West was a core concept issue. My problem with Wally was that his origin was always dependent on Barry Allen. He was never his own character. He was always going to be subservient to Barry in some way because his origin was determined by Barry. There was always a Flash in front of him and his powers were because of him. I always felt, as a true Flash, if we were trying to get to the simplest form with regards to media and things like that, we had to go back to Barry because the story starts with him.”
– Dan Didio, a man who just said an incorrect thing

Mark Waid is the man who made Wally West the character that he is now. Alongside editor Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid established the Speed Force and developed Wally into an even faster and better superhero. This man is the reason people love Wally West. He built on the already-deep and convoluted mythology of these characters to fully develop this corner of the DC universe as much as possible, created lasting characters and concepts such as Impulse and the Speed Force, and brought the majority of the DC speedsters together as the “Flash Family” for the first time. Mark Waid wrote The Flash for eight years, taking a one year break in 1997 so he could come back to the character with a fresh perspective. In this time he wrote one of the greatest JLA stories, “Tower of Babel”, and an excellent revisionist origin for that team, “JLA Year One”. While he did this JLA writer Grant Morrison wrote The Flash with Mark Millar. Mark Waid is easily one of the greatest comic book writers of all time, and he also wrote what is considered to be the best Flash story of all time: “The Return of Barry Allen”. This story did not actually feature the return of Barry Allen. That happened much later. Other excellent miniseries and stellar ongoings Mark Waid has written over the years include Captain America, Fantastic Four, Kingdom Come, 52, Daredevil, Superman: Birthright, Irredeemable, and Batman/Superman: World’s Finest, which is currently ongoing. This man is a genius and I love him.

Geoff Johns took the reigns of The Flash following the conclusion of the second half of Mark Waid’s run on the character. Geoff Johns has written many excellent comics, just like Mark Waid, but due to his involvement in DC’s cinematic output, a lot of people hate him. His run on The Flash was nevertheless also excellent and he introduced readers to Hunter Zolomon and Irey and Jai West. He also did a lot with the Rogues. In 2006 he was the one to bring Barry back and he wrote Flashpoint, which we’ll get to. So he’s responsible for a lot of good Flash comics, but also the big story that caused Wally to vanish from reality, and DC Universe Rebirth #1, the issue that brought him back. So he’s messed with Wally a bit but I blame Dan Didio, not him.

Joshua Williamson started writing The Flash when DC did their line-wide Rebirth revamp. His run was mainly about Barry, but Wally popped in and out every once in a while. A lot of poor editorial moves were made towards Wally during this run so his interpretation of Wally is mostly out of character, but he wrote a few good Wally stories as well. Williamson wrote a pretty good run on The Flash, which not all Flash fans will say.

Jeremy Adams is the current writer of The Flash. He hadn’t written many comics before this, but he’s written a few animated movies for DC. His run began with him making Wally the main Flash once again. He’s been writing the comic for about two years now and his run has been embraced by Wally West fans worldwide, myself included. After #800 comes out in June, he will be leaving the title, despite fan reaction, due to editorial edict. We’ll get to that. Now it’s time to rant.

The Rant: Wally Disappears and Returns
I will now highlight the specific stupid things that have happened involving Wally West in recent comics. So, back in 2006, when Barry Allen was brought back to the fictional land of the living, Wally West was sidelined in favor of a cleaner, less convoluted reality. Geoff Johns used his recent retcon surrounding the death of Barry’s mother as the jumping off point for Flashpoint, an infamous DC crossover comic that is, in itself, a good comic, but it was also DC’s way of transitioning into the New 52, which was not good. The basic premise of Flashpoint is that Barry Allen got really sad that his mom was dead, so he ran back in time and stopped the Reverse Flash from killing his mother. By doing this he somehow fractured DC’s timeline and created a new alternate reality where he never became The Flash, Bruce Wayne died instead of his parents (And now his dad is Batman and his mom is the Joker) and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war with each other. Lots of other stuff happens too. This comic book came out in 2011, and in the twelve years since then it’s been made into an animated movie, been loosely adapted in The Flash TV show, and also serves as the framework for the plot of The Flash, the upcoming 2023 summer blockbuster. I know I said I wouldn’t rant about the movie yet, but do you think maybe they should have done a different storyline for the first Flash movie than one that destroys everything? But that’s a whole other problem.
After the New 52 was poorly received, DC launched another line-wide revamp known as Rebirth, which started with DC Universe Rebirth #1, a double-sized issue narrated by Wally West, the original Wally West who hadn’t appeared in five years. The issue is about Wally talking about how DC’s continuity has been altered (That’s a whole other thing) and he’s trying to reach out and get someone to remember him. Wally’s been trapped in the Speed Force because he was running while DC continuity got relaunched and him and his wife and everyone else got younger and his kids ended up stranded on some weird gooey shadow planet. A lot of Flash lore makes no sense, just roll with it. So nobody remembers Wally, but conveniently every person he tries to reach out to is a superhero who had a new upcoming comic that needed to be advertised. And the issue ends in this big emotional moment where he tries to get his wife to remember him but she doesn’t, and finally he reaches out for Barry and at first Barry doesn’t remember him but then he does right before Wally was going to fade away forever and he grounds him back in this reality once again. At this point they gave Wally a costume that I loved but has been ruined by an event we’ll get to. I’ll show the costume below.

The Rant: The Golden Age of Wally? No.
So when Wally returned he was wearing his classic yellow Kid Flash costume, which he transformed into this new suit using the Speed Force, because a while ago someone decided that speedsters could form costumes around them as they ran from their brains. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So Wally tracks down the original Titans and makes them remember who he is. Some superheroes remember Wally and some don’t, and Wally hangs with the Titans for a while until he gets a weird heart condition due to time travel. He’s not allowed to run too fast or he’ll die, then he has to run too fast to save his friends, then he does die and Kid Flash brings him back to life I think? Then there’s the Flash War where Wally fights Barry because Hunter Zolomon comes back and tricks Wally into helping him unlock some powers by promising that he’ll bring Wally’s kids back. After the Flash War, Wally gets sent to Sanctuary, which is DC’s center for super-beings going through mental health issues. This is where Heroes in Crisis comes in, the nine issue Tom King DC event comic. This comic book was meant to cover the effects that PTSD could have on the superhero community. Tom King is an ex-CIA agent and has since written many great comic books that work as realistic character studies of the characters they star. This isn’t one of them. Heroes in Crisis is a very poor representation of mental health, and the big mystery is “Who killed all the superheroes at this mental health facility?” And the reveal ends up being that it was Wally West, who was struggling with his powers and he looked at the files at the facility and got real sad and his powers exploded in a cloud of lightning and killed a bunch of people. And because Wally West is not a fast-talking, witty and affable hero, but an uber-depressed, terrified wreck always about to explode, he covers this all up by running forward in time, killing Wally West one week from now, and then bringing his future corpse and putting it with the other heroes. So after that all ends up unraveled, Wally ended up saving his kids and ending up in this floating chair that belongs to one of the New Gods with the powers of Dr. Manhattan, and he’s sort of dead but not? And then reality collapsed in on itself in another big event and all the bullshit reality stuff got reworked and suddenly Wally and his kids and wife are back together and everything is back to normal. Also it was retconned at the end of Joshua Williamson’s run that Wally going against Barry in the Flash War and the whole Heroes in Crisis thing only happened because the Reverse Flash was super-speed hypnotizing the various Flash family members for the last few years. Coincidentally, each thing the Reverse Flash convinced someone to do was an out of character story element that people didn’t enjoy. Funny that it was just those. So that’s the history of Wally West from 2016-2021. Is this interesting? I don’t know. I’m enjoying this, because it’s reminding me that these things I love are so unbelievably ridiculous in every way.

The Rant: The Actual Golden Age of Wally West
So, after DC’s second most recent line-wide event, Barry Allen passed the mantle of the main Flash for this continuity. This occurred at the beginning of Jeremy Adams’s run on the character, which started with The Flash #768 and will be ending with #800. This is why I am upset, as a nerd who cares way too much about this fictional character. This is why this rant is happening. Jeremy Adams is the best thing to happen to the character of Wally West and has been writing some really good stuff that incorporates all of the Flash family members in different great ways. Jeremy Adams brought the family aspect of Wally West front and center and made Wally a fun dad again. Adams had written a few animated movies before this and a couple of DC Future State issues, which was another brief event. He was clearly a fan of Wally West as a kid because each issue, as a fan of this character, has felt like a gift. Instead of being a lost, depressed, forgotten legacy character shunted out of continuity by an Editor-In-Chief who didn’t know what to do with the character, Wally is now at the head of DC’s greatest ongoing comic. Coincidentally, as soon as Dan Didio was fired from DC this run started. But now it’s ending! Because DC decided that Jeremy Adams’s run didn’t fit the tone of their new overarching narrative plan for the DC universe that will end up failing and sales will go down and it’ll all culminate in another badly written mega event with Crisis in the title that ends the new era of DC before you even realize it’s started. And then it all starts all over again. DC is a company, one run by people who occasionally decide that a universally beloved run on a character that sells really well should end just because they want the Flash to be scarier. So I’m really angry about that. That’s my rant. They fixed Wally and now Jeremy Adams is no longer writing the comic. I’ve been gushing about this comic to all my friends and family members for the two years it’s been running. I write about how much I love it in my journal whenever a new issue comes out. That’s not a weird thing to say. You’re weird. The rant in itself doesn’t take much time, but I thought I’d throw in a bunch of context too. This was irritating me and I wanted to complain. Hope you enjoyed it!

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