When the Super Powers toy line appeared in the mid-1980s, my 8-year-old self naturally wanted every single figure representing the DC Universe. But, thanks to the law of Not Having Any Toy In Stock Except Generic Characters, that wasn’t possible. But I did snatch who I thought were the best: Batman. Green Lantern. The Flash. (My brother got Superman)
I’ve mentioned my love of Batman elsewhere, but with Green Lantern and the Flash, they tickled the science fictiony portion of my brain. The former was part of an intergalactic space police force who could form anything with his power ring, the latter was a man who could run really fast.
OK, that description doesn’t quite do the Flash justice. I soon learned there was more to the Fastest Man Alive. Right around the late ’80s, early ’90s, in fact.
Just like when Batman commanded the big screen in 1989, I got hooked on the Flash after learning CBS was bringing the character to the small screen. But as I picked up the comics, I learned Barry Allen wasn’t the Flash, it was Wally West. SPOILERS: Barry had died during the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Wally went from Kid Flash to the Flash.
Someone had given me a copy of Secret Origins Annual No. 2, which featured stories centered on Wally and Barry. Barry’s tale, which was drawn by Carmine Infantino, the man who helped launched the Silver Age Flash, was especially cool to me. It showed various points in Barry’s career, including his fateful clash with the Anti-Monitor. He stopped the deadly anti-matter gun by going faster than possible. But he didn’t die. He traveled back in time and became the lightning bolt that struck him in the first place. Wow.
Also around this time, I was able to pick a couple of comic book subscriptions. I picked Batman and Flash. With the latter, I came in right when Vandal Savage killed the Flash. WHAT? It even had it ON THE COVER. Well crap, I thought. Thankfully, in issue 50, Wally wasn’t dead. Whew.
So now I was entranced by the television adventures of Barry Allen (played by John Wesley Shipp), as well as the comic book adventures of Wally West, thanks to the efforts of writers like William Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid and artists like Greg LaRocque and Mike Weiringo.
The TV show had that neo-retro feel that the Tim Burton Batman flick had. I especially liked it when Mark Hamill guest starred as the Trickster, which may have led to him becoming the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. In any case, it was deliciously evil. I tried to tape as many episodes as I could, but I missed a few (it probably didn’t help the show kept changing time slots). I even got the All-New Flash TV Special comic, which included two comics, some behind the scenes stuff, and an episode guide.
Sadly, the show didn’t make it past the first season. I was heartbroken, but at least I still had the comics, which showed Wally coming into his own as the Flash, instead of running behind Barry’s shadow.
I walked away from comics before Waid left and people like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns took over the writing reins. Around 2008, I learned of the unthinkable: Barry Allen was coming back. After being dead for some 25 years, which has to be a record of some kind. So I bought Final Crisis to see how it was going to play out.
Then I read that Johns was going to do a miniseries called The Flash: Rebirth, which would officially bring Barry back into the DCU. I did get goosebumps seeing the double-page spread of all the Flashes.
So now he was back. Yay, I guess? I mean, I’m all for having as many Flashes running around as possible.
Along came the New 52, which kind of reset DC’s continuity to give a fresh start. Barry Allen was the Flash, but where was Wally? Enjoying some vacation time in Hawaii? I did read the first issue and liked what Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul were doing. Due to budget restraints, I didn’t keep up with the title.
Thanks to the Showcase Presents black-and-white reprint line, I got to read the rather long tale, “The Trial of the Flash,” which led directly into Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I also finally was able to experience.
On the TV side of things, I had heard Barry Allen would be making an appearance in Arrow. I may have caught glimpses of it, but with two young children running around and yelling, it can be hard to concentrate. Still, I thought, cool, I wonder if this will lead to him becoming the Flash.
Then the CW announced it was coming out with a new series on the Flash.
Holy Speed Force, Barry! This looks promising. Now if only time could go fast enough to get to the fall. (taps watch a few times)
I think what still attracts me to the world of the Scarlet Speedster is that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Both Barry and Wally loved being heroes. Their Rogue’s Gallery was just as cool as Batman’s (the Mirror Master! the Weather Wizard! Reverse Flash! Abra Kadabra! Gorilla Grodd!). They could travel through time. Some of those Silver Age stories were plain wacky (The Flash has a giant head!).
Really, how can you go wrong with all of that? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll crack open The Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told again.