As our Faithful Site Editor likes to remind you in the footnote to each and every one of these columns, I wrote DC Comics’ Flash series for eight years and nearly a hundred issues, and the first thing that surprised me about the assignment was this: I began to realize that, at least to me, the since-1940 publishing history of Flash wasn’t about speed. It was about momentum — and last night’s episode hit that note with terrific resonance.
Quick history lesson: In the comics, Barry Allen was neither the first nor the last of the Flashes. The original Flash (created in 1940 by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert) was a silver-helmeted college student named Jay Garrick. In ‘49, the strip was retired only to be revived and rebooted in 1956. The hero’s name and powers stayed the same, but the man behind the mask was now a police scientist named Barry Allen who’d been inspired by Garrick to take up the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster. Thirty years later, Barry sacrificed his life to save the DC Universe and the Flash identity was passed to Barry’s sidekick, DC’s third Flash, Wally West (“my” Flash).
Anyway. Momentum. With the encouragement and guidance of my editor Brian Augustyn, the keynote of my tenure on the book quickly became “legacy.” We introduced precursors to Jay and descendants to Wally. We built a “Flash Family” and hit hard the notion that the Flash, whoever he may be in your era, will always have (forgive the pun) an unbroken run of heroism. And that’s probably why last night’s Flash episode had my favorite moments so far in the series: the scenes between Barry and his father, actor John Wesley Shipp, who played the Barry Allen role in the 1990 Flash TV series. That final, heartfelt speech about all the wisdom and heart that Henry Allen longed to pass on to the Flash gave me chills — not just because it was so well-written and so well-delivered, but because it was one Flash talking to the next. I’m not crying. I just have something in my eye. Shut up.
Everything about this episode clicked for me. Cisco being more clever than I gave him credit for. Drunk Caitlin. Barry being a good, stand-up guy without looking like a sap. Pied Piper now on the run and, since he’s not yet actually killed anyone, still ripe for eventual reform. Super-Gorilla Grodd. Figure out a way to give me a Jay Garrick moment eventually and I’ll be over the moon.
Flash Facts (a.k.a. Easter Eggs):
Shawna Baez, a.k.a. Peek-a-Boo, was a fairly recent addition to the Flash comics cannon, introduced by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins in Flash #180 (2002). In the comics, Lashawn (not Shawna) was more of a wanna-be superhero who fell into a life of crime. Her boyfriend, Clay Parker, isn’t from the comics, which is probably good — it gives us fewer clues as to what the future holds for her.
Reporter Linda Park! We’ve seen her referenced on the show before, but now she’s arrived on-camera and she’s coming on strong. Linda, one of the most beloved and longest-running Flash supporting characters, was created by William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRocque in Flash #28 (1989) during the “Wally West-Flash” era. Loebs ended his run hinting at a romance between Linda and Wally; I took it from there and made their courtship a centerpiece of the series, culminating in the wedding of Wally and Linda. Yes, it’s a little odd to me seeing her date the “wrong” Flash, but screw it — I’m just overjoyed to see Linda become a part of this world.
And a quick I-missed-this-last-week: the editor of the Central City Picture News is a man named Mason Bridge, a nice tip of the hat to (again) Loebs and LaRocque, who created a similar supporting character under the name Mason Trollbridge. What did I tell you last week? Loebs was the gift that keeps on giving.
In addition to a landmark near-100-issue run on The Flash from 1992 to 2000, New York Times bestselling author Mark Waid has written a wider variety of well-known characters than any other American comics creator, from Superman to the Justice League to Spider-Man to Archie and hundreds of others. His award-winning graphic novel with artist Alex Ross, Kingdom Come, is one of the best-selling comics of all time. Currently, he writes Daredevil and S.H.I.E.L.D. for Marvel Comics and Empire and Insufferable for his own webcomics site, Thrillbent.