Thought Bubbles: The Thing About Wally West

Posted By on January 14, 2014

The Flash Family, from Speed Force #1. Art by Phil Jimenez.

The Flash Family, from Speed Force #1. Art by Phil Jimenez.

I have strong feelings about Wally West.

Wally West is my Flash. He was The Flash when I started reading comics in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. I was growing up as he was growing into the role he had inherited. I read the book sporadically until Mark Waid took over. At a time when I was only dimly aware that people wrote and drew comics, I took note of that writer’s name. But mostly it was the character, and his growth out from under Barry Allen’s shadow, into his own hero, his own relationship with Linda Park. He became his own man, slowly, over the span of 25 years as The Flash.

When Barry Allen came back during Final Crisis, there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was the end. Wally was going to be pushed aside to make room for his predecessor – it’s not like it hadn’t happened before. And that’s exactly what did. Wally all but disappeared before the New 52, and then most definitely did after the reboot, erased from history, along with his wife, his kids, and everything even tangentially related to him.

Last week I made an off-hand joke about wanting Wally West back, and now it looks like I’m getting something approximating my wish, as DC has announced that Flash Annual #3 will see the reintroduction of the character.

FlashAnnual3

The new Flash creative team of writers Robert Venditti & Van Jensen and artist Brett Booth are staying quiet about the character, but from a conversation on Booth’s Twitter feed it sounds like the fellow in the blue suit above will be Wally. Dan Didio also tweeted a reminder to temper our expectations for just who this Wally will be.

So who will he be?

John Wesley Shipp!

John Wesley Shipp!

A friend of mine was quick to point out that the blue costume is reminiscent of Pollux from the all-too-short-lived Flash live-action series that starred John Wesley Shipp. A one-off character from the episode “Twin Streaks,” Pollux was a genetic clone of Barry Allen, aged to adulthood at super-speed over the course of minutes. He’s sort of a Bizarro-Flash, with a childlike personality, lack of understanding over how his powers work, and desperate need to find his proper place in the world. Ultimately he ended up sacrificing himself to save Barry’s life. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that the New 52 Wally West will have much in common with Pollux, but it’s still interesting to note that he won’t be the first speedster to have worn a blue variation on The Flash’s costume.

Another theory that’s making the rounds, based on the cover art to the annual shown above, is that this Wally will be a time-traveler, or perhaps a visitor from an alternate reality. Will he be hero or villain? Friend or foil for Barry Allen? Only time will tell.

One thing that’s almost certain, though, is that he won’t be the Wally West we know and love, and I have to admit that that’s disappointing. It was always unlikely that the pre-New 52 Wally West would ever appear again (though this writer did loosely theorize that he would one day return, and that it might signal the end of the New 52 and a return to the classic timeline), and at this point I feel like any Wally West who appears will be Wally West in name only.

The thing about Wally West, for me at least (and I’m sure for the many others who loved him), is that he grew up. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash – these characters were carved out of marble, never aging, never developing beyond their original core conceits. It was when Robin and the rest of the Teen Titans started going off to college and just generally aging that that marble began to crack, before Tales of the New Teen Titans #44 and Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 shattered it completely. Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing and Wally West becoming The Flash are, in my opinion, the two most important events in DC Comics history, not from a story perspective but from a storytelling perspective. The publisher was finally allowing its characters to age and, more importantly, to change.

To me, Wally West isn’t just a great character. He represents the true potential of superhero comics as serialized storytelling. It took Wally around 25 years to go from this…

WallyOrigin

…to this…

WallyFlash

…and another twenty-five to get to this.

WallyFamily

He aged slowly, but he still aged. Can you imagine DC or Marvel letting all of their characters grow and change like that? Marvel certainly does it more often than DC, but not on the scale of how Wally grew. The closest would probably be The Fantastic Four, with their weddings and pregnancies and children. Maybe that’s part of it, too – Wally experienced normal, significant life events during his time as Kid Flash/The Flash. He graduated from high school. He dropped out of college. He got married. He had kids. I think the reasons for why DC has declared war on marriage (I’m still waiting for cable news to latch onto that one) have very little to do with DC not wanting their characters to be happy, and everything to do with keeping them ‘time-locked’, for lack of a better phrase, for as long as possible.

So this new Wally West, then, will likely be fairly time-locked. Probably won’t have been Kid Flash. Probably won’t have become The Flash after his uncle’s death. Probably won’t be married, or have kids. If any of those things happened, they’ll probably have happened as backstory, so that the status can remain quo. The only thing that’s for sure is that he’ll be called Wally West. People have been bugging DC about Wally’s return since before the New 52 even started. Here’s hoping what we get isn’t a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. As for me, I’m erring on the side of cautious optimism. I’m not familiar with any of Venditti and Jensen’s work, but Brett Booth’s love for The Flash – and Wally West in particular – is well-documented. Mainly I hope it’s a good story. Even if it’s not ‘my’ Wally.

"I'll be here when you're ready for me." Art by Brett Booth.

“I’ll be here when you’re ready for me.”
Art by Brett Booth.

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Comments

One Response to “Thought Bubbles: The Thing About Wally West”

  1. NerdSpan Staff Travis Langley says:

    I gave up on trying to anticipate anything they’re doing with characters in this New 52 multiverse.

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About the Author

Joe Grunenwald
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor from Dayton, OH, who has been reading comics since before he could read. He has a BA in English, which he earned in part by somehow getting away with writing a thesis about Animal Man. Follow him on Twitter at @joegrunenwald.