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Subj: Why Barry Allen's time has finally come, and why we should sit back and enjoy it
Posted: Wed May 07, 2008 at 11:05:21 am BST
Reply Subj: Current Zoom's powers question.
Posted: Wed May 07, 2008 at 08:53:18 pm BST

It is true that there weren't big epic Barry Allen stories in the way we think of them today, but that is because DC didn't know how to produce such stories. That was Marvel's province, and it took DC until the late 80's to figure it out.

However, notice that I said "big epic stories... in the way we think of them". Because there were huge moments in the Barry Allen Flash stories, like his creation, or his discovery of time travel, or his discovery of Earth 2. Barry Allen's first story was the first story of the Silver Age of Comics, which brought forth the JLA, Hal Jordan, the GLC, the Hawks, and the Marvel Universe, therefore ensuring that there would be comics yet to come.

But it is not just that Barry Allen is the firstborn of the Silver Age that makes him great, it is his literary resonance. All great comics characters mean something beyond their powers and alliterative (or not) names, or else they mean nothing. Barry Allen embodies a certain kind of character that was at it's inception unique to DC, and to this day their hero concept that among all such hero concepts comments most directly on real people: Barry (and Hal and Ray Palmer after him) embody something which was stirring in post-war America and is still present to this day; the hopes of ordinary, decent people for an interesting life, and the desire to be valued.

So, let's look at Barry Allen as we first see him, in all those stories that don't live up to out modern notions of "epic".

Barry Allen as we first meet him is the regular guy at work, with a mellow personality. He isn't the life of the party, he isnt a bully, he isn't an alpha male; he is just a guy who wants to learn things in life and to do them well. He wants friends, and love, and happiness, and is willing to work hard and contribute to the world to make it a better place. He is not troubled, or brooding, or dark, or driven, or looking for reasons to be rude or cruel to people.

And, as happens so often in real life, people overlook him, and take him for granted, and pass him by. So, his knowledge of his self-worth becomes kind of and internal thing, unacknowledged by his peers. It is inside, the knowledge that he is capable of great things....a secret identity.

So, at work he struggles without reward to meet deadlines and quotas, but at night when he goes home the suit comes off and Red comes on, He goes out and has more speed and energy than anyone in the city, and nothing can stop him. He can go to the moon. He can go to the future. His desire and hopes manifest in the form of a more idealized self, a flash, red and quick, energy made into man, in possibly the best costume of all time, graceful and bright as a sunburst.

Wherever or whenever he goes, he is there solely to help, to save the day, and everyone knows him under his magic name, the Flash. He could easily just be Barry Allen, and garner all the fame and praise that would come with that. His identity is not meant to protect his loved ones from the reprisals of his enemies, it is there to avoid all of that fame and attention. Not out of shyness, but rather so as not to interfere with either his great deeds as the Flash or his responsibilities as Barry Allen. (With the Flash, this makes actual sense, whereas with Superman before him it was more a contradiction: Why would Clark Kent put up with all the bull@#$% he puts up with?)

As to Wally: After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally starred in the new Flash series, reset at #1. First under Mike Baron, and then under William Messner-Loebs, Wally's portrayal was fascinating; self-centered, immature, and foolish, Wally stood in sharp contrast to his counterparts. When Mark Waid finally took over the writing some fifty issues later, he brought a dozen innovative ideas and a whole new energy (helped considerably in the energy department by the late, great Mike Wieringo), and all of these elements went into making the Flash title more popular and better selling than it had ever been but Wally's flawed personality was sacrificed in the process, and he was turned into a near duplicate of Peter Parker, whom he once stood in sharp contrast to. And so, Wally West really lost all meaning, becoming redundant. Just DC's resident cool guy/wise-cracker, and I lost all interest in him. He is not resonant. He is just some guy. There is neither hope nor inspiration inherent in his character. There is nothing he strives for.... until he is given children to raise, right? Well, come to this board and listen to all the fanboy b#tching about the children. The one element that gives Wally West's character any semblance of depth, and the whiny fans just cannot stand it.

All of this is just by way of saying that Barry Allen, though his day was before most reader's time, is one of DC's most important and meaningful icons, and it has been far too long since he had his day in the sun. Wally, on the other hand, is well due for a good long break, and one day DC will decide just who Wally West is: Peter Parker clone? Well-known local celebrity hero? Unknown auto mechanic? Married father of two? Or not? I personally look forward to seeing what they ultimately figure out. In the meantime I would say that it is well past time Barry Allen got his big epic modern adventure.

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