If you watch any of the DCEU films, the DC Animated Movies, or The Flash TV series, the man behind The Scarlet Speedster’s mask is Barry Allen. However, that hasn’t always been the case. Multiple heroes have carried the mantle of The Fastest Man Alive over the years. In fact for an entire generation of fans, their definitive Flash is another character entirely. A character who blows Barry Allen out of the water, as the greatest hero in DC history to call themselves The Flash: Wally West. The time has come for DC Entertainment, from the comics to the movies, to put Barry Allen aside and put the spotlight back where it belongs, on Wally West.
Let’s backtrack a little. While the first costumed hero to call himself The Flash was technically Jay Garrick, Barry Allen was really the first incarnation of The Flash as we recognize him today. Both characters have super-speed, but that’s more or less where the similarities end. This new version of The Flash, Barry Allen, was rooted in Silver Age science fiction. This was a Flash for The Space Race age.
DC has always loved sidekicks. Marvel has a lot of young heroes like Spider-Man, but they have relatively few sidekicks when compared to DC. Which makes sense, because DC may not have created the idea of superhero sidekicks, but they certainly perfected it. Robin is the archetypal superhero sidekick. Every kid sidekick in DC Comics is variation of Robin (at least when they were first created). Green Arrow had Speedy, Wonder Woman had Wonder Girl, Aquaman had Aqualad, Superman had Superboy, Supergirl, Krypto, and The Flash had Kid Flash. With a popular comic book series like The Flash, it was only a matter of time until he got his very own young boy to dress up in spandex, and put in mortal danger on a near constant basis (it was a different time, folks). This is where Wally West comes in. Wally West was the young nephew of Barry Allen’s wife, Iris West. In a ridiculous coincidence (or is it?), Wally experiences the same freak accident that gave The Flash his powers. The teenager gains super speed by tapping into The Speed Force, just like his mentor Barry Allen. Wally uses his abilities to fight crime alongside The Flash as his sidekick, Kid Flash.
In 1985 DC Comics published the seminal story, Crisis On Infinite Earths, This was the mother of all “Event Comics”. A multiverse spanning epic with consequences that still reverberate through the DC Universe to this day. In Crisis On Infinite Earth #8, Barry Allen heroically sacrifices his life to save The Multiverse. In the wake of his death, Wally graduates from sidekick to full blown hero, taking up the mantle of his fallen mentor and becoming The Flash.
Death is revolving door in superhero comics. Major and minor characters routinely die, only to be resurrected through a convoluted set of circumstances shortly thereafter. Barry Allen was the exception to this rule. He was one of the few characters to be killed and actually stay dead for nearly 30 years. In that time, several generations of readers and superhero fans came to know Wally West as their Flash. The best and one, true Flash.
When Wally West took over as The Flash, talented creators like Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Mark Millar all did excellent work with the character. However it was two projects in particular that cemented Wally West as the undisputed, modern incarnation of The Flash for a generation: Geoff Johns’ 5 year run on The Flash comic book series for DC and Justice League: The Animated Series and it’s sequel series Justice League Unlimited.
For many fans, when they think of The Flash, they think of Justice League: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, which both aired on Cartoon Network. The character was an immediate fan favorite and this was where a lot of us fell in love with The Flash. This was before DC brought back Barry Allen, so The Flash of Justice League: The Animated Series and JLU was Wally West. The Flash became one of the breakout stars of these now classic superhero shows. Hypothetically, if you watched Ezra Miller’s live action take on the character and you’re only familiar with The Flash through Justice League: The Animated Series or Justice League Unlimited, I’d argue that most people would assume that he’s playing Wally West.
Then there’s Geoff Johns’ character defining work on The Flash Beginning in 2000, Johns’ 5 year run on The Flash is arguably the definitive work on the character. This run was the bedrock on which all future Flash stories were built. This comic book series along with Justice League: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited shape The Fastest Man Alive for a generation. This run was were Johns explored Wally’s blue collar roots and over the course of the story Wally evolves from a cocky smart-ass to a responsible hero and family man.
Impressively, during his time on the book, Johns’ took The Flash’s goofy villains and turned them into a rouges gallery rivaling Batman’s. He even gave Wally his own archenemy. Barry Allen had Reverse-Flash and Wally West had the deadly and terrifying Zoom.
If you’ve never had a chance to read this classic run, it’s a MUST READ for any comic book fan!
Theses were the gateways were fans discovered the Wally West they know and love. He likes to joke around. He’s quick with a quip and doesn’t take the hero gig quite as seriously as some of his peers, like Batman. He can be cocky and overconfident, which could get him in trouble sometimes. Where Barry Allen was a scientist, Wally West is a mechanic. He’s a blue-collar, working class guy. The peoples hero of Keystone City. He fights for the city and the people he loves. While he’s viewed as the guy who likes to slack off, by his peers in The Justice League, he’s just as heroic and selfless as his teammates. No matter how grim things became, he never lost his greatest asset: compassion. These were the things that made Wally unique and inherently more interesting than his bland predecessor.
For whatever reason, DC decided it was time for a resurrection. In the pages of 2008’s Final Crisis, written by Grant Morrison with art by J.G. Jones (a killer duo), Barry Allen returned to the land of the living and jumped i into the fray as one Earth’s protectors once again.
In Final Crisis, Darkseid finally finds The Anti-Life Equation and uses it to conquer and enslave Earth. Those who aren’t affected by The Anti-Life Equation, or are able fight off it’s influence, are hunted by monsters and Darkseid’s cunning, vicious, and terrifying lieutenants. What’s left of Earth’s heroes and even some villains, come together in attempt to free their world from Darkseid.
When Barry Allen made his return, It wasn’t something fans were clamoring for, in fact, the exact opposite. The problem with Barry Allen is… Dammit, I honestly can’t think of a modern term that describes the character better than, he’s a “Square”. He’s a goody two shoes, with a stick permanently up his ass. The kind of guy who would stand up in front of the whole class at school and remind the teacher that she forgot to assign homework. At the time Wally West was still a beloved hero among comic book fans Who were reluctant to get behind DC’s to focus on Barry Allen in the future.
A massive amount of DC fans were and still are upset at the way DC has used his character in recent years. Wally West has always a character that people had been invested. They can’t just say “We know love Wally West, but he’s glowing on the backs builder for awhile. Here’s Barry Allen. Like him now.”. It doesn’t work that way. For a long time Wally had been cast aside. There was even a significant period of time where he was completely absent from The DCU. When he finally returned, he was treated like a second fiddle.
With all of the controversy surrounding Ezra Miller, it’s guaranteed that the character will be re-cast after (and if) The Flash is released. Personally, I really hope we get to see it. Despite Ezra Miller’s personal problems, word is that the movie is pretty damn good. They have a great director with Andy Muschietti and the film features Michael Keaton’s return as Batman. Instead of casting a new Barry Allen, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce Wally West into The DCEU and make him The Flash of their cinematic universe movie forward.
Wally hasn’t been The Flash at the center of the DC universe in some time. So let’s put Barry Allen off to the side for awhile and put Wally West at the center of The DCU where he belongs.
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