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FLASH FACT: The Greatest “Flash” Writers of All Time

by  in Comic News Comment
FLASH FACT: The Greatest “Flash” Writers of All Time

“The Flash” is a bona fide hit for The CW, with millions of fans thrilling to the adventures of Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive. The live-action series manages to bring a fresh take to the DC Comics character while paying tribute to his rich and diverse history. But that history didn’t simply appear out of thin air — some of the finest writers in comics have lent their talents to telling the adventures of several different iterations of the Scarlet Speedster.

RELATED: Can The CW’s “The Flash” Be a Pacesetter?

The concept of the Flash is one that has transcended the ages, with every incarnation of the iconic hero having played their role as a major part of the never ending saga of the DC Universe. Original Flash Jay Garrick, the stalwart Barry Allen, the beloved and brash Wally West and the under-appreciated Bart Allen have all laced up their boots and harnessed the power of the Speed Force under the watch of dozens of writers. Below, we present the best of the best of those who have guided the adventures of the Fastest Man Alive.

10. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul

When they took on “The Flash,” writers Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul had their work cut out for them. Their run with the character kicked off as part of the line-wide New 52 reboot, meaning they had the challenge of writing Barry Allen without the years of continuity and character building previous creators were able to take advantage of. And the two succeeded; with Manupul on art, Buccellato on colors and both sharing the writing, the pair made the new Flash one of the bright spots of the nascent DC Universe. Not only did the creative duo have to reintroduce Barry, they had to start fresh with his classic Rogues as well, in addition to creating a new supporting cast to make this Flash seem fresh and distinctive all while paying homage to the character’s rich legacy.

9. Mike Baron

After “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Barry Allen was dead, and DC chose Wally West to take up the mantle of the Flash. Fans were wary of the dramatic change, but Mike Baron did not forget what came before — nor was he beholden to it. If Baron stumbled, who knows — DC Comics might have blinked and doubted Wally’s ability to carry the franchise into the future. But Baron created a world where Barry Allen was treated as a saint, and Wally West had to carry on the Flash’s legacy, defining the former sidekick as a man and a hero. Baron created a supporting cast for Wally out of whole cloth, some of which survive today, in comics and on TV. Baron didn’t write “The Flash” for long, but his time with the character provided the groundwork for those that followed.

8. Marv Wolfman

At first glance, Marv Wolfman might seem a very strange pick for one of the top Flash writers; after all, he never actually wrote an issue of “The Flash” solo series. However, he did write the respectful and heart-wrenching death of Barry Allen in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” #8. In the pages of DC’s first mega-event, Wolfman crafted a suitable farewell for Allen, a moment that solidified Barry’s status as a true hero and a legend.

Wolfman took Barry from the DC Universe, but in the years preceding Barry’s death, Wolfman also created a suitable replacement for the classic hero. In the pages of his legendary run on “New Teen Titans,” Wolfman, along with artist George Perez, took Wally West and crafted him into a rich and deep character. By the time Barry Allen was gone, DC had a replacement ready and waiting thanks to Wolfman’s deft characterization of the Flash’s former sidekick.

7. Robert Kanigher

Robert Kanigher, perhaps the greatest war comic writer in history, lent his talents to the Flash both in the late Golden Age and in the transitional period between the Silver and Bronze Ages. While staying true to the vision of all those that established Barry Allen, Kanigher crafted some truly memorable Flash stories, pure superhero yarns proving that Kanigher was as adept at speculative heroic stories as he was at gritty, realistic stories of war.

Kanigher also wrote a smattering of Jay Garrick tales during the Golden Age, marking him as one of the few Hall of Fame writers that guided the adventures of both Jay and Barry. He may not have had many Flash stories under his belt, but the ones he did write remain fun and memorable tales that helped transition Barry Allen into the more realistic Bronze Age.

6. William Messner-Loebs

No Flash writer is probably more underrated than William Messner-Loebs. Taking over the second volume of “The Flash” when the series was at a crossroads following Mike Baron’s departure, Messner-Loebs took that foundation and fleshed out a true niche for this new Flash in the post-Crisis DC Universe. Acknowledging what came before but refusing to be a slave to established continuity, the writer created a new supporting cast for Wally and, in many ways, the first writer to make Wally his own man. Yes, Barry Allen’s legacy was ever present, but Messner-Loebs’ Flash was not a character stuck in a mire of nostalgia. Rather, he was a character with his own place and purpose in the DCU. Messner-Loebs created characters that would become classic parts of the Flash mythos, including Linda Park, who would eventually become the most important character in Wally’s life.

5. Cary Bates

In “The Flash” #275, everything changed when Cary Bates presented the shocking death of the Flash’s wife, Iris West Allen, at the hands of Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. At first, it seemed like a serial killer committed the unthinkable atrocity, but Bates penned a murder mystery that soon revealed it was the Flash’s dark reflection who was responsible, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with every revelation.

Later, with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” fast approaching, Bates was tasked to write what was then believed to be the last Barry Allen tale, which once again featured the Reverse Flash. In Bates’ final Flash tale, Zoom became obsessed with killing Barry’s second wife. To stop his enemy, Barry snapped Zoom’s neck, which began the “Trial of the Flash,” a storyline that placed Barry on trial for murder, cemented the Reverse Flash as Barry’s true arch-villain and began the Scarlet Speedster’s heroic downfall.

4. Gardner Fox

One of DC’s main architects in both the Golden and Silver Ages, Gardner Fox was also the first writer to bring the concept of super speed to a comic book page. Yes, Superman had been speeding away for a few years at this point, but it was Fox that borrowed from Greek myth and gifted comic readers with a modern day Mercury, a helmeted, brightly-clad hero that become one of the most important comic creations of all time. Fox wrote a surprisingly small amount of solo Jay Garrick stories during the Golden Age, but he utilized the character in a metric ton of “Justice Society of America” stories in the pages of “All-Star Comics.”

Fox also created many a memorable Barry Allen story in the early days of the Silver Age, and like the writer did with Jay and the JSA, he used Barry in many, many Justice League of America tales. When Barry was introduced, the new Flash name dropped Gardner Fox’s Jay Garrick stories as the reason the newly minted speedster took on the Flash moniker. In fact, Fox had the two Flashes meet for the first time in the legendary “Flash of Two Worlds” story in “Flash” #123 (1961). That’s right — Fox was the first writer to combine the worlds of the Golden and Silver Ages by creating Earth 2.

3. John Broome

This list spends a great deal of time discussing Barry Allen and Wally West along with both characters’ classic rogues and allies. All those characters have one thing in common: They all came from the mind of John Broome. After cutting his teeth on the adventures of Jay Garrick, Broome, along with legendary artist Carmine Infantino, created Barry Allen in “Showcase” #4, kicking off the Silver Age and the second age of superheroes. Broome wrote to his artists’ strengths, a talent that allowed Infantino to create some of the greatest comics of that era. The duo worked in perfect synergy, and for a period of about a decade, first in “Showcase,” then in Barry’s own title, defined the mythos of the Flash forever.

2. Geoff Johns

Perhaps Geoff Johns’ greatest ability as a writer is to take the central core of a character and gave it a contemporary spin while remaining true to the spirit of that character. Johns did that with just about every Flash ally and Rogue in his classic run on the character, as Wally West experienced some of his greatest trials and was thrust into the modern age thanks to the writer’s gripping stories and attention to character nuance. But it was with the Flash’s Rogues that Johns was at his creative best. Throughout his run on “The Flash,” Johns interspersed story arcs with Rogue spotlight issues, allowing each villain to shine and illustrate their unique motivations and personalities.

And just when fans thought Johns was out of Flash tales, the writer turned his attention to Barry Allen, resurrecting the hero and setting him up in the modern DC Universe. Johns proved to be just as skilled writing Barry as he was writing Wally, finding nuanced differences between the two that made the Flash legend fresh again. In the pages of his “Teen Titans,” Johns worked the same wonders with Bart Allen, and in his “JSA,” he did it once again for the senior Flash, Jay Garrick, showing off his ability to work with every one of DC’s speedsters. Johns took the work of every scribe on this list, and distilled it all down into a contemporary vision that helped the Flash mythos soar to new heights.

1. Mark Waid

For more than eight years, Mark Waid guided the adventures of Wally West, and no writer before or since has been able to squeeze so much drama and adventure from the Flash concept. Waid took what Wolfman, Baron and Messner-Loebs did before him and combined it all into a massively engaging character study of Wally and his world. Waid introduced the concept of the Speed Force, an idea that has been part of virtually every major Flash story, in comics or on television, ever since. Waid not only character built, he world built, perfecting the DCU’s many speedster characters along the way.

In addition to working his magic on Wally, Waid also explored and enriched characters like Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick, Jesse Quick and Max Mercury, spreading the Flash legend among multiple characters throughout the DC Universe. One of Waid’s greatest contributions to the Flash mythos was a young man who made speed fun again: Impulse, a funny, youthful breath of fresh air that burst onto the often dark and excessive 1990s comics scene. But it was with Wally and Linda Park’s relationship where Waid shined the brightest. The writer penned a comic romance for the ages, forever defining Wally and his legend. Waid also wrote a great Barry Allen tale in the pages of “Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold,” proving he was a master at writing The Fastest Man Alive in any era.

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