With “The Flash” #1, co-writers and artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato brought readers a brand-new Barry Allen for DC Comics’ New 52 company-wide relaunch, one who is younger, unmarried and with new supporting cast members. Neither Manapul nor Buccellato are strangers to the Scarlet Speedster as Manapul was the artist on Geoff John’s “Flash” run last year, with Buccellato acting as colorist on the book.
CBR spoke with the duo during New York Comic Con, and Manapul and Buccellato were more than happy to discuss their fresh take on the character, delving into everything from the reasons behind dissolving not only Iris and Barry’s marriage but their entire relationship to how photography has influenced the way they draw Flash and the speed force.
CBR News: Now, Francis, I know you were a huge “Flash” fan as a kid, but how did you — both of you — get to know the character?
Francis Manapul: When I was a kid, my dad used to buy me “Superman” and “Batman” comics. But “The Flash” was the first superhero book I chose for myself when I was finally able to go to the comic book store on my own. That’s where it started.
Brian Buccellato: I think I really started to get to know the character when Francis and Geoff [Johns] started on the last run; that’s when I really started getting acquainted with the character. [From there,] it’s just a matter of doing a lot of research and getting to understand who Barry Allen is. Doing homework, basically!
When it comes to the artwork, you two have said before that you like keeping it all contained. As such, you guys are doing the coloring, the pencils and everything. Coming onto the book ,was that a condition for you, that you would do the book as long as you could do the entire package?
Manapul: Well, the thing is, I’ve always penciled and inked my own work, and Brian had always colored my work; all it was, really, was adding us writing it as well.
Buccelllato: Right. Throwing the writing into the mix.
One of the interesting things you’re doing with your artwork is how you’re tackling the visual depiction of speed. Things like, when Flash is using the Speed Force, he’s in color and everything else is gray. How did you decide that was the aesthetic that would represent speed?
Buccelllato: We have quite a few visual motifs, and that’s just one of them. It boiled down to Francis saying, “How can we make it very clear, storywise, what is going on?” It’s a static picture; you can’t see motion. It was just a matter of figuring out, what is the best way to tell it on the page?
Manapul: Being a fan of photography, when you’re taking a shot of a moving object, the stuff in the background is blurry. Or, if the camera is standing still, it’s the figure that’s blurry and the background that’s clear. In comic books, it’s much more clearer if you make that separation with color, so when I was doing the book with Geoff, I actually developed a color chart. I was like, “Hey Brian, can we work this out?” Because we really needed to accentuate that. I think with me and Brian doing it, it’s helped it even more because it as absolutely essential that we used color to help tell the story. We’re using everything in that book to help tell a story; if we could, we’d use the front and back cover to tell a story!
Buccelllato: And he is also using lettering to tell the story. If you see the title treatments in all the issues, we’re incorporating everything at our disposal.
Manapul: Yeah, we’re doing a lot of things. In issue #4, there’s a story going on within the panels — the panels themselves actually tell a different story!
Buccelllato: Well, it’s not that they are different. They add to the story.
Manapul: Exactly. It’s great to be able to push the story visually. I think being able to not have to draw everything so literally, since we know what the subtext is, we can be a little more metaphorical.
Buccelllato: We’re not translating somebody else’s script. We came up with the ideas together, so it’s all integrated.
Talking about the story, we’ve got Barry Allen, though with a lot of subtle changes — he’s not with Iris anymore, etc. Coming in, did you guys feel that you had to recreate the character of Barry Allen, or is he the same guy, just minus some supporting cast?
Manapul: I don’t think it was a decision to specifically change things. I think it’s more, as we’re telling this story, to modernize it. I think I took a lot of cues from reading a lot of the old “Showcase Presents: The Flash” books. I really liked the thematic feel of those books. We applied that, and as we were coming up with the stories, we changed certain statuses of the relationships based on where we wanted the characters to go.
Buccelllato: I think part of that was a practical decision. We weren’t trying to be shocking or try to shake up the pot or anything like that. We said, “Who is Barry to us?” We know how old he is; he’s younger than the Barry you’re used to, so it was just a matter of, what is this Barry like? We want to see him grow, and so, if he’s married already, that’s a whole area we don’t get to explore! I think that’s one of the big reasons we did that.
Manapul: Especially for new readers coming in. I think it would be a little bit like they missed a lot of stuff. With this issue, we don’t want you to feel like you missed anything. We want you to feel you’re starting a brand new story. Of course, the only understanding you need coming in is, he’s red and he runs.
Buccelllato: He runs really fast!
You’ve already introduced one new character, Manuel, in the first issue. What can you tell us about this mysterious person from Barry’s past?
Manapul: Well, Manuel is a friend of Barry’s and what you see between them growing up is the contrast in decisions that they make. I think what’s interesting about it is, classically, Barry Allen always has been a black and white type of hero in how he sees good and bad, and we’re introducing a character that challenges that. We’re constantly showing him in contrast, both figurative and physically, in the book. I think Manuel is a good start to that.
Buccelllato: In addition, there are really no villains in the rogues gallery that have any sort of personal connection to Barry. Even Zoom, he has a problem with the Flash but he’s not personally connected to Flash other than through what he does, what he did to hurt Barry and the Flash. Manuel is a guy who means something to Barry Allen outside of anything else he does.
Francis, Brian mentioned that I should ask you about your reaction to the first reviews of “The Flash.” I understand there were some tears!
Manapul: [Laughs] No tears, but I was definitely choked up! I was telling Brian that, not to belittle how he feels about the book, but to me, this means the world. I’ve been a fan of this book since I was a kid, so I honestly feel like a little kid. Like Derrick Rose — he’s been a big Michael Jordan fan who’s now playing with the Bulls and is the team captain. It feels like a dream come true sort of thing. I look back at this as something that will be a milestone, similar to when I first broke in. This is that second one, where I feel it’s a brand new day for me.
Buccelllato: You used the world “culmination,” once!
Manapul: Yeah! I think I said that the past eleven years of my career has been building up to this book. It was really, really important to me. I told Brian, listen, if there’s bad reviews — I know I can’t separate myself from my work because I feel I am my work, so I said, read the reviews first and tell me what they say.
Buccelllato: I read them all and started off saying, “Read this one, read this one.” But they were all pretty much readable.
Manapul: I read them and I was struck down because it was a dream come true to know that, based on those reviews, we were going to be able to keep telling our story. I think that’s what I was most happy about, because if it was not greeted with a good response, we probably would not be able to tell the story that we want to tell. I’m really setting this up; I really want to leave my mark on the book. I want to be a part of the big Flash legacy.
Buccelllato: We want to have a run of “The Flash” that is memorable and stands the test of time.
Since that’s the dream for you guys, coming onto the book, what runs are your touchstones, the creative teams who in the past have defined Flash and had memorable runs?
Manapul: For me, when I came into the Flash, I came in during the Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo era. That was my favorite. It was around the time they introduced Bart Allen and there’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening. When we found out we were writing the book, I started reading all the “Showcase” stuff to get in touch with who Barry Allen was. Those books really influenced me in terms of how we’re handling the stories.
Buccelllato: I basically followed his lead. He said read this, read that, so I read this and that!
To wrap things up, and this is something you’ve touched on, what’s the status of Flash’s large and outstanding rogues gallery. Is there a Rogue or character that is one of your favorites who you’re itching to bring in?
Manapul: I love Captain Cold. To me, he is a real badass! And I think you’re going to see that, once we start our second arc. I also like characters like the Pied Piper, but our take on him is going to be different, he’s — well, I don’t want to reveal anything! But it’s going to be fun, because what you are going to see is, rather than a reintroduction of the Rogues, you’re going to see an evolution of them.
Buccelllato: For me, I think Captain Cold, of course, but I also love Gorilla Grodd a lot. I think it has to do with my love of “Planet Of The Apes!” [Laughs]
Finally, Brian, when I spoke with you at the DC Comics red carpet party, you mentioned that I should bring up Wally West. So…Wally West?
Â Manapul: [Laughs] The pitch is on Dan [Didio’s] desk. Let’s see if he finds it! That’s really all there is to say!
EDITOR’S NOTE: CBR News approached DC Comics about Wally West and were told that at this time, the publisher has no plans for the character.
“The Flash” #3 hits shelves November 23