DC Comics co-writers and artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have spent the past two years reinventing Barry Allen for the New 52, introducing new versions of Barry’s hometown, supporting cast and villains to modern readers. While the two have brought bad guys such as Gorilla Grodd and the Rogues into the new DC continuity, starting with issue #20 Manapul and Buccellato introduce readers to their version of one of Flash’s most dangerous foes: Reverse Flash.
Making his debut during the Silver Age (with an earlier version of the concept named The Rival appearing in the Golden Age years earlier), Reverse Flash began life as Eobard Thawne, a time-traveling criminal with a murderous streak and access to Flash’s suit. While the character has been revamped and re-imagined several times since then, each incarnation of Reverse Flash has remained an angry, dangerous thorn in Flash’s side.
Speaking with Comic Book Resources about bringing the villain into the modern day, Manapul and Buccellato discussed the reasoning behind ditching the yellow costume, the impact of the death of “Flash” artist Carmine Infantino — and narrow down the mystery of who Reverse Flash is by one character!
CBR News: By this point we’ve see that the gatefold cover for “The Flash” #19 is the gatefold cover that reveals the new Reverse Flash. Brian, you wrote this one solo — does it function as a prologue to your and Francis’ Reverse Flash story that begins in issue #20?
Brian Buccellato: Absolutely. The issues were sort of written in advance of the initiative to do the gatefold covers so we were able to work in a prologue, or I guess an epilogue at the end of #19 that leads us into the Reverse Flash arc moving forward.
Francis Manapul: I felt sort of bad for Brian because the story he was writing was really good and could have benefitted from those few pages. So I’m sorry those pages had to go to Reverse Flash, but we had to make the cover make sense! [Laughter]
We spoke with you a while back when you were first starting on the Reverse Flash design and at that point you two said you did not want to use the yellow and red costume. What was the design inspiration for the black and red Reverse Flash bodysuit?
Manapul: We wanted him to look scary. That’s the basic thing that we wanted. Reversing the color, it’s a classic idea and there’s a reason for it; since this is a brand new character we were able to make his costume rise out of the story of how he got his powers. What’s going to be really exciting is we’ll see Flash and the way his costumes comes on and comes out of his ring and it latches onto his skin — Reverse Flash comes out in a different way, it’s a lot more visceral and I think it’s going to be really exciting to see on the page. I don’t think that readers have seen something like that before for Reverse Flash.
Buccellato: It’s not an arbitrary decision, the look and feel of it. There’s definitely a story point to it, so hopefully people will like it.
Manapul: It’s directly tied to how he gets his powers.
While you two are not able to say who Reverse Flash is–
Buccellato: Absolutely not. [Laughter]
We’ve seen many versions of him, some who are insane, some who are just plain mean, etc. What sort of villain is your version of Reverse Flash? How does he stand apart from the Reverse Flashes who have come before?
Buccellato: I think he’s really selfish Reverse Flash. He has his own agenda, and it’s a very personal and selfish agenda, and the Flash gets in the way of that.
Manapul: Basically their rivalry grows out of this story. He doesn’t start out being his arch-nemesis but by the end he will be. Like Brian was saying, they’re both on a collision course for both of their directives. Out of that we’re going to get some really interesting dramatic sequences from these two.
When you say Flash, outside the Rogues, the first villain most readers will think of is Reverse Flash. Were there any specific stories, characters or eras you were drawing on for your version?
Buccellato: Not really. Because there were so many great stories told already, a lot of them are stories we didn’t want to repeat, we didn’t want to go down that same path. So we decided to go a different way and you’re going to have to wait to see what you think of it. But at the end of the day he’s not Thawne and he’s not [Zolomon] Zoom; he’s his own person and he has his own reasons for doing what he does.
Manapul: We’re essentially creating our own mythos with this Reverse Flash. Obviously he’s extremely inspired by the Reverse Flashes of the past but we thought the best thing to do was to try to create him from scratch and take it in a new direction.
Since we’re talking about recreating Flash, one of the big pieces of recent news was the passing of Carmine Infantino, the man who revived Flash for the Silver Age. As the two guys reviving Flash for the modern age, did this give you a new perspective on the character and Infantino’s classic stories? What was your reaction?
Manapul: What’s interesting about that question is that it didn’t make me think we were doing something similar to what he did; if anything, what we’re doing is smaller. When he brought the Flash back not only did he reinvent the character but he basically ushered in the Silver Age. It was something that impacted the industry in a very positive way, so to be able to affect the industry both from a business, artistic and aesthetic standpoint, that’s a huge influence to have. Honestly, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to doing something like that!
Buccellato: We don’t pretend to be walking in his footsteps. That’s historical and monumental. We’re just happy we get to tell our stories and hopefully people who read his work and enjoyed what he did will enjoy what we do to because we try to be respectful of everything that came before, especially his work. I mean he created a whole new world for comics, didn’t he?
Manapul: That’s the thing too, when Brian and I were first plotting out the stories we read a lot of those issues he had worked on collected in the “Showcase” books. Those were a huge influence on us in terms of trying to recapture that feel, the sense of imagination that those books had. His influence on not just this book but also the industry in general has been monumental, so I don’t think we should be in anyway compared to what he’s done!
Any favorite Infantino stories from your “Showcase” research or any that really impacted you and the way you see Flash?
Buccellato: I read all of those “Showcases”; there wasn’t a specific story but I think they had an interesting feel. There was just something that was very him. All the bad guys had the same kind of origin and they all wanted the same kind of things, they were all thieves and robbers and had these weapons and stuff. So there’s no specific one, but just the feel for who the Rogues were and who Barry was and how he related to Iris.
Manapul: Yeah, I read a lot of that in one sitting. It impacted me in two ways: as an artist it made me want to push and figure out different ways to portray speed because you see the way he does it with multiple images and things like that. To his credit, that’s a lot of work to do that. So we try to do something different, and like Brian was saying the thing that we really were most inspired by was to try and capture the same essence those books had. It was a lot more sci-fi than a lot of other superhero books out there — but it had this charm about it, a little bit of a wink, a little bit of a smile. The villains at the time he was doing were really interesting, I really like a lot of the inter-dimensional stories that they were doing. There was a particular story where this other dimension was watching over Earth and our misfortune was our entertainment. I don’t remember the name but I thought it was a really, really fun story and I think that’s what we’re trying to do, infuse that same sensibility. Instead of being influenced by the story we were influenced by the sensibility the early books had.
To bring it back to what you’re doing with Reverse Flash, at the very beginning of your run you guys were working with the theme of being overwhelmed. With the Gorilla Grodd story you introduced the theme of homecoming and belonging. What is the theme you’re working with in the Reverse Flash story? Is it an extension of homecoming, or is it something completely different?
Buccellato: It’s probably an extension. I think family is very important in this arc, and it’s really tough to say more! [Laughs]
Manapul: Okay, if the last arc was about coming home this story is probably more so about having that home and how do you keep it. Barry Allen, Patty, you put them together and you have this great relationship. He has a home, he has somebody to love him — now, how do you keep that? Essentially it’s about being able to appreciate the now, not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future. Those are important things you have to have when you try to maintain a relationship. He’s balancing being a boyfriend, he’s balancing working at the precinct, he’s balancing Iris who is now back in the picture, and on top of that he has to figure out the mystery of who is Reverse Flash. With all that piled on, how do you keep a home? How do you maintain a family life?
To end, ever since it was announced you guys were working on a Reverse Flash story one name has popped up over and over about who it might be. I think the Internet would burn down CBR if I didn’t ask, so here’s our obligatory Wally West question: Is Wally West Reverse Flash?
Manapul: You know what would burn down the Internet? If we told you yes and you put that in the title and followed it up with “…No, Just Kidding!” [Laughter]
Buccellato: We don’t have any plans, there’s no plans for Wally. Who knows what the future holds — but not right now! [Laughs] I have a question for the CBR community out there: would they rather see Wally West as a villain and have him in the universe or not see him at all? I wonder what people think about that. Is it enough to just have a dude with orange hair whose name is Wally West? Or do you want the character and the person that you really loved as a teen who was under Barry’s wing and became the Flash and became the greatest speedster of all? Food for thought.
Manapul: That’s a great question. I do want to follow that up by saying nobody get your hopes up, the results of this will not change anything! [Laughter]
Buccellato: We’re not gauging because we’re not changing anything!
Manapul: They can put on their saddest puppy eyes, the little kid who dropped their ice cream looking you right in the eye — and me and Brian are just going to keep walking! [Laughter]
“The Flash” issue #19 is on sale April 24.