Just a few weeks ago, the new “Flash” writing team of Robert Venditti and Wally West was coming to “The Flash” in their first arc. They never said he would be alive, let alone a super-speedster, so that first issue really shouldn’t have been a surprise, right?
The writers caught everyone off-guard with their debut on the DC Comics title, and as Venditti, Jensen and the art team of Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund move towards Wally’s forecasted fate in the months — and possibly years — ahead, the team will give “The Flash” a countdown that would make Jack Bauer cower in fear.
CBR News spoke with Venditti and Jensen after their first issue hit to discuss Wally’s status quo as a dead man walking and his incarnation as a biracial character in the New 52. In a candid interview, Venditti shared more about Wally’s family history, while Jensen talked about reading a Silver Age comic shortly after plotting “The Flash” #30 and finding it was proof positive that he and Venditti were on the right track (and right on time) for writing Barry Allen.
CBR News: Thanks to the two of you, when I’m interviewing comic book creators about introducing new or reimagined comic book characters to canon from now on, I have to add a new question: Is he or she dead? [Laughs]
Robert Venditti: [Laughs] Yes, it’s funny. Has the first appearance of a comic book character ever been as a dead body before? I don’t know. But that was certainly one of the mysteries that we wanted to preserve.
And that must have been difficult, because there has been lots of speculation within the industry, from both media and readers, as to whether or not Wally West was going to be a teenager or black or a vandal or from the future or all of the above or some of the above. But not dead.
Venditti: I don’t think anyone asked us if he was dead. Not to my knowledge.
Van Jensen: No, I don’t think so, either. We got lots of other questions, but not that one.
When we last spoke, you indicated that you knew DC was going to be taking a line-wide leap into the future come September. Did the impending arrival of “Futures End” play a role in the decision to introduce Wally West posthumously?
Venditti: Knowing the five years later thing was going to happen in September when we took on the series, we wanted to build a story that would be able to incorporate that and make it a chapter in the story as opposed to a month when we take a break and just do something inconsequential. It really just seemed like an interesting way to reintroduce Wally the way we did, and see Barry’s reaction to the circumstances in which we see Wally for the first time, which is five years in the future. Then, we go back to the present, which is what we are going to do in “The Flash Annual” #3, where they’re together for the first time. We really get to see their relationship grow and get to find out how they became so close that Barry would be so distraught five years later, when this horrible tragedy happens.
That’s just a different way of looking at the friendship. [Typically,] you’re there when they see each other for the first time, and over the years, you watch and you see where the relationship ends up. Here, we’re seeing where the relationship has ended up, and we’re going to go back to the present. We’re going to build towards that event in their lives.
The other big change for Wally, beyond being dead, is his skin color. Was it your decision to introduce a black Wally West, or was that a decision made by DC editorial?
Venditti: He’s actually biracial. When DC asked us to about introducing the character to the New 52, that was pretty much what they said. They wanted to reintroduce him and they wanted him to be biracial. I think that’s to their credit that they wanted to show diversity across their line. With the New 52, there are new versions and new takes with a lot of these characters. In a lot of ways, that’s what’s great about the New 52.
Jensen: I was excited about it. It’s a great idea to bring the character in like that. No one wants to retread the same stories that we’ve already all read before. They are already collected in trades and this is truly an opportunity to put a new spin on those stories. That’s the challenge and that’s what’s exciting about this.
Now that we’ve seen him in the story, what can you tell us about Wally West that you couldn’t tell us when we last spoke?
Jensen: Wally is Iris West’s nephew, and his father is one of Iris’ brothers that we haven’t met yet. And yes, that’s plural, which we’ll be exploring a lot more in the coming months. We’ll also be learning more about his mother. It’s a very new take on the character in some obvious ways, but there is still a lot of classic Wally that’s included. He still has a fiery personality. There’s a passion and intensity in Wally that we will continue to see in the series moving forward.
Venditti: In terms of his parents, it’s built very much on two things. What has already been established about the history of the West family remains intact, and because Central City was such a central focus in “Forever Evil,” and is one of the places hit hardest by that story arc, we really want to show the effects of what happened. It’s not like that didn’t happen — it did. In “The Flash” #30, you see that, and throughout the forthcoming issues, you’ll continue to see that. The circumstances under which Wally enters into this series grew very much out of the aftermath of “Forever Evil.”
This is a young Wally West. How old is he exactly?
Venditti: He’s 12 years old. He’s not 12 years old when we see him in “The Flash” #30, because that’s five years into the futur,e but when we meet him in “The Flash Annual,” he’s 12.
As you have shown in Issue #30, the death of Wally has a profound impact on Barry. But it’s not just Wally — it’s his inability to save everyone in Central City that has Barry questioning his abilities as a superhero. “I could’ve saved lives. But I didn’t. I failed this city. I failed everyone.” When we flash-forward 20 years, it doesn’t look like he ever truly recovered from the events following “Forever Evil” or the death of Wally West.
Venditti: Barry is the type of guy that always wants to be there for his city. He’s a real hero’s hero, and he takes the role very seriously. He feels a lot of responsibility for this incredible role that he’s been given. He sees it as an opportunity to do what others can’t and do what only he can. For several reasons we are still going to see, he gets pushed off the board. He feels a tremendous amount of guilt for not being able to be there for everyone. He’s confronted with that every day. He sees the reaction that citizens have towards him — some are very angry with him — because he wasn’t there. There is a tremendous amount of guilt. We’re going to see how that affects him as a character, and also how this plays into this twenty years later timeline, when we see him in this dark, disparate state.
We’re also going to find out the central mystery to this first major story arc, which ultimately led Barry to be this way 20 years from now. He goes back and does some things that he always swore that he would never do.
Twenty years from now, Barry is grappling with a major problem that begins in this issue. He’s not just losing track of time — but he’s actually losing time. Two years, eight months, seven hours, 56 minutes and 12 seconds to be exact. When we think about the Flash, we always think about speed, but how important is the concept of time when exploring the Fastest Man Alive?
Venditti: It’s extremely crucial and certainly one of the most crucial aspects of this whole first story arc that we’re doing. We’re really looking at Barry’s power-set and the effects of it and what his limitations are. Again, it’s part of the very big central mystery.
Jensen: Agreed. It’s absolutely central to the story. One of things that was really cool about it — and I wish we could say that it was one of things that inspired us, but we found it after we had plotted all of this out — when we were re-reading some of the Silver Age Flash stories, there was actually an issue way back when, and Barry had a wrist watch that kept losing time every time he was the Flash. This story is quite a bit different because that story had to do with the Theory of Relativity, so there are different things going on here, but there was something in going back and seeing that it was clear that time has been really central to the theme of the Flash and what it means to be the Flash pretty much since the character has been around. We’re just continuing with that legacy.
One final question, and I think I know what your answer is going to be, but I have to ask. Are we going to see Wally West as The Flash?
Venditti: [Laughs] I don’t think we’re ready to reveal that yet.
“The Flash” #30 is on sale now.