With writer Brian Buccellato ending his run on “The Flash” in March, a run that began along with co-writer/artist Francis Manapul and the launch of DC Comics’ New 52 in 2011, the next phase of the Fastest Man Alive’s story begins this month in “The Flash” #30 and “The Flash Annual” #3.
CBR News connected with Venditti and Jensen about their upcoming run on “The Flash,” and while the writing team shared many details about the roles of Barry Allen and Wally West moving forward, the two remain tight-lipped about any specifics regarding how the original Kid Flash would be presented in the series. The writers did, however, confirm that future timelines and events would definitely be heavily featured, leaving open the possibility that Wally West is the Future Flash teased in the solicitations for “The Flash” #31, but based on what has been revealed in other relevant solicitations for “The Flash” and “Futures End” that scenario seems unlikely.
Regardless, fans of Wally West are finally going to get what they’ve been clamouring for since the dawn of the New 52 — a Flash rebirth — and it’s only a few weeks away.
CBR News: What is your history with The Flash?
Robert Venditti: As with all comics, I didn’t start reading them until my late twenties so I wasn’t overly familiar with the Flash. And I really wasn’t familiar with Green Lantern or any of the other characters that I have worked on either. That’s in terms of the actual comics, but the Flash has always been an appealing character to me based on what I’ve known through general pop culture knowledge and the cartoons. What I find most appealing about him is the instinctual nature of the character. He’s just a guy with a lightning bolt on his chest and runs fast. And I think there’s something that’s ingrained in all of us and that’s from the minute we are born, we want to run fast even before we know what that means.
I am a father, I have two kids and they’re always trying to get somewhere as quick as they can. And the Flash is a character that gets to live that out so that has always been appealing to me.
Van Jensen: There weren’t any particular runs that I followed especially closely, in part because in western Nebraska, where I grew up, we got like three comic books at the local grocery store so I read whatever three comics were there. And typically, “The Flash” wasn’t among them. [Laughs] It’s a character that I always enjoyed. As Rob said, he has a really cool, really relatable power set. Both Barry Allen and Wally West are down-to-earth characters and in many ways, I always felt that they were the most human of the big DC superheroes, strangely, even more human than Batman. He’s more of an everyman and more relatable.
Will your run on “The Flash” remain grounded in everyday life, exploring the lives of Barry Allen and Wally West away from the do-gooding as much as the big action sequences?
Venditti: Yes, I think so. That’s where you get to who the character actually is when you see them outside their costume. Particularly for Barry, he works in a police precinct and he’s surrounded by a great cast of characters. He’s got Patty, he’s got Iris, he’s got Forrest, he’s got Captain Frye, it’s a great cast and to have him in those quieter moments are the moments that I enjoy the most in comics.
Jensen: As Rob and I have sat down to write, the stuff that’s been the most enjoyable are little character moments with Barry and some of the other bigger characters and even some of the smaller characters. We want it to feel like a book that does not take place that far out of reality.
You’ve talked about Barry, but the big news is that Wally West will be making his New 52 debut early in your run. Can you talk about his role in the series and if you will be featuring two Flashes?
Jensen: The thing that is great about the relationship between Barry and Wally, historically, in comics is that as Wally came onto the scene, it was also a key part of Barry moving to the next level of development and growing as a character. By becoming a mentor and imparting wisdom, Barry ended up meaning as much to Wally as Wally meant to Barry. It’s a really rich relationship. Like everything in the New 52, this isn’t a rehashing of what happened in the previous universe, but more taking the feel and essence of the character and finding a new way to tell their story. And that’s the overarching goal for us.
Venditti: Wally walks into the cast in “The Flash Annual” #3, and like Van said, it is all about character. We’re going to see how Barry and Wally help each other grow and how they help each other change. One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the book so far has been with Wally and Barry. We’ve talked about the quiet moments where you see a character out of costume and for me, that’s what really works. I love developing their relationship and how they develop together. And their relationship is going to be a focal point of the entire first arc. It’s definitely exciting getting to introduce Wally to the New 52 and it’s also challenge. We know that there are a lot of fans out there for both of these characters and I hope that they enjoy the story as much as we’re enjoying writing it.
What can you tell us about Wally West as a character? There are lots of rumors circulating ranging from his age and color to whether or not he is the character featured tagging the wall with spray paint on the cover of “The Flash Annual” #3?
Venditti: There are so many theories out there that I don’t know if it’s possible to tease anything without giving something away.
Jensen: I think the big thing again is that we are really focusing on the relationship between Barry and Wally. That’s what’s most compelling because it’s quite a bit different from what we’ve seen before. In a really interesting way, there’s just an innovative wrinkle that makes it interesting to write and, we hope, read.
Venditti: I think that it is a relationship unique to pretty much any other relationship in the New 52. I don’t know if we’ve seen two characters dealt with in the same way in the New 52 than we have with these two.
Jensen: It’s definitely something different for superhero comics. And it’s been that way with everything with this series. Their relationship being the core of the story that we’re telling has been extremely enjoyable to write.
Venditti: And Wally is going to be a huge part of the cast as I was saying earlier. Not just the focal point of this initial arc but he’s going to be around for a long time to come. We’re not just reintroducing the character now because of certain stories that we have in mind for the character. It’s all based on character. And it’s all about how Barry affects Wally and Wally affects Barry and the two of them and everyone around them.
We’ve been talking a lot about character but can you confirm that Wally will indeed be a superhero and share Barry’s power set of super speed?
Venditti: I think it’s too early to talk about that but I will say that the power set and the Speed Force are both going to be an integral part of this arc that Van and I starting in “The Flash Annual” #3.
Batman and Spider-Man each have awesome rogues galleries, but the Flash’s rogues aren’t exactly second tier at this point. Will we be seeing classic villains like the Rogues and Gorilla Grodd in your run, or are you bringing new threats to the Central City?
Jensen: We’re actually doing both. One of the most fun things in getting to work on “The Flash” is his rogues gallery. I don’t want to spoil anything but we are going to see this really interesting blend of existing rogues and some new rogues and some forgotten rogues. It’s really been a cool creator challenge to gather future and present storylines while introducing new stuff, as well as reintroducing other things. And again, we’re doing that while making sure that we’re developing the characters. And we’re also really looking at the Rogues and creating some really new wrinkles for them, in addition to bringing in some colorful new foils for Flash.
The solicitation for the second issue of your run teases Future Flash and Future Mirror Master. Van, you also just mentioned ‘future storylines.’ With the new “Futures End” series coming in May and a flash-forward month planned for September, is it safe to say the future of the New 52 will be explored in “The Flash”?
Venditti: When [editor] Brian Cunningham first contacted me about the possibility of writing “The Flash,” I knew about the September initiative that DC was going to be doing so the idea that there were going to be stories set in the future in the month of September was something that became part of the pitch because we wanted it to be an organic part of this original storyline that we’re telling. So yes, it’s a very important part — not only for Barry but also for Wally — of the first arc that Van and I are going to tell.
DC Entertainment is currently enjoying great success with its “Arrow” TV series and the “Green Arrow” comic book by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. While the two projects aren’t officially tied story-wise, there is an obvious connection as John Diggle, a character created for television, recently joined the cast of the comic. Any thoughts on joining “The Flash” at a time when a new TV series starring Grant Gustin is generating so much buzz?
Venditti: I think it’s great in a sense that it brings more eyes to the character but he’s already a hugely popular character. The Flash is one of those household name superheroes. In terms of synergy between the TV show and the comic, it’s really hard to say at this point. I don’t know what the intentions are entirely for the TV show but I know that we’ll be doing some really interesting things because Van used to be a crime reporter. That really adds a lot to the “CSI”/police procedural aspect of the series. I would imagine that any TV show that they do would also lean on that. Those kinds of shows are enormously popular.
Van, as a former crime reporter, what do you want to bring to the series?
Jensen: It was one of the things that really excited me about the job because I spent about three years as a newspaper crime reporter in Little Rock, Arkansas. One of the years that I was there we had the second most homicides in the city’s history — and Little Rock is actually a really violent city. It was a great experience in a way, but it was also emotionally taxing because the way I explain it is the first thing that I would do is call the coroner and ask who got killed overnight and the second thing I would do is turn on the police scanner and wait for the next person to get killed. I worked really closely with the police. Late at night, I would hear about some terrible crime and I would have to race across the city. I would have 15 minutes to scribble as many notes as I could and then race back to the office and I would have five minutes to hammer out a story on deadline. It was a really good experience in terms of learning how a police department works, learning how forensics works and learning how a case is built.
There are things that are true that you see in a police procedural TV show, which I think is how most people are common with police work, but there is also a lot that is very different. While “The Flash” is a big superhero, exciting, over-the-top action book, I’m also trying to bring those grounded elements to it, too. I feel that if I was getting any of those details wrong that anyone who knew me from my police reporting days would have some choice words for me. I want it to be very realistic.
Brett Booth is providing art for “The Flash.” From everything I’ve read he seems jazzed about the assignment — what do you feel he’s brought to the project?
Venditti: Brett and [inker] Norm [Rapmund] bring so much energy with their art work. I get a real sense as the pages are coming in not only of how the art looks but also how well we are all responding with one another on our e-mail chains. We are all having a lot of fun on this title and everybody is really excited about it. It’s created a really great work environment not just in terms of the quality of what they’re doing and the energy that they are bringing to the story and the layouts and character designs — there are lot of new costumes designs and new villains that Van was alluding to earlier — but also just overall talking back and forth with those guys has been a great time.
Jensen: Brett has been a fan of the Flash for years and years and years, and you can just tell how incredibly excited he is to be working on the book by how much energy he brings. I had not worked with him before so it’s been a real treat to see those pages pop into my inbox. And every one is better than the last one.
Traditionally, the Flash has played a major role as a member of the Justice League. Will that continue during your run?
Jensen: There is nothing in the immediate future for us in terms of his involvement with other superhero groups and crossing over with other titles. But I think it’s safe to say that the Flash is going to continue to play a very big role on the overall DC Universe.
Venditti: An important thing to remember is what’s going on with “Forever Evil” right now as it’s building toward its conclusion, and that’s the fact that Central City is one of the prime focal points of the series. There is a whole “Rogues’ Rebellion” miniseries that’s all about that. Central City has seen more of its share of damage in the storyline so there is definitely going to be a legacy of that for the Flash as a character and for his series.
“The Flash Annual” #3 by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund goes on sale April 30.