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Almost Hidden – William Messner-Loebs’ Run on Flash

by  in Comic News Comment
Almost Hidden – William Messner-Loebs’ Run on Flash

Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted in print (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So in this feature I spotlight different cool comic books that are only available as back issues. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.

Today we look at William Messner-Loebs’ run on the Flash (which Greg LaRocque penciled almost the entire run, with a bunch of different inkers, Larry Mahlstedt most commonly)…

I’ve spotlighted two great issues of Messner-Loebs’ Flash run earlier in this column (In fact, the first comic I did this piece on was Messner-Loebs’ excellent “Nobody Dies – It’s a Rule” and I also featured his brilliant way of handling Pied Piper coming out of the closet) but it occurred to me the other day when his Flash run came up during Mark Ginocchio’s recent Gimmick or Good? column that really, his whole RUN should be appreciated.

I thought Mike Baron did a decent job on the first fourteen issues of the Flash, but I think that his Wally West was a little hard to relate to. He really needed someone to humanize him and that’s what Messner-Loebs did really well.

Honestly, looking back on it, while I think Messner-Loebs did a great job at doing just that, I think he likely took a little too long to get to that point where the book was really humming. So while I’m saying reprint Messner-Loebs’ run, and I think it likely should for posterity’s sake, I really don’t think he hit his stride until about a year into his run.

A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was resolving all of Mike Baron’s plotlines, including Wally losing his powers and Wally’s relationship with the still-married Dr. Tina McGee, whose husband Jerry had gone nuts and become the evil Speed Demon. Messner-Loebs redeems Jerry, breaks Wally and Tina up and slowly has Tina get back together with Jerry and as for the powers, they came and went over the first seven or so issues of his run until he loses them “permanently” after the Gene Bomb went off at the end of the Invasion! storyline. Tina works to get his powers back and they returned – but TOO strong!

Here is the aftermath of Wally’s powers being returned…

It is a strong scene (and Greg LaRocque does an awesome job drawing it) but it is perhaps a bit on the bleak side of things.

Also, the end result is that Wally ended up severely injuring himself and had spikes popping out of his body for a couple of issues…

It was kind of silly in how serious it was meant to be. Plus it was kind of silly in how, well, silly it was.

I think it was when Messner-Loebs officially resolved all of the loose plots (Tina and Jerry together and moving to California and Wally’s powers back to normal) that his run really took off. He had already set up some interesting supporting cast members by redeeming two of Flash’s former villains, The Chunk (who now uses his ability to “eat” anything and transmit it to another dimension to dispose of stuff for companies)…

and the Pied Piper (who is now a bit of a folk hero to the homeless)…

One thing Messner-Loebs always did well throughout his run was to give the humanistic side to superheroing, something he did on pretty much every book he wrote (remember when Wonder Woman worked at a Taco joint?). Here’s a nice moment with Wally discussing Batman and Superman with his girlfriend…

Actually, looking back on it, I think the run really kicked into high gear (no pun intended) is when Messner-Loebs decided to move Wally from New York (where he really didn’t fit) to Keystone City.

Around that same time, he introduced Linda Park, which is likely his most significant contribution to the Flash mythos. What amazes me is how well Messner-Loebs handled the slow burn of Wally and Linda’s relationship. When he introduced her, she was just an annoying reporter but within a couple of issues, she had a little more depth to her…

(Although, seriously, “Only sympathetic to Koreans?” What kind of dumb characterization point is that? How, exactly, does a TV reporter get a bad rap for being “only sympathetic to Koreans?” Luckily, Messner-Loesb never brings it up again).

Messner-Loebs soon became well-known for his one-off issues, including his interesting take on Wally’s powers (One of the most famous examples was the “Nobody Dies – It’s a Rule” story I listed below). The issue where he decides to have Wally move to Keystone City includes an awesome bit where Wally is at the movies with Connie when a gunman begins opening fire in the theater…

There’s another one where a woman is convinced that the Joker is trying to kill her baby, and it nicely deals with the kind of paranoia that’s bound to crop up with a maniac like the Joker a real villain in the DC Universe…

The more Messner-Loebs developed Linda Park, the better the book got.

I’m honestly shocked that Wally and Linda never got together. They had such great chemistry, which Messner-Loebs used to great effect when he had a storyline where Wally gets sucked into a cult that Linda is investigating. They worked well as a pair in a sort of screwball comedy sort of way. The cult story led, though, to a bizarre storyline where Linda was seemingly possessed by an 800-year-old Irish poet named Seamus O’Relkig (who, of course, later turned out to be Messner-Loebs bringing back the techno-organic being Kilg%re from early in Baron’s run).

By the way, Greg LaRocque is a good artist but boy did he love the T & A.

Annoyingly, after the whole Seamus O’Relkig plot was resolved, Messner-Loesb wrote Linda out of the book. I still don’t get why he did it.

Anyhow, around this time Messner-Loebs did a long storyline involving both Kilg%re and Vandal Savage (and the return of Tina and Jerry McGree, as Tina McGee was a character on the then-current Flash TV series, so I guess they figured it best for her to be in the same city as the Flash) that brought back plots from Baron’s run and used them in a new and exciting way, leading to a dramatic 50th issue where Wally gets his own Flash uniform…

Around that same time, Messner-Loebs wrapped up one of the last remaining plots from Baron’s run, where Wally ended up owing the government a lot of mone. Messner-Loebs dealt with it by Wally going to work for the IRS…

After a few good short stories (including the two ones I spotlighted at the beginning – “Nobody Died” and Pied Piper’s coming out – man, Messner-Loebs sure knew how to tell great done-in-one comics), Messner-Loebs ended his run with a great three-part story where he pretty much wrote off all of the supporting cast in a nice, tidy little bow so that incoming writer Mark Waid could keep or get rid of anyone he’s like. As it turned out, Waid pretty much jettisoned the entire cast in favor of new supporting cast members. Of course, the notable exception was Linda, who Messner-Loebs graciously brought back on the very last page of his forty-sixth and final issue of the Flash…

These were strong comics, especially from #30-61 (#15-29 were decent enough), and I really wish DC would collect them now that they have a successful Flash TV series. I know Wally West is a touchy subject for DC, but come on, good comics are good comics.

NOTE: I’ve condensed a lot of this obviously (it IS over forty comics worth of stuff), so I didn’t even get into all of the stuff with Blue Trinity, Wally’s mom and dad and their various misadventures, Wally’s friend Mason, a couple of crossover tie-ins (like an odd War of the Gods issue), Lady Savage and the Turtle. But it was all interesting! Go buy these issues and read ’em! Or better yet, DC, reprint ’em!

If you have a suggestion for a comic that you’d like to see me spotlight in this feature, drop me a line at

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