Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and forty-ninth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here to read Part 1 of this week’s legends.
Geoff Johns’ Flash run was originally just a single fill-in story arc.
Reader Ryan M. wrote in to ask, “I think I read somewhere that Geoff Johns was only brought on to the Flash as a fill in writer for three issues (Vol 2 164-166), but that the story convinced the people at DC to give him continuing work on the Flash. This turned into a very long run on the Flash (and, eventually of course, many other top DC titles, events, and movies). But was that initial Flash assignment really only for 3 issues? And if so, when did they give him the permanent job?”
Besides the “three issue” part, that’s basically precisely the case with Johns’ Flash run.
He took over for a six-issue arc in Flash #164-169, where the Flash was trapped in an alternate reality.
That was just a fill-in arc. Johns talked about it with Mike Cotton in Wizard in 2001:
When Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E was canceled after 14 issues, Johns was given a six-issue run on the Flash. It was a chance he.. well, ran with.
“One of the hard things about doing my first run on Flash was that everything had to be the same when my story ended as when it began,” Johns says, sliding into his black 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee for a trip to the legendary Whisky A Go-Go bar. “I was told to keep the status quo. No deaths, no big changes.” In his first story arc “Wonderland,” which cemented Johns as a worthy and welcome successor to longtime Flash writer Mark Waid, Flash gets tossed into a reality where there is no Speed Force and therefore no Flash. Johns takes away Flash’s powers but gives him a chance to shine as a man who doesn’t need to run fast to be a hero.
“Wally’s been doing this longer than a lot of heroes,” Johns says as he glides through Whisky A Go-Go, where bands such as Guns N Roses and Motley Crue got their starts. “There’s so many things you can do with his powers but chat’s not all you can do. He’s been through so many rites of passage that he’s the most sure hero in the world. He’s been doing this since he was a kid – with or without the Speed Force he’d be a hero.”
Now that Johns has the Flash job, he’s earned the right to experiment. His second stor yarc-“Blood Will Run” which kicked off in March’s issue #170 – introduced a working class, blue-collar Keystone City, the Flash’s hometown. Johns also introduced a psychotic cult killing off citizens the Scarlet Speedster has saved – including a local policewoman, who may be the mother of Wally’s illegitimate son. Fans can already tell things are going to change on the fly, but don’t expect Johns to let up. He’s already got his eye on Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery as well as a crossover with Green Lantern this summer.
“It’s all going to start with Iron Heights,” Johns says of the summer one-shot as he sips a $7 cup of Sam Adams beer. “Iron Heights is a prison in the DCU that you’ve never heard of because no one’s ever escaped. Some of the worst villains you’ve never heard of are there, some you haven’t seen in 10 years-they did one crime and were locked up for good. As the warden tells everyone, there is no escape. “I want to take the focus off the Flash Family and put ton the Flash and his Rogues. I want people to think of these kick-ass villains when they think of Flash. These villains have been treated like iokes. I’m going to change that. You take away Captain Cold’s suit and cold-gun and he’s still a f—ing scumbag – l want to prove that”
Before his first arc (with art by Angel Unzueta and Doug Hazlewood) was even finished, DC liked it enough that they just gave him the job permanently, and his “official” run began with Flash #170, with Scott Kolins joining the book as the penciler…
So yes, it is true that one of the top Flash runs of all-time began just as a fill-in where everything had to be back to normal by the end of the six issues!
Thanks for the suggestion, Ryan!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed – Did Dustin Hoffman REALLY improvise the famous “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” scene in Midnight Cowboy?
Part 3 will be up very soon! They’re both Flash legends, so I decided to put them up together! Feel free to write in with suggestions for future legends to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org!
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