SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains major spoilers for The Flash #27, on sale now.
With Reverse Flash's Rebirth debut coming to a conclusion in this week's The Flash #27, CBR sat down with writer Josh Williamson at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the final issue of the "Running Scared" story arc, which pit Barry Allen against his nemesis Eobard Thawne for the first time in current DC Comics continuity.
If you've ever been wondered what is it that makes Reverse Flash's relationship with the Flash different from other iconic "antithesis" DC hero and villain pairs like, say, The Joker to Batman, you're in luck. Williamson has an answer for you.
CBR: There’s a moment in Issue #27 that really struck me -- it actually made me tear up a bit as I was reading. You’ve got Thawne mid-fight with Barry, who is just absolutely trashing him, and Barry asks why he’s been doing all of these horrible things. Thawne answers something to the effect of, “Because it’s the only time you’ll spend with me.” That’s brutal, even coming from a villain. Let’s talk about that.
Joshua Williamson: I relate to Thawne a lot, and I really didn’t realize how much I did until working on this. I think we all have someone who we may have looked up to at some point in our lives and then met and been disappointed by...and really, most of us can handle that. I think, over the course of the story I was trying to show this idea of Thawne being a tragic character, and being this person who was generally broken. I think those are the best villains.
I was having all these conversations with people earlier on, and it always sounded like they thought of Thawne as being The Joker. I really felt like that wasn’t right -- he’s not that. There’s that moment in The Return of Barry Allen where he arrives in the past and he looks and sees the newspaper article with Barry killing him, and there’s a reflection of his face in the panel -- he’s so broken by it! Honestly, in that moment, it’s not that he’s seeing himself die. It’s the idea that this person that he loves is going to be the one to do it.
Thawne’s obviously obsessed. He’s never met Barry before, he doesn’t know him, but I think because Thawne was so alone -- and alone because of his own hand, even -- I still kept the [major parts of Thawne’s history] in continuity, really. I looked at Return of Barry Allen a lot, I looked through Geoff [Johns]’s stuff a lot, particularly issue 8, which was actually called “Reverse Flash Rebirth.” In that story, Reverse Flash goes back in time and kills his family, that’s the reason he grows up alone. He always wanted time to study the Speed Force and couldn’t allow for distractions, so his future self went back and created this scenario where he was totally alone. The person who he considered his friend, the person who made it so that he wasn’t alone, was Barry. But it was always this ideal of Barry as a person.
Thawne got to meet his favorite comic book character, which is what Barry had gotten to do with Jay. I wanted to create that exact same situation. [Laughs] It’s almost a commentary on Jay too on how he’s actually perfection, he has no flaws, so when Barry got to meet him, he was just meeting his idol. When Thawne got around to doing that same thing, when he got to meet the character he’d been reading about and had built up…well.
There’s even a line when Thawne says that, during his darkest moments, he had Barry running through his mind, and, listen, I’ve definitely been there too. I have said that, that’s me. When things get dark, especially in the last year when things got really hard for a lot of us, there are moments when I’m thankful for Barry’s optimism. So, with that, and relating this idea of being dependant on a person for that sort of escape, putting them on such a high pedestal -- he just wanted Barry to be his friend so badly -- and he just couldn’t handle it.
Thawne meets Barry and then feels like he’s a liar, he’s not who he says he is, which is one of the themes we built into the arc -- which is actually something I was very resistant too!