Over the years in the DC Universe there has been one heroic legacy that people have literally picked up and ran with; the legacy of The Flash. Beginning this February in DC Comics‘ “The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive” #9, a new writer begins chronicling the adventures of the newest Flash, Bart Allen. CBR News spoke with writer Marc Guggenheim about his plans for the Fastest Man Alive.
Guggenheim’s Flash run was the result of talks with members of DC’s editorial staff. “I’d been talking to ‘Flash’ Editor Joan Hilty about a couple of other things when the Flash became available,” Guggenheim told CBR News. “When she told me about DC’s plans, particularly the role Flash will be playing in the DCU over the next year or so, I knew I wanted to play a role.”
DC’s big plans for the Flash was just one of the draws for Guggenheim who is a long time fan of the character. “I started reading the book regularly towards the end of the Barry Allen era and I have a real soft spot for Wally,” Guggenheim said. “The runs by Mike Baron, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns really stand out in my mind and in my heart as some of my favorites.”
Guggenheim is a huge fan of the Scarlet Speedster and hopes other fans pick up his run but he also hopes just as many new readers give his work on the “Flash” a try; so new readers don’t need to know anything to pick up and enjoy the book. “Every book I write, I try to make new-reader friendly,” Guggenheim explained. “In the case of the Flash, although I’m continuing the momentum established by Bilson & DeMeo, I tried very hard to make my first issue ‘read’ like a #1.”
One of the things Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo established in their run on “The Flash” was Bart Allen’s move to Los Angeles and Guggenheim plans to keep him there “Personally, I think the move and, more importantly, the reasons for it are a great idea. I’d be silly to throw it away.”
Old School Flash fans shouldn’t worry about the Flash’s move to the City of Angels; Guggenheim hopes to occasionally check back in with the cast in Keystone City. “I’d very much like to,” Guggenheim said. “Honestly, it will depend upon how much room I have in each individual issue. There’s a lot of story and a lot of action I’m trying to fit into each 22 page issue, to be honest. That having been said, I don’t think long-time Flash fans will be disappointed by any measure.”
Another element of Bilson and DeMeo’s run that Guggenheim will be continuing with is Bart’s enrollment in the LAPD Academy. “I think it’s a great idea because it gives Bart a means of honoring Barry’s legacy in a way that goes beyond simply wearing the costume,” Guggenheim stated. “As for his job, like I said, he’s a cadet. They don’t just give you a badge and a gun — you’ve actually gotta go to school. Who knew? And keeping with the theme of following in Barry’s footsteps, Bart’s focus will be on forensics.”
Bart may be focusing on some of the same things his grandfather did, like forensics, but he will be tackling these things with his own distinct approach. “Bart definitely has his own unique personality,” Guggenheim explained. “Obviously, he has a completely different upbringing from Barry and Wally. The guy is an artificially-aged kid from the future who was raised in virtual reality. And that’s without even getting into the whole spent-the-last-four-years in the Speed Force thing. Plus, there’s the evolution he underwent in the pages of Geoff Johns’ ‘Teen Titans.’ The trick for me is to acknowledge all that heritage and backstory, while not allowing it to weigh the story down too much for newer readers who are unfamiliar with it. In my view, Bart’s a guy who is happy-go- lucky by nature, but is trying hard to live up to the legacies of the men who wore the Flash costume before him. Sometimes he’ll do the right thing by those legacies and sometimes he won’t. Whatever he does, he’ll definitely do it with a sense of humor — partially because that’s who this guy is, and partially because that’s my writing style.”
Bart’s sense of humor and happy go-lucky outlook is his usual state of mind, but when Guggenheim’s run begins Bart’s state of mind is a little different. “It’s a bit in flux,” Guggenheim said. “He’s just made this move to a new city. The Teen Titans are asking him to return to the fold. He has this burgeoning relationship with Valerie Perez, who was introduced in Bilson & DeMeo’s run. Lots of change is going on and he’s doing his best with it.”
Guggenheim will begin his run and introduce readers to many of the changes in Bart’s life with two largely self contained stories. “I want to be able to attract as many new readers as possible and I think done-in-ones help a lot with that,” Guggenheim explained. “Plus, I need to sow the seeds for my first big arc, which will involve Inertia, but in a way you’ve never seen him before. As for those first two issues, the first issue has Bart fighting Steppenwolf. For my first issue, I wanted to throw him up against someone who wasn’t a traditional Flash villain while at the same time being very far out of Bart’s weight class. Steppenwolf works perfectly because it allowed me to tie into some of the larger things that will be going on in the DCU. The first issue is all about rites of passage for Bart. For those people who are disappointed I didn’t pit Bart up against one of the Flash rogues in my first issue, the second issue puts Bart up against Zoom.”
Zoom isn’t the only Flash Rogue that Guggenheim has plans for. “You’ll definitely be seeing all of your favorite Rogues over the course of my run,” he stated. “I’ve got about the first year’s worth of stories figured out and the Rogues play a big part in them. No, actually, they play a huge part in them. By the end of the year, I don’t think anyone will look at the Rogues the same way again. That includes the readers and people within the DCU. Bart definitely won’t look at them the same way again, that I can guarantee.”
The Flash won’t just be tangling with the more infamous denizens of the DCU; Guggenheim also plans to have Bart Allen rubbing shoulders with some of the costumed champions of the DCU. “I’ve explored the possibility of a Manhunter [who also operates out of Los Angeles] appearance and all I can say is maybe, A lot of it depends upon some logistics that are out of my control,” Guggenheim said. “As for other DCU guest stars, how about Robin, Green Lantern, Black Canary and Roy Harper? And that’s just in my first issue. It’s on sale in February.”
With members of the Teen Titans and the Justice League showing up in “The Flash,” some readers might be wondering if Guggenheim will be addressing Bart Allen’s possible role in these groups. “Oh, my, yes,” Guggenheim stated. “That issue gets addressed head-on in my very first issue. Did I mention it’s on sale in February?”
Costumed heroes and villains aren’t the only characters that Bart Allen will be interacting with during Guggenheim’s run, some of them will be new faces and some will be familiar ones. “I’m trying to limit the number of new characters, actually,” Guggenheim explained. “Bart has such a terrific supporting cast as it is. That having been said, he’s obviously in a new locale and not everyone he knows is a speedster. That having been said, his relationship with Valerie Perez looms very large in Bart’s life at the moment. Valerie is Bart’s first adult relationship and it’s a challenge for him — almost as big as it’s a challenge for her.”
Guggenheim was able to speak in some detail about a lot of aspects of Bart Allen’s life as the Flash, but Guggenheim had to remain coy about Bart’s relationship with the Speed Force. “It’s pretty casual. They’re just using each other for sex at the moment,” he joked. “But yes, the whole Speed Force exists within Bart at the moment.”
Guggenheim also couldn’t really confirm what exactly the Speed Force residing within Bart means. When asked if this would allow Bart to communicate with past speedsters who reside within the Speed Force, the writer cryptically replied, “It would certainly be interesting if he could, wouldn’t it?”
Bart’s unique relationship with the Speed Force might lead to appearances by fallen speedster heroes and a certain super fast villain who was last seen dashing headlong into the Speed Force. “I love Savitar,” Guggenheim said. “He’s actually one of my favorites of the ‘modern’ Flash villains. I’d love to use him if at all possible.”
With the Flash tackling both the world of costumed heroics and a burgeoning career in law enforcement readers can expect Guggenheim’s stories in “Flash: The Fastest Man Alive” to be a mixture of superhero action and human drama. “With the Flash, I’m trying to tell big super-hero stories that still have, in each issue, some quiet, character moments. So far, I’d have to say that my run is kind of old school. Big villains. Big heroics. The occasional DCU cameo. All interspersed with soap opera elements and subplots (remember those?) that will build up to a huge story. I don’t have a time frame on my Flash run, but I’m really striving to make it as big and iconic as I can possibly muster. I really want to leave my mark on the character, whenever I end up leaving — which I hope won’t be for a good long while.
“I just hope people will give the book a chance,” Guggenheim continued. “I’m really trying to bring my A-game to it. If it’s not your cup of tea, I totally respect that, but I’d love it if people checked it out. When you consider all the writers who have written the Flash, I’m really standing on the shoulders of giants here. And the view looks pretty good. All I can hope for is that readers will agree with me.”
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