Viewers of The CW's The Flash have watched Barry Allen's origin story play out on the small screen, from the lightning bolt that granted him his extraordinary powers, to the murder of his beloved mother. Barry's comics origin played out in a similar fashion, with a few tweaks made along the way over the years.
As familiar as that origin is, readers never got to see what happened after Barry gained the powers of the Speed Force. How did his training go? What threats and adventures did Barry encounter that helped shape him into the hero he is today?
The answers to those questions and more are about to be revealed in "The Flash Year One" by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Howard Porter. The Flash creative team collaborated previously on the "Flash War" story arc that reintroduced Hunter Zolomon, aka Zoom, and Impulse into DC Rebirth continuity, and are back together again to take a trip down the Speed Force memory lane.
CBR spoke to Williamson and Porter about "The Flash Year One" to find out the story behind the retelling of Barry Allen's origin, their collaboration process, making "The Flash Year One" different from The Flash TV series, Easter eggs, Godspeed and how the story arc plays into Year of the Villain.
CBR: Joshua, can you take us back to when you first got the idea to explore Barry Allen's origin? I hadn't really given it much thought before now, but aside from the lightning strike, chemical reaction and his mother's murder, fans have never really seen what came next for Barry. Like how did he learn to control this tremendous power? What went into his training, etc?
Joshua Williamson: When I first got the job on The Flash my mind was mostly focused on the first arc, “Lighting Strikes Twice” with Godspeed. But I had a LOT of ideas for this mega-story that I wanted to tell with the Flash and the Flash Family. To do that meant I had to get a lot of toys down on the table for us to play with. And I think if people have been reading since the start, they’ll see we’ve been placing down puzzle pieces for a while that will eventually all come together.
One of those pieces was "Flash Year One." I looked at all the great comic book runs of DC Comics and they always have a moment where they retell the origin with a twist -- something that adds to it and amps up things we missed before. That’s what we wanted to do here. I knew that we hadn’t really done that for Barry. Wally had a Year One type story with "Born To Run," but Barry’s origin hadn’t really been updated.
After Flash #1 came out and we're running, I pitched this Year One story, how it would be different from what people expect and then how it would help us drive the story forward in the present. Thankfully, DC agreed and loved it. So, then it was about looking at the parts of Barry’s origin that we loved, the stuff we couldn’t live without and finding new ways to build out.
Of course, Barry's love of comics is kept in this redefined origin, with various back issues stashed in the family's attic. Are those covers Easter eggs of actual Flash comics that eagle-eyed fans would be able to pick out? And if so, do they hint at some of the stories you plan on referencing in "Year One?"
Williamson: One of my favorite aspects of the Flash mythology was that Barry Allen used to read Golden Age Flash comics. It’s how he decided on the name for himself. It’s part of what inspired him to be a hero. We haven’t been able to acknowledge that in a LONG time, and it was important to me to honor Jay and his place in the original mythology. If anything it might hint at things we want to do after Year One is over.
Howard, at this point you've obviously collaborated with Joshua on a number of occasions. When you both started discussing what would happen in "Year One," were there any things in particular you were looking forward to illustrating that differs from what you've worked on before? Or anything you can remember specifically wanting to show during Barry's early days?
Howard Porter: When Josh first told me his idea for the story, he described in great detail the scene at the end of the first issue and it legitimately gave me goosebumps. I was definitely looking forward to drawing the character that appears on the last page. We also spoke a bunch about the storytelling approach, which would be a change from what we had been doing and something I was anxious to try. I was definitely looking forward to having another crack at the villain who is integral to this story and the chance to design Barry’s various early costumes. Honestly, I could make a list as long as your arm of all the elements in this arc that had me amped to sit at my table and draw more Flash
Fans got to see a version of Barry's origin on The CW TV series, but comics provide a different storytelling opportunity. Joshua and Howard, you're both credited as storytellers on The Flash #70. Can you take fans behind-the-scenes on how you worked together as a team on the plot? Did you run into any roadblocks while trying to differentiate Barry's origin in "Year One" from the one shown on TV?
Williamson: As a big fan of the show I knew we had to come at this from a different angle. We didn’t want to copy the TV show at all. We wanted something that was OURS and that meant going bigger with the scope of the story while still keeping it tight on Barry’s perspective. We also don’t go right to Reverse-Flash. We started with the Turtle and made this more of a story about Barry solo. Barry was never the big Flash Family person -- that was Wally. While on the show Barry is part of a big team right away, we kept Barry alone. He runs alone and for the most part has to figure this stuff out on his own. We knew our take was going to be very different from the show, and we never felt tied down by it.
Howard and I worked very close on this story. I pitched it to him years back and every step of the way we’ve talked the story out together. And not just the story but how to tell the story. Lots of phone calls. I don’t write an issue until I’ve had a chance to tell Howard what I’m thinking and get his input on the issue. With Year One, Howard read my outline and we were able to talk out the big plot beats far in advance. Working with Howard has been terrific. He pushes me to be a better writer with each issue. I couldn’t have done this story without him.
Joshua, someone you introduced when you began your run on The Flash is August Heart, Barry's coworker at the CCPD and the speedster Godspeed. Now we see him in Barry's life right before he gains his powers, and afterward. Was this your way of adding an extra layer to August and Barry's relationship? It does add a new dynamic to their rivalry.
Williamson: Yes, during the start of Flash Rebirth and "Lightning Strikes" we said that August was Barry’s friend before the lighting, including being the one who found Barry after the lighting, but we barely saw the friendship in our issue #1. I wanted to keep this in line with my own continuity. BUT we also have big plans for Godspeed for next year and I wanted to continue to show examples of that friendship. Godspeed is an important element in the large mega story we’ve been telling with Barry and the Flash mythology since #1.
Joshua and Howard, you lay a few more Easter eggs to Flash's rogues gallery when you introduce Iris West, with newspaper clippings for Gorilla Grodd, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Golden Glider and Trickster. Will "Year One" also serve as an origin for each of Flash's individual Rogues as well?
Williamson: There are a LOT of Easter Eggs for the Flash fans in this story, but I didn’t overload them. We only really get to see Flash meet one of the Rogues in person during this story, but I won’t say which. It should be a surprise. This story more focuses on Barry’s journey to be the Flash in the first year on a small scale. If I were to do a Year Two…that would be all about the Rogues.
Porter: At this point I haven't completed drawing the arc and I can tell you that you will see an origin for at least one big Flash foe and another fan-favorite Rogue also makes a cameo during perhaps his first heist.
Right when Barry starts to get the hang of his new speed powers, he breaks the speed barrier and arrives at some point in the future. We then see a group of soldiers dedicated to "King Turtle" and what looks like a future version of Barry Allen. Also, the next issue has the title, "The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier!" Was this a way of doing an homage to the short stories from The Flash's first appearance in Showcase #4, but with a new twist? And what can you tease about Barry meeting his future self? I would think Future Barry could help "speed up" Barry during his training.
Williamson: The Flash’s really need to learn to just leave time travel alone. It never goes well for them. And yeah, Showcase #4 has two stories in it. The “Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt,” which is the man one that everyone remembers, but then in the same issue it’s followed by “The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier!” which is a story about Flash returning a criminal to the future. It was the first time he traveled in time, and it’s often forgotten. I for sure wanted to do a twist on his first year and show that a lot happened between his first appearance in Showcase #4, and when he took over the Flash title at issue #105. The Future version of Barry is super optimistic. Even around the horrors of the future he still smiles and fights the good fight. Barry learns a lot from that. Well…almost.
To wrap up, DC has begun its marketing for Year of the Villain. Joshua, you're also working closely with Scott Snyder to bring a synergy across the DC lineup. Will "Year One" run through Year of the Villain, or will the origin end and then The Flash joins in the event?
Williamson: "Flash Year One" ends just as Year of the Villain starts to get rolling. But the end of issue #75, the last issue of Year One ties directly into Year of the Villain in a BIG way. What we build here with "Flash Year One" will impact the Flash series during Year One, and the Flash mythology as a whole over the next year or so.
Barry went into "Flash Year One" in a very pessimistic place, and then comes out of it changed. He’s a better person for it, but then he’s up against some of the biggest challenges of his life. BUT with all of this said, it was important to Howard and I that if someone was a big Flash fan they could come into this story and see how much love we have of the character. But also if someone came in fresh and this was their first Flash story they were able to start fresh and get a full story.
The Flash #70, Part 1 of "The Flash Year One," is on sale now.