The Importance of Kid Flash, aka Wally West, to the Flash's Universe

It's finally happening, folks -- Wally West is making his live-action debut in his classic Kid Flash costume in the third season of "The Flash." This week, the first photo was released of Keiynan Lonsdale's West in the costume, and to the delight of purists, he looks a lot like his comic book counterpart.

For many fans, it's exciting to finally see Wally get his chance to shine on the small-screen -- especially in such a comic book-accurate form -- but for many viewers who are only familiar with the show or recent comics, Wally West may yet be a mystery figure. For those of you who fall into that latter category, CBR is here to clear things up.

Wally West is considered by many DC Comics fans to be one of the best comic book sidekicks ever created. He isn't annoying, he doesn't make you jealous (we're looking at you, Robin), and he elevates the "Flash" stories he's a part of as the wise-cracking aid to the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. Wally represents the fans -- especially younger readers -- as an enthusiastic hero-obsessed kid who just wants to help his idol.

Wally is the nephew of Barry Allen who grew up in a less-than-stellar household (AKA bad parents). On a summer vacation to Central City, Wally stayed with his aunt -- and best friend -- Iris West, who introduced the young Wally to her then-boyfriend Barry Allen. Barry, being the cool uncle that he was, had Wally meet the Flash (unbeknownst to Wally that it was actually Barry in disguise), fulfilling his future nephew's dream of meeting his hero. During the visit, the same chemical explosion that gave Barry his powers went off yet again, giving Wally the power of the Speed Force. Thus, Wally took on the guise of Kid Flash, and eventually learning the identity of the Flash the next summer, decided to work alongside Barry as his sidekick.

After serving as Barry's sidekick for a few decades (in real time, of course), it was time for Wally to take on the Flash guise for himself. During DC Comics' game-changing "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover, Barry sacrificed himself to stop the Anti-Monitor, leaving Wally to take up his mentor's mantle. This was a big deal -- legacy heroes did exist at the time, but Wally was the one of the first sidekicks to takeover such an iconic role. And he held it for a long time -- 20 years, in fact -- establishing himself as the Flash for an entire generation of comic book readers.

The character was blessed with great writers over the course of the 'late'80s/'90s/'00s "Flash" run. William Messner-Loebs, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett and several other revered comic book creators wrote Wally over the years, expanding the character's mythos -- introducing more complicated elements of the character's powers, like the Speed Force -- and defining his beloved personality. To many readers, Wally as a character was the best of all the Flashes. At the very least, he's certainly the funniest.

While Wally was killing it in his own monthly title as he fought new villains, his lore grew, and he started a family with reporter Linda Parker, Wally also made a huge impact on the Justice League at the time. In Morrison's "JLA," we were treated to a buddy dynamic between Wally and fellow legacy hero Kyle Rayner, the young Green Lantern at the time who also replaced a classic Silver Age hero in the role. Over the course of the series, Wally proved his ability to stand alongside the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman as the true successor to Barry Allen, and as an iconic hero in his own right. The character was even the Flash on the "Justice League" animated series, where he was a key part of several major storylines, and got to show off his incredible power and ties to the Speed Force.

When Barry returned in 2008's "Final Crisis," Wally was seriously shafted for a few years. Since Barry was back (and starring in his own title) it felt like there wasn't a place for Wally anymore. Eventually, when "Flashpoint" rewrote DC's continuity and eliminated several characters from the lore, Wally didn't make the cut, disappearing in limbo for a few years.

During the New 52 era at DC Comics, a new, younger Wally West was introduced. His age wasn't the only thing different, as the second Wally was also biracial -- half-White, half-Black -- though his familial ties as Iris' nephew remained, as he was revealed to be the son of Iris's brother, Daniel, aka the evil speedster known as Reverse Flash. (On the television show, Wally and Iris are is even more closely related -- they're siblings.)

However, with DC's line-wide "Rebirth" shaking continuity up earlier this year, the original Wally is now back in action. The new Wally has been revealed to be the original's cousin, one who shares the same name with his older relative. The younger Wally is also poised to soon take on the Kid Flash identity in the comics, just as on the CW series.

Meanwhile, the original Wally has a huge role in the publisher's line-wide storyline, starting with his key role in "DC Universe: Rebirth." These days, the original Wally is operating as his own version the Flash, working alongside his former Teen Titans buddies in the ongoing "Titans" series. There's still a ton yet to be revealed about the original Wally's ties to "Rebirth," but it's looking like he'll be a major part in DC's overarching continuity epic going forward. The New 52 version of Wally is also sticking around, becoming Kid Flash for Rebirth's new "Teen Titans" series.

As for his appearance on CW's "The Flash," not much is known about the context of Kid Flash in Season 3. Since the series is set to explore the "Flashpoint" continuity now that Barry has altered the timeline, it's possible that Kid Flash is a result of the time-tinkering. It's looking like that the particle accelerator explosion at the end of Season 2 gave Wally his powers, but whether or not that's what inspires him to take on the Kid Flash mantle is yet to be clear...

Are you excited for the live-action debut of Wally West's Kid Flash? Sound off in CBR's TV/Film forum with your thoughts on the next season of "The Flash," and head over to the DC Comics forum to discuss all things Wally West in the comics.

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