Following a stellar run by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Robert Venditti and Van Jensen hit the ground running on DC Comics' "The Flash." And they did it with not one, not two, but three Flashes. Actually, they have used four Flashes but who's counting?
That's right. The writing team retained Barry Allen as the series lead and also introduced Wally West -- the newly 12-year old, African American take on the character -- as a generational protege for The Flash. But not to be outdone, Venditti and Jensen's run on "The Flash" also features a Barry Allen and ever so briefly a Wally West from the future, which ties in nicely to DC's ongoing "The New 52: Futures End" and the subsequent "The Flash: Futures End" #1, which was released last month.
In the September special, which featured Future Wally West prominently on the cover, Future Barry Allen, present day Barry Allen and Future Wally West face off in an epic battle of three Flashes as Future Barry Allen returns to the present (Ã la Marty McFly in "Back to the Future") to fix a tear in the Speed Force, which is basically leaking space-time. The story, illustrated by regular series artist Brett Booth, spilled into last month's "The Flash" #35, and the end result of the Flash fight club leaves one Flash presumably dead, one trapped in the past and another trapped in the present.
CBR News connected with Venditti and Jensen to discuss the Flash frenzy, and the writing team also shared their thoughts on what happens when even superheroes look back (and forward) on their lives, as well as "The Flash" TV series and the possibility of characters from the hit CW show like Harrison Wells finding their way into the comic book series.
CBR News: Fans waited for Wally West to appear in the New 52 for three years and then, after introducing him in "The Flash" Annual #3, you go and kill him after just six issues. Why are you so mean? And will we see him again?
Robert Venditti: [Laughs] We'll definitely see him again. And that's all I'm going to say.
Van Jensen: And I'll say that the Wally West that appeared in "The Flash" #35, the one that you say died, is a Wally West from a future timeline. In the present, 12-year old Wally West is still alive and well and is, as of yet, without Speed Force powers. His role in the book is going to continue to be a big part of what we're doing. Wally and his dealings with Iris and Barry are a key, key part to the story.
You've been writing the series for months now and you've just finished the long summer/fall convention circuit. What's the overall fan/reader reaction been to the New 52 version of Wally West as he has undergone one of the, if not the most dramatic character transformation since the relaunch?
Venditti: The overall reaction to the new Wally West has been very positive. Readers like the new Wally West and specifically, how he fits into this story and how we're developing him as a character. It shows him from the beginning as opposed to having him first appear as an adult version of The Flash. We're exploring his relationship with Barry from the beginning. And we're sticking with a lot of aspects of Wally's character that made him who he was historically. We're just putting a new spin on the approach.
Of course, there are some readers that don't like the change, and that's to be expected. He certainly has a very large fan base and a very passionate fan base. Even me, I don't always like change, but overall it's a story that I'm proud of. We've been able to do some things on the surface and below the surface that takes Wally West in some pretty interesting directions.
The flipside of a 12-year old Wally West is what we believe to be a Barry Allen from the future that doesn't share the cool, calm demeanor of present day Barry Allen. Obviously, you can't give too much away but in developing Future Flash, but was it a realistic leap that the Scarlet Speedster would have a very different attitude towards life, death and ultimate sacrifice after a prolonged crime-fighting career?
Jensen: Circumstances play a huge role in shaping people's lives. Even someone that has the best heart, if the circumstances of their life fall the right -- or I guess wrong -- way can take them down a really dark path. With Barry, you have someone where the real starting point of his journey is the death of his mom -- this unresolved murder. He's dedicated his life and his career to pursuing justice, and he's doing that through an official capacity, but what we've explored with this future version of Barry is that he has decades under his belt of seeing the justice system fail. What happens when he decides that course of trying to make things right doesn't work? Now, he's taking matters into his own hands.
I love this idea that Future Flash is picking apart Barry's game and telling him that he knows that he's never learned to fight and his speed has become a crutch. How will Barry's interactions with his future self shape him moving forward?
Venditti: Future Flash knows that he has to go back and encounter himself before this final battle to seal the rupture and fix the Speed Force so space-time doesn't bleed out. He knows better than anyone what Barry's weaknesses were 20 years prior because he was that guy. He would know exactly what to do and how to beat him. When present-day Barry confronts him Future Flash, this is not something theoretical that can be argued and debated. It's self-telling so he has to take it seriously. Barry has quite a journey that he must undergo from the end of "The Flash" #35 to where that story ends -- not only in terms of where Barry is but that fact that he is without his powers. He has quite a journey to get back to Central City and Patty and the life that he is supposed to have, and how different he is when he gets to that point is as much a part of the journey as how far he has to travel.
Jensen: One thing I really like about that story beat and I think it's true of anyone is that when you look back on your life -- and I reflect on who I was as a writer even a couple of years ago -- and I say, "Oh, man. I was so dumb" -- you realize that you live and you learn and you continue to grow. But if any of us had the opportunity to go back and visit ourselves, probably a lot of that meeting would be about making corrections: "Dude, why haven't you learned this yet? And why do you keep screwing up?" That's part of life. You continue to grow and change and in Future Barry's case, that is not always in a positive way.
And by taking his speed away from him, Barry will get to see how he can manage as a superhero without his superpower.
Venditti: Exactly. We're already pretty far into the next arc in terms of scripting, even though those issues haven't started coming out yet, and I can say, it's a pretty crazy journey that he's going through and who he meets and what he encounters in this place that he's been sent to in the wake of "The Flash" #35 truly is anything goes. He's really thrown into the frying pan and has to find his way out of it, and it's going to take a lot of physical and mental toughness to do so.
As a long-time DC Comics' reader, as soon as I see dinosaurs I think of Dinosaur Island and "The War That Time Forgot." Is Barry trapped on Dinosaur Island or maybe Skartaris?
Jensen: I'm pretty sure that Dinosaur Island doesn't have killer robots so take that for whatever you will.
The "Mashup Killer" arc allowed you to feature the Rogues without really telling a Rogues' story. Do you have plans for the Rogues in the future?
Jensen: Very soon we'll see some new colorful villains. I don't want to call them rogues because the Rogues are very much an official group, but we are going to see some really new, really interesting villains in "The Flash." And we're also going to be seeing some of the Rogues. They're coming in short order.
Venditti: Barry is such a character about his city, and the Rogues are such a part of that, as well. They're such great characters. The Flash really has one of best rogues' galleries in all of comics. A part from the fact that we know that readers want to see the Rogues, we really want to write them too. They're such fun characters with such interesting high concepts. There is nobody else like Mirror Master in all of comics. That's one of the big draws to writing "The Flash."
And what about Overload and Plague, who were both name-checked by Future Flash. Will those villains be featured in upcoming stories?
Venditti: Yes, for sure. We specifically mentioned Overload and Plague because you'll be seeing them both very, very soon.
Before I let you go, wanted to ask you about "The Flash" TV series, which has been receiving high praise and ratings from geeks and the general audience alike. Have you been following the show and do you think your run on the comic book series has enjoyed a bump in sales/interest as a result of its early success?
Jensen: Everyone is always asking me about the comic, especially now because of the show and the movie news. I think it's great for bringing more attention to the character and to the comics. That said, I've only seen two episodes because I have a newborn, and it's a little tough to catch it these days.
Venditti: I have been watching it, and I enjoy it a lot. I like how they are introducing a new villain every episode. And there is definitely a bigger mystery building in the background and we're not entirely clear what's going on yet. The added visibility that comes with the TV show just makes it more of a household name, which is nice. The Flash is a worldwide brand. And it's neat to be able to work on something where you go out to the grocery store and someone is wearing a t-shirt with the Flash logo on it. "Hey, I write that book." [Laughs] It's really on everyone's radar.
There was actually a recent episode of "Big Bang Theory" and "The Flash Annual" #3, which featured Wally West's first New 52 appearance, could be seen on the rack at the comic book shop while the characters were talking.
Jensen: That's pretty cool.
That is cool. Last year, John Diggle, an original character from the "Arrow" TV series, was introduced by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino to comic book continuity in the pages of "Green Arrow." Any plans to integrate any of the characters from "The Flash" TV show like Harrison Wells into the comic book series?
Venditti: Not at the present but that's not to say those types of things won't happen. Jeff Lemire is a good friend of mine, and I read his run on "Green Arrow," and I still read the book now and I think it's neat when you can make those kinds of tie-ins but it's not in the works at the moment.
"The Flash" #36, by Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and illustrated by Brett Booth, goes on sale Nov. 26.