Waid Brings the Ultimate Fanboy Back to "The Flash"

After a landmark run on "The Flash" that lasted the better part of the 1990s, writer Mark Waid returns to the speedforce this week to bring Wally West back to where he belongs, front and center in the DC Universe.

With a resurrected "The Flash" title speeding into stores Wednesday with issue #231, Waid told CBR News that Wally West's life is any fanboy's ultimate dream come true. "I love the fact that he is first sidekick in comics' history to actually fulfill the promise," said Waid. "He is the first guy to actually grow into the role that he was trained to grow into ever since he was a kid."

Wally is the nephew of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, and as a ten-year old, visited his uncle in his police forensics laboratory. In a freak accident eerily reminiscent of his uncle's, Wally was doused in electrically charged chemicals that empowered him with the powers of super-speed.

After years of training as Kid Flash, Wally adopted the mantle of the Flash after Barry was killed saving the universe during "Crisis on Infinite Earths."

According to Waid, Wally's career path echoes his own. "Wally, ever since he was a kid, was a gigantic Flash fan and through a lot of luck, he stepped into the job and his first love and his hobby, turned into his profession," explained Waid. "And that's what I can relate to the most; that Wally's career path and my career path were not dissimilar in the sense that ever since I was six years old, I wanted to do was write for DC Comics. And get involved with those characters and now my hobby, and my first love and my profession have become the same thing."

Waid also draws from the idea that Wally, for all intents and purposes, is an Everyman. Wally is not an alien. He is not a haunted anti-hero.

"Wally is the ultimate fanboy-made-good," quipped Waid. "We don't know what it was like to be born on Krypton and we don't know what it is like to have our parents slain in a back alley, but pretty much everybody who reads superhero comics knows what it is like to idolize the stuff on the outside as a fan and the excitement of what it would be like to be able to play in that world."

And that sentiment provides readers with the best of both worlds, Waid believes. "'The Flash' gives you something that nothing else at DC is giving you, which is a high adventure, mature book that is both, in turns, very funny and very dark and dramatic at the same time," said Waid. "Tonally, I love the fact that we can turn on a dime. That it can be generally warm and funny and then you can turn the page and suddenly, you can find something that is much more dark and dramatic, then you might have first realized."

One dark and dramatic place Wally won't be dashing off to, right away anyways, is dealing with the death of his second cousin, Bart Allen. The hero formerly known as Impulse and later the Flash was himself killed off by Inertia and the Rogues in "The Flash: Fastest Man Alive" #13 by writer Marc Guugenheim as part of "The Lightning Saga" by Brad Meltzer ("Justice League of America") and Geoff Johns ("Justice Society of America"). In the same story arc, members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, who had traveled back from the future to resurrect an unnamed ally, retrieved Wally and his family inadvertently from an alternate reality.

"By the time we catch up to Wally and the kids and Linda, in [issue #231], he has pretty much made his peace with it," explained Waid, whose book will not only focus on Wally but on his wife Linda and their equally gifted twin children Iris and Jai. "I am pretty sure those [death-of-Bart] threads we will pick back up again and I am sure we probably haven't seen the last of Inertia. But I don't want to lead with that. I don't want to lead with, 'previously in Flash...' in our first issue."

Apologies to Batman fans, Hal Jordan fans and all the other Barry Allen fans out there. Waid's not expecting a second Flash to return from the dead anytime soon, either. "As far as I am concerned, bringing him back, all that is ever going to do is undercut the legend of Barry Allen - DC's first official fate," said Waid.

While Waid is returning to his first love as the new writer on "The Flash," he's not quite sure how Wally fits in with the team he helped push back to prominence in the late 1990s - the Justice League of America. "I honestly have no idea [if Wally will join JLA]," admitted Waid. "I haven't had any idea what's going on, continuity-wise, in 'Justice League of America' for a year. No other writer at DC does. 'Justice League' is its own little corner of the world and who knows what is going to happen.

"I believe so [that Wally will be featured in 'Countdown'] but same thing there, they play it pretty close to their vests on 'Countdown,' too," laughed Waid.

Although Waid suggests he may be a tad bit out of the loop in terms of a few DC top-sellers, Waid said his return to this particular flagship has been percolating for years. "I haven't known that long [that I'd be returning to 'Flash']. But it's something that we've talked about intermittently for a long time with DC," Waid explained. "Like, for years, in the sense of trying to line me up to re-launch what was 'The Fastest Man Alive' book but the timing and the schedule just wasn't working out and '52' was absorbing every last moment of time.

"Once the decision was made, editorially by Dan, to pull the trigger on Bart, with the idea that Wally would return, then the offer was made to me again and at that point I decided, well, I love Wally and with the new status quo of his family, I probably have some new things to say about the character so I tried to fill those boots again," recounted Waid.

Last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, it was announced that Waid himself had a new status quo as the new Editor-In-Chief of Boom! Studios. "It's looking so far to be the perfect marriage of my Rolodex and [Boom! Founder] Ross Richie's ambition," joked Waid. "This is very much the direction I have been wanting to head in for a very long time. It's not that I don't enjoy writing, I will always keep my hands in it, but you reach a point after 22 years where you are more interested in teaching than you are in getting down and trying to lead by example every day.

Despite the fact that John Rogers ("Blue Beetle") is listed as a co-writer on the solicitation for The Flash" #233, Waid has no intentions of leaving the title or his other DC book, "Brave and the Bold."

"John's writing a back-story," Waid confirmed. "Basically, we kind of started in a bit of a hole to begin with and [artist] Daniel Acuna is doing such amazing work, we are trying to build a little more time for him, so he can get a little further ahead. So, the idea was why don't we do some back stories that tie-in to the main story and sort of explain a little more about where Flash and his family have been but frankly, I needed a little help with the heavy lifting, as well, and John is a much better writer than I am so he makes look good," said Waid.

Beyond fleshing out the details of where Wally and his family have been since they disappeared in "Infinite Crisis," the back-story features will also provide subtext for the ongoing series. "I have said that we are not going to bring Barry back but if you read the back up stories, which are being drawn by Doug Braithwaite and written by John and myself, they are four stand-alone stories which each deal with a different Flash or history, like Jay and Barry and Impulse, and in four little stand-alone stories," Waid said. "They are also tied together into something that turns out to be a pretty major revolution for the ongoing series."

While the Flash has a rich tradition in DCU proper, fans that know Wally West from the animated series "Justice League" or "Justice League Unlimited" and even newcomers to the character will have an easy time jumping on board the series despite the fact the first issue of the re-launch is #231.

"The whole idea is you have to be able to hand that first issue of our re-launch over to someone who has never read the book before, who has never read DC Comics before, who has never read a superhero comic before and they get it and they understand it and don't feel that they have to read 45 other books to get up to speed," said Waid.

"That's why we did 'All-Flash' #1" Waid continued. "It was a one-shot to help clear the deck and tie-up those loose ends so we start with a new series. We don't have to do things like immediately address the fact that Bart is dead or all the other old continuity. It's engineered to read like a first issue. It's geared to play like the first episode of a TV series. All of the pieces are there."

But don't forget to hold on tight. The Flash is, after all, the Fastest Man Alive.

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