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Mark Waid At The Starting Line

Mark Waid At The Starting Line
After twin shockers rock the world of the Flash, the writer speaks on his return to the Scarlet Speedster
By Kiel Phegley – Posted June 20, 2007 at www.wizarduniverse.com


Comic fans got a double dose of speedster shockers today as…

SPOILER ALERT!

…the 13th and final issue of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive ended with the brutal murder of lead character Bart Allen, while across the DCU, previous Flash Wally West was pulled back from the brink of the Speed Force by the Legion of Super-Heroes in Justice League of America #10 (along with his wife and what looks like an aged pair of twins).

If those heart-wrenching reveals weren’t enough to keep readers reeling, DC Executive Editorial VP Dan DiDio dropped word this weekend that celebrated Flash writer Mark Waid would “relaunch” the series with a special called All Flash #1 followed by Flash #231, which picks up the numbering from the previously canceled Wally West series. With Bart’s death and Wally’s return…well, you can guess who’ll be starring in Waid’s revival. Wizard Universe caught the writer for a revealing look at why he’s returned after so long, what he thinks of Bart’s death and what fans can expect from #231 and on.

WIZARD: So why come back?

WAID: There were two things. One of them was Wally, and if the plan was to bring him back then I wanted to be the one to sort of midwife that, midwife Wally and his family’s reentry into the DC Universe, because I’m just very protective of the character. So, at that point it’s either Geoff [Johns] or me, and Geoff was busy. So I’m fine with that. That was the first thing.

The other thing is that when the pitch was first made to me by DiDio, I really bristled at it because I thought, or I know, that DC seems to be all about dark and gritty these days, and if the first thing that they wanted me to do was drop a safe on Linda and the kids I was like, “I can’t do it because that just creeps me out.” It’s not just because I like Linda, and I didn’t have anything to do with the children being born—that was Geoff—but I still kind of like the idea that Flash is a legacy book. It has a long heritage to the characters, and so that whole notion of dropping a piano on stuff to move on with the Flash seems like an ill fit to me. So I said, “I’m not keen on that.” Dan and I went back and forth on that and Dan was the one who said, “It’s not like writing a family of superheroes is something new to you.” That lit me up, and I thought, “Hey, you’re right. There’s something here. There’s a way to do this if you just do with the twins what was done with Bart originally in his first story.” You establish that the super-speed powers have wonky effects, and they just spurted forth in age over a very short period of time, a pretty big, accelerated thing. So, yes, the last time that we saw them they were 6 months old, but now they’re much older. That way they’re able to take part in adventures and they’re able to be costumed characters and learn under their dad, and that’s the fun part of it.

All that fun stuff being said, being the co-creator of Bart Allen and seeing all of the things that have happened to him since you left the book—through Teen Titans, through to becoming the Flash and now dying—does it get to a certain point where you kind of accept that these characters have a life of their own? When you first heard that Bart was going to die in this story, what was your reaction?

WAID: Honestly, I have to say that there was almost a sense of relief to it because I think that some real missteps….Look, a lot of good people handled Bart after Humberto [Ramos] and I left. There were a lot of good writers who handled it. I think that on an editorial level, there was some panic on the Impulse series about the back half of it where they didn’t quite know what to do with it, and so they decided that it was a superhero book. It was never a superhero book. It was a comedy. So the moment that you made it a superhero book, then you run into the problem that we ran into originally when we created the character, which was, “How can this be different than Flash?” So once you make it a superhero book, then it’s Flash. Nice going. Ever since then, I think that the character has been through so many different hands, both good and bad, that now it’s really hard to get a fix on the character, and he just doesn’t seem like the same guy to me anymore. So, I will miss Bart. I will miss the royalties stream—thanks, Dan. But these stories aren’t necessarily over yet either.

Of course. Moving forward, there has to be consequences for Bart’s death at the hands of the Rogues, doesn’t there?

WAID: Yeah, and that’s the tricky part. I mean, what just happened to Bart is a horrible tragedy, but Flash is not, and never has been and never should be, a book about dark tragedy. That’s really not what the book and the concept and the character are about. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do dark stories here and there, but that’s just not a very fitting tone for the book overall. So basically I said, “I don’t want the new series to have the specter of Bart’s death hanging over it month after month after month.” That’s a really crappy place to start a brand-new series, with Wally having to fight the guilt of what happened to his predecessor.

So the idea with All Flash is to give some sort of closure not only to Inertia and the other Rogues for what happened to Bart—that means that Wally can actually make them pay for what they’ve done and therefore get a little vengeance out of that and closure out of that—but it also gives Wally a chance in an extended scene to really sort of come to grips with his feelings about what just happened and whether or not he’s partly culpable for Bart’s death. Talking to Ira helps him a lot there. Talking to Linda helps him a lot there, and just working stuff out helps him a lot there. He will still always remember Bart, and he will still always feel—how do I say this?—he will always honor Bart. But like I said, I didn’t want him starting the new series with, like, “My name is Flash, and I feel so guilty all the time,” because that’s just not a very engaging way to start a new series.

So after we see what happens in All Flash, are we going to see the kind of status quo with the family, Linda and the kids, and learn about them there, or are you going to save most of the newer stuff for the first issue of the regular book?

WAID: I’m saving most of the new stuff for the first issue of the regular book. You certainly see Linda and the kids in All Flash briefly and you get some sense in All Flash of where they’ve been all this time, that they’ve been off stage, but I thought that it was important not to turn over all the cards with All Flash. Really, All Flash is specifically about Bart and Wally and their relationship and the passing of the torch, and how tragic it is to have to pass the baton and then to have to take the baton back. So, the family stuff and the new status quo is for #231.

Once Wally is fully reintegrated into the DCU, does the book pick up by saying, “Here’s a family of folks who can run fast”?

WAID: Oh, no. Not even remotely, and that was the last thing that we were interested in. The kids who are now—the girl is 10 and the boy is 8, at least physically. They’re fraternal twins, but at this point the Speed Force, the way that it’s interacted with their young bodies, has just kind of catapulted them up in age, as with Bart, in a very short period of time. So they’re now 8 and 10. They have speed powers, but they’re not running powers. They manifest themselves in different ways.

So, how do you think fans are going to respond to all of this? It seems like it took Wally so long to become the one true Flash and then we lost him. Are you expecting joyous jumping in the streets with his return, or are you expecting people scratching their heads, or are you just going to stay off the Internet for a while?

WAID: Dude, believe me, I’m staying off the Internet. I’m actually having the DSL modem taken out of my house. I don’t know. It’s a complete crapshoot. We live in a world where people are celebratory about the fact that Tony Stark is a villain. I just can’t worry about that. All I can do is be true and faithful to how I perceive the characters. All I can really do is try to make something interesting out of Wally’s new status quo and try to give you stuff that you’ve never seen before in a Flash book. The shortfall to my coming back is if it had been, “Okay, I’m coming back and everything is going to be exactly the same as it was when I left except that they have two newlywed kids” or whatever…then why am I bothering to come back? What can I possibly say about these characters that I haven’t said over the last hundred issues that I did? So the new status quo is a whole new approach.

I’m sure that a lot of people aren’t going to think about the continuation of the Golden Age Flash numbering through to the Silver Age numbering. In a way starting at #231 kind of echoes that, but who was it that originally suggested to pick up Wally’s numbering and let the book have a new life in it’s original shell? What was your initial response to that?

WAID: It was Dan’s call. I think that of the three options available to us that’s the one that I’m most comfortable with. Starting with a brand new number one after last year’s brand new number one just seems pretty redundant and opportunistic. Doing issue #14 doesn’t make any sense because it’s not Bart’s book anymore. I mean, I tip my hat to [Joe] Quesada and the guys at Marvel for demonstrating that going back to the original sort of numbering doesn’t seem to cripple anything. They’ve done it a few times over at Marvel and it’s not like Spider-Man sales are in the toilet. So we’re all okay.

One last thing about Bart’s death: with the multiverse stuff in play are we seriously never going to see Bart again?

WAID: [Laughs] I plead the 5th on that. That’s all I can say.


FLASH BACK
With Wally West back riding the lightning, we’ve got five big questions about the future of the Flash
By Ben Morse – Posted June 21, 2007 10:45 AM

In the wake of Wally West’s triumphant return in Justice League of America #10 and the death of his cousin and protégé Bart Allen in The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #13, we’ve got five major queries that need answering before the next leg of this race begins when former Flash scribe Mark Waid (52) joins with Daniel Acuña (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters) in August to take over the creative reins on the series.

1. WHERE HAS WALLY BEEN?
Back in Infinite Crisis #4, Wally disappeared as he and Bart attempted to run Superboy Prime straight into the Speed Force. Bart later reported that Wally survived, and in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, we glimpsed the alternate Earth he purportedly vanished to.

2. WHAT’S UP WITH THE ROGUES?
With Captain Cold and company’s brutal murder of Bart, what will Wally do once he catches up with his cousin’s killers? And what role will Trickster and Pied Piper play outside of Countdown?

3. WHAT’S UP WITH THE SPEED FORCE?
For the past year, the speedster-empowering Speed Force has resided in Bart Allen’s body. With Bart dead and the Force released, will it still function the same way?

4. WHAT TEAM WILL WALLY JOIN?
The Justice League seems the obvious choice, but the Justice Society also expressed interest during “The Lightning Saga.” You can also never rule out Wally mentoring the Teen Titans or getting up to no good with best friend Nightwing in the Outsiders.

5. IS BART REALLY DEAD?
How do we know it was our Bart Allen that returned during Infinite Crisis and subsequently took his last lap? And while we’re on the subject of “dead” Flashes…where’s Barry Allen these days?

 


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