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Mike Baron on Flash

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>> Mike Baron FLASH Q & A
>> Mike Baron: FLASH Plans
>> Mike Baron Looks Back on FLASH
>> Brian Augustyn on Baron’s Run

Mike Baron Flash Q&A

from Four Color Magazine, March 1987

For the past few years, DC Comics has been in the process of revitalizing their flagship heroes. First Batman, then Superman, then Wonder Woman. Now the Flash has become the latest hero to undergo a facelift. DC has found it possible to breath new life into established characters, even if these characters are fifty years old. One of the ways they have done this is by hiring fresh young talent to guide the lives of their heroes.

When the time came to update the Flash, editor Mike Cold went to Wisconsin native Mike Baron, who has a reputation as one of the hippest writers in comics. Baron is also regarded as one of the best writers at the independent publishers. He’s made quite a name for himself at First Comics and, additionally, is now doing his first regular series for Marvel and DC.

Gold added Jackson Guice as artist and the new Flash creative team was complete. Baron slowed down long enough to tell Four Color where he sees the Flash going and how long he thinks it will take him to get there.

FOUR COLOR: How is the new Flash different from the original series?

BARON: Well, the characterization is going to be a lot more contemporary and the stories are going to be a lot more realistic-given the fact that it’s a bit of a heroic fantasy. I felt an affinity for the character immediately. I identify with him because I know the type of person he is. He’s a little like me, in that he’s always sitting on the edge of his seat. He’s very impatient. He’s always saying, “Come on, what’s the delay? Let’s go. We’ve got a concert to make,” or whatever.

FOUR COLOR: What do you mean when you say the stories will be more realistic?

BARON: One of the things we’ve done, in dealing with his power, is tried to show the cost in energy. He just can’t go running off at the speed of sound all day and not pay for it. He has to eat enormous quantities of food, carbohydrates in particular. He drinks huge amounts. And when he really exerts himself, he’ll end up sleeping for 16 hours at a stretch.

FOUR COLOR: How is Wally West, the new Flash, different from his predecessor Barry Allen?

BARON: I think Wally’s a lot more cynical, especially in light of what happened to Barry. He’s imbued with the sense of the same altruistic mission: He has these powers, he should help people. That’s one thing that he prizes above all – what Barry taught him.

But at the same time, he’s aware that if he opens himself up to all the people who could use his help, or think they could use his help, he’d have no life. So he has to pick and choose carefully and he’s always concerned about his image, especially since he’s twenty years old. He’s much more self-conscious than an older person would be – than Barry, for instance.

FOUR COLOR: Will you be dealing with realistic situations that a twenty-year-old might find himself in?

BARON: Some of them. Quite a few social situations, romantic interludes – they’re going to get very complicated because he’s always rushing in where angels fear to tread.

FOUR COLOR: Will there be a steady girlfriend for Wally West?

BARON: I have introduced a number of women in his life, one of whom, I think, is playing a larger role than the others. She’s Tina McGee, a nutritionist/scientist who meets him when they come together in the Utah desert to do a speed test. She’s going to study his nutritional needs and see if she can help.

FOUR COLOR: Will sex play a role in Wally West’s life?

BARON: A lot of sex! They don’t call him “the Flash” for nothing! No, I shouldn’t say that. That’s one of the things we’ll be coming back to later on this year. There’s this Millenium series that Steve Englehart is writing in which the Flash is called upon to rescue Cregorio, a prisoner in South America who happens to be gay. And the Flash is real uptight with this guy, because he keeps putting his hand on the Flash’s ass and saying, “My, what a lovely costume.” So the Flash is going to be a little upset.

FOUR COLOR: Is this a fill-in issue of The Flash that Englehart is writing?

BARON: He’s writing Millenium as a mini-series and the Flash is going to appear in that. Originally Booster Gold was going to go after Gregorio, but Steve and I talked about it and figured the Flash would be better. It seemed to fit Flash’s character. Wally is aggressively heterosexual, possibly because he fears the latent homosexual feelings that most young men experience. Most of our readers should be able to relate to it. If not, they should seek counseling!

Mike Baron: Flash Plans
from Comics Scene (vol. 2) #1, 1987

Cured of a debilitating disease at the end of Crisis of Infinite Earths, Wally West, the former Kid Flash, donned the costume and name of his mentor and vowed to continue his fight against crime. The first third-generation hero proved little challenge to write for Baron. “Wally’s a lot like me – impatient. He’s always sitting on the edge of his chair saying, ‘Come on, let’s go.’ The big difference is that he’s 20 and won the New York State Lottery, while my life went along a different path,” jokes Baron.

Being 20, Flash tends to have a large amount of youthful enthusiasm, a fact proved by the extravagant lifestyle he now enjoys. He’s also a romantic, a facet of his personality that gets him into trouble in upcoming issues. Tina McGee, a female nutritionist who is studying him, is ensnared by his charm and eventually becomes involved in an extramarital affair with him.

Issue #7 concerns Flash’s attempts to find a cure for “Speed” McGee, Tina’s insanely jealous husband who artificially boosted his own abilities and attacked the Flash. The battle ended when McGee lapsed into a coma, and unfortunately, the only man capable of reversing the effects is a dissident Russian scientist living in internal exile in Siberia. Flash decides to kidnap/rescue the scientist. “At this point, we find out that along with their other super-power projects, the Russians have been developing a team of super-speedsters, named Red Trinity,” reveals Baron. Red Trinity consists of two men and a woman who are all almost as fast as the Flash. Each of the characters, although they have exactly the same powers, have different personalities, and thus different ways of using superspeed. Red Trinity will also appear in issue #8 and may be a recurring villain group.

Coming next will be a crossover with DC’s major team-up book of the year, Millenium. Flash’s father, who was reintroduced in issue #5, will begin to play a major role in Wally’s life. Tina McGee will also be a fairly regular character in the book and many of the Teen Titans will guest-star. “Flash will probably never tackle many of the other Flash’s Rogues Gallery villains. I do like Mirror Master, but unfortunately, he’s dead. Vandal Savage will be returning as well, and could be looked upon as the book’s main antagonist. You can’t keep a good villain down without killing him off, and evensometimes when you do that, they keep popping back up. Vandal Savage will be back.”

The Flash, Baron realizes, is the ‘first newsstand comic book to deal overtly with a hero’s sexuality. “I’m handling it with maturity, discretion and wit,” he says. “There’s nothing really objectionable that’s going to be in here. I think any kid who is able to watch TV is aware that people have physical relations. We’re going to handle it in somewhat the way that primetime television does, only with better taste.

“I’m really having fun with The Flash. He has no ultimate goal concerninghis future as a superhero… yet. He’s only 20. Most of us don’t know what and who we want to be until we’re 29!”

Baron continues to write Nexus (STARLOG #119) and Badger for First Comics, as well as the adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s Chronicles of Corum and the just-announced Badger graphic novel with Bill Reinhold. He is also adapting Robotech Masters, and writing a Ginger Fox limited series for Comico. For DC Comics, he will soon be writing a 12-issue maxi-series entitled Sonic Disrupters. “I have a number of other secret projects in the works,” Baron remarks. “Some of these projects have been written over the years-so I don’t want people to think I write seven days a week. I only write six days a week.”

Mike Baron Looks Back On Flash
from Comics Scene (vol. 2) #3, 1988

With the crush of work, something had to give, and for Baron, it was writing The Flash. After DC killed off the Barry Allen Flash in the Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series, Baron was given the nod to revitalize the series with Wally West – formerly Kid Flash – under the familiar red cowl. During his just-over-a-year’s tenure on the book, Baron’s Flash had his powers reduced, won the lottery, I discovered his own father was a Manhunter, and began a controversial affair with a married woman.

Although Baron says DC gave him complete freedom in developing the character, he still wasn’t satisfied with his own work. “I would have liked to have had the luxury to build that character up the way I had built up Nexus. But, I don’t know what I would have done differently.

“I was unhappy with the writing, it was unsatisfying. I wish I could be consistent, and love everything that I write equally, but I don’t. To me, it varies wildly. I shouldn’t pass judgment on my own work, but I found the writing unsatisfying, and felt that if I continued, I might damage the character, So. I, looked around for something else that I could be happier with.”

Introduction: Terminal Velocity

By Brian Augustyn
from the Flash: Terminal Velocity Trade Paperback

Momentum (mo-men-tem) n. 1. The impetus of a moving object. 2. In mechanics, the quantity of motion of a moving object, equal to the product of its mass and its velocity. 3. A moment.

If we can believe what we’re told, the “Terminal Velocity” story arc in FLASH made the comic an overnight sensation. It’s extraordinarily flattering that this perception should exist, but as with most ‘overnight’ successes, our comic has been on this track for many more nights and days than many realize. After all, the first glimmers of the “Terminal Velocity” story first appear in the title’s 91st issue – Mark Waid’s 30th as writer and my 64th as editor.

As is appropriate for a character whose modus operandi is speed and motion, I like to think of FLASH’s success as being a product of a carefully maintained momentum. We’ve been heading here for a long time, and, thankfully, people are starting to take notice.

When this book was first launched some nine years ago, the then creative team opted for a fairly radical approach: they decided to make Wally West, the hero, a thoroughly unlikable ego case with a rampant libido and the temerity to charge for his super-fast services.As a fan, I was not terribly pleased. When I arrived at DC and the dream-come-true job of editing the FLASH comic, I was determined to change that, but fast.

The problem was that, while I wasn’t nuts for the way Wally was being presented, it was a valid and fairly consistent treatment. I couldn’t just arbitrarily change things and make Wally a nice guy without blowing the book’s credibility right out the window. I realize that this sort of sudden, drastic change happens with distressing regularity in other comics, but the “deconstruct, dodge and deny” method has never worked for me.

In pursuit of an organic evolution of character, I realized that we had to find the key to why a previously nice guy like our young speedster had turned into such a chauvinistic s.o.b. in the first place. Explain why he was where he was and then go forward, growing him up into the hero we knew he should be – without disturbing the momentum.

It didn’t take a great deal of effort to realize what was the most obvious reason for Wally’s crudification. It was something that grew from everything we already knew about the character, in fact.

Wally West had recently suffered the tragic loss of Barry Allen, his best friend, mentor and father figure, and without a chance to mourn, thrust himself into a job he wasn’t near ready for. Feeling inadequate from the get-go and having those fears reinforced by unfavorable comparisons to his predecessor at every step would surely have a devastating effect on a young man.

If Wally was going to keep hearing that he was “no Barry Allen,” then damnit, he would stop striving upward and just be the jerk that everyone, including himself, already believed him to be. Once we knew that important character detail, running with it was a breeze.

It was new writer Bill Loebs’s innate inability to write a shallow character that first pushed Wally West onto the road to maturity and kept him going and growing. We’ve joked that Bill could write Satan and make him complex Humor aside, though, it’s absolutely true of Bill Loebs’s work that every character he writes, good guy or bad, is a fully realized, complex human being. Even demons from the pits of hell.

After forty-six successful issues, Bill decided he had taken Wally as far as he could and moved on to other challenges. Without a moment’s hesitation, I handed the baton to a relatively unknown writer named Mark Waid, who took over the race like a born sprinter. Mark and I had been friends since he was an editor at DC. and I knew we were already on the same track.


End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author

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