I have no idea at what point in my life I was introduced to The Flash. I don’t how old I was, if it was from a comic, a show, a conversation or even which Flash I knew about first. Best guess, it was a passing glance of the ‘90s TV show on CBS starring John Wesley Shipp. And whatever it was, however I found out about him, the character consumed me. Suddenly I ate, slept, breathed and farted The Flash and super speed. I would argue to death that there’s no way a lame-o hero like Superman could beat The Flash in a race…The Flash’s whole power set is speed! I don’t think I picked up a comic until I was in my late teens but when I did, I started with The Flash. And the only Flash I had ever known was Wally West.
Okay that’s not entirely true, I was aware of Barry Allen and Jay Garrick. But I had really only heard about them in the comics. It was only through Wally, second guessing himself because of the pedestal that he put Barry on, that I was aware the wasn’t the first one to hold the title of ‘Scarlet Speedster.’ What an amazing concept that was to me. The passing of the mantle. It took me a little while to wrap my head around it. “But wait…Superman was always Clark Kent…Batman was always Bruce Wayne…even Green Lantern was always Hal Jordan kind of.” How incredible it was to see a protégé take up the responsibility of his fallen mentor. Then, I had a whole other job of going back through the history to learn everything I could about Barry Allen…then Jay Garrick…then Johnny Quick and Max Mercury! But though I had gained a newfound love for these characters Wally was the only one I truly connected with.
And it makes sense that he would. Wally did what so many other characters in comics don’t…he grew up. And I grew up with him. When I started reading Flash, Wally was flawed young man. He made mistakes that I made. He was cocky and liked to joke…just like me! He doubted himself as often as I did. But as his story progressed he did too. He learned to conquer his doubt and surpassed Barry to truly become the fastest man alive. He met a woman who he fell in love with and devoted himself to. Then wedding bells, then settling down, then having kids…he had a life! Wally West became the first character in comics who I really wanted to be.
Wally was introduced in the comics in 1959 as president of The Flash Fan Club. He had no idea that his cool aunt’s boring boyfriend was The Flash.
And then he was gone. Poof. Disappeared. After 60+ years the character of Wally West was “discontinued.” And even that’s not a fair comparison because at least when something is discontinued there’s some sort of proof that it once existed. DC’s relaunch of the DC Universe changed a lot, some changes were positive (Aquaman) but most were negative (everything else). DC wiped out its entire history and replaced it with something unrecognizable. And for some reason my beloved Wally West drew the short stick and was ripped from existence. He literally did not exist anymore…and it killed me. I vividly remember conversations with my best friend trying to understand just what the hell DC thinks they’re doing.
Then I started going through the stages of grief. “Perhaps he’ll make a triumphant return, like they’re saving him for some great event? F**k you DC, you can suck every diameter of my balls! Look, I don’t care if he’s Kid Flash again and you start him from scratch just bring him back! I will never love another comic book character…I don’t want to be that vulnerable again. Nice try with this new fake hooligan Wally West DC, but you’re not going to trick me, my Wally is never going to come back.” I can say honestly that I had zero love for comics. I gave them up for months. Not just DC but Marvel and some off brand stuff too. Wally had become my surrogate brother and DC flipped the pencil around and erased him. He and I grew up together, he took me with him to the Speed Force and I watched the guy get married and have kids. He was even my support system when I went through difficult times. I would crack open my favorite collection of his stories and drown my sorrows in super speed adventure.
That’s all overly dramatic, I know. Without Wally around The Flash world felt small. The beautiful thing about The Flash was that he was a legacy character. Pick up The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns and you’ll see what I mean. The Flash’s supporting cast is huge, colorful and fun. When DC decided to nix Wally and solely focus on Barry as the one and only Flash they hurt their universe. The Flash doesn’t exist as a solo character series. It is defined by its lineage and deep rooted history. Taking away the other speedsters and only focusing on Barry is like cutting someone’s foot off and watching them run track. It’s hilariously depressing. Wally became a central figure in The Flash Legacy because it didn’t truly start developing until he suited up for the first time in his uncle’s place. Yes, Barry was a great hero and he set the bar high not just as a speedster but as a hero. Then Wally pushed it even higher by becoming the most compelling and relatable of any speedster in the DC Universe. One cannot just remove that kind of figure from the world and expect it won’t be noticed.
Now my friends will tell you that I took entirely too long to stop whining about his disappearance. I didn’t understand just how much the character of Wally West had influenced me. But I moved on. I found other comics to love and other characters to appreciate. I sympathized greater with people who were unhappy with the directions their characters were taken. I still hated just about everything from The Flash’s New 52 series. But I just chose not to read it and was perfectly happy revisiting my Wally West comics and reliving his story. That was enough for me.
Well apparently that really wasn’t enough for me, because I just finished reading DC Rebirth #1 and I am through the frickin’ roof! HE’S BACK! The real Wally West from Pre-New 52! My boy who I had given up for dead and gone has returned from the abyss and once again inhabits the world of the DC Universe. The scene when Barry remembers who Wally was and pulls him out of the Speed Force saying, “How could I ever forget you?”…oh man…I was tearing up. And I know I’m not the only one. I know there are fans of the character who are as devoted as I am who feel exactly what I feel.
What an amazing and fantastic start to this brighter DC Universe. Because that is what Wally’s return signifies, a return to form for DC. A lot of amazing things happen in Rebirth but Wally and his reintroduction is DC saying to the fans, “You were right, we were wrong to think we needed to change.” It’s about damn time.