By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service

May 26, 2009 -- He launched the superhero revival in 1956, which continues to this day. He ran for 30 years as the Fastest Man Alive, in his own title, in the Justice League, as a guest star and on TV. He’s been gone for 23 years, after having died heroically in a cosmic crisis and replaced by his own protégé.

And now he’s back.

Barry Allen, a police scientist, was the second man called The Flash. (The first was a 1940s speedster who remains a supporting character.) And with Flash: Rebirth #1 (of 5, DC Comics, $3.99), DC’s star writer Geoff Johns is returning the character to his rightful position in the DC Universe of superhero books.

Johns seems just the man to do it. He is 3-for-3 in revitalizing Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Justice Society of America, characters and concepts whose sales were flagging and whose history was snarled. I asked him a few questions about the Scarlet Speedster’s re-launch:

Captain Comics: Why do it? Why bring back Barry Allen, after a heroic death and successful replacement?

Johns: I think that’s what the series is all about. The answers are all in there. But whenever I get on these characters, my goal has always been to kind of rebuild their world, their mythology – like with Green Lantern and JSA. …Barry Allen is – like Hal Jordan [in Green Lantern] – sort of a centerpiece to the Flash. With Barry Allen, there’s something clear I want to do and I want him to do it. For me, he’s the character that’s going to facilitate the stories I want to tell.

CC: The tagline on the DC house ads reads “Barry Allen is back from the dead, and it’s the worst thing that could have happened to him.” Can you elaborate?

Johns: That’s kind of the book itself. Flash: Rebirth when you look at it, is a detective story, a mystery. Someone has perpetrated the worst crime ever on The Flash and the Flash family. And that’s what Rebirth is: It’s the solving of that crime.

CC: One of the familiar aspects of aspects of old Barry Allen stories was silly plots and transformations taken with utmost seriousness. Is this light-hearted element toast in today’s grim-and-gritty environment?

Johns: You know, it all depends on the story. For Flash: Rebirth, there’s going to be a lot of heart in that series, but … we’re not going to go back to 1960s-style stories where we have stand-alone stories where Barry Allen turns into a puppet. … But the stuff I really want to focus on is with Barry Allen as a crime-solver. But his crimes are on the crazy ‘60s-physics level. A murder could span across dimensions, or ancient cities, or crazy places that are real cities. Or he could find a body where the crime is unsolvable through normal means, and kinda taking that CSI approach but putting it on a greater scale of wonder and scope and the DC Universe itself. If that makes sense.

CC: Now that DC has established 52 parallel Earths, it sounds like CSI: 52.

Johns: Exactly, exactly, that’s a great explanation. And that’s what I want to do. He solves crimes that are unbelievably bizarre and unexplainable. And they take him to different places and strange foes and bizarre criminals. …The DC universe has always been epic in scope. That’s why I like Green Lantern to span the corners of the universe.

One thing which I’ve really been focused on is that Flash and Green Lantern have always gone hand in hand. They always have, and I want to explore that. But it’s going to be more like good cop/bad cop. Barry’s good cop and Hal’s bad cop. It’s like time and space, where Barry covers time; Hal covers space. I want to build up Barry and Hal, and Hal’s already on his way, as being really cornerstones of a greater sub-universe, a greater part of the epic and mythic scope of the DC Universe. …I’m really excited about working with The Flash again, and working with Barry Allen. I think he’s a fantastic character and I think we’re going to have a really good time with the book.

CC: Are you going to continue with the character after Flash: Rebirth?

Johns: I can’t really talk about what’s going to follow “Flash: Rebirth”.

CC: Doggone it!

Views: 155

Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 1:00pm
I'm still not sold that Barry needed to come back, and because of that, this book really hasn't hooked me yet. With Green Lantern, a lot of fans had a heartfelt need to have Hal redeemed, and that was the obvious point of GL:Rebirth.

I have enough faith in Johns to give him until the end of this mini to convince me, though.
Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2009 at 1:21pm
There were a couple of good arguments that Johns and DiDio made that swayed me to at least wait and see.

One was from DiDio, who said that stripping characters (and, in this case, character franchises) to their core makes it easier to tell stories. He was referring primarily to Power Girl, who is going to lose all the retcon baggage and go back to what she was originally: the Supergirl of Earth-2. It's easier to say: "Who's Power Girl? She's the Supergirl of Earth-2." than to give any of her previous origins.

Same with Barry. If Wally's the Flash, then you have to explain Barry to explain where he came from. And Barry was the link between Jay and Wally; given his long tenure and timing (Silver Age) he's really the heart of the franchise. Without him, the whole Flash franchise is more difficult to explain. Sort of like the GL Corps minus Hal -- it's just harder to explain.

Then there's Geoff's argument, that he's got some stories to tell and it takes Barry to tell them. That's a strong argument for me; a good story takes precedence over my inner continuity cop. Well, depending on the writer. But given Johns' track record, I trust him to do it right. I mean, this is the guy that straightened out Hawkman, and told a good story at the same time!

Also, his description of what he intends to do sounds like fun. Barry's going to be "CSI: 52," and just saying that you can begin to anticipate what a rich story well that is. And, really, who better than a former forensic scientist who is the master at vibrating between worlds? (He discovered the process, after all.) Plus, he's got the Cosmic Treadmill, which he also invented, so time is no barrier either.

In fact, that brings up the Green Lantern connection. Johns apparently intends to emphasize the "blue wall" connection between the two, both being cops of a sort. But Hal's the more aggressive, force-wins-it cop; Barry will be more empathetic and thoughtful. Their team-ups -- and who doesn't remember those Silver Age team-ups with just a trace of fondness? -- should be full of characterization as well as two of the flashiest super-powers in comics.

Anyway, I'm on board for the duration. I know that my opinions on Silver Age characters will always be regarded with suspicion that I'm simply being nostalgic. But I do think that both the GL and Flash franchises suffer without their most famous representatives, and I'm glad they're back. As DiDio said, it just makes it easier to tell stories.
Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2009 at 1:25pm
I should have mentioned that I interviewed DiDio for Comics Buyer's Guide, and a lengthier article about both Flash and Power Girl (I also interviewed Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti) will appear in next month's CBG. Plus, editor Brent Frankenhoff is considering posting the FULL interviews with DiDio, Johns, Gray and Palmiotti on So all of you will have a chance to see the unexpurgated comments by these worthies about both the Scarlet Speedster and PeeGee.
Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 1:25pm
The setup does appeal to me as described, but am I miscreant if I admit I've never seen a single episode of any of the CSI shows on TV?
Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2009 at 1:27pm
I've never watched any of the CSI shows, either. But maybe I would have if the forensic pathologist had super-speed and a sleek red costume!
Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 1:36pm
I did watch that show! I think it was called "The Flash" and it starred John Wesley Shipp. :)
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on May 28, 2009 at 3:34pm
I am definitely interested, and Johns usually gets it right. I will just wait until the trade comes out I think.
Comment by Alan M. on May 28, 2009 at 4:04pm
I remember Warren Ellis opining a few years ago that, with the CSI trend being so hot, it was a shame that DC's only CSI character was dead, and that we'd probably see him returning because of that. (Of course, I believe he said it in a more brusque, crass, and judgmental way... :P )

I do like the idea of CSI-type stories, and I think Johns will do a good job of this, but I haven't been overly impressed with the first two issues. The only thing that makes me continue with that is that Johns has indicated the mini is supposed to feel a little not-quite-right...that that's a feature, not a flaw.


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