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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
I can’t really talk about what’s going to follow “Flash: Rebirth”.
CC: Doggone it!