Ever since DC rebooted its universe in 2011, fans have been publicly begging for a re-introduction of the former Flash, Wally West.
Yet now that everyone's Flash wish has come true — with the character's debut coming in April — what will the new version of Wally West be like?
According to Brett Booth, the new ongoing artist on The Flash (and the one drawing Wally's debut in next month's The Flash #3), the character will be "different."
When asked by Newsarama about the biggest challenge the creative team faces in the debut of Wally West, Booth said, "getting people to accept this version."
So what could be "different" about this version of Wally West? What clues have we seen so far about who he might be in the New 52?
Perhaps the most tantalizing clue we've been given about the new Wally West came from the aforementioned Newsarama interview with Brett Booth.
In the interview, Booth confirmed that Wally West is on the cover of The Flash Annual #3, the issue where he's supposed to be introduced.
The most prominent character on that cover is the Future Flash, who Booth said is in the dark blue costume. But we're betting this new villainous-looking character is not Wally West — not only because he looks like a bad guy (and all publicity from DC indicates Wally wouldn't change that much), but also because he's not the only choice on the cover.
A much more appealing character for us (and many other fans) is the cover's scene where a figure is spray painting graffiti on a wall. Why would a bombastic, in-your-face cover like this one – with multiple dynamic scenes being depicted — simply show some kid making graffiti?
Could the graffiti artist be somehow important to the story, or to the future of The Flash?
In the pre-New 52 universe, Wally West was first introduced into continuity as a kid — in fact, he became a superhero character called Kid Flash. If the New 52 follows its usual pattern, the introduction of such a fan-favorite, beloved character will at least somewhat mimic his old origin – and that makes it plausible that he's young.
While it might be troubling to think of Wally West as a youth who would defile a wall with paint — essentially breaking the law — Booth may have been hinting about the possibility when we interviewed him, as he said:
"The original Wally was from a different time, a very Norman Rockwell sort of place. That is no longer the case for anyone in the New 52. He will reflect that, I'm sure."
With that idea of "reflecting the New 52" in mind, it's easy to imagine that this version of Wally might be a hoodie-wearing graffiti artist. And on the cover, the painter figure is being noticed by Barry Allen as he's running by in his Flash costume — something that would be an important moment.
That said, there are other possibilities on that cover — including the image of someone being hit by a bright, powerful blast. While we're not expecting this new Wally West to gain superpowers right away (although the end of the current Teen Titans series does open the door for a new Kid Flash), the cover's blast might be depicting Wally's origin as a speedster.
It's important to note that the announcement of Wally West's return specifically used both his names — meaning not only Wally, but also West.
That's the last name used by a couple characters who are already part of New 52 continuity, including the current Flash's love interest, Iris West.
In the pre-New 52 universe, Iris West was Wally's aunt. But the old West family is gone in the New 52, replaced by a new batch of West family characters that don't make it easy for Iris to be Wally's aunt.
In the New 52, Iris has a father named William, and a brother named Daniel, both introduced by former Flash creators Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul. (And as readers know, Daniel ended up becoming the villainous Reverse Flash.)
It's not really likely that Wally will end up being Iris' nephew because Daniel West had a son. Daniel's age has been established as 23 (The Flash #23.2 called him a 12-year-old in a flashback to 11 years ago).
And for the last five years of his life, he's been in prison.
Of course, Daniel did leave home at age 12, so he might have created life in a back alley as a runaway kid — making Wally barely 10 years old. But making a 12-year-old runaway a father seems dark, even for modern comics.
Much more likely is the addition of a new corner of the West family. Iris might have had a previously unmentioned sibling, or Wally could be a cousin instead. Heck, this new Wally could even be a troubled teen that Iris adopts into the family.
But the fact that the name "West" is being retained means readers can probably look for some kind of connection between Wally and Iris (and to her Reverse Flash brother Dan).
Black Wally West
In The Flash television show, the spinoff from the CW hit Arrow, the West family members are black, which has a lot of fans and speculative bloggers wondering if the new comics version of Wally will be black as well.
Although Wally West hasn't been mentioned as a character in the new Flash TV show, Iris West is being played by Candice Patton, and Detective West (the character's father) is being played by Jesse L. Martin — both African-American actors.
Speculating that the decision to diversify the Flash legacy on the small screen might carry over to the comics is a safe bet. Not only has the New 52 reboot given writers the opportunity to change the skin color or sexual orientation of other DC characters, but the TV show's writer/producer Geoff Johns has quite a bit of influence in the comic book offices as well, as the publisher's chief creative officer and one of its best-selling current authors.
Another clue that might point toward a skin-based change in Wally West? The comments Booth made to Newsarama weren't just focused on the cover — they warned of a change that might make the Flash fandom "flip out."
"We're going to try to give him his own look. I can't give too much away about that," Booth said.
“Be open to change and wait for things to play out a bit," the artist added. "I know everyone’s first reaction is to flip out, myself included, but be patient."