Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, the new writers on The Flash, say that although the newly introduced Wally West will "surprise people," it's not "surprise for the sake of surprise."
"It's all being done to develop the character organically within the story, and to stay true to what these two characters [Barry Allen and Wally West] would do, and how they would develop in the circumstances in which they're going to meet and become friends," Venditti said.
The co-writers, who previously worked together on Green Lantern Corps, will be taking over The Flash with artist Brett Booth in April. As one of their first orders of business, the new creative team will be introducing a new version of former Flash Wally West — his first appearance since the DC universe rebooted in September 2011.
Describing their approach to their run on The Flash, Jensen and Venditti promised a renewed focus on Barry Allen's detective work as part of the Central City Police Department's crime lab, as well as the "middle-America" elements of The Flash. The two also indicated that the title would follow up on events from Forever Evil (even though, as Newsarama reported earlier, Forever Evil now won't end until late May).
Now we turn to the co-writers and ask for more details of what readers can expect from the new Flash creative team and their reintroduction of Wally West.
Newsarama: Rob, I know you've backed away from Green Lantern Corps, but now you're working with Van again on The Flash, so you guys must talk a lot.
Robert Venditti: Yeah. I'm not writing Green Lantern Corps — I mean, I never was, but I'm not co-plotting Green Lantern Corps anymore, although Van and I still talk about Green Lantern a lot, because Green Lantern and Corps are linked.
But yeah, we usually talk quite often.
Nrama: Let's talk about the Flash. I'd like to start by asking both of you about your history with the Flash. Were you a long-time fan? Did your perception of the character change once you started diving into the material?
Venditti: For me, much like a lot of the characters that I've worked on in comics, I didn't grow up reading comics. I don't have a deep background reading them when I was younger, or anything like that. So my knowledge of Flash would be what people would know through general, sort of pop culture immersion, whether it's the Justice League cartoons or the TV show they had back when I was younger.
To me, the concept has always just been really cool, because there's this distinct thing about him where he's a guy with a lightning bolt on his chest and he runs fast. And there's something about that — from the moment we're born and we're little kids, we always want to run fast, you know? And he's a character who lives that out. So that's always appealed to me.
After I was asked to pitch for the series, I started reading up on the character and getting to know him more — Barry specifically. And there's a lot that I find very appealing.
He's a very hopeful character. He's very heroic. He doesn't have that dark, broody side that a lot of comic book characters have.
I like the aspect that he works in a crime lab. I've always enjoyed police stories. I think if you read even something like The Surrogates, it's generally regarded as sci-fi, but it's much more of a detective story than it is science fiction.
So there's a lot about the character I find interesting.
Jensen: I read more comics than Rob did, growing up, but never read The Flash just because it wasn't really available where I bought comics.
But over the years, I've come to appreciate a couple of things about the character — especially, now that I'm writing Barry and inhabiting this world — one of which is Central City is kind of an outlier in the DC Universe. It's a city, but it's more middle America. I grew up on the Plains, in a pretty small town. So it's different, but it's closer to where I grew up than, say, Gotham City or Metropolis.
And then, like Rob was saying, everything with the crime lab, and working with the police department is something — especially in recent years — I've identified a lot with, from the work I did as a crime reporter.
Nrama: I can tell we're going to see some detective stories that utilize that crime lab. How would you describe what we're going to see in your run on The Flash? Is there a certain direction or angle you've got in mind as you start writing the series?
Venditti: We're definitely going to be using the procedural elements of Barry working the crime lab a lot. That's one of the great strengths that Van brings to his writing, his background and experience working as a crime reporter. So we're definitely going to lean into that.
And I would say there's also going to be middle-America elements to what we're writing, trying to focus on Central City, especially in the wake of Forever Evil. This was one of the cities that was hit hardest by that event.
The first arc is going to be a really important arc for Barry and his character, in terms of his power set, and in terms of how we expand the supporting cast, introducing new villains, using pre-existing villains, and all sorts of things.
Jensen: Rob and I have a really similar aesthetic, which helps us when we're working together. As much as this series is a big, exciting superhero book, with a lot of crazy, fantastical things happening, Rob and I are both very character centered in writing and plotting. So I think that's something that we'll really bring to the book.
It's going to be a deep look at the entire cast of characters. And it's been fun getting to know those characters and adding some new wrinkles to them. And of course, bringing some new characters in as well.
Nrama: One of those characters, Wally West, is really getting Flash fans excited. But because Wally West is showing up, does that mean we'll learn more about Iris and her background?
Jensen: Absolutely. We've talked a lot about all the characters, but we've had a lot of really long conversations about Iris and her background.
Iris is probably the character that's most exciting for me to explore, because she's a crime reporter at a big newspaper. And that's exactly what I was doing a few years back. So it's a world that I know really well.
It's a tough place to inhabit, because, while it's a very exciting job, you're also dealing with tragedy every day. And that has a pretty complex emotional impact on people, or at least it can. And given Iris' background and her troubled family history, as well as a lot going on in her family in the present, it's going to be a lot of stuff that she has to deal with, and a lot of growth that she'll have to go through.
Nrama: Let's talk about Wally. We saw in a solicitation that he's Iris' nephew, but that seems impossible right now because the only sibling we've seen of Iris' is the Reverse Flash, Daniel West, who seems a bit young to have a son. Can you confirm that he is Iris' nephew? Can you explain anything about that family relationship?
Venditti: Yes, Wally is Iris' nephew. But the circumstances of what that family dynamic is, and how it ties into the story, is all an important piece of how Wally gets introduced. So we don't want to get into any of that just yet.
Nrama: What about Barry and Wally's relationship?
Venditti: The relationship that Barry has with Wally is hugely important to the first arc. And how that changes throughout the entire arc.
Wally is going to be a permanent member of the cast. He's not just going to come into the series and disappear. He's going to be around for a very long time, with a very long-form, long-gain approach to developing his relationship with Barry.
Because we are introducing him, in a lot of ways, not just to the DCU, but to all the readers as well.
So we're coming in with no assumed knowledge or anything like that. And we're building the relationship between Barry and Wally from the ground up.
And it all ties into everything that's been happening in the series up to now.
It's all developed completely organically. And I think people are going to be happy with the direction we take it.
Jensen: The relationship between them, I think it has a great echo of the previous iterations of the character, where you see how important they are to each other.
This is an update on that, obviously, because we're not just repeating stories that have already been told. But I think it has a nice sort of echo of their relationship previously while doing something new and compelling that can stand on its own.
Nrama: OK, how do I ask this…. readers have been guessing a lot of things about this new Wally (and we've even, conjectured a bit on Newsarama). I know you're not wanting to reveal much about the character, but can you say whether we should brace ourselves for major change? Is the core of the character the same? Or are there a lot of differences in this new version?
Venditti: I'd say it's a little bit of both. We are going to be getting to the core of Wally and the character — and not just him and how he affects Barry, but how Barry also affects Wally. And also how the Flash affects both of them as well, because those are two different things, right?
So it's a relationship that's going to develop over time.
I do think it's going to surprise people. I do think it's going to catch some people off guard. But it's not surprise for the sake of surprise. It's all being done to develop the character organically within the story, and to stay true to what these two characters would do and how they would develop in the circumstances in which they're going to meet and become friends.
Nrama: Are you guys able to talk about the Future Flash? Is he the villain in your first arc?
Jensen: We can say that Future Flash is from the future. [Laughs.]
Nrama: [Laughs.] Wow, what a news flash.
Venditti: I'll answer it this way. There are going to be a lot of villains in this initial arc, and one of the things that I think Van and I are having a great lot of fun with is not just playing with the classic Flash villains that everybody's going to know and everybody enjoys, but also creating new ones.
We've had some great conversations where, it's really those moments where you're sitting there with one of your really good friends, and you're talking about villains that the Flash is going to fight, and you're having a great time and getting paid to do it.
We hope that that energy and fun and excitement make their way to the page.
There's definitely going to be a lot of surprises, throughout the entire first arc.
Nrama: Can you talk about Barry's supporting cast? You said he's still working in the crime lab, so I assume much of the cast is the same?
Jensen: Yeah, it's really the same cast of characters with a few new faces. And the big thing, as Rob was mentioning, is that this is in the wake of Forever Evil, an event that just devastated Central City.
So you see these people that have gone through some really, really serious trauma.
The fallout of that is going to affect everyone, but it's going to affect everyone in different ways.
So that's going to be the one of the big shaping incidents in the first arc, and really even beyond, in some ways.
It's an interesting thing to take these characters that have been around and have been established for quite awhile, but have just been through the ringer, and see how they react to it.
Nrama: Have you been seeing some of Brett's work coming in?
Jensen: Yeah. Like Rob was saying, we were coming up with these new villains and having fun coming up with these new characters, and it's so much fun just coming up with the ideas. But the magical part about writing comics is you put these words down on a page and send it off to an artist like Brett, and it comes back, and it's just this amazing image.
His artwork is incredibly energetic and vibrant.
But then he's also coming up with these new designs for all these things we're throwing at him, and he's really just knocking it out of the park, page after page.
Venditti: I think, as a group, we're all having a lot of fun with it, whether it's Van and I, or Brett and Norm Rapmund and Andrew Dalhouse. We get these email chains together, and we're all joking back and forth with each other, and it already feels like we've got this great working relationship as a group.
Again, we just hope that fun and that energy and that excitement makes its way to the page, and that people enjoy the stories as much as we're putting them together.