Now that the surprise about Wally West's introduction to the New 52 is a week old, this week's release of The Flash Annual #3 further defined the revamped character's new background.
In our discussion with new Flash writers Van Jensen and Robert Venditti last week (after the publication of The Flash #30), Newsarama readers learned that present-day Wally West is a biracial, pre-teen kid who will soon meet Barry Allen.
The change to Wally's race was something DC asked the writer to do — "that came through DC rather than being part of the pitch that Rob and I put together for the book," Jensen told Newsarama, "[but] rather than in any way limiting what we were planning to do, it actually became this great, central piece of the story, and we both feel like the story has only become a lot richer for having Wally there."
Fans also found out that Wally will become an important part of Barry's life over the next five years — with Venditti even comparing his importance in Barry's life to the importance of Batman's Robin. And a flash-forward to a scene five years from now (inspired by the upcoming "Five Years Later" event in September) revealed that, if the timeline isn't changed, Wally West is going to die in five years.
Now that this week's Flash Annual has revealed more about Wally West's history, readers also got a good taste of the stories that Venditti and Jensen are going to feature in The Flash in the coming months — including a mystery about Flash losing time, a murder that Barry has to solve, and an unknown villain (apparently from Gotham) who's targeting the Flash.
Newsarama talked to Jensen and Venditti to find out more about their approach to this week's Annual, their plans for the future, and their feelings about the new Wally West.
Newsarama: Rob and Van, this issue felt like it was setting up a lot of future stories, with multiple mysteries being introduced. Was that the intention, when you found out you had an Annual? You wanted to start a bunch of threads going? I mean, this is stuff that's going to be going on for awhile, I assume.
Robert Venditti: Yeah, Van and I are both pretty long-game thinkers, in terms of stories and story arcs, so we definitely wanted to use that 38 pages to pack as much content and put as many things into it as we could.
There are quite a few plotlines going, but we also know what the long plan is for all of them and how they're going to be resolved. So there's a plan that's definitely in place, and some of them get resolved earlier than others, and new plotlines will come in, so we have a pretty good vision of where things are going to go.
Nrama: Obviously, one of the biggest revelations is the book is that we find out Wally West's background. What was behind the idea for Wally to hate the Flash? Although I think the previous Wally West went through a few different origin stories, I think originally, he was a fan of the Flash. What were your thoughts as you introduced him as a kid who's hating on the Flash?
Venditti: Really, it's just dealing with what's been going on in the story and in the DCU up to this point, and coming out of Forever Evil and the effect its had on Central City in Flash's absence, during all of that, which we saw in #30 is something he blames himself for, and also, to some extent, the city at large is wondering, you know, "hey, buddy, why weren't you there to help us out?"
That's had a very personal effect on Wally, in the sense that his mother had gone missing during Forever Evil, and then he's part of this enormous police backlog, where the force is trying to get itself up and running again after this as well. You can imagine the number of open cases there'd be. And they're still coming in. They don't even know what they all are yet.
Then on top of that, Wally coming from a background where he's somewhat estranged from his father, which is in keeping with original Wally continuity — you know, he really looked up to his Uncle Daniel, who the Flash ended up putting in prison.
So in some ways, Wally's the 12-year-old kid who's had a bit of a rough go, and he's trying to cope with it as best as he can, and he's sort of lashing out in this way, almost like a form of protest against the Flash.
Jensen: One of the things that's really neat about the relationship with Wally is that — and this is true of a lot of characters — that Barry has different relationships with the same character based on whether he's in costume or he's out of costume, and that's something we're going to explore a lot, especially with him and Wally.
Nrama: We already know that Barry and Wally are going to be very close in the future. Looking at other superhero/mentor-teen/sidekick relationships (assuming it's a mentor-type relationship), fans can't help but compare this situation to other Robins who were introduced as troubled kids — and Rob, I think you even compared Wally to Robin last week. We had Jason Todd, who was a bit of a brat when he was first introduced, and over time, readers despised him even more; but then we also had Damian Wayne, who was a bit of a brat when he was first introduced, and over time, readers grew to love him. I know you guys have a plan for how Wally is going to evolve over time, but can you speak about who Wally is now, and who we know he's going to become in five years — someone that Barry truly adores?
Venditti: I'll say this, in response to the Jason Todd and the "brat" thing and all that: I think it would be really harsh to label Wally as that, given all that he's been through — again, Forever Evil, mother missing, uncle ended up becoming a criminal and getting locked away, estranged from his father — I mean, "brat" would be a harsh label for that.
He's a kid who's struggling to find his way, you know? And I think that's something that a lot of people can relate to, you know? So I would say that about him.
But in terms of the kind of character that he's going to become, I think that's a large part of what we're trying to do. We are showing you these Future Flash sequences where you see, obviously, Wally ended up having a very, very close relationship with Flash again, which is something that I think fans are accustomed to, but it's a matter of how he got there.
And that's what Van and I are looking forward to exploring.
How that relationship goes and how we come from this place now, where Wally isn't exactly happy with Flash, to growing into somebody to whom Barry will end up becoming very close, is what we'll explore, as Van was saying earlier.
Jensen: Much of it looks like this straight road from Barry and Wally meeting and being at odds, to eventually them having a strong relationship — but there are a lot of wrinkles along the way that are going to come up.
This is not gong to be just a straight shot to, you know, eventually everything's hunky dory. There's a lot ahead for both of them.
Venditti: You mentioned the "mentor" angle, and the idea that the extent to which Barry will or will not become a mentor for Wally, and how he'll affect Wally as Wally grows.
I also want to point out the extent to which Wally can affect Barry and Flash, you know?
Having a child — I have two of my own, and Van is about to learn this himself — having a child is as much of an impact on the adult as it is on the child. The child changes the adult as much as the adult changes the child.
In some respects, it's going to be a two-way street.
Nrama: OK, there are a lot of mysteries in this issue. For example, will we find out what happened to Wally's mom?
Jensen: Yes, eventually.
Nrama: The police process that we saw in this issue — Van, I assume this is something you brought to the book — as Barry is investigating a murder, and we get to see the steps he takes to solve it, plus this new mysterious adversary that's introduced during the robbery at the museum. Can you talk about those mysteries and what role they'll play in upcoming stories?
Jensen: Yeah, having been a crime reporter for a newspaper, I think Iris is a character that I very directly identify with.
Like, the scene with her talking to the desk sergeant is something that's… if not verbatim, then fairly close, from experiences that I've had.
And as to the robbery in the museum — that absolutely is something that might be a little bit of a slow burn, but we will be seeing more of whoever is after the Flash.
Nrama: There's also a very big mystery about the loss of time. Can you say, is it linked to that comment from Future Flash about how Daniel West fractured the Speed Force, that we saw in this flash to the future, where he fought Gorilla Grodd?
Venditti: You'll definitely find out what exactly is going on with the Speed Force, and why Barry is having problems losing time. That's a central mystery of the whole first arc that we're going to be doing. So those answers are going to be hinted at more and more each issue, and the resolution of all that, we'll see very soon.
Nrama: Who came up with the line, "I'm the reason Wally isn't 32 and married with two kids?" Because that was cute…
Venditti: [Laughs.] That was my line. It's taken on a bit of a life of its own, which is completely unintentional. I have two kids, so yeah, I wrote that line.
Nrama: So wait, you said unintentional? I mean, Barry is the reason, because of Flashpoint. Was that in your mind when you wrote that?
Venditti: Not even in the slightest. It was more of that sort of, just … average home life, U.S. Census Bureau data, you know? Married family, two kids, white picket fence, dog — that sort of stereotypical description.
And like I said, me, myself, I have to kids, and it was just like, "oh, two kids."
Jensen: Yeah, I can never overstate how little Rob knows about past continuity, at some point.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about Future Flash. Now that we've met him, we've seen what he looks like — can you talk about how he looks, who he is, and what he's going to bring to the story over the coming months?
Venditti: Full credit to Brett Booth for the design on Future Flash. He turned in the design of the character, and I think, in some ways, it shaped what the character ended up being written as, you know? In a very positive way, and how things are going to develop down the line.
But who he is? He's Barry Allen, but he's a Barry Allen who's got 20 more years experience than the Barry Allen in the present. He's spent his life trying to always be there and be the guy that can do everything, working in the criminal justice system and putting guys behind bars, only to have them break out of prison, or build a case and they get found innocent anyway. So he's got a different perspective on things, as anyone would 20 years older than they are now.
Nrama: But he's also willing to kill, and has killed the future Gorilla Grodd. He's come to some sort of breaking point, wanting to kill himself in the past.
Venditti: Yeah, we'll find out why. As far as his confrontation with Grodd and his willingness to kill, it was very intentional that we juxtaposed that with his [present-day] unwillingness to kill, showing that he would never do that in the modern day.
He's leaving his future, and he's going backward. And he wants to make sure that, if he fails at this mission that he's trying to do, at least he knows that he didn't leave Gorilla Grodd in the future, wreaking havoc all over.
So the Future Flash is going to go out in a blaze of glory, and he's going to try to clean up as many messes as he can on the way back.