Wally West has come a long way.
The last time we checked in with Flash co-writer Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, readers were just learning about the changes to Wally West's character in the New 52. Not only was his racial heritage different, his personal history had also going through some changes.
But with last week's The Flash #35, readers found out that Wally West of the New 52 has one very important thing in common with the previous incarnation — he becomes a selfless, heroic speedster who wears a Flash costume.
The writers, who also work together in the Green Lantern universe for DC, have been building toward this month's issue since they first took over The Flash in April, immediately introducing a teenage Wally West. Working with artist Brett Booth, the co-writers brought a jaded Barry Allen Flash from the future back to the present day, where he hoped to fix the mistakes he'd made — including a lightning shaped tear in the Speed Force.
With last week's The Flash #35, the creative team's first arc came to an end, but it spins right into the next one, with the Future Barry sticking around in Central City while the present-day Barry is fighting dinosaurs and robots within the Speed Force.
Newsarama talked to Venditti and Jensen to find out more about the first story arc, how the science of "multiple speedsters" led to their static-filled battle, and what comes next for the title.
Newsarama: Van and Robert, how has this time travel story revealed more about Barry as a person, as readers have seen him in different stages of his life?
Robert Venditti: Yeah, it's just the idea that, in extreme circumstances, you never know how you're going to react. And I think there's capacity within all of us to maybe get to a darker side if we're pushed hard enough.
Barry is such a hopeful character in the DCU, so to see him in both incarnations as his hopeful Flash character that we know and love in the modern day and also this darker version of himself through circumstances largely beyond his control, but still became a darker version of himself. And to see those two square off, it's about as character-centric as you can get, because the character is fighting himself, literally, on the page.
As these two versions of Barry go up against each other, they're confronting truths about themselves that neither can deny.
And it's something that we're going to continue to explore as we move into the second arc.
Nrama: It felt like, when Wally West was first introduced, that we could predict the influence Barry would have in his life. I'm sure that's still going to be part of his story, and yet, with this last issue, we saw Wally having an influence on Barry. Did you kind of do that on purpose, to turn that expectation on its head with Wally turning out to be the hero?
Van Jensen: Yeah, from the get-go with Wally, we really thought the most important thing was to craft a good story that was very true to the characters, and that would reveal more about them. But we also talked about inverting expectations. Even before we got into time travel and different versions of Wally showing up, we were really exploring how Wally was having an impact on Barry in the present.
Of course, this [event where Wally comes from the future] brings about a more direct, overt story where Wally is literally saving Barry, from himself, I guess.
It sets up the next arc that we're going into, where this is just the beginning of the story of Barry and Wally and their relationship, which again, is not just a mentor/mentee relationship. It's very much a two-sided relationship.
Nrama: In this last issue, we saw Future Flash telling Barry some of his upcoming villains. Were those hints about what's coming up? That wasn't just a throwaway line. It meant something, right?
Venditti: Yeah, it absolutely did. I don't know Van, would you say it's a fair description of both our writing styles, as different as we can be, the one thing we have in common is that we're pretty meticulous planners. And I don't know that anything is ever a throwaway line.
Jensen: Yeah. We will be seeing Overload and Plague, and those names were not dropped for no reason at all.
Venditti: Yeah, they are two brand new villains that Van and I are going to be working with in the very near future.
Nrama: I'm interested in the design of the costume we saw Wally wearing. Was that all Brett Booth? Or did you guys have some ideas about how he would look once he got powers?
Venditti: No, that was all Brett's design. I remember seeing it for the first time. It came to all of us at the same time, so it's me; Van; the editors, Brian Cunningham and Amedeo Turturro; and then Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, the inker, and Andrew Dalhouse, the colorist. When Brett sent that page through… I don't know, it's almost like you could hear angels singing. It was like, "Wow, that's a really cool design."
We were all just super excited about it — not just the design of the costume, but it was just a great entrance for Wally West as The Flash.
My favorite part of it is the little sort of gear motif around the chest symbol on Wally's costume, around the Flash symbol, which hearkens back to something that's been part of this continuity.
Nrama: Yeah, and the tear in the Speed Force had a familiar look too. Did you guys know what that visual would be?
Jensen: That was in the script pretty specifically. It was a combination of a lot of things. I mean, I think the lightning motif is something that is just so central, so integral to what the Flash is. Anytime you can take those visuals that people instantly recognize and play off them, I think it's colorful to do so.
This was a huge moment in the history of the Speed Force. So it felt like the right time to do that.
And then also, there was a little bit of the "tear in the wall" from Doctor Who that I think maybe fans would recognize, a little bit of that feel that we were going for.
Nrama: The story itself even felt like a Doctor Who story, but it's going to feel that way, when you write a time travel story.
Jensen: I'm never writing another one again, I don't think. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Yeah, it can get difficult. I saw some fans wondering about the problem in Futures End where two identical speedsters can't be together. Was that part of what we saw in last week's issue? Do you know what I'm talking about?
Jensen: Yeah, the static build-up?
Jensen: Yeah, it has to do with multiple versions of the same person inhabiting the same place. What happened in this issue [#35] is that it did have an effect, it's just the contact between them was very limited at the start, and as it escalated, the charge between them grew. And you see it when Future Flash attacks the present day Barry.
Nrama: And that's part of the attack we see.
Nrama: By the end of The Flash #35, present day Barry's trapped inside the Speed Force, but the Future Flash is, I believe, stuck in the present day. Are those two situations going to drive the next story arc?
Venditti: Yeah, we're going to see exactly what the aftermath of this first arc is, on both versions of Barry, starting in issue #36.
So they're both going to go on a new journey, individually from each other. It was all part of the plan going back quite a ways, that we were going to be leading to this.
We're going to discover some things about the Speed Force and about the two versions of Barry. All of it this be playing into the story, whether it's the nature of the way the charge builds when you have the two versions of the same individual in the same place at the same time, where Barry ended up, where Future Barry is in the present day. They're all things that are going to be explored.
And also, you'll see some of those villains that we alluded to in issue #35.
Nrama: Oh, that soon?
Jensen: Yeah, and one of the things that's really interesting with Future Flash now inhabiting Flash's place in the present is, first, he's a very different version of himself, so he's looking back at these old relationships with, say, Patty or Director Singh, or even Wally. And his conception of the relationship he has with that person is quite a bit different from what it was at that time. So it's going to be a little bit awkward.
But then he also has knowledge of the future. So, you know, if you know the fates of the people you're with and what their next 20 years are going to be like — you know, if they have particularly good things or, especially, if they have really bad things ahead of them — that's going to affect the way you are around them.
So we're going to see him struggling with that.
Venditti: And in some ways, he's got a second chance. He gets to live his life over again. Anybody who's ever made mistakes can understand the appeal of that. But of course, it all comes at the expense of the present timeline's Barry, who is being left out of that whole situation.
Nrama: So there's this drama of the Future Flash, although we know he also has no problem killing people, since we saw him brutally murder Gorilla Grodd in the future. But will we also see what's going on with present-day Barry? His kind of sci-fi crazy journey trying to get back?
Venditti: Absolutely. And sci-fi crazy would be a great description of it. He is trapped without his powers, and you'll see who he meets there and the obstacles he has to encounter on his journey to try to get his powers back and return to our present timeline.
Because he knows, just like you were saying, it's an opportunity for the Future Flash, but his second chance comes at the expense of Barry's first chance. So Barry's in a hurry to try to get back to the city and the life that he feels attached to and responsible for.
What he's going to encounter… you get a sense of it from issue #35, where you have a dinosaur and a robot in the same place at the same time. So we're having a lot of fun with what exactly that world is, building that out and bringing up challenges for a de-powered version of Flash to face as he tries to get back.