As The Flash begins a new storyline focusing on a new version of the fan-favorite villain Professor Zoom, writers Van Jensen and Robert Venditti intend to also explore Barry's relationship with his father and the new iteration of Wally West.
The week's The Flash #41 began a new storyline, not only giving Professor Zoom a mysterious origin and new costume by series artist Brett Booth, but offered a new look at Barry's father, Henry Allen. And future solicitations have revealed Wally West plays a role in the storyline after the new version of the character was introduced in 2014.
In July's The Flash Annual #4, readers will also get to know a new Flash "hunting party" — group of villains gathered by Zoom (some new and some re-imagined) to fight the Flash.
Newsarama talked to Jensen and Venditti about what's coming up in The Flash, what Barry's new status quo means for his relationships, and when readers will see Girder's grandma again.
Newsarama: Van and Robert, we were all expecting Professor Zoom in this week's The Flash #41, and we'll get to his appearance in a minute, but I think it was surprising to see that this is a story about Barry and his father. This issue even saw Henry Allen orchestrating an escape from prison. What role does their relationship play in the story?
Van Jensen: That was something that spawned out of a conversation that we had with the editors as we were approaching the end of the last arc and looking forward. We have been planning to tell this story for some time. It seemed pretty natural for Henry to be a key part of that, and as the story evolved, it became more and more key.
Also, Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul, their first run on the book had set the stage with the mystery of Henry, and Nora Allen's death, so well. And it was something that I think begged for an explanation.
We didn't want to hit that immediately after starting on the book, but it was something that we all felt really needed to be addressed.
Also, it's an important part of who Barry is. He's so convinced of his dad's innocence and yet his dad is stuck in prison.
Robert Venditti: Yeah, it's a very compelling relationship too. It's not one that's very common. Our hero's father is in prison and Barry's convinced that he's innocent. He can only see him through a window and has only really ever interacted with him that way. There's a lot of emotional weight there.
Nrama: One of the names we've seen coming up in solicitations is Wally West. What role does he play in this story, and what's his relationship with Barry in the upcoming issues?
Venditti: I think that Barry and Wally, in some ways, come from similar backgrounds. Barry's mother was murdered and his father is in jail for the crime, and he was raised by Captain Frye, as a surrogate male role model. Wally comes from a similar background, not that it was that level of tragedy, since his mother is still presumably out there somewhere, but for whatever reason he was separated from his mother and doesn't know where she is and what became of her. His father was not a good guy. If you go back and read the run from Manapul and Buccellato, going back in the New 52, his grandfather was not a good guy. The West family was a family that had a lot of problems going on.
So this is an opportunity for Barry to really be able to relate to Wally.
Jensen: I think people look at it and want to see this father-son dynamic with Barry and Wally, and there are tinges of that, but it's much more of a friendship to them. They both continue to have a lot to teach each other. As Rob says, they're both working through their own lives, and in that way, they can help each other to work through the challenges that they both have been trying to overcome.
Venditti: A lot of common ground between them.
Nrama: Let's talk about Professor Zoom. It's clear in this issue that Barry doesn't know Zoom in this continuity. Are you getting to work with a clean slate for this character? Can you talk about your development of the character?
Jensen: In The Flash Annual #4, which comes out in July, is going to be a look at Zoom's background and his history and his motivations. This is a master plan that's been in the works for quite a long time.
We did a lot of thinking on who Zoom is and his relationship to the Flash and to Barry.
And we had a blank slate, but we wanted to be very much cognizant of what came before, in all the different iterations of the character, and make sure we're not completely tossing out elements that made sense for Zoom.
You'll see someone who's really smart but also so desperate to achieve what he wants to achieve that there's this unpredictability.
Venditti: There's a reason why Zoom is a villain that people get excited about and why he's been around for so long. There's an element of "don't fix what's not broken" with him, although we're just trying to tell a new story a different way from what we've seen in the past.
Jensen: That said, there are a couple things we came up with that will be surprises.
Nrama: You've put together a group of villains who are working with Professor Zoom. You'll get a lot of that in the The Flash Annual #4 as well.
Jensen: We'll be exploring the power that fuels the Flash and fuels Zoom as well. Maybe there are some wrinkles to it that we haven't seen.
Nrama: Back in March, Barry split up with Patty. Is Iris now going to be a bigger part of the series?
Venditti: She's going to continue to be a big part. One of the great things that Van brings to the book is his experience as a crime reporter, and that's who Iris is as a character. We're going to continue to lean into that. But in terms of the specifics of what her role is going to be, I don't think we can get into that.
Jensen: One of the things that's probably a more significant change is bringing Harley, the Pied Piper, in as Barry's new roommate, which is a different dynamic. One of the things we'll be exploring is his relationship with Director Singh, which was set up in the previous run but hasn't been explored that much. It's a fun dynamic with this guy, who's such a key figure in law enforcement, dating someone who used to be a costumed vigilante and a criminal of sorts.
It was just looking at the overall balance of the characters, wanting to have a fun cast with a lot of variety around Barry.
Nrama: Most of the major characters in the DCU got costume changes in June. How much were you invoked with the choices made for Barry's costume changes?
Jensen: Brett was doing some sketches at the DC creative summit in Burbank in February. And I think he had a lot of it already in mind. But I remember looking over Brett's shoulder and talking to him when he was tweaking a few things. But I will say that it's not as if I added anything constructive to the conversation.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what are your plans overall for the rest of 2015 for The Flash?
Venditti: We'll be dealing with Zoom — but also with the expanded cast that Zoom is surrounded with. We're going to see them in the background at first, then moving increasingly to the foreground, complicating Barry's life while at the same time, he's dealing with things on a personal level with Henry, with Wally, with Iris and with his new living situation and all those kinds of things.
It's going to be a longer form arc, divided into shorter arcs. They'll all string together to tell a larger story.
Jensen: Yeah, and I'll give a very specific spoiler for The Flash #42. This is the headline coming up right here. Girder's grandmother, after the cameo for her in #41 — she's going to make another appearance in #42. So if you want to get people excited, let them know that Girder's grandma is coming back.