While Barry Allen has been dealing with his father's escape from prison in the new The Flash storyline, a mysterious new team of villains has started messing with the character under the leadership of fan-favorite Flash rogue Professor Zoom.
In July's The Flash Annual #4, readers got their first glance at these new Flash rogues: An Aztec character named Magali who has the power to reverse aging; a new South African version of the Folded Man; an Australian character known as the Block who can increase her density; and a revamped version of the Top.
The characters are teaming with Zoom — as well as the recently established Speed Force villain Selkirk — to take down the Flash, and their mission has connections to Henry Allen's escape.
While Flash already has a pretty well known team of rogues, the new creative team of Van Jensen, Robert Venditti and Brett Booth are introducing this new band of characters for their reintroduction of The Flash after the Convergence break. What's the story behind their creation? Newsarama talked to Jensen and Booth to find out more.
Newsarama: Van, what was the genesis of the idea to have Zoom create a team of new rogues for the Flash?
Van Jensen: When we were discussing Professor Zoom, one of the things that came up really early was this idea of, you know, with Flash, there's always a challenge in creating a credible threat for him, because his power is so amazing. He moves so fast that there are few villains out there who can really stand against him.
So we were looking at Professor Zoom and thinking about the history of Flash and the nature of his power. There have been great villains that have gone up against Flash, but for the most part, if they're someone who has any kind of speed related power, it's just someone who also runs really fast.
We wanted to diversify that and show that this power that fuels the Flash and enables him to run fast — and some people call this power the Speed Force — the power's actually bigger and stranger than anyone realizes. So it can manifest in different ways.
And once we get on that idea, it was really just kind of off to the races of imagining power — what are all the different ways this power could develop? And what are some interesting villains that could be built out of that?
So we came up with some new villains, but also villains that are known, that maybe haven't been seen for awhile, but with this new wrinkle added.
It all came from that initial concept of just completely rethinking the very nature of what Flash is and where his powers come from.
Nrama: Brett, when you first heard about these characters, what was your part in figuring out how they'd look?
Brett Booth: The first I heard about them was slightly before The Flash #40. I got the script for #40, the last page was Professor Zoom and one of the characters, Block I believe her name is. But I kept her in the shadow, because I hadn't done any design work for her yet.
So we had an eight-page story and a couple covers, so from that, I just messed around.
Nrama: Can you walk through each of them, and your thought process on the design?
Booth: Yeah, Van hatched a character who's like the Top, and I referenced what the Top looked like, and I kind of messed with it so it looks like he's always moving. It's not like it's just stagnant lines or horizontal stripes. I made it look like he was constantly moving.
The Block character is a Pacific islander, and I've done work with their tattoos before. Van wanted tattoos on her arms. I didn't want her to look like she's an old, old character, so I made her costume a little more modern and sleek looking.
The Aztec character, I did research on those kind of costumes, and I pulsed a little bit from that, because I really like the design work they have — the South American native cultures. So I pulled stuff from that, but then of course modernized it a little bit.
Selkirk was easy because I'd already worked on him previously in the last arc of The Flash. But I didn't want to go with the traditional paralyzed character where he's just kind of stuck in a chair, so I had him use the Speed Force power as kind of his legs, so he's like a crab or octopus moving around.
The Folded Man was already designed for me, but I tweaked his design to make him a little creepier. He was just this black guy who kind of bends, and he has this face that almost looks like it's stitched on. It's like maybe a part of his face got ripped off, so he looks stapled on, so all that's left of his face is basically an eye. It kind of ups the creep factor a little bit. It's kind of like that Robocop thing, because Robocop looks way cooler when he has his helmet on than when he takes his helmet off. So it's just a design thing for the Folded Man.
Nrama: And of course you designed Professor Zoom's new look.
Booth: Yeah, in the last page of The Flash #40. I was messing around with the idea, and I showed it to our editor Brian Cunningham, and he said, "That's cool, but let's push it some more." So I pushed the design a little bit more for #40, and everybody liked it, so we just went with that one.
Nrama: I know Norm Rapmund drew the characters' history in The Flash Annual, but now that you're drawing them for upcoming issues, what do you enjoy about these characters? Anybody that's become a favorite?
Booth: The most fun one is the Folded Man because you can just do whatever you want with him. You can maneuver him around the panels, you can kind of strip the outside of the panels. You can go inside the panels. You can bend an arm in all sorts of weird, crazy directions. It's kind of like drawing Elongated Man or Plastic Man, where you can just do whatever. Whatever you need him to fill or whatever you need him to do, he can do.
And then the Block character's really a lot of fun, because she's real stoic. Because she can stop the movement of her molecules so she becomes incredibly strong and incredibly dense, that's just kind of a fun thing to mess with with the Flash. He's always zipping around, and then you have this character who's basically, pretty much stationary.
Nrama: Van, in the current storyline, you've been exploring the mystery of the ties Zoom has to Henry Allen. What can you tell us about what's coming up, not only with the Zoom "team," but also with the mystery involving Henry Allen?
Jensen: This is a story that's very much focused on family, and on these very different types of relationships that build up and grow. And the way that, as you get older — anyone in any family — as you get older, you learn hidden secrets about your family.
I think sometimes they're pretty minor, and sometimes they're more shocking.
Barry's case obviously pushes that to an extreme. We're going to learn what the relationship is between Henry Allen and Eobard Thawne. It's an old relationship that's pretty complex, and I think it's quite a bit different from what anyone expects.
But very, very shortly, within the next handful of issues, readers will get a full revelation of the history. All of that will be brought to light.