For the last seven months, Brett Booth has been not only been defining the look of DC's The Flash, but (as he pointed out to Newsarama), he's already added a couple new Flashes to the mix.
That includes the New 52 version of Wally West as a speedster. Wally, sparked mixed reactions from internet fans when he was introduced to the New 52 in April, because his racial heritage and origin had been changed.
But in last month's The Flash #35, Wally appeared in a Booth-design Flash costume to save the world from Booth's other newly designed Flash, a jaded, future version of Barry Allen.
After our interview last month with Flash co-writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, Newsarama talked to Booth to find out more about his approach to the new Flash characters and what he's drawing now for future issues.
Newsarama: Brett, the last time we talked was before your first issue of The Flash was released. At the time, you were hoping that Wally West fans would be happy with the way he was introduced and portrayed. What's been the response so far, and what's your hope for the future of the character?
Brett Booth: Hard to tell really. I had to stop reading most of the comments. The purists aren't happy because he was changed, but the rest of folks seem to be OK and even happy with the change. I know some bi-racial fans are very happy; they are now represented in the Flash Universe.
My hope is to get him some powers and maybe a spin off book! Wally was cool because he was an out superhero, and while the secret identity works for most characters, he is simply the Flash; you get what you see, warts and all. Doing that with a teen would be interesting and could be a lot of fun!
Nrama: Let's talk about your design for Wally's costume. What was your thought process as you put together his futuristic Flash costume?
Booth: Wally's costume is actually based on a proposal I did years ago. He's sort of a hybrid between Flash, Kid Flash and Max Mercury. I had to talk very fast to get them to change the open top to the regular skullcap.
The silver is both a nod to Walter West and Max Mercury. In my pitch I had Wally come back as a descendant of Max — it was why the Speed Force seemed drawn to the Wests. Max was family.
When I got the scripts, I saw Wally Flash would only be temporary, so I figured I'd see if they would let me use the already done design (it's just a one-off, so it's an easier process then a regular design). They seemed to go for it.
I just futured up the ear pieces and arm and leg bands. I'm just glad most people seem to like it.
Nrama: We've been told that the Barry from the future, who's leaned toward playing the role of villain so far, will be more like a protagonist in upcoming stories, as he gets a second chance at living his past. Can you describe how you draw this Barry from the future without his costume, and how you signify that he's not the Barry we know?
Booth: Well, he's 20 years older, so he's a bit thinner in the face, with stubble and thinning hair. They are the same guy so it's not a big change. He's also usually frowning, so furrowed brows and a bit of jowls.
Nrama: Let's talk about his costume. How did you come up with the design for Future Flash?
Booth: His costume is actually a merger of a few more unused pitch designs. I would have started from square one, but the base idea I had already done seemed like a good fit for what they were looking for.
I used Barry's current costume as the base, I added in a bit of tech, and that was that. I wanted a more armored look, a darker look, but I also wanted to show him being more in control of the Speed Force.
I covered his face in the energy to keep who he was a secret — didn't know they were going to reveal it in the first issue.
I did pull a bit of John Fox for the earpieces, a nod to the old universe.
Nrama: As you've been drawing The Flash, are there any characters or concepts that have been a challenge for you?
Booth: The biggest challenge, I knew, was going to be the Futures End issue and #35 — all those Flashes. So after I got the first colors for Future Flash (he was still red and yellow at that point), I decided to see if we could switch the colors up. All those guys running around with the same colors was gonna be a nightmare to try and separate it all.
So I convinced Brian to try the blue. Using more fast talking and the Doppler effect, it was OK'd.
Brian asked for the yellow change to Reverse Flash, so that helped, and then Wally's colors were a challenge. Luckily Andrew Dalhouse came to the rescue! So we had four Flashes, all with different colors. Made the last few issue much easier to do!
Nrama: Looking back at the first story arc, what scenes do you think turned out particularly well, or ended up being your favorites?
Booth: The Captain Cold death scene in #32 will always be a favorite. Helped me with my own demons a bit.
But really, all the Flash fights, those were the most fun I've ever had in comics. More, please!!
I've always been drawn to the speedsters and those scenes were like a dream come true. I got to add not one, but two new Flashes — that in itself is pretty sweet. I finally got to cut loose with the speedster stuff, no guns or tricks, just raw speed and power. Barry doesn't get to go big all that often, his bad guys are more local level, so when you get to pull something like this, it's a rare gift.
Nrama: Yeah, I was looking at how you're handling the speed, even in the layout. How would you describe the way you're approaching the idea of speed with all these speedsters in the book?
Booth: Energy, movement. I find messing with the panel shapes is really helpful. The classic grid system slows everything down, sure it's super easy to read but it doesn't convey motion or energy. So I played with that a lot.
I used the characters themselves to point you I the right direction, and I layered the panels more for easier reading. Most seemed to have had no problem with it, a few didn't get it, they seem to be the ones who only like the old grid system though. The grid system works, but it's not always he best way to do things.
Nrama: Let's look ahead at the upcoming issues. Now that you're getting to draw Barry in this mixed-up, sci-fi world inside the Speed Force, what new challenges are you facing as an artist, and can you tease anything you're getting to draw there?
Booth: Unfortunately my own anal retentive nature is not helping me right now. Creatures from across time — great in theory, but I have to reference all of them! Terror birds, mastodons, pterosaurs, giant birds. Takes way more time. Future tech is easy, but those damn animals! Gah!
Nrama: I guess you can complain to Van and Rob. How has it been working with them on this book?
Booth: Rob and Van are good guys. They pretty much leave me alone for the designs so I can play.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Brett, is there anything else you want to tell fans about drawing The Flash?
Booth: I was worried I would get tired of drawing people running! Not so! Break the laws of physics with him — he looks so much better not running like a regular person, that just looks soooo slow. This is the Flash, not some guy running 15 miles per hour! He's got to look like he's able to move faster than anything around him. Run Barry, run!