Wally West is back in the DCU — and this time it's the same Wally West that readers remember from the past. And according to writer Tony Bedard, who's writing the character for the first time since he disappeared from continuity in 2011, the character's fans are right — Wally is "the best, most fully realized character to have worn that red costume and called himself the Fastest Man Alive."
Thanks to Convergence, the mega-event that takes over the DCU in April and May, the pre-Flashpoint version of Wally West has been captured inside a domed city along with his kids, Jai and Iris. An evil Brainiac has stolen them from their own timeline, along with other heroes and villains from throughout the DCU.
The adventure in Convergence: Speed Force begins when the dome disappears, and Wally and his kids, Jai and Iris, run into other heroes and villains — including the Flashpoint version of Wonder Woman. And although it would be tough for a Flash to keep up with the Amazon princess in battle, it might be an easier task for the whole Flash family.
Bedard is writing three of the Convergence tie-in mini-series, which all serve as tie-ins to the main, weekly Convergence title. The tie-ins are all two issues each, and Bedard is scripting Convergence: Speed Force, Convergence: Aquaman, and Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax.
Newsarama talked to Bedard about the chance to write Wally West, why his fans are so loyal, and why he — and so many others — call Wally "my" Flash.
Newsarama: Tony, what's it like for you to revisit the Flash family of Wally West?
Tony Bedard: Let's face it: as exciting as the New 52 has been, Wally West was one of its biggest casualties, and one of the most sorely missed DC characters since the relaunch. So it's actually a huge thrill to be writing him in Speed Force. It's like reuniting with a long lost friend, even though I think this is my first time writing a Flash comic.
As for getting to write him at this particular point in his life, married to Linda Park and father to Iris and Jai — that part is definitely new to me. I mean, the notion that Wally settled down and had kids wasn't crazy. Waid had made him such a dimensional character and such a great guy that it made sense to take his relationship with Linda to the next level. But what he did with those kids was kinda mind-blowing.
First, their powers were unstable, causing them to have weird growth spurts and tap into the Speed Force in strange ways. Also, the Speed Force literally tied the kids to Wally so that just thinking about them could suddenly teleport them to his side. This usually happened unintentionally and only complicated things for Wally. And when he ran, Wally would sort of tow the kids with the lightning trailing behind him. All of this forced Wally to make sure his kids mastered their powers before they fell victim to his enemies or to the Speed Force itself.
So not only do I get to revisit Wally, but at perhaps the strangest moment of his career.
Nrama: What was your first exposure to this version of Wally? And what did the character come to represent to you?
Bedard: I had been a longtime Wally West fan as well as a Mark Waid fan. I actually owe much of my writing career to Waid, who in turn made his name with his character-defining run on The Flash.
And to this day I think Wally West is the best, most fully realized character to have worn that red costume and called himself the Fastest Man Alive. I know them's fightin' words for some readers, but I would also point out that I prefer Kyle Rayner to Hal Jordan, if that tells you where I'm coming from.
Nrama: You're not the only one who feels that way. There are some very loyal Wally fans out there. Why do you think he has such a loyal fan-following?
Bedard: I think Wally came along at a moment when mainstream comics were getting less plot-driven and more character-driven, when the whole style of comics writing was evolving and we were able to create subtler, more human heroes.
Add to that Waid's mission to make Wally someone who was truly heroic in the best sense of the word. Waid took over a Flash comic that had began with Wally as a bit of a womanizer and I know Waid wanted to take measures to rehabilitate. He also wanted to explore the source of Wally's power, and find new permutations for his super-speed.
He wound up introducing so many great things to the Flash continuity, such as the fact that he was part of a legacy of speedsters, not to mention the whole concept of the Speed Force. And with the amazing Mike Wieringo bringing all those concepts to life, The Flash was consistently one of DC's best books for a long time.
Through The Flash and JLA, Wally touched a lot of lives, including mine. He was "my" Flash. I think a lot of readers who got into comics in the '80s and '90s feel the same way.
Nrama: Yet Wally in a very different situation now, not only because he's married and has kids, but he's in the midst of this event featuring domed cities. What appeals to you as a writer about revisiting the character now?
Bedard: Aside from the fact that we've been missing this guy for a few years, my own personal connection to Wally also has a lot to do with the time I spent as Associate Editor on Grant Morrison's JLA run. Grant created a buddy connection between Wally and Kyle that I really responded to.
So it's with great personal fondness that I approached this Speed Force story for Convergence. Add to that the fact that I'm a father now, so I can totally share Wally's feelings and fears as he's trying to prepare his children for an often hostile world.
Nrama: What's Wally's life like as we pick up his story in your Convergence issue?
Bedard: In Convergence: Speed Force #1, Wally, Iris and Jai have been trapped in Gotham City, cut off from the world by a mysterious dome for a year. Linda wasn't with them, so Wally hasn't seen his wife, and the kids haven't seen their mom in all that time, and Wally is guilt-ridden about that separation. He is desperate to get back home and let Linda know they're okay.
But when the dome comes down, Wally's and the kids' situation goes from bad to worse.
Nrama: How would you describe his kids as we meet them in the Convergence world? How old are they, what are their powers and personalities like?
Bedard: Iris is around 12 and Jai is around 8 or 9, but those ages are deceptive since the kids' unstable powers prematurely aged them from babies to their current forms. One reason Wally is so desperate to help them master their powers is the fear that another such growth spurt could suddenly age them to death.
As for their personalities, Jai is still pretty close to his father while Iris is pulling away, as kids often do as they enter their teens.
Iris and Jai exhibit different powers derived from the Speed Force. Jai can temporarily bulk up, increasing his strength and resilience. Iris can vibrate through objects like a ghost.
But their powers are less important than the fact that they are cut off from their mom, in a strange city, and Wally feels terrible about having put them all in this situation.
Nrama: What other characters will we meet in your story? Are you getting to deal with the Zoo Crew?
Bedard: Yeah, the beauty of Convergence is that we have characters from all different continuities sharing one world, and this leads to some really fun clashes and team-ups.
In our case, Wally and the kids will cross paths with Fastback from the Zoo Crew — a super-fast turtle — which blows Wally's mind even as it delights the kids.
I totally loved writing Fastback! Trying to play a character like that straight only makes him even stranger — and funner.
Nrama: What's the main threat to the Flash family and the heroes in this story?
Bedard: Part of the whole Convergence setup is that characters from different versions of the DCU are set against each other in death matches.
Wally's misfortune is that he ends up face to face with the evil Wonder Woman from Flashpoint and finds she's more than a match for him. So it takes a true speedster team-up — the Flash, Iris, Jai and Fastback — to get past the Amazon nightmare.
But even with all these continuities overlapping, I never wanted to lose sight of the heart of this tale: Wally's love for his kids and his overwhelming need to reunite with Linda. This is all about family.
Nrama: Anything else you want to mention about the story in Speed Force?
Bedard: I just need to mention what a thrill and honor it is to be working with Tom Grummett — an artist whose work I've long admired. Just seeing his loose thumbnails coming in gave me a thrill. The guy is just a master, and for someone who started reading comics when I did, I feel like this is what comic art should be: clear, powerful, not a wasted line. Grummett is DC Comics art at its best, like working with Garcia-Lopez or Dan Jurgens. I'm kinda humbled to have him bringing this story to life!
Nrama: As someone who worked on the beginnings of the New 52 universe, what do you think about the choice to revisit these pre-Flashpoint characters now in Convergence?
Bedard: I've loved the multiverse concept throughout my long association with DC. Some see DC's history as a stumbling block, but all I see is endless possibilities. So having taken the time to establish the New 52, I think it's a perfect time to revisit previous incarnations and celebrate just how enduring these characters are, and how many great ways there are to play them.
Funny Batman, grim Batman, Batman in space -- they're all valid versions of the character to me. And on a personal note, Convergence is giving me a chance to write 3 of my all-time favorite characters: Wally West, Kyle Rayner and Aquaman. I couldn't have asked for more.
Nrama: You've been around comics for awhile, in a lot of different jobs. Do you think there's a future for these Flash family characters from the pre-Flashpoint world?
Bedard: That's hard to say. This was a particular moment in Wally's career that stands out from the rest of it. I'm not sure if the West family can really be integrated into the current DCU outside of something like Convergence.