In June, a new version of Professor Zoom — Flash's nemesis, the Reverse-Flash — comes to the new DC Universe. And he's bringing some other new rogues along with him.
June's The Flash #41 starts a new storyline by co-writers Van Jensen and Robert Venditti, and not only is it giving Professor Zoom a mysterious origin and new costume by series artist Brett Booth, but the writers said the story will explore Barry Allen through a "slightly different lens."
And in July's The Flash Annual #4, readers will get to know a new Flash "hunting party" — a group of villains gathered by Zoom (some new and some re-imagined) who have "a really specific reason" for being with Zoom, and why they're after the Flash.
Newsarama talked to the writers about the addition of Professor Zoom to their series, the departure of Barry's love interest Patty in March's #40, and what's coming up next in The Flash.
Newsarama: Robert and Van, you're introducing Professor Zoom into the new DC universe, which gets a lot of attention for the kick-off of your June storyline. What was your thought process behind introducing him now? Is this something you've wanted to do for awhile?
Van Jensen: We were working with our editors, and they really challenged us to come out of the gate with something big post-Convergence. There are a lot of new, exciting issues coming out, so we wanted to make sure The Flash has something big and dynamic going on. So they challenged us — what's the biggest Flash story that we could start in June?
As we were thinking about it, we thought that Professor Zoom is that great arch-enemy of the Flash that hadn't really been seen in the New 52, and to get a chance to re-imagine a character like that is just one of those things that, you know, you do this job for these kinds of moment.
Robert Venditti: Zoom is something somebody that we've talked about a lot, since before we even started our run, Van and I. So it's something that not only did we want to do, but we were waiting for, really, the right kind of moment to do it. And like Van was saying, post-Convergence just seemed like a good time.
And as big of a character as he is — you know, one of the really marquee villains in all of the DCU — this story is so much bigger than just him. It's got huge emotional consequences for Barry on a personal level, and like Van was saying, we're getting to re-invent some classic Flash concepts as well. So we're pretty excited about it.
Nrama: In March's #40, Patty left Barry. Obviously, fans' minds tend to wander toward another possible love interest — I'm sure you know who I mean. But maybe we'll let you tell us what Patty's departure means for Barry's love life? Will that be part of the storyline in June? Is Patty gone for good? Still part of the story? Or is there another lady who might become part of Barry's life?
Venditti: Barry's going to marry Lois Lane. There's your headline. There it is! That will get some eyeballs.
Jensen: [Laughs] No, no, no.
So Patty's going to be gone, to sort of get some distance for the time being. I'm sure we'll see Patty again eventually.
For Barry, you know, as we're developing his character in this next arc, one of the things we really wanted to focus on him as a mid-20-something, young professional in a big city. So we're making sure he's going through those experiences.
As much as Barry is an old-fashioned guy, the struggle that he faces is relating to a culture that's changing a lot around him. Sometimes he relates more to previous generations than he does his own generation.
So the series is going to change, in some ways, around that, and we'll see him developing more friendships and exploring his social side as well as his heroic side.
Venditti: And in case anybody doesn't know I was joking, he's not actually marrying Lois Lane.
Nrama: I hope that's obvious. But we've seen solicitations for July, for your regular issue and The Flash Annual, and there's a new batch of villains. Maybe some of these are re-imagined villains? Are they being organized by him?
Jensen: There's a really unique concept that's at the core of this new group of villains that are working with Professor Zoom, and there's a really specific reason why he's with them, and why they're after the Flash.
The group that we're going to see is a mix of existing villains that are being re-imagined for the new DC Universe — I guess it's not New 52 anymore — as well as some brand new characters.
They all, in their abilities, are very specifically designed to give Flash as much trouble as possible.
So it's going to be something really different that also explores Professor Zoom's background, which is a pretty big mystery that we're going to reveal bits and pieces of over the next several months.
Venditti: And I want to point out that, I think they solicited the The Flash Annual as being written by both of us when they first sent those out. But Van is writing the The Flash Annual solo.
Nrama: Right, OK, we corrected that. But you're still on the regular series?
Venditti: Yeah, I'm still writing The Flash with Van. He's just handling the Annual.
As far as the characters that Van is talking about, the supporting cast of villains, if you want to call it that, it's a large part of what I was saying before. This story is much bigger than just Zoom. There's a lot more going on with it, and it's stuff that we've been working on and talking about for quite a long time.
You'll see how it fits together with the story we've built up to that point, and also how it takes those threads and sort of spins them in new directions.
It's exciting stuff. You know, Van and I are going to meet next week, like we often do, and it's always just a great time to sit down and talk about these great toys that we get to play with.
Nrama: So many comic readers are also fans of The Flash TV show, and I was wondering if you're at all influenced by the TV show?
Venditti: It's interesting you bring that up. You know, Van and I are such long-term thinkers and planners in the way that we do things, and a lot of the stuff that we've had set in motion for a real long time, we obviously weren't aware they were doing it on the show. It's not like we were aware of what they're doing before it aired, or that they're aware of what we're doing before it sees print.
I do watch the show. I have seen the majority of the episodes — I think I may have missed a couple. I watch it with my teenager. It's always fun to sit down and do that. I think they really do a great job of nailing Barry as a character and that sort of fun and hopefulness and, I don't know, the sense of enjoyment he gets out of being a hero. Those are all great elements. I enjoy the show a lot.
But it's not like we are coordinating anything based on what they're doing, or vice versa. We stand, for the most part, pretty independently of each other.
Jensen: Yeah, I mean, we've talked about some people might come to the comics through the show. But making comics accessible to new readers is something that you do, or that you should do, for everything. So it's not really anything specific to the show.
But I think it is good to have that in mind, that a lot of new eyes are on the Flash, which is great!
Nrama: That said, Professor Zoom is someone who was involved with a certain storyline of the past — namely Flashpoint. It seems like he could still be attached somehow to the pre-New 52 universe. Is that something that you even want to address? Or is it even a possibility?
Venditti: I don't know that I even want to address that, yeah.
Jensen: Yeah, let's just leave it hanging in the wind.
Nrama: So it's not what this story is about?
Jensen: The story is certainly not going to focus on the old DC Universe.
Nrama: One of the things I noticed with the past storyline was that it felt like the pacing on The Flash is a little faster than your other work. Of course, he's moving at a faster pace, and he can accomplish a lot in a few panels. But is the quicker pacing kind of on purpose, that you want that kinetic energy moving even through the way the book is paced?
Venditti: Yeah, for sure. We're always sensitive to that. Pacing is such an important part of comics, and he is one of the characters who can have a unique pace that sets him apart from others. So it's definitely something we strive for.
Jensen: Yeah, I think a lot of the credit also goes to the art team, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, the inker, and Andrew Dalhouse, on colors — everyone really focuses on putting as much energy and emotion into the pages as possible. Brett breaks things up a lot with some really funky panel layouts that are just super-kinetic, and I think all that stuff really feeds together well.
Nrama: Then the last question — I know we've discussed a bit of what's coming up in June, but how would you describe the direction of The Flash post-Convergence, when you have the chance to shake things up a bit?
Jensen: This next story arc, starting June, is a story that's really about family. It delves in a big way into Barry's past and his origin. It's a continued exploration of who he is as a person. The "Future Flash" story was one look at what Barry could become, and this is looking at him through a slightly different lens — why he is the person he is, and the hero that he is.
He's going to be tested in some really, really big ways, as you might expect.
It's a very big story, and something that's going to have a lot of ramifications for Barry and the DC Universe.