Spoiler Sport: Geoff Johns on 'Flash: Rebirth #1'

Flash: Rebirth #1, second printing

It’s been a couple of weeks since Flash: Rebirth #1 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver hit the stands, so we figured that it’s pretty safe for us to start discussing the issue a little bit more in-depth.

Issue #1 was clearly the first part of a mystery, as the now-returned Barry Allen tries to clue together why he’s back among the living after being a part of the Speed Force – nirvana for speedsters – for years. Readers saw glimpses of the members of DCU who are most affected by Barry’s return, from his best friend Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan to the Justice League, Justice Society, Bart Allen (once again Kid Flash), the Flash’s enemies, and more.

So what does it all mean?

We asked Johns our questions, and tried to pry back the page a little bit more to see what was underneath.

Newsarama: First off Geoff, by the time the story in Rebirth is kicking off, and the world is welcoming Barry back, how long has he been back?

Geoff Johns: Well, I don’t want to put it up to like “a week,” or something specific, but you can assume that after Darkseid and what happened in Final Crisis, things started to settle down, and then the rumors started and the word got out that the Flash is back. It’s been enough time for the fact to sink in to Barry that he is back – the chaos is gone, and he’s still here.

NRAMA: And as was said in the issue, the JLA confirmed it for the media, and the world…

GJ: Right. Everyone thinks it’s a good thing – the word is made official, and it’s a reason for people in the DC Universe to celebrate.

NRAMA: While we’re talking about these hazy time periods, again, with the understanding that you’re not going to get specific on it, Barry’s conversation about “being away” with Hal struck me – how long has he been gone in the eyes of the other heroes?

GJ: Several years – as long as Wally’s been the Flash, obviously.

NRAMA: Not as long as he’s been “away” for the readers, though?

GJ: No, not that long, otherwise, Wally would be…old.

NRAMA: And the thing that’s playing the major part in this story – there’s something wrong with the Speed Force. For folks who may have picked this book up and it’s their first time to encounter the Flash, or their first time back to the Flash after a while away…200 words or less, describe the Speed Force.

GJ: The Speed Force is this mysterious, enigmatic force that is one of the building blocks of focused, kinetic energy that all the speedsters tap into. It’s been described as lightning-like electricity, and I think since it’s been introduced it’s been described as a white light on the edge of the horizon every time a speedster ran at close to infinite speed. It’s what ties all the speedsters together.

NRAMA: And the speedsters have a “feel” of it, correct? That is, if something happens to the Speed Force, or in the Speed Force, they all start to feel it. That’s how tight an individual’s connection is with it?

GJ: Right. It’s like gasoline for them.

NRAMA: And if something it affecting the fuel supply, everyone’s engine starts to cough…

GJ: Exactly.

NRAMA: One last question with timing – Bart is in this story as Kid Flash. He returned at the end of Legion of 3 Worlds #3 - when will the full details of his return be fleshed out?

GJ: He returned at the end of #3, issue #4 is out in a couple of weeks, and you’ll see more of the details of how he came back in that, but for all intents and purposes, he’s back from the future. He came back to the present in Legion of 3 Worlds.

NRAMA: And Iris – Barry’s wife. He saw her in Final Crisis, but as she suggested in talking to Joan, he’s not sitting around chatting. Has he spent much time with her?

GJ: Very little. She’s having some trouble. She thinks that he’s needing to acclimate, and he’s been busy checking things out, but he feels that something’s wrong. That’s something that’s coming up in the later issues that I really can’t get into , but Barry feels “off.” He can’t put his finger on it, but there’s something that’s bothering him, and he’s searching for an answer.

NRAMA: And for Barry – he’s a man of certainty – a scientist for whom leaving something unknown and hanging just wasn’t in his nature.

GJ: Right – that’s why it bothers him – he can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. This isn’t a normal occurrence for him. He was a forensic scientist, and he always was looking for the answer, for the solution. This is a solution he’s having trouble finding.

NRAMA: Moving to the scene in the Flash Museum when Barry was talking to Hal. Ethan’s art showed Barry to be constantly moving – was he vibrating to make himself invisible, or was that an agitation on his part, of having to talk and live “slowly” while in conversation with Hal?

GJ: Actually, that was him checking out Museum himself at super speed. He didn’t want to have to wait for Hal to walk around the entire place to look at everything. There are a couple of panels where he’s talking to Hal, but there are also shots of Barry running around everywhere.

NRAMA: Barry’s like that? That was something that always struck me as a characteristic of Wally – that he was impatient and couldn’t sit still, whereas Barry was the calmer Flash who could, actually at times, stand still…

GJ: Well right now, Barry is coming back with a different attitude – an attitude that tells him that time will run out, no matter how fast he is. The seconds still tick away. At the same time, I don’t think that he’s being rude by checking out the Flash Museum.

NRAMA: Not to mention he’s able to maintain his side of the conversation while he’s doing it…

GJ: Right. He’s literally doing two things at once.

NRAMA: In that conversation with Hal, Barry said something that, in essence, reflects what you just said about his attitude: “Every second does matter.” Years ago, when I spoke to Mark Waid when he was first coming on Flash, he said that Wally’s attitude was similar, but yet slightly different: “Time is the enemy.” Does Barry’s attitude pretty much sum that up – to live every moment to its fullest?

GJ: His attitude right now is that he feels an urgency – a drive that he’s never felt before. Again, it’s hard ot talk about Barry and how he sees himself as the Flash, because this is the story of how he finds himself, and who he’s going to be now. Flash: Rebirth #1 is just a piece of a bigger story of who Barry Allen is, who the Flash is going to be, and where he goes from here. So, it’s a little early to talk about Barry and how he views his life as the Flash and his time as the Flash.

NRAMA: In other words, this is Barry starting to figure out who he is as well as what is wrong with all of this – why he’s back, and why he feels so…off…

GJ: Right – it’s a detective story. It’s a mystery – that’s how I was approaching it. This is Barry solving one big crime. A crime against speedsters.

NRAMA: Speaking of crimes and evidence…there’s the body in the field in Iowa. That’s the Black Flash, right?

GJ: Yep.

NRAMA: And then later, Savitar pops out of the Speed Force. Is the Speed Force leaking those who’ve been absorbed into it?

GJ: Not exactly, no. But that’s not too far off.

NRAMA: And the final scene in issue #1 – when Savitar goes to pieces – of course the other speedsters are affected, but so are Wally’s kids and Jesse Quick. The Speed Force – once it’s in you, it doesn’t stop being a part of you?

GJ: Right. You’ll get a little bit more about that in issue #2, but we do get into Jesse a little bit as the series rolls along.

NRAMA: So where do things start up with issue #2?

GJ: The mystery continues to unfold and you learn more about Barry Allen. I’m really happy with the issue, and I really want to let it speak for itself…

NRAMA: Well, then, how about a tease on what’s seen in issue #2, page 1?

GJ: Gorilla City.

NRAMA: Touching back on the scene in issue #1?

GJ: Right.

NRAMA: You showed and implied that Barry’s return means many different things to different people, but just broad strokes, what does it mean for the Rogues?

GJ: Bad things.

NRAMA: They’ve obviously taken a darker turn since Barry’s been away…

GJ: They have, and also they’ve lost a lot of members since Barry was the Flash, and there are a lot more speedsters active at the same time. When Mirror Master said, “I think we’re going to need more Rogues,” that was their version of “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” from Jaws. He’s the only one who’s going to say it – Cold and Weather Wizard know who they’re up against, but Barry’s never met the new Mirror Master.

But Barry Allen’s relationship with the Rogues…the Rogues know that they’ve been acting a lot differently since he’s been gone.

NRAMA: And as for the other enemies of the Flash that you showed reacting to the news in #1…no one was there by accident, right?

GJ: Right – everyone is there for a reason, whether it’s a piece of the story that continues on here, or whether it’s a piece of Barry’s back-story. Again though, there are a of of clues throughout the issues – they’re pretty dense in terms of layers and how far deep you want to dig in. In issue #2 for instance, you’ll see something that’s a direct reference to the Rogues, if you’re astute, but if you don’t notice it, it doesn’t matter.

NRAMA: The League and the JSA are having their “Welcome Back Barry” parties, but to the general public, it’s just “The Flash” who’s back – there’s no, “This is Barry Allen” or leftovers from when his identity was made known?

GJ: Nope – they only know that Central City’s Flash has returned.

NRAMA: And what does that mean to the general public of the DC Universe?

GJ: We get into that in issue #2, and we’ll see a former supporting cast member from Barry Allen’s past, and through him you get a sense of where Central City’s gone since Barry Allen’s been gone. We also learn more about Central City in that issue – I want to flesh out Central City and give it a personality like Keystone like I did back when I was on The Flash. It’s going to be a completely different type of city – right now it’s a little bit unexplored, so I’m looking forward to exploring that like I did with Keystone and Coast City.

NRAMA: Any last thoughts before we let you go?

GJ: I just want to thank the readers to picking up the issue, and that I’m really committed to the Flash and Green Lantern at this point – with Green Lantern is to space as Flash is to time. So time and space of the DC Universe are covered by these two guys. These characters are very, very grounded, but so epic. It’s just endless. As long as the focus stays on who these guys are, the stories are just endless.

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