Barry Allen is one of the characters who gave the word "Rebirth" such a strong meaning in the DC Universe with 2009's Flash: Rebirth, and when the entire line undergoes Rebirth writer Josh Williamson will take over on the Scarlet Speedster’s adventures.
Along with artists Carmine DiGiandomenico and Neil Googe, Williamson is introducing to The Flash cast an entire crowd of Speedsters who gain their powers from a “Speed Force storm.” Barry Allen will have to mentor these new speedsters, while also corralling a new villain born of the storm named Godspeed.
Newsarama spoke with Williamson at WonderCon 2016 about Barry Allen’s role in the DC Universe, whether Wally West, the Rogues, or any other familiar faces will show up in the new series, and why some bits of the TV show creeping in is inevitable.
Newsarama: Josh, you’re taking over Flash as of Rebirth.
Josh Williamson: Yes! I’m super excited. Sometimes it’s very surreal, it feels crazy sometimes. I’ve actually been working on this for a long time, and it feels imaginary. It’s awesome.
Nrama: You’ve got a really interesting high concept on Flash, where your run starts with numerous citizens of Central City gaining super speed powers from what you called a “Speed Force Storm.” Barry Allen winds up mentoring these people – something he, historically, has a lot of experience with. What can you tell us about that dynamic?
Williamson: I definitely think Barry is someone who wants to help people. That’s what Barry does, he helps people. And when he sees people in this situation – remember, in the "New 52," when Barry became the Flash, there were no other speedsters. There was no Jay Garrick. It was just him. So he has this experience, and he feels like he needs to help people. And he realizes he enjoys being a teacher. And that’s something with Barry Allen that I really want to get into is that he enjoys teaching people, he enjoys being a mentor, and he feels like it’s a natural fit for him.
Nrama: Speaking of people Barry has mentored, will Wally West play a part in your Flash story?
Williamson: Yes, definitely. I wanted to use Wally, it was really important to me to use him, and I love writing him. I can’t say too much other than that.
Nrama: You’re also introducing a new villain in your first arc, Godspeed, who is one of the people who gains Speed Force powers. How do you plan to differentiate him from other villainous speedsters that Flash has gone up against?
Williamson: It’s gonna be really complicated. If you look at someone like Zoom, especially more recently, Zoom has kind of had a Joker-like attitude, where he’s very crazy. Godspeed is much more calculating, and is a lot more sympathetic. There are days where, as I’m writing him, I feel like I relate to him. I think there’s going to be a conversation at some point, where someone is going to say to themselves, “Is Godspeed actually a bad guy?” I think that’s what separates him.
Nrama: So he’s more sympathetic – kind of a gray area to Barry Allen’s moral absolutes rather than his actual opposite.
Williamson: But he’s definitely a killer.
Nrama: On the topic of villains, you’ve got a lot of experience writing about bad guys with Marvel’s Red Skull mini-series, and Illuminati ongoing. Flash has some of the best villains in comic books, second only to Batman in terms of DC. Are we going to see the Rogues in your run at all?
Williamson: They’re not in this first story arc – for good reason. There’s actually a scene where the Rogues are in a bar, and they watch the news and see that there are now dozens of speedsters, and they decide to leave town. But they will come back around. I love the Rogues, I love Captain Cold. I’m definitely gonna tell some Captain Cold stories, they just won’t be in this initial arc.
Nrama: Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns made it pretty clear that there is no mandate to bring any of the Rebirth titles in line with their TV counterparts, and obviously your story goes in a very different direction. But are there elements of the Flash TV show that we’ll see come into the title?
Williamson: Not really. It’s actually pretty interesting, there was a very, very early meeting where we were talking about some of the characters, and there was one character who was kind of Harrison Wells-ish, and they said, “That’s too much like Harrison Wells, we don’t want to go to close to the TV show,” so I went the opposite direction away from the TV show. I love the TV show, so there are parts that will bleed into the story, but it won’t be intentional. It’s because I can’t help myself, because I love the TV show so much.
Nrama: When it comes to supporting cast, who are we going to see?
Williamson: Definitely Iris, and of course a bunch of new characters who come about thanks to the Speed Force storm.
Nrama: Let’s talk about your take on Barry Allen. For something like 30 years, until he sacrificed his life in Crisis On Infinite Earths, he was kind of seen as the wet blanket of the Justice League. Then Geoff Johns brought him back and said, “No, Barry Allen is actually really cool, and here’s why.” What’s your take on how he fits into the DC Universe?
Williamson: He’s the helper. He’s the trainer. There’s that thing about, when you see tragedy, there are always people who are helping – that’s Barry Allen. For me, I relate a lot to Barry Allen. I relate to someone who is persistent, who is stubborn. He’s very focused. Always late – I’m not alte, thankfully. But when you think about what Barry’s gone through, it takes so much resolve to be the kind of hero he is. Even before he had powers, he was trying to save lives, working on cold cases, investigating his mother’s death. So I relate a lot to that idea. I’m also the kind of person who always tries to do too much, which is a very Barry Allen thing. In this story, he’s starting to feel overwhelmed. In the Justice League, he’s the one who anyone can come to for help.