In DC's new Rebirth relaunch of The Flash, readers will learn the evolution of young Wally West into the new Kid Flash for the modern DC Universe as Barry Allen is surrounded by newly powered people who want him to mentor them.
No, this isn't the exact same Kid Flash/Wally that readers knew in past DC universes, but series writer Joshua Williamson is hoping to surprise readers with some new mysteries and twists to both Barry Allen and Wally West's stories as Rebirth relaunches the title with a new #1 in June.
First up is Flash Rebirth, an issue that ships June 8 and opens "a case that Barry is working that will have long-lasting effects on the book," according to Williamson. Then Barry becomes overwhelmed by all the newly powered characters that he has started to mentor as new heroes.
Newsarama talked to Williamson about his approach to The Flash, whether he's changing anything about what happened with the character in the "New 52," and how experienced speedster writer and Rebirth architect (and DC Chief Creative Officer) Geoff Johns influenced the new direction for The Flash.
Newsarama: Josh, we've been told that Rebirth gets the DC characters back to their core. What would you say is the most important part of Barry Allen that you're hoping to highlight as you kick off your run with a new #1?
Joshua Williamson: His passion for doing the right thing, for finding truth and justice. But also — you know me and the kind of writing I do — I think there's a part of Barry who does too much, and he knows he does too much, but he continues to do it and to push himself too hard.
Nrama: Is his passion for doing the right thing what makes him overextend himself?
Williamson: Yeah, he can't help himself. He wants to save everyone. He wants to do everything he can. He has these powers, so he wants to go out and save everyone.
Eventually, he's going to find himself overwhelmed.
And that's a big part of the story we're telling, is how Barry just can't be in two places at once. He has this speed, but he can't do everything.
But he's still going to try. He's never going to quit.
Nrama: What I hear is, "I need a sidekick!"
Williamson: That is definitely part of it. He needs help, right? He needs help.
But sometimes, like the monkey's paw, it'll mess you up.
He needs help. He needs someone to come in and help him out. And he gets a little bit too much help.
It ends up becoming another thing for him to deal with, another thing for him to have to deal with.
Nrama: No good in there?
Williamson: Sometimes it's good. Sometimes they can help. But sometimes, it's too much.
Nrama: It depends on who's helping, right? As you start your story, he's got several people helping out — people who have obtained powers and are now being mentored by Barry?
Williamson: Yeah, when the Speed Force storm hits, it hits kind of small at first and then it gets bigger.
So at first he feels like, "Oh, I can do this. I can do this. I can have a partner. I can train somebody."
But then it there are more and more — and it's a lot of responsibility to take on. It's a lot to deal with. And now he feels responsible for all these people.
Nrama: When you say "all these people," is Wally part of the people that Barry is mentoring?
Williamson: You have to wait and see.
There's an interesting twist coming with that.
I mean, it's obvious that Wally is going to become Kid Flash. I mean, he's all over the promo stuff. He's on the cover of Teen Titans #1, so that's out there.
But there's going to definitely be a twist when it comes to Wally's evolution to becoming a superhero. There's going to be something I think people will be surprised by — what leads to him doing that.
And is Barry the one training him? I don't know. We'll have to see.
Nrama: But is The Flash title where we learn about Wally's evolution into Kid Flash?
Nrama: You just told me the core of Barry Allen as the Flash. Can you talk about the differences between him and Wally?
Williamson: Their motivations are different. I think that Barry comes from a place of tragedy. He's searching for truth and justice. That is where Barry comes from. Barry comes from this place of, "This is my responsibility."
But Wally, he's hesitant to be a hero and to use the powers. He's not going to dive right in. His motivation is very different.
He's a kid. He thinks it's fun — I guess that's the best way to put it. He thinks it's fun to go out there and use them.
He idolizes the Flash. He wants to be like the Flash. He really idolizes him. But as the story goes on, things…. you know that saying about "never meet your idol?" He's going to kind of see that the Flash is not exactly what he thought. Because Barry is a flawed person. He wants to do everything he can and be a great hero, but sometimes Barry can't see the forest for the trees, because he's trying to be so much. He can't always focus and see.
Whereas Wally, I think Wally's perspective is a little more grounded than Barry's. I think that he is able to take it all in in a different way than Barry can. He can see the Force, whereas I don't think Barry can, right now at least. That's part of the story, is showing that and then showing how we move forward from that.
Nrama: You've mentioned Godspeed and how he becomes a nemesis for Barry. Why this character? Is there something you're trying to say about Barry by pitting him against this individual?
Williamson: I wanted a character who questioned Barry. There's a saying about bad guys that the best bad guys are either opposite of the hero, or they're a mirror. And I think with Barry, when it came to characters like Zoom or Reverse Flash, they were the opposite. Right? They were the reverse. But Godspeed, I wanted to show someone who is closer to a mirror, to show a different path than Barry would have taken.
This is someone who has similar ideas to Barry about justice, but with a different perspective.
It's hard to talk about without spoiling anything.
But I wanted this character, Godspeed, to be someone that worked as a mirror, to show Barry a side of himself that he didn't know was there, that he was sort of hiding. That's what Godspeed represents. He represents the version of justice that's really just revenge.
But I love writing Godspeed. He's a great character to work with. He uses the speed powers in very different ways. Whereas Barry is very scientific and thoughtful, I think Godspeed is much more of a blunt instrument, and much more violent, and much more twisted with speed in ways that Barry would never use the speed.
There's a scene in one of the issues where the two of them are arguing, and it's one of my favorite scenes I've written in the book so far, and I think Godspeed points things out to Barry that, as readers, we've probably thought about. But he's getting to say it right to Barry's face. And I'm really excited for readers to get to that scene.
Nrama: You mentioned before that I know the way you write. But can you describe your approach to the structure of the Flash series? Longer story arcs? Shorter? Is there a bigger picture that you have in mind for your run?
Williamson: I have things planned out pretty far out. It just depends on if they let me do it all. But I have this big plan for things that I want to do.
The first arc, after the Rebirth issue, is eight issues long. And then there will be shorter arcs. But I definitely have plans for it.
And in the Rebirth issue, you'll see seeds for things that are planned out for a long time.
Nrama: There were a lot of things established about Barry and his world in the "New 52." Is this going to diverge from that? Or are you keeping that stuff intact?
Williamson: I'm keeping things as intact as I can. I like to build on story and find new avenues and new ways to use what's come before rather than ignore. I'm a big continuity junkie. I've been reading comics my whole life.
I'd rather take everything that's been there and find ways to keep moving forward with it. And you know, that was part of the theme behind that first story arc in Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul's run. It's actually called "Move Forward." And I just want to keep that idea going, moving forward from what's been set up behind me.
And there are pieces of it I want to use. So I plan to keep building and moving forward with Rebirth.
Nrama: Let's talk about your artists. How are you utilizing them both as the series becomes a twice-monthly book. And what are they bringing to the visuals of the book?
Williamson: Carmine DiGiandomenico, whose name I always say wrong, will come on and do a few issues, then Neil Googe will do a few issues.
But man, Carmine brings so much energy to the story. And he finds ways to be inventive with the story. That was something in issue #1 that he did that was really, really minor, but I was so happy — this small, subtle touch that I think helps tell the story. When you find an artist who can help you visualize little bits and pieces of the story and reveal character and show bits and pieces of character through the art — even if it's subtle little things — those are the artists that you want to work with. And Carmine is one of those artists.
And man, he draws lightning really well. And the action sequences are amazing. There's an action sequence in #2 that's really cool. It feels kinetic. It feels like it's moving along really quickly, which works so well on the Flash. And Ivan Plascencia really sets the mood with the colors. It's all able to lead you through the issue, and each scene has its own tone, using the colors.
And Neil — I've been wanting to work with Neil for years. When his name came up, I was like, yes, let's do that.
I've been very lucky to be working with them.
Nrama: What about the Rebirth issue of The Flash? Anything you can say about that?
Williamson: It opens on a case that Barry is working that will have long-lasting effects on the book, and for the Flash. I think people will be surprised, but also intrigued by this big mystery we're building.
Nrama: And you worked with Geoff Johns a little on this, putting together ideas? I've heard there's a room with a big white board where he met with writers on Rebirth series. With him being so close to the Flash for so long — even involved with the TV show — what was it like to have him involved in your formation of the story and this series?
Williamson: Oh man, I've known Geoff for awhile, so we've known each other for years. I mean, you know. I'm a big DC fan, and I've always been a fan of his. And I met Geoff when I wanted his autograph as a kid. And we've kept in contact.
I talked with Dan about the story and what I want to do, and Dan told Geoff. I had turned in some paperwork with my thoughts about the big story I wanted to tell.
The first time I sat down with Geoff, I didn't know that's what we were doing at first. I thought it was going to be me pitching it to him. But he already knew what I had planned. And that was great. We got to sit down and we just started talking about character, and what Barry wants. And Barry's motivations.
We talked about the story, going back and forth on it. It was a really great experience. It's probably one of my favorite experiences I've ever had in comics, working on this book with him, sharing my thoughts on Barry Allen, my thoughts on the Flash and things I wanted to do. He's been working on these things so long — I don't know if there's anybody who knows that universe as well as Geoff — to sit there with him and just go back and forth was an amazing experience.
And I got to do it a couple other times since then. It's been awesome. It's part of the reason I decided to go exclusive, was because of that. It's been really great.