From the depths of space to the mysteries of the Speed Force, Joshua Williamson is making waves as one of DC's biggest names, writing both The Flash and the upcoming Justice League Odyssey.
Following the fallout from his recent "Flash War" event with artist Howard Porter, Newsarama sat down with Williamson at the DC booth at Comic-Con International last week to discuss the return of Bart Allen to the DC Universe, the behind-the-scenes decision-making behind pushing back Justice League Odyssey's release date, and how Central City and the DC Universe as a whole will change with the discovery of the Strength Force, the Sage Force and the Still Force.
Newsarama: So first off Josh, we have to talk about Bart Allen!
Joshua Williamson: Yeah! Of course. I love Bart Allen - I had to bring him in!
Nrama: Given his time-traveling origin, we have to ask - when is this Bart Allen from?
Williamson: I can’t say! All I can say is, remember in DC Rebirth, when Wally came back, he was wearing his Kid Flash costume. Think about that for a minute - there’s a reason he’s wearing an Impulse costume and not any other costume.
Nrama: How long has bringing Bart back been in the works?
Williamson: The first time I asked for it was when I got the job on the Flash - it was one of the first things I asked about. “So, can I have Bart Allen?” It was really early on - like, that day. In my first document, I had a document of the things I wanted to do, and it was there in the very beginning - every single piece of the Flash mythology I want to write at some point. I want to use all of it, and Bart was always a big part of that, how I would get Bart in there.
So we kept talking about him, and it’d just come up every once in a while. We had to have a plan - and once I knew the stars were aligning on certain things on certain projects, I was like, “Can I do it now?” I had to write a whole thing of why, and how to explain how it would work, and we were able to use it.
Part of that was because I wanted to show that both Barry and Wally lose, right? They lose, and I wanted to make sure that even though they lose and think that Hunter won, Hunter, in his hubris, didn’t realize he was kind of right - so even though Barry and Wally think that they’ve lost and Hunter thinks he’s won, Hunter did end up unleashing one of the speedsters, and that’s Bart. So, I wanted to end the book with a little bit of hope - that’s what Bart represents to me, that little bit of hope.
Nrama: Any word on when we might see Bart again?
Williamson: It might be awhile before he resurfaces - I’m not actually 100% sure, like, I know when it is, but not the exact month or anything. But it’ll be a bit - we do have a plan for him, so it’ll be really exciting. I’m just glad he’s back.
[editor's note: this interview took place prior to the release of The Flash #51 this week.]
Nrama: You mention that both Barry and Wally lose the Flash War - can you talk a little about where their divergent paths might take them?
Williamson: Barry will obviously stay in the book - I think a big part of it will be he found that part of him that is motivating and inspirational, that’s how he was able to motivate Wally to become the fastest man alive. But Barry is going to stay in the Flash book, obviously, and he’s going to be exploring the new forces, exploring the different changes in the world with the [Speed Force] barrier breaking. And with all this stuff happening, he’s going to have to relearn and retrain to become the fastest man alive again. Wally, you’ll see in Issue #51, in that issue we sort of detail... #51 is all about Wally, it’s all about him after Flash War, so after #51, you’ll know exactly where Wally is.
Nrama: Wallace, meanwhile, seemed pretty peeved with his mentor...
Williamson: He found something out in #51, he’ll make a comment, he figured something out, and he’s not happy about it. And then he’ll be in Teen Titans for a little bit. Really, the book is going to focus a lot on Barry for a minute, we’re going to bring everybody in - I try to get everybody coming back, because it’s a family. I feel like it’s a family. But for a little bit, Barry needs to run this path alone, and sort of figure something things out - not only did he lose a war, he had a lot of his flaws and mistakes spotlighted on him, and now he’s no longer the fastest man alive. So, we’re gonna have a big story with him trying to work all that out. [Panel?]
Nrama: And Commander Cold is going to be stranded from the future, correct?
Williamson: Yeah! He’ll be hanging out with Barry for a little bit.
Nrama: What made you decide to include this future-twist version of the character?
Williamson: I was always really interested in the character, because you go back and look at the stuff he was saying [when he was first introduced], it was a lot of the stuff that motivated Barry to go back and do Flashpoint. They really had an antagonistic relationship back then, and I always wanted to explore that - this idea of this character, even though he’s not [Leonard] Snart, he still does not like Barry. He says that - he says that back in the annual - he said that Barry Allen was his favorite, but then he met him and didn’t like him. And I wanted to explore that relationship with him and have him trapped in the past - what sucks for him is that he’s going to try to get home, he doesn’t realize that the Renegades died at the end. He thinks he’s going to go home - there’s a line where he says he just wants to get home to his friends, his team, and he doesn’t know they’re dead.
Nrama: Can you talk any about Inmate Crisis?
Williamson: It’s a little too early - we can’t dig into that too deep, but we have a plan for that character, it’s going to be a big part of the book. It’s going to be a little bit of a slow burn drum beat to get up to him, and who he is to the Flash, and his history with him, and why he’s after the Flash family. It’s gonna build - that’s what I can tell you, it’s gonna build to a big Flash story.
Nrama: I assume it’ll be a while before we see Hunter Zolomon again?
Williamson: Yeah, Hunter’s free - Hunter’s free, and he’s up to something. That’s all I can say about Hunter. We’re gonna see little bits and pieces of what Hunter is up to - it’s almost like his parallel path to both of them learning about these forces, and how they’re going to have to come together again.
Nrama: Will we see more of the Strength Force and the Sage Force, even without Hunter’s presence?
Williamson: Yeah - they’re a big part. They got unleashed in Central City, and Central City is a big epicenter for that, and so in #52, you’re going to see how it impacts Barry’s life immediately, particularly with the Strength Force first, with Christian Duce drawing that arc. You’ll see that we have some fun stuff planned with that. And then we’re going to kind of explore the powers individually, first Strength and then Sage, before we show the bigger world affects, and how it affects Barry. Barry essentially has to leave Central City to learn about this.
Nrama: Will any of that tie into your upcoming run on Justice League Odyssey?
Williamson: A lot of that stuff, that will mostly be the Source Wall breaking, I think that will be primarily where we’re going to be focusing on in that. And things that are happening in Justice League, things that are happening in No Justice - Colu was destroyed and the Ghost Sector was unleashed, we’re primarily going to be dealing with that, we’re not going to be dealing with all the stuff that’s going on in the Flash books. Some stuff in Justice League will go on over there, but not Flash.
Nrama: Speaking of Odyssey, it’s been reported that the book has been pushed back two months, with two issues having to be scrapped. Can you speak to what happened, or the rationale behind that decision?
Williamson: We’re going to talk about it on our panel, but essentially it was really easy - we had a summit, and we were talking about the book, and we found a way to make the book bigger, but we were very much - it’s one of those things, when you have an idea, and you think this could be really awesome, can we do that? And it was like, well, I don’t know, if we do that, we have to do this, but we said that it was worth it.
So we wound up pushing the book back to September. But parts of that are going to make it back in - it’s the idea that we had to go in with a really big story that we wanted to tell with those characters in that book, and with the space stuff, when you’re launching a new property like that, you’ve got to make sure you can set your best foot forward. So that was a big part of that was, how can we make this happen, and how can we do this? And if that involved pushing it back, then all right, we’ll push it back. Let’s make sure we can do this really big story and do it right.
Nrama: We understand your creator-owned book at Vertigo, Deathbed, just ended - can you talk a little about that?
Williamson: It’s crazy, man - I remember thinking of that book several years ago and thinking nobody’s going to want to do this book. And I pitched it a little over a year and a half ago to Vertigo, and my old Flash editor, Amedeo Turturro. He was my Flash editor before, and he got promoted to Vertigo - I was in the office and told him this is what Deathbed is about, and he was like, “I want to work on that.” And then the next day he got moved over to Vertigo, and was like, “I’m taking it, it’s mine!” So, I’ve been working with him on that for the past year and a half, and it’s been great. And working with Riley [Rossmo], that’s just the best. Riley is great - I’m going to miss working with him. He’s someone I talk to everyday, so it was really easy working with him.
Nrama: Wrapping up, is there anything else on your plate that you can talk about?
Williamson: My biggest stuff right now is just going to be the Flash and Justice League Odyssey - we have a lot of really cool Flash stuff planned, and I’m working on a few other things that it’s still way too early that I can’t talk about. I got a lot of cool stuff going on with DC, and I’m really happy about it.