SDCC '08 - Johns & Van Sciver Talk Flash: Rebirth

There's a new Flash in town, and he's here to stay.

In one of the most anticipated announcements out of San Diego Comic-Con for comic book fans, DC Comics announced on Thursday that a mini-series early next year called The Flash: Rebirth will re-introduce the once-dead character Barry Allen, bringing the previous Flash back for good into the fictional world he left more than 20 years ago.

Written by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver, the previously-unnamed comic book project had been teased for months by the two top-name creators, who orchestrated a similar return of formerly-deceased Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the 2005 comic series Green Lantern: Rebirth. The return of Hal Jordan under the hands of Johns and Van Sciver marked a dramatic resurgence of the Green Lantern comic book, with the title now ranking as one of DC's best-selling comics.

News of Barry Allen's return to the DC Universe was initially reported in the New York Daily News in April, but his "return" was seen by many fans as probably being temporary, since the character has time-traveled into DC Comics quite a few times since his death. But this announcement today indicates comic book readers better get used to seeing a new Flash around, and the two guys who revived Green Lantern will be the ones bringing him back for good.

Barry Allen, who was The Flash beginning in 1956 during what comics readers call the "Silver Age" of comic books, died in the world-shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths story of 1985 that cleaned up decades of DC continuity. Since then, his nephew Wally West has been serving as the Flash, a character who "graduated" from Kid Flash to the regular Flash when his uncle Barry died.

Now that this announcement confirms Barry is back as the Flash, the fate of Wally West is unknown, although it's possible for more than one character to be called the Flash, since a Golden Age version of the character still carries that name. The fate of the current Flash series, which still stars Wally West as Flash, also remains unknown, with this mini-series being the key to the future of the whole Flash Universe.

Newsarama spoke to Johns and Van Sciver to find out more about the series, why Barry Allen will redefine the Flash Universe, and what this means for the future of the other Flash who's running around.

[But wait, there's more, check out our video interview with editor Ian Satller for more about the project.]

Newsarama: Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver together again, huh?

Ethan Van Sciver: Lightning strikes twice!

Geoff Johns: It does.

NRAMA: Because it's Rebirth again?

EVS: It’s a lot of things.

GJ: What Ethan and I want to do to the world of Flash is what we've done to the world of Green Lantern.

NRAMA: The worlds are so different, though, aren't they?

GJ: They are vastly different, but we want to turn The Flash into a pillar of the DC Universe, just like Green Lantern has become a pillar. Our goal is to elevate the Flash Universe.

EVS: He's entitled to that.

GJ: Yeah. He deserves it. He's one of DC’s top five DC characters. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash.

EVS: To me, he's number one.

NRAMA: Flash is a favorite character for you guys, isn't he?

GJ: The Flash is my favorite character.

EVS: Flash has always been my favorite DC character too. Always. I was brought into the Green Lantern Universe after I'd worked at DC. And that was a happy accident. But Flash was always my favorite.

GJ: His book was one of the first comics I ever collected. And I love Wally West, obviously. I wrote him for five years. I love everything about the Flash Universe. I love all the Flashes. But the Flash Universe is my favorite place in the DC Universe.

NRAMA: OK, now, we need to clarify. Is The Flash: Rebirth mainly about Barry, or is it more about the Flash Universe?

GJ: Barry's the central character. I don’t want to say much more than that.

EVS: Are we being very careful here?

GJ: We're being very careful. We don't want to give anything away.

The opening scene to The Flash: Rebirth is my favorite thing that Ethan and I have ever worked on. The first panel alone encapsulates everything that's happened to Central City since Barry's been gone. Ethan's elevated to another level of genius in the way he directed this opening scene.

EVS: Wow. Thank you.

GJ: It's true. I'm amazed at the pages.

NRAMA: OK, it's centered around Barry, but what about the other Flashes?

EVS: It's centered around Barry, but we touch on all the other Flashes as well.

GJ: Just like Green Lantern: Rebirth touched on all the GLs.

EVS: I don't think anybody... I mean, if you're a Jay Garrick fan, you'll be happy to see this book. If you're a Wally West fan, you'll be happy with this book. If you're a fan of any Flash, you'll be a fan of this book…

GJ: …at least until issue #2!

NRAMA: Oh, now that's going to get people talking. But will other Flash characters be in this book, like Wally's kids, or the rest of the Flash family?

GJ: We’ll be delving into everything we can.

EVS: Nothing will be ignored, really.

GJ: This is literally taking, like, every Flash, all the speedsters, and looking at it and saying, OK, what's the next level we can take this stuff to?

EVS: Right. How does this all work together?

GJ: And where is it going to go? 'Cause Flash has always been about moving forward. And we're moving this super-sonic universe forward. Just like Green Lantern.

NRAMA: OK, since we're being "careful" to not talk about the story, can you tell us about the overall tone of the book?

EVS: I think this book is going to have a new tone from any Flash book that's been done before. Simply because it's about Barry, and we haven't seen Barry for over 20 years. Everybody's used to Wally, and people were getting used to Bart. Barry is a very different kind of guy from Wally or Bart. So the book is kind of going to change too. I think the whole idea is going to shift.

GJ: Yeah, the tonality is much different with Barry front and center.

NRAMA: OK, you guys are saying "different." But you need to define what "different" means. And what's so unique about Barry Allen that he would alter the tone of The Flash that much?

GJ: What we want to try to do is take everything we've done with The Flash: Iron Heights and Green Lantern: Rebirth and Sinestro Corps and present a new look at The Flash, super-speed and superheroes that move fast, and what that means, while also exploring Barry Allen as a character. He's a police scientist. He's this cop who is more relevant now than he was back then.

NRAMA: Why is he more relevant now than he was back then?

GJ: Well, because everyone understands now what a police scientist is.

EVS: Because of CBS. [laughs]

GJ: Yeah [laughs], thanks to CBS and CSI. But also, Barry's outlook and everything are different -- as a character, he's different because of his intrinsic values and what he believes in and how he approaches crime and how he approaches criminals and how he approaches the guilty and the not guilty. There are very specific details to his character and personality that we’ll be exploring on a completely new level.

The other cool thing is that he has been gone for so long. 'Cause he's never met Tim Drake, and he's never seen these other things. There's so much that has happened in the DCU that he hasn't seen.

To me, Barry Allen led the way in the Silver Age. But now that he's been gone, bringing him into the Flash Universe is going to make everything very different from anything we've seen in a Flash comic for a very, very long time.

NRAMA: How does this affect the ongoing Flash series?

GJ: Again, the plan is to tackle this like we tackled the Green Lantern Universe, in a way that makes sense for Flash.

NRAMA: When Green Lantern: Rebirth ended, the Green Lantern ongoing relaunched with a new number one. Is that what's going to happen here with The Flash?

GJ: We can’t talk about that just yet. Right now, we're focused on The Flash: Rebirth.

NRAMA: OK. The last Rebirth mini-series was mostly about bringing back Hal and the various elements of the Green Lantern Universe. That doesn't really need to be done for The Flash, does it?

EVS: Hal had a lot more untangling that needed to be done.

GJ: Hal had a lot more untangling, but Barry Allen has a lot more exploration ahead.

NRAMA: So is this Rebirth more about the story of Barry Allen than it is an actual "rebirth?"

GJ: It's a rebirth because it's about what the Flash Universe is going to be. It's about who the Flash is going to be. It's about what superspeed is. It's about a lot of things. It's about re-envisioning the whole Flash Universe.

NRAMA: Ethan, with Green Lantern: Rebirth, you added a lot of elements to the Green Lantern look that are now incorporated into all the GL books. Are we going to see something similar with The Flash?

EVS: For me, as an artist, this presents so many interesting visual opportunities. I always felt like -- and I don't know why I feel like this -- but I feel like Flash is kind of a brother book to Green Lantern.

GJ: Yeah.

EVS: They're both such important characters. For somebody like me who has worked on speedster books throughout my career at DC -- you know, I started on Impulse -- and because of that, something like Green Lantern came very, very naturally. They're both characters who are energy-based and visually exciting and appealing. They both do cool things and move real fast. And it's just an opportunity to draw cool effects.

Flash, for me, I feel like he's stagnated somewhat over the years. I think there are some easy ways that artists can use to show a Flash moving quickly. And I want to toss all of those out and come up with some brand new ways to show, with a still picture, a human being moving near the speed of light. It's incredibly, incredibly exciting.

GJ: For a lot of the work, both on the Flash and his villains and surroundings, what we're harkening back to and looking at are the original comics by Carmine Infantino.

EVS: Oh, and he was a genius! Geoff, I wasn't a big fan of that stuff until you turned me on to it.

GJ: He's a genius.

EVS: Really, you go back and you read those first 25 issues of Barry Allen, and that guy created some of the most original, interesting, compelling-looking characters, and not just The Flash, but all those rogues were so...

GJ: They're so varied. I love that you've got, like, Abra Kadabra from the 64th Century, you've got Gorilla Grodd and the Gorilla City.

EVS: As good as Spider-Man villains, at least.

NRAMA: Will the Flash Rogues be in The Flash: Rebirth?

EVS: A few of them.

GJ: It can't be a Flash book without his Rogues, in my opinion.

NRAMA: Geoff, let's talk about you returning to a book you've done before. Mark Waid made it pretty clear when he left The Flash this second time around that he had negative feelings about what happened when he returned to the character and tried to do something new. Do you have any concerns about returning?

GJ: No. I'm ecstatic to return to the world of The Flash. I wrote Wally West and the Rogues for five years, but I never wrote it with Barry Allen in the mix. And I also never got a chance to take everything I've learned since then and apply it to the world of The Flash. You know, I've learned a lot working on Green Lantern and working on Superman and Infinite Crisis and Justice Society of America. I came back to Justice Society of America, and we brought new things to the book. The Flash: Rebirth is going to be a different book than when I was on it before. It's not intimidating. It’s a rush. That’s what we want to deliver to people. The rush of these fantastic characters.

EVS: You never felt finished with it, did you?

GJ: I was never done with The Flash, because I can’t be. He is my favorite character. I walked away because it felt like the right time to go when I left the book, but to have a chance to come back and write, and have Barry Allen in the mix, and rethink the Flash Universe after I’ve grown as a writer...writing The Flash was one of my very first assignments ever. So I'm coming on it now and I'm getting to sit back and say, "OK, what did I do? What did Mark do? What did everybody do? What can we do that’s new? What can we do to remind people and introduce people to one of the greatest heroes found in the pages of comic books?"

EVS: And we know The Flash fans are there.

GJ: Oh yeah. The Flash fans are there. The Green Lantern fans were there. They came out.

EVS: I know The Flash fans are there. They're like Star Trek fans. They're going to come out of the woodwork and support this thing. To me, Flash is ... I mean, we've already said. He's in the top 5, right Geoff?

GJ: He's in the top 5 as far as the most important characters to DC Comics. Absolutely. He's actually the most important character to the continued growth of superhero characters from the Silver Age.

EVS: Because he was the first.

GJ: He was the first to come out and be successful, and he led the way because he succeeded and people liked him. That led the way for a new Green Lantern and a new version of all the characters. He kept it going. And I think The Flash as a symbol of that is a great thing to hold onto. And we're going to be playing with that as well.

NRAMA: OK, so you've done Green Lantern: Rebirth. Now you're doing The Flash: Rebirth. Who are you two going to "Rebirth" next?

GJ: We have plans for what's next, but it’s not necessarily a “Rebirth.”

EVS: We have plans.

GJ: But for now, Flash is going to be a major focus for me. I’ll be rededicating myself to the world of the Flash.

EVS: Flash is so important to both of us. Right now, at this point, Geoff and I have the right energy and it's the right time to take a new look at the Flash mythos and build it back up again.

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