Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flashpoint (or more comic book geekery)

Hi, I'm Perplexio, and I'm a comic book geek.  I started buying comics when I heard that there was going to be a new Batman movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.  As I started delving into the comic world I made several startling (at least for me) discoveries.  The Robin I'd grown up with in reruns of the old 60s show and later the cheesy SuperFriends cartoon from the late 70s/early 80s, Dick Grayson, had moved on and become a new and different costumed hero, Nightwing.  And the mantle of Robin had been assumed by a young orphaned street punk whom Batman caught trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile, Jason Todd.  This had all happened prior to my introduction to the comic book version of Batman.

By the time I started the habit, Jason had been killed by the Joker and Batman had become a bit "unhinged" by the death of his young ward and sidekick.  A rather intuitive young lad, Timothy Drake, had pieced together Batman and Nightwing's true identities and the fact that the 2nd Robin had been killed.  At first Tim was encouraging Nightwing to reunite with Batman.  But Dick had moved on and had no interest in reprising the sidekick role in either his current or former costume.  Rather impressed by Master Tim's detective skills Batman took him under his wing and trained him.  His detective skills were already superior to that of his predecessors but his athletic abilities needed some work... and eventually Tim became the new Robin.

Around this time CBS announced a Flash TV series featuring John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen.  So I started collecting The Flash as well only to learn The Flash was now Wally West.  Barry had been killed off about 5 years earlier and Wally West/Kid Flash had become the third Flash (the original being Jay Garrick, the guy with the winged WWI army helmet, blue pants, and red shirt with a yellow lightning bolt).  Initially I was a bit annoyed that The Flash I was reading in the comics and The Flash I was watching on TV were 2 different characters so I started hunting down back issues featuring Barry Allen.  Eventually though, Wally West won me over.  I came to prefer him over his predecessor due predominantly to the superb writing of William Messner-Loebs and later Mark Waid.  Where Messner-Loebs had written Wally as a man struggling with his own identity and living perpetually in the shadow of his mentor, Waid pulled him from out of his mentor's shadow and made him a super hero in his own right, some (self included) would argue Wally West ended up transcending his mentor's legacy.

A few years ago, DC decided to shuffle things up and thus started the royal botching of the writing of the Flash comic.  Initially Wally ran off into the sunset with his wife and 2 kids to another world.  He was going into semi-retirement as a super-hero to be more of a family man... Fair enough.  But DC was rather vague as to where he had run off to and what he was up to.  There was no formal passing of the torch.  They just arbitrarily aged his sidekick, Kid Flash/Bart Allen (the grandson of Barry Allen) 4 years (from about age 16 to age 20) and made him the newest Flash. 

This would have been acceptable to readers had there been some semblance of a formal passing of the torch from Wally to Bart.  While this had happened DC never had shown it.  It was just vaguely referenced in the first few issues featuring Bart Allen as the Flash.  The first storyline was written by Bilson and DiMeo two of the writers from the old Flash TV series in the 90s.  It was okay but rather weak-- not really the excitement grabbing intro of a New Flash that it should have been.  Then the title was taken over by Marc Guggenheim (who has also written for television-- among other writing credits he wrote for the short lived ABC Legal Dramedy, Eli Stone).  Guggenheim's writing was far superior, imho, and I started to warm to the idea of Bart Allen as the Flash... and just as I started to warm to Bart Allen-- only 13 issues and a little over a year into his run as The Flash and largely due to sagging sales Bart, who was one of the better written young characters DC had introduced in the 90s, was killed off.

Wally was brought back but only as a stop-gap measure until DC decided to resurrect Barry Allen. 

Despite being generally against the idea of resurrecting a character that had been killed off over 20 years before and the interesting plotholes related to such a resurrection (why did the resurrected Barry Allen suddenly appear younger than his successor, and how/wife did his wife/widow reverse age?  She went from being portrayed as a believable but generally well-preserved grandmother figure-- think Jane Seymour to suddenly looking about 20-30 years younger) I was willing to give writer, Geoff Johns, a chance to win me over. 

Now over a year into Barry's resurrection I have been wowed-- not by Barry Allen... (at least not yet) but by Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash.  Thawne has also been resurrected as he had been killed by Barry Allen back in the early 80s.  As he had been written in the 60s-80s, Thawne was a bit 1-dimensional and cardboard.  Geoff Johns resurrected Thawne as a brilliant and well-fleshed out super-villain. 

Throughout his run as the Flash, Barry Allen was able to travel through time using a "cosmic treadmill."  Although he repeatedly refused to change events that would alter the future.  His only reason for traveling through time was to prevent some of his rogues from altering the past as a means to change the future or to chase down some of his rogues that were trying to escape into the future.  Eobard Thawne had and has no such reservations about changing the past-- going so far as to change the past to remove from existence people he doesn't like from the present.  Thawne is obsessed with Barry Allen so the last thing he wants to do is erase the existence of the object of his obsession... Instead he changes the past to remove from existence or drastically alter the existence of those Barry loves and cares about.  He releases the catch on a screen door so Barry's childhood dog runs out into traffic and gets killed, he kills Barry's mother and frames Barry's father for the murder and generally just about any and every misfortune in Barry's life is due to Thawne's meddling in Barry's past....

Which brings us to the present... Not content to merely mess with Barry's past.  Thawne has decided to remove many of Earth's other heroes from existence.  He prevents the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne by Joe Chill so Bruce Wayne grows up to be a billionaire playboy casino owner instead of the Batman; and he prevents the crash of the spaceship of the alien that bestowed upon Hal Jordan his Green Lantern and his GL ring, and DC is being rather mum on the other changes to the past Professor Zoom invokes to erase from existence some of the most cherished figures in DC's stable of super heroes.

This major DC story event will be starting this summer.  Barry passes out and wakes up to find that many of his fellow super heroes no longer exist (although their alter-egos exist as civilians) and there are several new heroes that didn't exist before that have now been around for quite awhile.  And its up to Barry to figure out how and when Professor Zoom changed the past and fix it.

There is something delightfully and brilliantly evil about a character who rather than kill those he doesn't like, goes back in time either to prevent that person's parents from meeting or somehow changing the circumstances of a person's existence to remove their threat to him.  It's also considerably more malicious than a brilliant but unhinged madman with green hair and a white face messing with your head and killing your sidekick.

Currently Marc Guggenheim is working on a film script for a Flash movie tentatively scheduled for a late summer 2013 release.  I'm really hoping that Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom is in the script.  He's just too rich of a character to go to waste.  Considering the script isn't complete, the film hasn't yet been cast, there is considerable speculation and casting wish lists by fellow comic geeks for who should play The Flash.  Rather than weigh in on that, I'd like to put on the table-- if Professor Zoom IS in the script for the Flash movie the perfect casting choice to play him, Paul Bettany.

1 comment:

Jessica D'Amico (JeDa) said...

Awesome post! Got to learn a little about comics I'm not exposed to. Comics are something I keep in check, and actually also avoid, since I can get carried away and spend too much--can be addictive. TY!