Friday, January 26, 2007

"Because You Demanded It"

I wasn't going to discuss "the image" that everyone is talking about. Usually I pride myself on my irrelevance, and consider the Absorbascon not so much a forum for the comic book issues of the day, but a refuge from them.

But a regular reader has "demanded" my comments on it, and I'm happy to oblige.

To me, it's primarily just a visual representation of the "return" of the multiverse. (another thing readers have been "demanding" for years). It's likely that, as we used to say, "this scene does not appear in this comic!" Still, I don't believe that the mulitverse is going to remain a pure abstraction; surely, we are going to be treated to a trip or two to some other earths.

I don't expect a total undoing of the status quo; most the characters you've feared or hoped might get shipped off to other earths are ones we have already seen on "our" earth, One Year Later. DC has only recently relearned the joy of playing with its entire universe of characters and letting them interact with one another. It seems unlikely and unwise that they would move in the opposite direction.

Therefore, I imagine that the multiverse is intended as a mechanism for increasing the possibility of characters' interaction. Elseworlds might become places that "regular" characters can visit. Readers' ridiculous obsession with the world of Kingdom Come can be indulged on an earth all its own, rather than trying to shoe-horn current continuity into that unpleasant future. Character errors can be fixed more easily, particularly deaths that didn't work out well.

Like Vibe's.

Actually, on the whole, Vibe's death "worked well". It was an exceedingly tragic moment, ennobled by its crudity and pointlessness, rather than being gilded by some puffed up Universe-Saving Sacrifice or Weeping Heroic Multitudes. It was 100 times more real than Barry Allen's "death by apparent desiccation while having my life flash before me and I comment on it". I mean, as real as being strangled by the detached hands of an Ivoid can be.

Readers liked Barry's death because it was so "noble". Huh; dying to save the universe(s) doesn't seem "noble" to me, it just seems like common sense. That didn't move me much. Dying to save a single kid you don't even know (and who just dissed you)? That's noble; that's how Vibe died. It certainly is tragic.

The most similar death I can recall is the last death of Metamorpho, when virtually no one attended his funeral. But even he died sacrificing himself to save his fellow JLAers, not choking to death on a dirty empty street with not a person there.

But this post is not to advocate the Return of Vibe via the multiverse, sorely needed though it is; I mean, everyone knows that needs to happen.

This post is to advocate the Return of Barry Allen.

I don't advocate his return because I'm a big fan of his; I never was, really. All the time I knew of him, he was a boring guy with exceedingly far-fetched adventures based on extremely sketchy "science", pitted against wan, one-dimensional gimmick crooks.

But let's face some facts (at least, as I see them!).

1. His successors as Flash have failed. I'm not talking about their powers or how well they defeated the villain; I mean as characters. Wally showed promise, but it was only fufilled on the JLU animated series. In the comics, he was almost desperately "matured" into less intelligent, lower-class version of Barry, completely losing any of his original charm. Same thing, more or less, happened to Bart. Instead of just giving us faded copies of Barry Allen, why not just give us Barry Allen and be done with it?

2. Don't bother objecting that bringing back Barry Allen would "negate his noble sacrifice". That was over 20 years ago. Besides, it still "happened" to the degree anything in comics does. We've seen Barry again, repeatedly since he died. Barry's death has been milked, well, to death. He's a much more interesting character now; let's take advantage of that!

3. Everybody's doing it. If DC has not been wise enough to avoid mistakes it has at least been wise enough to recognize them afterwards. DC's brought back a host of characters who died, simply because they needed them and we wanted them. So be it. I think it's just fine if publishers want to give readers what they want, just as long as they don't give us what we expect or demand. Ollie Queen and Hal Jordan are not my favorite characters in the world, you know; I've dissed them enormously and repeatedly since they returned. But I'm still glad they're back, because they work in a way there replacements didn't. Barry would be the same.

4. His time has come. Some version of CSI or a knockoff thereof is on every network every night. I think it's time for a comic about a forensics cop, one who just happens to be the fastest man alive. Plus, in our world of hip-talking jivester heroes straining to be edgy, I would welcome the return of the Squarest Man Alive.

39 comments:

SallyP said...

Is it me or is Superman REALLY getting a heck of an eyeful there?

Ahem. Yes, for heaven's sake bring back Barry. And if Beetle's not back, I'm going to stamp my dainty little foot.

And how the heck did Vibe manage to keep talking all the time that he was being strangled?

Peter said...

Not sure I agree that Wally "failed" as a character. Granted, he wasn't as different from the previous Flash as, say, Barry was from Jay, but after a horrendous first couple of years of his title (which I'm amazed wasn't cancelled), he finally got some good writing and was redeemed from the absolutely pathetic dick he became in New Teen Titans.

I'd argue that Wally was/is the only compelling sidekick-grown up in comics. I've yet to read a story with Bart as "The Flash", but again, he's just a guy in the same suit again and I don't buy that he's a permanent replacement anyway.

Part of me would like to see Barry (and Wally) return, if only because every other Silver Age character has come back from the dead and poor Barry got the shaft. On the other hand, I thought I'd be all over a Hal Jordan return and I've yet to read a single comic about him since DC brought him back.

I think it's too bad that DC failed so spectacularly to create a compelling third generation of heroes for the modern age and wound up having to dig up the Golden Age heroes and bring back all the Silver Age heroes to replace their inferior standins. The whole DC Universe just reeks now of stagnation, boredom and death. Like, oh, I dunno, the Marvel Universe.

seth said...

I disagree, I think both Wally and Bart are much more interesting than Barry. I always thought Barry was kind of bland.

The Mutt said...

Here's my plan for the DCU: Every character is his own universe in his own comic. When other characters visit his title, they are his versions of that character. Haneyism taken to its extreme.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to whether DC will try to publish alternate in-continuity versions of characters. For example, having both the current and pre-crisis supergirl around and seeing which version catches on w/ readers the most. They'd have a better way of determing how much more demand there is for a classic Captain Marvel compared to the Winnick version for example.

The nice thing about the multiverse is that everyone can get the character-version they want.

-alex p

Anonymous said...

Scip,
Good points about Barry. He might as well come back! Why be the only one left out?
As for the art-- I'm still mad that the Question got offed. Seems like a stupid and pointless death to me. Kill him with cancer? Sheesh. Done better long ago with Captain Marvel. If all you wanted was to set up Montoya as the new Question, hell, just let Vic retire!
But I suspect they have more in store, even now that he's officially dead. Weird possibilities abound in Nanda Parbat.
later!
Drew

Anonymous said...

There's a reason Barry was killed off: because he was butt-boring in ways that folks desperately try to forget, and his powers were ramped up to an extent that made it nearly impossible to pose a physical threat to him. He works far far better as a fondly-remembered icon of good-natured Silver Age heroism.

Even if Wally and Bart haven't worked, I say that they still worked better than Barry.

Now, I'm not saying that Barry couldn't be written well; indeed, the same could be said about almost any poorly-written character. We just need to make sure that someone actually does the sort of writing we want to see. In the meantime, I will observe that most of the fleshing out of Barry's character was done after he was dead; prior to that his only identifiable character traits were "late for events" and "married to Iris". (And a mere nine issues after Iris was murdered, he was on the make again, so Barry's mourning over Iris is basically a post-Crisis invention to humanize an otherwise personality-free guy.)

SamuraiFrog said...

I haven't been following DC Comics since Identity Crisis. Who is that character all the way in back, to (my) left of Green Arrow? I swear when I first glanced at it I thought it was Forbush Man.

Jared Axelrod said...

What they need to do is somehow merge the previous Flashes into one Flash. That way we could have Barry's CSI knowledge, Wally's sense of humor and Bart impulsive behavior...

...which would be the JLU Flash, come to think of it. All the more reason to do it, you ask me.

Derek said...

I can't argue with you; I don't know enough about any of the comic Flashes.

The JLU Flash was the one that got me into the character. He was also the one that got me to try Bart's new abysmal comic.

Can't they bring the JLU Wally back?

rachelle said...

I am really hoping that the entire idea behind the current Flash comics is to make readers really miss Barry. Then they will bring him back and everyone will rejoice.

He and Ray Palmer could work in a lab together! It would be amazing! They could call the comic Science Cops! Or World's Nerdiest.

LOTRDan said...

World's Nerdiest sounds like the best comic idea ever.

I love me some Ray Palmer, and throw in some Barry for CSI fun with supervillians, and I would buy it every month. And if Ted Kord would help too, well I think my mind would explode.

Scipio said...

"World's Nerdiest."

Heh heh; Simone would work wonders with that.

This month, guest starring: Clark Kent!

Julian said...

Newsarama has an even bigger picture: http://tinyurl.com/2uwujv

We can now observe the red gloved hand of a tiny man next to Mister Miracle.

By the way, in May we are getting Showcase presents The Flash vol 1. 500+ B&W pages of Barry Allen, Infantino, Kanigher et al.

nathan said...

There was a line in Salon.com's review of "Black Snake Moan" that so perfectly encapsulates good comic books, I couldn't help but share:

The key to melodrama is to invent outlandish situations and play them straight, giving the characters as much dignity and integrity as you can.

Lovely, no?

Jon Hex said...

Kingdom Come has been blending into DC continuity even before Infinite Crisis, so doesn't that mean the multiverse was pretty much always there? Kingdom Come seemed to be based on the fact that a lot of current books didn't happen.

It would be a bad idea to have characters with their own worlds or realities. The great thing about DC is that most characters have their own cities and whatnot, kind of giving them an autonomy. To have to make characters do all kinds of wierd, Silver Age crap to do team-ups, well, nulls the last twenty-three years of DC.

The Mutt said...

What's that flashlight thing there by Max's foot?

The Fortress Keeper said...

I always liked Barry. What translates as "butt-boring" to some just meant he was a normal guy to me - even more so than Peter Parker.

He worked at his job, married the woman he loved and - given enormous super-powers - strived to do what was best.

That's a lot more compelling to me than dark, brooding hero/heroine trying to atone for dark/brooding past.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I like normal guys trying just to be decent guys; I may be this planet's biggest fan of the "Quasar" series, precisely because it was about a regular guy with vast powers. It's a great premise when done correctly.

But I invite you to re-read Barry's comic over, say, the Cary Bates run (1972 through Barry's death): I believe you'll have to concede that post-Crisis writers have done a better job building Barry's character than his main Bronze age chronicler ever did. As one tiny example, when "Barry" returned in Wally's comic back in the early 90s, Mark Waid did a better job painting Barry as a believable character than Bates (or O'Neil or Conway) did in over a decade of writing; as one tiny example out of many, I give you the scene where "Barry" stood at Iris's grave and recounted how he proposed to her ("it was corny as hell ... but you accepted"). The irony, of course, is that Waid wasn't writing Barry at all, but rather Eobard Thawne pretending to be Barry -- and yet even Zoom cosplaying as Barry Allen still came across as a better Barry Allen than the real thing.

I put it to you that Barry had been written so poorly for so long, DC felt the character was inherently broken. They were mistaken about the root of the problem; the writers (and editors (and often they were one and the same person)) simply couldn't think of any better way to reveal character with Barry than having him perform some new ludicrous stunt every month.

Post-Crisis writers, on the other hand, have done a bang-up job of painting Barry as a loving family man who grieved a long time after his wife died (under Cary Bates he was hitting on women a mere nine issues later), who was crazy about Charlie Parker, who enjoyed his powers but always took the responsibility seriously. Post-Crisis, you can really buy it -- he comes across exactly like that friendly neighbor who mows his lawn every Saturday and loves nothing more than holding big barbecues and inviting the whole neighborhood.

Pre-Crisis? We were treated to splash pages with Barry running and thinking, "Boy, mom's pot roast last night was great! I'm going to have to jog a few more times around the earth to burn it off!" They had absolutely no idea what to do with the guy.

MarkAndrew said...

Dammit. Who cares about the Multiverse.

I thought you were gonna write dialogue.

Scipio said...

I agree!

Anonymous said...

Barry Allen as "boring" or "bland" is the product of CHARACTER ASSASSINATION by DC to justify killing the second most important character in DC history.

I've read a TON of pre-Crisis DC and Barry is no more bland than Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or Diana Prince. If anything, Barry was FAR more developed and interesting than those cardboard cut-outs. At least Barry had things happen and change in his private life (got married, wife killed, almost got married again, she got killed, killed a villain, got prosecuted for it). And Barry even sacrificed his life to save THE UNIVERSE.

(That Vibe's death can be mentioned in the same breath is ABSURD. Barry didn't just save one kid he didn't know, he saved EVERY kid he didn't know.)

Chance said...

anonymous @ 11:28 PM,

some of your points may have merit. but you don't seem to see what Scipio is getting at. If you, as you are know, knew FOR SURE that if you died you would save EVERYTHING, you'd do it, wouldn't you? if only for your family, but probably for all humanity. I would. I think anyone sane would do so; for that equation, everyone is a utilitarian.

But if you, yourself, could run over and push a snotty kid (who just dissed you) out of the way of a truck, but you would get hit instead... well, not everyone would do that.

I probably wouldn't. Not if no one was watching.

Law Dog said...

BBB - Bring Back Barry.

Nuff said

Scipio said...

Quite so, Chance; my point exactly.

Bryan-Mitchell said...

I grew up a huge fan of the Flash when he was Barry Allen. That being said, however, I don't really care who is in the suit. I rarely care about anything that happens to a character when he/she isn't in their super-hero suit. I can get drama about normal people anywhere. It isn't anywhere that I can get drama about a guy who can run faster than the speed of sound.

Mark Engblom said...

Here's what I thought of "The Image".

Jon Hex said...

Isn't Bart wearing Barry's old suit? Couldn't it just be Bart in "The Image"?

And why are those Build Up to Infinite Crisis icons scattered about the dust? If this is a hint that the multuverse is back, it's weirdly enigmatic. Maybe it just has to do with World War III and the end of 52.

I can't really stand thinking about it, actually. Both DC and Marvel seem obsessed with changing the status quo and shaking things up, but it seems more sensible to just let things be for a year or two after the last two status quo changes, instead of bombarding readers with event after event.

And as for Barry...
He will always be the Flash that died to me. Green Lantern was resurrected after ten years (maybe less if you count in the Parallax years) and Green Arrow couldn't have been gone for half that before he came back. Barry's been dead for twenty years and every appearance since then builds him up with his death been the backbone of the depiction. Bring back Wally if Bart is working out. His story has more depth.

Jon Hex said...

if Bart isn't, I mean.

Barry said...

I'm not sure here, but Bat Pirate up there definatley says "other Universe. "

Bill D. said...

I used to be one of those "Undoing Barry's death ruins the poignancy of his sacrifice and blah blah blah" people. Now, I don't so much care. Both Marvel and DC have spent the last few years proving there's no "important" character death you can't undo - hell, Marvel just undid a huge one last week, I'm told - so they might as well just bring him back already and get it over with.

Anonymous said...

Chance:

I'm not saying Vibe's death wasn't heroic. But Scipio's interpretation comes from his heart, not his head. Saving one person pales in comparison to saving a universe.

For Barry, the task was formidable and the consequences of failure were unimaginable (not just his own death, but the death of a universe).

Vibe's task was rather ordinary by superhero standards and the consequences of failure were of very limited impact (especially given the rescuee's personality). It was more ironic than heroic.

The only real comparison between Barry Allen and Vibe is the editorial fiat that they die.

But take all this with a grain of salt. I absolutely HATED, I mean LOATHED BEYOND DESCRIPTION, the "Detroit" Justice League.

totaltoyz said...

I wonder if "Earth-F" (from Action Comics #274) will return?

totaltoyz said...

I meant Superman #274, actually.

Michael said...

There's a Legion flight ring in there, too, near Blue Beetle's hand. Some sort of Legion return as well?

Nobody anywhere else seems to recognize the Kirby flashlight thingy, either.

Jeff R. said...

You're responding to demands?

Then I second the demand for JLA-Dialog for the teaser image.

Jon Hex said...

I don't what the purpose of Civil War:The Return was than to rob me of three dollars.

Sorry, Scip, just had something to say.

rachelle said...

Yeah. I gotta say...that weird Batman is throwing me off. It has to be a clue that something ain't right here.

And the Question seems to be dead from something more alarming than lung cancer.

And it also kinda looks like Canary is a dude. She's got quite the package there. And I think that Green Arrow notices.

Bennett said...

It will not really have effect, I feel like this.
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