Monday, October 13, 2008

Jay, the Distinguished Flash

As I discussed in a recent post, I'm all for the Return of Barry Allen and the Humanization of Wally West. By "Humanization", I of course mean "the Slowing Down to the Speed of Sound". Kind of like how Confederate women used to refer to the war as "the Late Unpleasantness".

There are a few reasons for my position. First and foremost, naturally, is that the changes reassert the Dynastic Centerpiece Model (my pet theory, which originally sparked the creation of this blog) among the Flash family. Second, Wally's transsuperhypermegaultrametaspeed was -- and always has been - - a storykiller. Third, the original Flash (Jay Garrick, currently starring in the Justice Society of America) topped out at between 700 and 1000 miles an hour. Frankly, if that was good enough to Jay, it's good enough for Wally.

But, most pertinently for this post, returning Wally to his '80s era speed limit helps distinguish him from his principle, Barry Allen. This, then, brings us to the real point of my post.

We know how they'll distinguish Wally from Barry. But how should they distinguished Jay from Barry (other than merely being older)?

Well, a look at some of the original Flash stories gives us plenty of good ideas of how to write a Jay Garrick who's not only different from Barry Allen, but more in keeping with his original characterization...

Jay was rather snarky. Pardon me, as he was a Golden Ager, it would be called "being a wiseacre". This was one of the ways (the many, many ways) that Golden Age characters expressed confidence. Most writers wouldn't dare write the venerable Jay Garrick that way now, but I think it's a perfect way (one of many, many ways) to distinguish him from his fellow Flashes. Let Jay be "the Wiseguy Flash".

Jay was kind of spooky. And he used to use his speed to gaslight people or just scare the bejeezus out of them. This is not something Wally and Barry do, and it's a great schtick to give Jay. Let Jay be "the Spooky Flash".

Jay threw metal shards shaped like lightning bolts at people. Tell me that wouldn't shake you up. It also gives Jay what Heroclixers call "a ranged attack". Let Jay be "The Flash Who Throws Stuff at You".

Jay had his own visual style for superspeed. When Jay runs, let it look like this picture, like he used to. In fact, each of the Flash speedsters should have a different visual look to their superspeed. No, it doesn't make any sense. Not at all. But it looks cool. Let Jay be the "Pencil Line Flash".

Jay was a one-dollar whore. Just kidding! Jay used to steal clothes, borrow clothes, and generally denude people -- guys, really -- at superspeed all the time. There's a clothes-gag in almost every story. What a charming eccentricity to have, particularly in a gentlemen of his years. Let Jay be "the Haberflasher".

Jay sang. Well, really, all Golden Agers sang. And, yes, that includes Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Within continuity, there are only a few Golden Agers remaining (e.g., Jay, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant). Alan's got a bit too much gravitas for public crooning and I can't imagine Ted's got much of a singing voice. Let Jay carry the torch, or rather the microphone, for the Singing Heroes of the Golden Age. Let Jay be "the Singing Flash".

Jay had a thing with "Mister". He called people "Mister Killer" and "Mister Kidnapper". He called inanimate objects "Mister". People called him "Mister Flash". Sure it was probably just a characteristic of Golden Age writing style, but, gosh, it sounds odd today. It's a charming anachronism. Let Jay be "Mister Flash".


Brilliant. Jay is my favorite character in the DC Universe, and I tend to think of him as still being like this. But you're right - he isn't, and he should be.
Great post.
I was always curious about how the Jay Garrick Flash was characterized. Although I love Golden Agers, particularly Alan Scott, Hourman, Dr. Mid-nite and Hawkman, I can't say I find Jay very memorable.

The only thing I remember from recent continuity, is in the early issues of the Johns & Robinson JSA book when accused Captain Marvel of having an inappropriate relationship with Stargirl. At that time I thought, "Ugh, he's the old-fashioned sexual prude Flash..."
"Third, the original Flash (Jay Garrick, currently starring in the Justice Society of America) topped out at between 700 and 1000 miles an hour."

No way did he top out at that speed! In his very first appearance, he was able to intercept all the bullets fired from a machine gun mounted on a plane towards a crowd on the beach. In order to do this, remembering that there were multiple bullets with different trajectories and he needed to intercept them all and match velocities so they didn't drill through his hand, he'd need to be moving *at least* as fast as those bullets, which even back then would have had muzzle velocity on the order of 700-800 meters/second, or 1400-1600 mph. Really, to run back and forth intercepting the number of bullets shown, he probably needed to be going even faster, maybe about Mach 3.
I think of him as the "John Steed Flash".
Given Captain Marvel's bizarre insistence on not revealing his secret identity to Jay, I didn't think there was anything wrong in Jay's reaction to the Marvel-Stargirl relationship.

Of course, that was before we knew that every hero in the DCU has known every other hero's ID since the dawn of the Silver Age and they all call each other by first names even in public, so prsumably now it's been retconned away and Jay was just being an inexplicable prude.

Sigh. I miss the Ordway Marvels, or even just the pre-Countdown/ pre-Trials of Shazam Marvels. But I think I miss even more the idea that there were some distinctions and differences in how close some heroes were to others, and in who knew whose ID, and in who would use a first name in what circumstances.
Now I feel bad that I don't say "Thanks a lot, mister book!" every time I finish reading something.
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Jay here almost talks like the DCAU Wally West, with more 40s style.

I always wondered how many notable DC people read this blog, and consider the suggestions. I've seen Gail Simone post here...
It would be great to see Jay epitomize the can-do attitude of Golden Age super-heroes - especially since he is a creation of the generally less whiny "Greatest Generation."

Too bad he's usually written by whiny Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y-ers.
Not that I don't think that Jay doesn't make a great "singing Flash" but I figure that the Absorbascon would be lobbying for Jay, Barry, Wally and Bart to be a barbershop quartet.
If Jay sings bass, that would actually work. And be very "Flash-like", given the strength of that artform in the Midwest.
I love '40s "wiseacre" patter....
I'm pretty much with the poster in the previous thread: if it's so important to differentiate Wally and Barry by making one so much slower, why not make *Barry* the one who can't outrun a bullet?
You know what else could distinguish Barry? He could be "the Dead Flash."
Posts like this are why I visit this blog regularly. Excellent work. Speedsters bore the hell out of me, so I'd have never given Golden Age Flash stories a chance. Seems I've really missed out. I've always liked Jay, but in that way you like Alan Alda, not someone cool. It makes me wonder about Max Mercury now, because he always seemed interchangeable with the homogenized Silver Age take on Jay that's stuck. Was the original Quicksilver also more interesting back in his prime?

I also mostly agree about Wally West. Mark Waid claimed to love the Flash, but he turned Wally and Co. into the Superman Family. I never liked his run, and never saw it as an extension of either Barry or Wally's prior stories. However, I'm not confident modern readers will accept the depowered Wally. Barry's the more interesting character, but that fanbase belongs to Wally, so it remains to be seen how this will pan out.

Funnily enough, whenever I thought about how to write a speedster, I came up with the kind of stuff Jay did seventy years ago. That's how I'd have written Wally. However, I think the Speed Force stuff could have generated as many stories as it killed with the right person at the helm. Problem was, both Waid and Johns are personality writers, not idea men.
1. Bart Allen is the Dead Flash
2. Doesn't him calling everything Mr. make him sound like a 5 yr old girl?
"Gee thanks, Mr Book, that sure was a swell read!"
The Strawman picks open a sore that I thought had scabbed over. In the ... what? ... five years since that incident, has NOBODY ever stepped forward to set Jay straight about that? Bad enough that there were, at that time, people on the team who knew better, and who should have stuck up for Billy. Jay at least had the excuse of not having all the facts plus being true to his old-school upbringing, but Hector Fate and Michael Terrific both knew or should have known better. This was a disappointing lapse for these super heroes, and the sooner I can get back to forgetting about it, the happier I'll be.
My impression is that Geoff Johns writes Jay as the indulgent grandpa who spoils the kids. Then Alan Scott was more of the stern grandpa.

I think any of the things you mentioned could fit in with his present-day characterization. I could even see him telling some corny old-guy jokes.
Oh favorite Flash. I just love his helmet. He may have fought crime, but he managed to have fun while doing it. For some reason, I picture him sounding like Perry Como.

But slightly more realistic speed limits, and some variety in the way that the different Flashes will be portrayed would indeed be welcome.
I'm fairly certain the only time Jay has been limited to the speed of sound was the period between Infinite Crisis and the end of Bart's brief tenure as the Flash.
I'm not really sure why people haven't tried this yet, but why not have the various Flashes be able to move fast enough to catch bullets but only for relatively short distances. I'd be like sprinting, you go a lot faster than when you're in a marathon because you don't have to sustain it. Well same here!
How to distinguish Barry and Wally.

Barry has a matte red cloth costume that fits in his ring, Wally has a crimson red costume that materializes out of the air.
Barry has a goofy lightning bolt belt, Wally has a cool lightning bolt belt.
Barry has eye-holes, Wally has white eyes.
Barry has ankle and ear wings, Wally has lightning bolt ears.

And last of all, Barry runs pretty fast, and Wally runs impossibly fast!!!!!

P.S. About Jay and Captain Marvel, doesn't he use that "hits opponent with magic lightning" move ever single god-damn fight? You'd think his age would be common knowledge!
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