The Final Fate of the Flash!

Flash

The banner under the title said it all, “The Final Fate of the Flash!”

I was twelve years old when this comic came out and I have to admit that, at first, it was way under my radar.  The DC line of characters seemed a bit silly at that age, what with all that Truth, Justice and the American Way stuff.  At that point even Batman had yet to recover from the camp-fest of the 70’s Batman television show.  Superman was a goody-goody and Batman was a shark-repellent wielding goofball.  I was a Marvel Zombie through and through, and the angsty mutants of the X-Men were my heroes.

But I’d always had a soft spot for the Flash.  I think it was the costume – the big splash of primary color, the iconic lightning bolt.  He just looked cool.  Plus, every boy wanted super speed.  Of course I dreamed of flying, but super speed was a strong number two on my superpowers wish list.

I’d pick up the occasional Flash comic here and there, or steal one of my brother’s.  I knew the basic facts, that the Flash was really Barry Allen, police forensics scientist and he had a sidekick named Kid Flash.

So it was a bit of surprise when I came across an oddly-titled comic that claimed to reveal “The Final Fate of the Flash!”  The final fate?  Why, this wasn’t even a Flash comic book, it was something called “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (worst title for a comic ever, by the way).  It was written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Perez, whose excellent Teen Titans would eventually cure me of my X-Men single-mindedness.

But at the time all I knew was that the Flash was on the cover and he looked in trouble.  So I picked it up, expecting a another Flash-finds-himself-in-a-tight-spot-and-speeds-to-the-rescue-just-in-the-nick-of-time-only-to-be-late-to-dinner-with-his-girlfriend story.

I was wrong. As it turned out, dead wrong.

I didn’t understand much of the plot since this was the last act of a twelve-issue story, but it had something to do with a universe-spanning threat – no a multi-verse spanning threat and it involved every hero and villain in DC comics.  This issue put Flash at the forefront, fighting to save everything, literally, from oblivion.  In Flash fashion, he managed to save the day, but in doing so he sacrificed his life.

He died.  Barry Allen, the Flash, died.

I bought the rest of the Crisis issues, anxiously awaiting his return, the big reveal where he had faked his death to get an upper hand on the villain, or the discovery that he dead Flash was really Barry’s evil clone or . . . nothing.  Bary stayed dead.  A new Flash, the former Kid Flash, picked up the costume and continued the legacy but Barry Allen, my Flash, was dead.

This was a first.  Over in my Marvel books, characters had died but they were all C or D-listers.  Ask your parents who the Phoenix was and you’d get a weird look, but the Flash?  You don’t kill an icon.  The main character can never die, not really.  The fans won’t stand for it, just ask Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Well, Barry managed to stay dead for nearly twenty-five years, and only now is making his return.  That has got to be a record in comics.  Nobody stays dead forever, but the Flash was as close as they got.

I still have that issue.  It is one of the few that survived the various, painfully regrettable collection purges that I went through during my teens and early twenties.   I’m a more of a DC guy these days and I probably have that comic to thank for it.  And in the end, I’m sorta glad that no one stays dead forever.  It’s a nice counterpoint to our real world, an accepted convention and a cozy escape.

So welcome back, Barry.  But watch your back.  They got you once and they can get you again.  But just know, I’ll be rooting for you all the way.

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One Response to “The Final Fate of the Flash!”

  1. I started collecting comics after Batman (the 1989 Michael Keaton version) came out. It was primarily Batman titles– Batman, Detective Comics, and later LOTDK.

    I didn’t get into The Flash until the cheesy early 90s TV show. But that show got me interested in Barry, not Wally.

    So I started hunting down backissues from Barry’s run (no pun intended) as the Flash. Crisis #8 and Flash #324 became highest on my list of backissues I needed to get.

    Over time I grew to prefer Wally as the Flash. I think it was “The Return of Barry Allen” story (Flash 74-79) where Wally won me over.

    I was against Barry being brought back, but that being said– if Barry had to be brought back, they’re at least doing it right this time (unlike when they made Bart the Flash for 13 issues). I was still leery of the idea of Barry’s resurrection through the first 3 issues of Flash:ReBirth, but issue #4 was fantastic!

    I look forward to the new ongoing Flash title– both the 22 pages of Barry and the 10 pages of Wally. I’m also looking forward to seeing Wally’s new costume.

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