Comics on Film: Getting 'The Flash' Back to the Starting Line

Comics on Film: Getting 'The Flash' Back to the Starting Line

Jan 27, 2017

If it wasn't particularly clear before, then it should be now: Warner Bros. Pictures' DC Extended Universe film The Flash is in flux.

It's gone through a variety of different writers and directors already, and with the character by Ezra Miller set to make his substantive DCEU debut later this year in November's Justice League, a somewhat alarming amount of factors revolving around this project just don't seem to be lining up very well.

So, this week, we thought it'd be prudent to take a look at why this may be, as well as offer some advice on what it might take to get The Flash back on course leading up to its new 2019 release window.

Scarlet Speeding is Hard to Do

Back in a late 2015 edition of Comics on Film, we tried to illustrate the inherent difficulty of getting a good Flash film made based on the fact that the character is already well-established – and well-liked – in another medium. On the CW network, actor Grant Gustin gives life to Barry Allen every week in the episodic television series The Flash, which is one of the more critically-acclaimed series in the network's ever-expanding library of DC Comics-based shows.

Naturally, it becomes highly necessary for the film to paradoxically embrace what people love about the character, while also standing apart from the success of the TV series. While it looked like Warner Bros. was up to the task by hiring acclaimed Dope director Rick Famuyiwa, he would ultimately walk away, saying in a prepared statement that he and the studio simply "couldn't come together creatively" on the project. A lot of fans and movie lovers were disappointed, and with very good reason.

Even though the Flash is one of DC's highest profile superheroes, it's disconcerting that the studio seems to be having so much trouble in getting a film featuring him aligned correctly for a major motion picture. Recently, director James Wan posted a picture online of primary cast members for his forthcoming Aquaman film due out next year, and if you had asked us which character – between Aquaman and the Flash – would've had more trouble getting off the ground, most people likely would've said Aquaman.

So, the question then moves toward asking what WB can do to bring the Flash back on track as a movie that both stands apart from the TV show, while embracing what makes the character great in the first place. Naturally (and shockingly, we're sure), an article called "Comics on Film" recommends the filmmakers look at the one place the Flash has been thriving uninterrupted for decades: the comics.

Where's Wally West?

Well, we told a partial truth above. Yes, DC has consistently released an ongoing Flash title on an uninterrupted basis for most of the last five decades – give or take a year or so between new volumes – but the man under the mask hasn't always been one character.

In fact, for a brief period before the launch of the New 52 in 2011, it wasn't unusual to see original Flash Jay Garrick, traditional Silver Age Flash Barry Allen, Modern Age Flash Wally West and Kid Flash Bart Allen all running together in the pages of a Flash comic book issue. This is also before extended DCU speedsters like Johnny and Jesse Quick would join the fray.

In comic book circles, a fair amount of fans have been dissatisfied with the fact that Wally West, who assumed the Flash mantle in 1985 and maintained it on his own through 2008, has been pretty heavily marginalized in recent years in favor of his forerunner, Barry Allen. When Wally was introduced in the comics in the 1960's, he was the original Kid Flash, serving alongside Barry for nearly 30 years before "graduating" to the role of the primary Flash. Though he has had less prominence in the comics for the last several years, actor Keiynan Lonsdale has been doing Wally proud by playing him on the CW's Flash TV show.

Fans of Wally rejoiced in 2016, though, when the longstanding version of the character triumphantly returned to the pages of the comics in DC Universe Rebirth, the one-shot that kicked off DC's current (and much-needed) shot-in-the-arm for its comic book universe. Including Wally in the upcoming film may prove to be an interesting prospect, but it may also simply not fit considering that Ezra Miller is the youngest member of the Justice League cast. Still, the Flash has the potential to be a conduit for something that modern superhero movies just haven't explored in very great detail: the concept of a character's extended superhero family.

A Family Affair

The current positioning of Barry as a younger guy, both in the TV show and the movies, is a bit different when compared to how he's been in most of the comics published with him since his 2008 return. Especially as it pertains to 2009's The Flash: Rebirth, Barry was positioned as the center of the wider Flash family: the nucleus around which the other characters revolved around, and the unequivocal symbol of what the Flash is supposed to be. With Ezra Miller's casting and the look we got of his Justice League scene with Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne, Barry's youth is going to be a primary factor which sets him apart from his other fellow Justice Leaguers.

Some of the better Flash comics, though, revolve around the wider aspect of family. That doesn't mean that you don't feature a singular, prominent Flash, but a wider supporting cast all within the same "mantle" would be a unique addition to current superhero film offerings. A lot of fans would likely agree: among superhero families, the Flash's is one of the best.

It certainly wasn't the first: both of DC's most major icons in Superman and Batman have extended families, with Batman's likely being the most recognizable in the form of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, etc. While the DCEU has a lot of history that's already been established with Batman, introducing some of the other Flashes to both support and bolster Barry's position in the DCEU offers a tantalizing possibility.

And, I think most fans would agree: you can never have too much Wally West. That's a Flash Fact.


Chris Clow is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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