|Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn||1996–2000||118–129, 142–162||10–12|
|Grant Morrison & Mark Millar||1997–1998||130–141||-|
Note: Cary Bates, John Broome, and Gardner Fox all had significant runs on the earlier series. However, I have not had time to research these yet. For now, I’m focusing on the current series, and considering “long-term” to be a year or more.
Issues: 1–14, Annual 1
Mike Baron set the original tone for the current Flash series. Spinning off from Legends, it featured a 20-year-old Wally West grappling with questions of identity and making the kind of mistakes Barry would never have made. Vandal Savage was Wally’s main enemy during this run, which also got rid of Frances Kane, broke apart Wally’s parents’ marriage, saw him win and lose a fortune, and introduced the Kilg%re, Jerry & Tina McGee, Chunk, and Red and Blue Trinity.
Wally was significantly de-powered before the series began. When the blast from the Anti-Monitor stopped his speed from killing him, it also dropped his top speed to roughly the speed of sound, and left him with a metabolism that required him to eat constantly. Often he would come home from a case, collapse on the bed and wake up 15 hours later.
Baron’s time on the series was also very controversial because the Flash had a sex life. And not only that, but he seemed to be going after anyone who moved. In the space of 14 issues and one annual he was involved with or almost involved with no less than six different women. As Chyre put it more recently, he really was “moving fast” in those days. (See The Many Loves of Wally West.)
Issues: 15–61, Annuals 2–3
William Messner-Loebs had a quite interesting and, in a way, transitional run on the series. He actually picked it up in the middle of the Velocity 9 storyline, just after Wally lost his fortune, and started taking apart the Flash’s world to find its core. Jerry McGee became a real character, Chunk and Piper became friends instead of villains (and Piper came out of the closet), Wally got a steady girlfriend, and he joined the Justice League.
In retrospect, there were three significant changes during this period. The first was that Wally began working to increase his speed again. A lot of it turned out to be psychological: self-doubt and a fear of replacing Barry. It took until Mark Waid’s “Return of Barry Allen” for him to finally break through, but the groundwork was laid here. This self-searching also slowly turned his character away from the arrogant jerk he was during Baron’s run.
The second major change was that Wally moved from New York City to Keystone City, connecting him to a legacy from which he was somewhat cut off in New York.
Finally, the third major change was the introduction of reporter Linda Park. She and Wally met as casual enemies, became grudging allies during a case, then became friends. The rest came during Mark Waid’s time on the series.
It’s hard to nail down an arch-enemy during this period.
Issues: 62–117 (Waid only), 118–129, 142–162, Annuals 4–12
Mark Waid is generally credited with putting the Flash “back on the map.” He picked up the series after Messner-Loebs wrapped up most of his own plotlines, re-examined Wally’s origin, and began connecting Wally even more to the years of Flash mythos which preceded him, bringing back Green Lantern, Dr. Alchemy and others. Other DCU speedsters began appearing, the golden-age Quicksilver was revived as Max Mercury, Iris returned from the future with Impulse, and Wally finally got over his identity issues and regained full speed during the “Return of Barry Allen” story.
Wally’s friendship with Linda became a romance which grounded him in reality, both helping him mature and keeping him from losing himself in heroics. Their relationship became a cornerstone of the series, featuring prominently in ”Terminal Velocity,” “Race Against Time,” “Hell To Pay,” and the Dark Flash Saga, at the end of which they finally married.
In addition to bringing the Flash back to prominence and focusing on his relationship with Linda, Waid also introduced the concept of the speed force, an extra-dimensional energy field which tied all the DCU’s speedsters together by providing them energy and, eventually, calling them to join it. This concept seems to be “love it or hate it” with the fans. Reconnecting Wally with this force, however, brought him back to light speed, eliminated the constant hunger, and enabled him to increase his powers even further by lending or stealing speed from objects.
Waid had a tendency every few years to remind the readers that Wally is indeed the Flash, not a pale imitation, by introducing a new Flash and showing that we were better off with Wally. First it was the “Return of Barry Allen” in which Barry seemed to be back, but he was actually someone else who nearly destroyed the city. Then “Race Against Time” featured the return of John Fox, the future Flash from Waid’s part of the Flash 50th Anniversary Special, who seriously messed things up while Wally was away. Finally, Wally disappeared again at the end of “Chain Lightning” (which introduced dozens of future Flashes) and was replaced by the grim, gritty and mysterious Dark Flash.
Wally’s main enemy during this time would probably be Abra Kadabra who featured in a couple of the earlier stories, then some major ones (“Race Against Time” and the Dark Flash Saga) later on. Of course, he also faced his own reflection in Savitar, and the first appearance of a Cobalt Blue.
Issues: 130–138 (both), 139–141
During the year that Mark Waid was working on JLA Year 1, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar took over the writing on The Flash. The run was brief, but eventful, including a full gathering of the Lightning Brigade, a one-shot focusing on Jay Garrick, the return of the Mirror Master, an homage to the Superman/Flash races... and Linda’s death. She got better, of course—this is a comic book, after all—and the final scene before Waid and Augustyn returned was the proposal.
I actually received an email from Mark Millar once. He was doing some research to determine whether Linda’s parents had appeared before, and he decided to check the Internet before slogging through the back issues... and found this site! (I eventually figured out he must have been working on “The Black Flash” at that time, looking to see if anything had been established—name, appearance, etc.)
Following Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn’s departure at the end of the Dark Flash Saga, various writers did a few fill-in issues. DC then hired Geoff Johns to write a 6-part story, which became “Wonderland.” In it, Wally found himself trapped, powerless, in a nightmare version of Keystone City, eventually forced to team up with his enemies to escape. “Wonderland” was so successful that he was asked to become the new regular writer.
Geoff’s run can be broken into two periods. In the first, he focused primarily on realizing Keystone City as much as possible, and on making the Rogues into a team that could be taken seriously. In the second, he focused on the man behind the mask. We know who the Flash is. Now it’s time to learn who Wally West is.
The major changes have been: (1) The introduction of new supporting cast (primarily among the Keystone City Police) and a number of new villains. (2) The world forgetting that Wally West is the Flash. (3) The Wests starting a family.