Thursday, 25 March 2010

DC Comics Super Hero Collection - The Flash

With or without a "The" as part of his name, there's something about The Flash that has always appealed to me, although - in saying that - I realise now that I'm going to have to explain which Flash I mean.

I don't, for example, mean the original Golden Age character, Jay Garrick (the one who wore a wok for a hat). Like many of the original JSA characters, by the time I got into comics his costume was already looking old-fashioned, like it should have been a discarded design concept. Nor do I mean Wally West who took up the mantle in the 1980s or Bart Allen, who began as the sidekick Kid Flash. (You see what I mean about the confusing state of DC continuity?!)

No, for me, the real Flash - the one I first discovered - was Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. Of course, I never knew much about his backstory (something about an accident while working in a police lab and having a girlfriend called Iris, as far as I can remember), but that didn't matter. It was enough to know that he could run fast (faster than Superman!) and that his costume was red and gold - an unbeatable colour combination! He just looked so cool!

I was delighted then that the first Flash made by Eaglemoss for the DC Comics Super Hero Collection was the Barry Allen Flash - my Flash - and that they'd captured his look perfectly!

Of course, these days, my appreciation of the character is a little different. I rediscovered the Flash as part of the Justice League animated TV series. This was the Wally West version and, although I had no idea what had happened to Barry Allen at that time, Wally had a personality that was kind of hard to dislike. He was the class clown; the lovable joker, always ready with a goofy quip to lighten even the direst of situations. I don't know if Barry Allen ever had a distinct personality as such (those things never seemed very important back in the day!) but, since Wally's costume was pretty identical to Barry's, it was fairly easy to take Wally's personality and graft it onto my memory of Barry Allen!

The other reason I've rediscovered my fondness for the Flash is because of his lack of powers. Over the years I've become one of those people who believes that the more powerful a hero is, the less interesting he becomes. With only one power (the ability to move incredibly quickly!) the Flash poses a real challenge for his writers. They can't simply have him racing a rocket-powered car every month and so they are always having to be more inventive; always having to find new and creative ways for the character to use the one power he has. What began, therefore, as an ability to run fast has now become the ability to create whirlwinds, to run up walls and across water, to vibrate through solid objects, to create vacuums, centrifuges and cushions of air ... in effect, they've extended his range of abilities and, unlike Superman, they've done it without adding a single extra super power to his arsenal. Now, for a writer at least, that's the way to make a character really interesting!

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