‘The Flash: Futures End’: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally West’s fate

Sept. 24, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.
048 dcc flash 1 0 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

The lenticular cover for "The Flash: Futures End" No. 1 alternately shows Barry Allen and Wally West. WARNING: This gallery contains spoilers for the new issue and scenes from throughout writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen's first "Flash" arc. (DC Entertainment)

flashannual3p2 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

After being shown dead from a car crash five years in the future in "The Flash" No. 30, Wally West is introduced alive in "The Flash Annual" No. 3, written by Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, as Barry Allen catches him spray-painting anti-Flash graffiti. (Ron Frenz / DC Entertainment)

flashannual3p3 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

The decision to make the New 52's Wally West biracial drew some online criticism, as did introducing him spray-painting graffiti. (Ron Frenz / DC Entertainment)

flashannual3 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

Brett Booth's Future Flash design is seen on the "Flash Annual" No. 3 cover, which he drew, with inks by Norm Rapmund and colors by Andrew Dalhouse. The damaged Future Flash is racing back in time to stop the death of Wally West -- and to hasten the deaths of some others. (DC Entertainment)

flash32page20 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

Wally West and Barry Allen begin to bond (as Wally's Aunt Iris gets back to their seats) at a Central City Diamonds game in "The Flash" No. 32. (Brett Booth / DC Entertainment)

flash33page2 The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

Central City Police forensic scientist Barry Allen knows Iris West through her work as a crime reporter. Because his mother was murdered and her nephew Wally's mother disappeared, she believes Barry can connect with the troubled youth and be a positive influence. (Brett Booth / DC Entertainment)

flashfuturesend2dcover1ds The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

Wally West is seen on the 2-D cover of "The Flash: Futures End" No. 1. SPOILER WARNING: The next three images in this gallery are from inside the new issue, which is written by Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, with pencils by Brett Booth, inks by Norm Rapmund and colors by Andrew Dalhouse. (DC Entertainment)

flashfuturesend1crash The Flash: Futures End: Venditti, Jensen discuss Wally Wests fate

Wally West and his Aunt Iris are speeding to stop her brother Daniel, a.k.a. Reverse-Flash, from doing harm. Future Flash knows they will crash, killing Wally, and has raced back through time to stop it. (DC Entertainment)

Barry Allen is in a race against himself – specifically, his future self – and Wally West’s life hangs in the balance.

The time-bending story that writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen launched when they took over “The Flash” earlier this year reaches a major turning point in “Futures End: The Flash” No. 1, out Wednesday, and the team discussed that, what’s to come and the challenges of introducing a new version of Wally for DC’s New 52 with Hero Complex in a recent phone interview. Fair warning: There are spoilers below (and in the gallery above), and if you’ve yet to read the new issue, you might want to stop reading now and come back later.

Wally, originally introduced in 1959 as the white, redheaded nephew of Barry Allen’s girlfriend Iris West, was the Flash to readers from the mid-1980s until 2009, between Barry’s heroic death and return. But the popular character had been absent from the 3-year-old New 52 reality reset until Venditti and Jensen debuted Wally anew as a biracial teen dying in a car crash five years in the future in their first issue, “The Flash” No. 30.

It is this tragic accident that is at the heart of the new issue, part of DC’s September “Futures End” look-ahead event but notably woven into an ongoing arc, with Future Flash rushing back through the decades to prevent Wally’s death. It’s not a purely heroic mission: He’s also killing or otherwise stopping some older foes on the journey back. In the back-and-forth-through-decades narrative, present-day Barry has noticed himself losing time, an issue with the Speed Force that gives him his powers, and whose tragic fallout his future self has seen and is planning drastic action to fix.

The decision to make the New 52's Wally West biracial drew some online criticism, as did introducing him spray-painting graffiti. (Ron Frenz / DC Entertainment)

The decision to make the New 52’s Wally West biracial drew some online criticism, as did having him spray-painting graffiti in “The Flash Annual” No. 3. (Ron Frenz / DC Entertainment)

As the writers, who previously teamed on “Green Lantern Corps,” have progressed the story, Wally, in crime reporter Iris’ care after his mother has disappeared, hates Central City’s speeding superhero – even spray-painting anti-Flash graffiti – for putting his uncle Daniel West, a.k.a. Reverse-Flash, in jail and being absent while villains wrecked the area in the recent “Forever Evil” event, but has eventually bonded with his aunt’s forensic scientist friend Barry Allen, who knows what it’s like to lose parents.

What Venditti (“Green Lantern”) and Jensen (“Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer”) have in mind for Wally has been a hot topic. They shared some insight into him and other characters, addressed some early criticisms about Wally’s portrayal, and delved into how Jensen’s experience as a newspaper crime reporter has informed their “Flash” run.

Hero Complex: Let’s talk about the psychological underpinnings of the story – the Flash not being places in time, losing time. We see the beginnings of the problem with the present-day Flash, and the extreme results with Future Flash. What was the storytelling appeal of delving into that with your first arc?

Van Jensen: I think one of the things we really looked at early is the idea that basically anyone can end up going to a dark place. Barry Allen has been referred to as kind of the saint of the DC Universe, and is this very purely heroic character. Psychologically, we’re exploring what would the circumstances be that could take him to become more of a jaded, cynical person, and what would that look like. What becomes really appealing about this particular story in this “Futures End” issue is this is very much a collision point between the two. When you see Future Flash off by himself, that’s one thing, but to see him next to a version of himself that’s closer to the present, you’ll really see that contrast come through, and I think it drives home the very core emotional part of the story – the corruption of this great hero. Obviously, there’s a lot of big fighting in there too, but we really wanted to be very much based in the evolution of the character and multiple iterations of him.

HC: Maybe it’s just a circumstance of the villains and where they are in their lives, but in reading back over the issues, it seems as though Future Flash has gotten a little more humane as he’s gotten closer to the present.

Robert Venditti: That’s intentional. It’s definitely going to play into what we see coming out of this arc for all the characters. Like Van was saying, it’s interesting because what makes stories great is always characters. This is a situation where we created a hero and a villain where they’re both literally the same person, and so they both inform and expand on our understanding of the other as we read the stories. What you’re seeing with Future Flash going backward and almost becoming more humane in his treatment of the Trickster versus what he did to Gorilla Grodd, which was sort of our first experience of him really as a character, that’s all part of a larger plan.

Wally West is seen on the 2-D cover of "The Flash: Futures End" No. 1. SPOILER WARNING: The next three images in this gallery are from inside the new issue, which is written by Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, with pencils by Brett Booth, inks by Norm Rapmund and colors by Andrew Dalhouse. (DC Entertainment)

Wally West on the 2-D cover of “The Flash: Futures End” No. 1. (Brett Booth / DC Entertainment)

HC: No. 34 ended with Future Flash stopping Reverse-Flash as Iris and Wally are racing toward what would be that fatal car crash, with present-day Flash en route. The cover of the new one has that teasing image of Wally in a costume. What can you say about what readers have to look forward to in the “Futures End” issue?

VJ: I think absolutely we’re going to see Wally do some running [laughs]. For the first time in the New 52 era of the DC Universe, we’re seeing Wally West with the Speed Force powers, and that’s something that’s going to have some really far-ranging impacts. This is kind of just a first taste for the Wally West fans, but rest assured there’s much, much more to come from him.

This issue is really all about collisions …. It’s all kind of framed around this car crash that started this arc. So you see Wally and two different Barrys all colliding in this one incident in ways that are going to forever change all of them. Wally from Day 1 has been a very integral part of that, and I think this is a point where we’re going to see even more and more of it. As much as Barry has been an influence in Wally’s life, Wally being an influence on Barry is going to be an even bigger part of the story going forward.

RV: When we introduced Wally West, we wanted to do it in a way where he didn’t just walk through the story. We wanted to make him an integral part of it, as Van was saying. There’s so much about Wally West that has made him such a fan-favorite character, this legacy aspect of him probably at the top of that list. Van and I have taken some risks, I think, and we’ve challenged ourselves in the way we’ve reintroduced Wally West into the New 52. The “Futures End” issue, where we see Wally get the Speed Force, is just one aspect of how we’re bringing that all around. Brett Booth actually just turned in the final pages for “The Flash” No. 35, which will be the final issue of this first arc, and it’s an issue that’s writ big, there’s a lot of huge moments in there. There’s a lot that I hope fans will find exciting, if you’re a Barry fan, if you’re a Wally fan, or a fan of both.

HC: You mentioned taking risks with reintroducing Wally West in the New 52. I know it was DC’s request to introduce a younger, biracial Wally – and that drew the sort of automatic criticism that’s going to happen when those things are announced. And then after he was introduced alive in “The Flash Annual” No. 3, spray-painting anti-Flash graffiti, there was some fresh criticism about him maybe being stereotypical. How did you take those criticisms? How do you respond to that? And, as the Barry-Wally relationship has progressed in the comic, have you heard different feedback?

RV: Yeah, we have heard different feedback. The feedback certainly wasn’t all negative in the beginning either. There were some criticisms, I guess, of him being stereotypical, but I think that … if you look at the reasons why he’s [spray-painting], you come to find out that the reason why Wally is painting this is because that Flash symbol has become a symbol in Central City of people who are angry at the Flash from when all the heroes disappeared. Central City suffered probably the worst of all the cities in the DCU, so there’s some anger: Where was our hero in this moment we needed him most? And that’s compounded even further for Wally because his mother disappeared during “Forever Evil” – he has no idea where she is. He was on the verge of becoming a ward of the state and was taken in by his Aunt Iris, who he hardly knows. So he’s someone who has a lot of anger – toward Flash, specifically. I think that was what was driving him spray-painting this, as opposed to anything else.

Central City Police forensic scientist Barry Allen knows Iris West through her work as a crime reporter. Because his mother was murdered and her nephew Wally's mother disappeared, she believes Barry can connect with the troubled youth and be a positive influence. (Brett Booth / DC Entertainment)

In a scene from “The Flash” No. 33, Central City Police forensic scientist Barry Allen talks with crime reporter Iris West. (Brett Booth / DC Entertainment)

HC: Barry Allen’s detective skills have been very evident in this first arc. What’s important to you about that aspect of the character?

VJ: Barry has these two components of his life: He is a superhero, he is a crime fighter in that regard, but he’s also a scientist at a crime lab. I think there’s not one that’s necessarily greater than the other for him. And so we wanted to explore that, build up some of the characters around him and just look at day in and day out what that job entails and how he uses those skills as much as he uses his speed.

For me, that was something that was appealing about taking on the book. I had been a newspaper crime reporter five years back, and so it’s just a world that I’ve lived in and that I know pretty well. It’s knowledge that I haven’t been able to bring to bear on a comic book before, and something that I hadn’t set out to do necessarily, but it worked out really well.

HC: Regarding your having been a crime reporter, how has that informed your approach to writing Iris West?

VJ: It’s been interesting especially heading into the second arc …. We decided that we really wanted to focus on Iris, and as we talked about it and thought about it I realized there was a lot of emotion about the career that I previously had that I hadn’t really processed. Because it’s kind of harder to be a crime reporter, in that your best day is someone else’s worst day. If five people get murdered overnight, you get to write the story that’s going to be on the front page of the paper, and everyone’s going to be telling you, “Great job, awesome story,” which you get a lot of acclaim, but that comes at the cost of five lives. That’s something that I don’t think has been explored yet with Iris. We’re going to look at that emotional cost to that character, the baggage that comes with success at that career. It’s been almost cathartic for me to do that.

HC: Especially with Wally’s costume coming into play, and looking back over the arc with Future Flash, could you talk about the design work and storytelling work that Brett Booth has done?

RV: Brett has gotten to draw so many great things in this first arc. We’ve gone through, between the modern-day Flash story line and then the Future Flash story line working at the same time in each issue, Brett has gotten to draw almost all the rogues, he’s gotten to draw an entirely new cast of sort of imitation rogues we created in the present. He got to design the Future Flash costume. He’s now designed two different costumes for Wally West. At the end of 35 [laughs], just to kick it up a little crazier, if you’ve seen the cover, he draws dinosaurs. It’s been as much fun watching him work and draw all these very different types of drawing – future settings, modern settings, different characters, superhuman gorillas, dinosaurs – and he does it all with such a flair and such an energy that he brings to the book. It’s really something that’s essential if you’re going to have a Flash comic.

Blake Hennon | Google+ | @LATHeroComplex

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