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Old July 3rd, 2007   Bill Walko is offline   #1
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Default Death Of Bart Allen: Flash Backward

Rest in Peace, Bart Allen. It was inevitable that you would succumb to Didio’s killstick of death.

Remember those innocent days in the 1990s? People like to wholesale-bash the 90s as the comic book era of mega-crossovers, holographic covers, all-style-no-substance comics. But that’s rubbish. Spider-clone sagas aside, the 1990s brought us the Death of Superman, a brand-new Superboy, a retooled Legion of Superheroes, the wonder of Ordway’s Power of Shazam, Conner Hawke, the Birds of Prey, Morrison’s JLA run, Kyle Rayner, the joy of Young Justice, Waid’s classic run on the Flash and – last but not least - the infectious exuberance of a certain young speedster named Impulse. Not bad for a much-maligned era in comics. But these days, anything in the 1990s seems disposable at DC Comics.

When Dan Didio took over DC, there was a dramatic shift in tone that started with Identity Crisis. The new DC seemed to be intent on telling darker stories, while – ironically – changing many characters back to their Pre-Crisis, Superfriends-era constructs. All the changes wrought in the 90s (both good and bad, mind you) were undone. It sorta reads like Challenge of the Superfriends with an NC-17 rating. So, naturally, the light breezy fun of Young Justice and Impulse would need to be replaced in this new order. Geoff Johns re-imaged the Young Justice characters in a new Teen Titans series, with Bart emerging as the new Kid Flash. In Didio’s new DCDark, it seemed something had to be done with a character using emoticon thought balloons. Geoff Johns – to his credit - smartly retained a lot of Bart’s core personality and set him on a new ‘hero’s journey’ to start growing up in a new heroic identity.

Then came Infinite Crisis.

I won’t get into a whole critique of the series here, but there seemed to be a great desire to evoke a lot of the story beats of the first Crisis. Now, homages are all well and good. And certainly, the first Crisis has become a milestone, with certain panels and sequences that have been burned into the brains of fanboys far and wide. But some some of the story choices didn’t seem to be completely thought out. Exhibit A: Bart Allen becomes the Flash.

Now, wisely, DC didn’t kill Wally West; They merely took him ‘offstage’ for awhile. Poor Bart, though, was hyper-aged and brought make to evoke Wally’s sequence in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, where he assumes the Flash mantle (a panel-by-panel recreation). The parallels are obvious. First Crisis: The 20-year old Wally West gives up his Kid Flash identity to assume the mantle of his fallen mentor, the Flash, and rockets into his ongoing (and successful) series. Infinite Crisis: The 20-year old Bart Allen gives up his Kid Flash identity to assume the mantle of his fallen mentor, the Flash, and rockets into his ongoing (and unsuccessful) series. Oops.

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive seemed like it had the success formula. Two Hollywood writers (comic book companies seem to hire anyone with a SAG card) and a ‘hot’ artist. Yet fans balked. Sure, sales were higher than the previous series, but that’s always the case with a new #1. The decline started immediately and that’s when it seems Bart was a marked man. But instead of trying to back-peddle and somehow restore the Bart fans liked to begin with... Well, death is the new order of the day at DCDark.

It’s a shame and a waste of a once-great character. Bart-as-Flash bore little resemblance to the Impulse character or even the Bart-as-Kid-Flash character in Teen Titans. By slowly stripping away his unique character traits, Bart became a DCDark character; The fun was sucked right out of him. And the sadder part is, as much as you may want to think it’s part of DC’s great master plan, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In Didio’s analysis of the Countdown preview image, he mentions: “And then we also did one other bit, which may have been too subtle for the picture, and that was Flash having one foot on the statue and one foot off the statue, which meant that particular Flash, at that moment, had one foot in the grave.” Except, when you look at the picture... Neither of Flash’s feet are on the ground. Both are on the statue, According to Didio’s logic, that should keep Flash safe.

Then there’s something else... In this oh-so-meticulously crafted preview image, Flash’s eyes are blue. Bart’s eyes are yellowish-brown (consistently colored as yellowish-brown in both Teen Titans and Flash: The Fastest Man Alive). He's in Barry's costume. Barry has blue eyes. I don't believe that was Bart in that image-- but his series wasn't successful enough and they decided to kill him. And then also this: "Dan Didio inadvertently answered that the Flash in the teaser image released several weeks ago is Barry Allen and Red Robin is Jason Todd.." Hmmm...

Bart didn’t truly die at the hands of the Rogues. His death was the result of DC’s “act first and figure it out later” current editorial regime. It was more important to echo a segment in the first Crisis than to serve a mainstay character for the next ten years. It’s like they barely thought Bart-as-Flash through, and then just arbitrarily discarded him once they were done changing him beyond recognition. There’s a lot of talk about creators merely being “keepers” of these characters while they are working on them. Looks like someone needs to call Nanny 911.

I thought things were supposed to be brighter after Infinite Crisis. But I guess we are still stuck with DCDark, where character death is equated with “powerful storytelling.” Where old stories have to ret-conned as “dark thrillers” with rape, death and gore we didn’t see that happened in-between those too-innocent panels. Where once-fun characters have to be changed into brooding heroes with psychological issue to be taken seriously.

Hey, isn’t THAT what we REALLY didn’t like about the 1990s?
 
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Old July 3rd, 2007   napoleandog is offline   #2
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Wow! Even though I never really cared for the character of Bart...I hate how he was morphed over the years. What happened to Bart is indicative of the comics industry in general (or at least DC, as I don't read Marvel). Your insight is sharp, as usual, Mr. Walko.

Thanks for sharing!

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Old July 3rd, 2007   Matches is offline   #3
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Interesting critique as always, Bill. Watching the Flash drama unfold over the last year to 18 months has been very compelling. IIRC Geoff has said he didn't know that Wally was being replaced, which leads me to believe the decision was made by editorial, most likely Didio himself. Clearly the relaunch was a disaster. Reaction even here, in as DC-friendly a place as you'll find, was decidedly mixed, and the series was a bad punchline everywhere else.

So the question, as with any failing series, became: was Bart-as-Flash failing because Bart isn't Wally, or was it failing because Bart had been changed to the point of being nearly unrecognizable? Probably it was some of both. DC chose to address the first problem, but not the second. And really, they were boxed in by their own rhetoric. Wouldn't the most elegant solution have been some sort of plot device by which Bart returned to being a teenager and resumed either the KF or Impulse ID? That seems like the best solution to me, but DC can't do that and, at the same time, sell the idea of a "universe" moving forward with one, grand plan, because it's an obvious attempt at a do-over.

The unfortunate thing about the whole exercise is that there doesn't really seem to have been much attention given to figuring out what makes Bart tick - why people liked him, what about the character worked - and then grafting that onto the Flash series. The idea of an impulsive kid being pushed into the role at a time when he clearly wasn't ready has huge dramatic potential - but altering the character's personality to fit the role killed it.

Hype doesn't sustain itself indefinitely. The Flash series can't thrive indefinitely solely by changing who's in the suit and/or teasing that it might change again and again. But at times that seems to be the only way TPTB at DC relate to these books. The engagement seems to be superficial, and that's what leads to big ol' messes like this.
 
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Old July 4th, 2007   Bill Walko is offline   #4
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Insightful observations as usual, Matches.

But Didio was the guy who was going to kill off Nightwing, so it doesn't surprise me that he doesn't 'get' Bart.
 
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Old July 4th, 2007   marburger is offline   #5
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That was a wonderful momento of explaining the character of Bart allen Mr. Walko and it had me a tears a little.

Although I briefly knew of the character I think that I would have liked him too and would currently be very upset that DC killed him by the way you explained it.
 
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Old July 4th, 2007   Vinny Piccolo is offline   #6
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Bill Walko drops the hammer.

This thread is BAM approved.

Rest in Peace, Bart. You earned it.
 
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Old July 5th, 2007   Jeff Shabazz is offline   #7
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It's weird, I had absolutely no connection to the character of Bart Allen until I read about his death. But here's the kicker, it wasn't Impulse or the Bart Allen that all of his true fans loved, or whom the writers ten years ago wrote about. It really does seem like a waste, they could have just created a new character to off. I know this now because I went back and read some old Impulse stuff, and also some of the F:TFMA issues I missed (which was #2-#12). Trust me, this was not the same character.

Nice evaluation, I have to agree.
 
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Old July 5th, 2007   Vinny Piccolo is offline   #8
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When Mark Waid, the father of this character says "Good. They had FUBAR'd him enough", that tells you all you need to know.
 
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Old July 5th, 2007   Bill Walko is offline   #9
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FUBAR? what does that mean?
 
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Old July 5th, 2007   Jake1823 is offline   #10
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FUBAR? what does that mean?
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Old July 5th, 2007   Matches is offline   #11
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nevermind, Jake's quicker on the draw than me...
 
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Old July 7th, 2007   RavenFlyingSolo is offline   #12
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Bravo.

I agree with Mr. Walko 100%. And intend to spread the word DCDark throughout the world. The dark world. Of DOOM.
 
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Old July 7th, 2007     #13
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The 1990s brought us the Death of Superman, a brand-new Superboy, a retooled Legion of Superheroes, the wonder of Ordway’s Power of Shazam, Conner Hawke, the Birds of Prey, Morrison’s JLA run, Kyle Rayner, the joy of Young Justice, Waid’s classic run on the Flash and – last but not least - the infectious exuberance of a certain young speedster named Impulse.
Conner Hawke.
Still around. And his name is Connor Hawke, BTW.

Birds of Prey.
Still around.

Kyle Rayner.
Still around.
ddf
I thought things were supposed to be brighter after Infinite Crisis. But I guess we are still stuck with DCDark, where character death is equated with “powerful storytelling.” Where old stories have to ret-conned as “dark thrillers” with rape, death and gore we didn’t see that happened in-between those too-innocent panels. Where once-fun characters have to be changed into brooding heroes with psychological issue to be taken seriously.
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Birds of Prey comes to mind here as does JLA 7.
 
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Old July 7th, 2007   Matches is offline   #14
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Birds of Prey comes to mind here as does JLA 7.
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Old July 7th, 2007   JRM is offline   #15
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In regards to the opening post in this thread.

Thank you.

You said it all. This would be about the only case for a SB-prime punch type of excuse re-con that I would support.

They created a unique voice within the DC universe and then tossed it away like two week old garbage left out in the hot sun; what a shame, eh ...

Jim
 
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Old July 8th, 2007   Captain Calamity is offline   #16
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I never really cared for Bart, or Conner, or even Tim and Cassie all that much. I think they were their best in Young Justice, which (though entertaining) was not all that impactive in the DCU as a whole. I have a lot of YJ back issues, and I enjoyed them--but certainly didn't care what really happened to the characters all that much.

I still don't really care about their characters--but Bart's death really annoyed me:

"What, I'm supposed to be shocked? Sigh."

It's been said before and will again, but when you kill off even one character per week (which is probably what it has averaged out to when you add everyone up), it's just boring. Not compelling, not interesting, not provocative--just standard and uninteresting.

I'd be surprised to read ANY DC "event" book right now--Countdown, Amazons Attack, Mystery in Space or whatever its called--where someone doesn't die. That's kinda lame.

When Infinite Crisis was happening, I was on pins and needles wondering whether Dick or Kory would die. I wasn't shocked by all the death, just those two particular possibilities. The sad thing is that they could both die next week and I probably wouldn't care.

I stopped buying Countdown and Amazons Attack, and I don't plan on starting anytime soon. There's a lot of stuff happening in the DCU right now, but I'm losing interest because the things I used to enjoy reading--monthly stories about THINGS HAPPENING to my favorite characters, and their interactions--doesn't happen anymore. It's just 27 more pages to talk about the 'events' going on.

In the immortal words of Willow Rosenberg, "Bored now."
 
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