DC Editor Brian Cunningham, who now takes over The Flash in the New DC, announced recently that in the new Flash series, “The Flash is a single man. He’s a bachelor who has never been married.”
Let me translate for those of you that may not grasp what just happened. Barry Allen and Iris West Allen were married in Flash #165 (vol. 1), which came out in November of 1966. With one stroke, a 45-year character marriage has been wiped from history.
My initial reaction to this? “Um, excuse me, Mr. Cunningham, sir?”
Let’s clarify this before it even starts: I didn’t decry this just because DC ditched a 45 year-old marriage. The problem here was that marriage came to define Barry Allen’s character as much as the costume he wore.
As stated before, what got me in to the Flash - and in to comics as a whole - was “The Trial of Barry Allen.” Allen was on trial for the murder of his arch-nemesis, Eobard Thawne (Professor Zoom), who had attempted to murder Allen’s fiancee. Allen killed Thawne not just because of the attempted murder, but because Thawne had also murdered his wife, Iris, the same way. That emotional turmoil was at the center of this story, and has been at the center of so many more.
In fact, the relationship between Barry and Iris was so strong that it became a focal point of the entire Flash Mythology, period. The original Flash, Jay Garrick, always his spouse, Joan, at his side. Barry’s successor, Wally West, was married to Linda park, and writer Mark Waid used that relationship to emotionally ground West just like his predecessor, Barry, was grounded by Iris. In “Flash: Rebirth”, the series that brought Barry Allen back proper - and actually began the series of events that would lead to the New DC in the first place - Allen escapes the “Speed Force” by remaining connected to his “lightning rod”...his wife, Iris.
Many comics fans are mad as hell over this particular change. Voiding the marriage of Superman and Lois Lane? not so bad; they were married for 15 of the character’s 73-year history. But this one? Oh, man.
Here, I’ll give you an idea. Ari Berenstein, writer of 411 Wrestling’s Column of Honor” and comic fan, offered me a quote for this story: "DC you don't have to undo marriages in order to create personal conflicts and tensions in a story. If you can't create an interesting story with conflict and tension without saying "this didn't happen and we're starting over" then get out of the industry and stop writing comics, stories, anything!" There are many more sentiments like that out there, and I was certainly one of them.
But then, I started thinking about it a little more. Iris West Allen wasn’t all that defined Barry Allen as The Flash. She was certainly a constant, but this was only a piece of the puzzle. Barry Allen was always - with or without Iris - defined as a good man who sought justice. A little vague for a comic book superhero, sure, but Barry Allen was one of the few that exemplify the values of a superhero.
Why can’t he do that as a single man? I mean, wasn’t this one of the qualities that Iris Allen fell in love with about him in the first place? Seeing Barry Allen redefined as the same person he ever was...actually sounds fascinating. And there’s no reason this can’t be done.
However, I’m not 100% sold on the idea quite yet. That task is going to fall on Francis Manapul. Manapul can certainly draw The Flash. Not since Carmine Infantino himself was an artist born to draw Barry Allen and his adventures. But, is he as good of a writer as an artist?
The immediate, knee-jerk answer is...I have no idea. I’ve never read anything that Manapul has written. I’m not sure he’s written anything at all, to be honest and if he has, I haven’t seen it. In that regard, Manapul certainly comes off as a wild card here.
All in all, I’m curious to see how DC can redefine a character in such a manner. I’m curious to see if Manapul can pull this off. I’m curious to see, since Cunningham also revealed that Iris West will still be around, if this will eventually tell the courtship of Barry and Iris. if that’s the case, I’m curious to see how long they can keep away from that.
As you can guess, though, I’m certainly curious enough to pick up the first issue of the new Flash series. This will have to be seen to be believed and examined further.
* - (Cheap plug time: I wanted to wait a bit until after everybody else and their mother had their say so I could have some time to not be influenced by the reviews. Now that enough time has passed, I’ll be reviewing selected new books starting tomorrow, at the rate of two a week. Those reviews will be brief, and available exclusively at the Count3rCu1ture Tumblr page. Bet you didn’t even know I had one of those, did you? You do now. Go check it out.)