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Dear DC Comics, That’s Not The Wally West We Asked For

When DC Comics launched their company line-wide New 52 reboot nearly three years ago, there was one glaring omission from their character line-up (well, to be fair, there were a few, but this was maybe the biggest.) Wally West, the man who wore the mantle of the Flash for the better part of twenty five years was nowhere to be seen, and was instead replaced by Barry Allen, his predecessor as the Flash. Barry had been dead and gone for decades, and was only recently brought back to life a few years prior. Wally was, for all intents and purposes, THE Flash for a generation, a position solidified by his being the Flash in the animated Justice League series as well. When IGN did their 100 Greatest Comic Book Heroes list, Wally made it all the way to the #8 spot, well ahead of Barry Allen. But with the coming of the New 52 DCU, Wally vanished.

Since then, at almost every comic convention from San Diego to the UK, at least one fan always asked DC representatives, “When is Wally West coming back?!?” — which usually got a muffled response, or, at worst, a dismissive “next question.” But finally this past month, Wally West finally returned to the DC Universe in Flash Annual #3. He’s still the nephew of Central City reporter Iris West, but he’s a young teen again. And to make things edgier I guess, Wally is now a troubled youth who meets Barry Allen while tagging a wall with graffiti.

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Before I get into why this new version of Wally West is exactly what fans didn’t want, let’s address the elephant in the room; this new Wally is African-American. That’s not my problem, and it shouldn’t be yours either. The original Wally was a pasty white guy and a red head, and although I’ve always loved  how gingers are usually portrayed in comics (I love how supposed natural gingers in comics have this fire-engine red hair, the kind that almost exclusively comes from a bottle in real life.I’m lookin’ at you Mary Jane Watson and Jean Grey.) But ya know what? I’ll trade racial diversity and inclusivity over my need for Wally West to have a mop of red hair any day. In short, Wally becoming a black character is not my issue. At all. Although, DC might have wanted to think about the taste level in introducing a young, new African American character as a troubled youth who vandalizes property. I mean, really? One step forward, two steps back I guess.

No, my real issue is that Wally is a kid again. Presumably, to be a new Kid-Flash before too long. Here’s the problem: Wally as Kid Flash is boring. Oh, it’s crucial to his character that he was Kid Flash at one point, don’t get me wrong. But Wally’s least interesting years were as Barry Allen’s sidekick.  The reason fans love the Wally West version of the Flash so much is because we’ve seen him grow and change much as a real person would, a rarity in superhero comics where characters are seemingly frozen in amber forever. Wally wasn’t one of those characters. We saw him go from teen sidekick to reluctant hero to married father of two. The whole “married with kids” part might be Wally’s biggest problem in regards to DC editorial, who regard “growing up” the same as “growing old and obsolete” these days.

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The beginning of Wally’s character progression really begins in earnest in the early ’80s, when he was part of the New Teen Titans, at the time DC’s biggest selling book. On a team that had a sexually liberated space princess, a tortured half man/half machine, the daughter of a demon, and a version of Robin struggling to live up to his mentor Batman, Wally West was just an average suburban kid from Blue Valley, Nebraska. He was the least interesting of the bunch, and series writer Marv Wolfman struggled to find interesting stories for him. Wally also seemed  kinda judgmental of some his teammate’s more unorthodox lifestyles, was a tried and true Reagan America conservative youth, and mostly just wanted to be “normal”, in the way his mid-western parents would consider normal. Eventually, Marv Wolfman got so bored with Wally that he wrote him out of the series a few years in, pairing him off with a girl named Frances Kane, who had super powers herself but shunned them, also just wanting to be “normal.” And that might have been the end of Wally, but Wolfman gave the character a huge  gift in 1985, when Barry Allen died saving the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the mantle of the Flash was passed to Wally. And that’s when Wally started to get interesting.

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Within a year of his new ongoing Flash series, Wally ditched girlfriend Frances Kane, having outgrown her and her need to be ordinary and not super. He kind of started becoming a bit of a slut at this point, even dating a married woman for awhile. (This period of Wally was clearly the inspiration for the animated Justice League horn dog take on the character.) He found out his picture-perfect suburban family wasn’t so perfect after all (his dad, it turns out, was kinda evil) and he even started hanging out with members of his martyred uncle Barry Allen’s rogue’s gallery, particularly the Pied Piper, who was gay. Over the course of a few short years, Wally’s conservative views on people had drastically changed from his teenage years, as a real person’s often do when transitioning from adolescence into being an adult and being confronted with people outside of what one was used to.

Of course, future series writers Mark Waid and later Geoff Johns really pushed Wally even more into the hero who would be loved by so many, making him a hero truly worthy of the name and legacy of the Flash. For many readers out there, Wally was the ultimate Flash. He was the only kid-sidekick character to take over his mentor’s title, and not just for a brief short lived stunt (like with Nightwing taking over for Batman, or Winter Soldier replacing Captain America.) When DC tried to replace Wally as the Flash after their 2005 mini-series Infinite Crisis with then-current Kid Flash Bart Allen, fans revolted; in less than a year Wally was reinstated as the Flash. But then DC got rid of him again in 2011 after their Flashpoint mini-series. Obviously, someone higher up at DC, who shall remain nameless, obviously has it in for Wally West.

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So after several years of begging from fans, DC has now given us a character named Wally West again, although one with none of the attributes that made fans love Wally in the first place. True, the New 52 DCU is a younger universe, but DC knew well enough to not de-age Dick Grayson into being Batman’s kid partner Robin again, realizing that the character’s growth from Robin into the adult hero Nightwing was a huge part of the character’s appeal. It’s the exact same appeal with Wally West’s version of the Flash. How DC can understand that about one character and not the other is somewhat baffling.

The funny thing is, if DC wants to maintain Barry Allen is their primary Flash (as in the only one with his own ongoing title) they’ve proven they can do that and still have alternate versions of the character with their Earth 2 book, a title that features a new, younger version of Jay Garrick, who was the original golden age Flash, but on an parallel Earth. They couldn’t have given us an adult Wally an Earth all his own, where he more or less resembles the Flash fans have grown to love? He could have reflected the things fans love about Wally while still being an updated version of the character at the same time (including being African American if they so chose.)

DC has a huge Multiverse that they seem timid to fully exploit. As a fan of Wally West’s Flash, I can only hope that the version we love exists out there in some form, waiting for the good folks at DC to let us see him once again. Because another kid sidekick who just happens to share a name with Wally West isn’t going to cut it.

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38 comments

  • The new black Wally West doesn’t act or speak like anything the real Wally would, and so this leads me to believe that this guy was supposed to be a new character, but the executives didn’t want to risk it so they replaced an already established character.

  • Don’t get me wrong I loved the red head Wally but this is good give the black kids somebody to look up to i mean sum of these comments are just racist and I don’t Care for them i mean i understand yall missing red head Wally and so what he is black but I bet a lot of yall would not mind if he was still white but a different character and what I say to dc is yall rock keep doing what yall do and go ahead make a black robin and I know this is a dc topic but marvel yall rock with miles morales

  • My problem is because HES FUCKIN BLACK! If Afro Americans want superheroes to model over than grow up with out criminal activities and get a job as a cartoonist. Create a character and have him published. Always want shit for free u swear!

  • It is DC using forced bussing to cram liberal ideals where it is not needed. History has proven that forced bussing was wrong, a mistake, and actually made whites and blacks hate each other even more and in a lasting permanent way. It also show how little regard the whites at DC have for us black folks, that we should have no pride in original strong characters and accept hand me downs. DC demonstrates how truly racist and black baiting they are.

    • There’s nothing racist about being against racebending.  I’m just as upset about them changing Wally into a young black kid who tags buildings as I am about them racebending one of the best black female heroes (Onyx) into a white (and not just pasty white but bone white pretty much albino-looking) woman.

      If they want to play around with races, do it in an alternate universe (or invent a new character like they did with John Stewart or Batwing, etc.).  For example, the Earth-2 universe has a black Hawkwoman and a black Aquawoman, and they were excellent characters.

    • Grow up. Reasons were given and you still want to play the racist card. The fact that Wally West became THE Flash for damn near 3 decades and is now completely different is going to piss longtime fans off. That means everything Wally from pre New 52 is retconned. Go play righteous racist somewhere else. You have no ground to stand on as it is obvious this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Just because some of us have a issue with changing the characters ethnicity does not make us raciest. I have a bit of an issue with it for multiple reasons. An outward appearance may nopt be the only thing that represent us as people but, it does represent us. I love Wally’s red hair and freckled face. You can’t have red hair on a black man or woman, you won’t like natural. That’s a issue, if he’s black, his red hair is gone. I don’t mind if they make black original characters, like John Stewart, Cyborg, Bumblebee…, but if they are already white, then they should stay white. I would feel the same way if they decided to make a already existing black character White, or even if they decided to change Beast Boy from Green to, I don’t know, Purple, or Pink, Blue, Red, Or Orange. Beast Boy is green, he should stay Green, Cyborg, John Stewart and Bumblebee is black they should stay black, just like Wally West is white, he should of stayed white. 

  • I’m 27 years old and black.Wally West IS and always will be my Flash, the one I follow since… forever. Nobody asked for the return of Barry.Changing his ethnicity and personality is an insult to all his fans. If DC wants new african american characters they should create new, relevant ones.He was a simble that said to everyone that sidekicks can be successful wearing the main mantle.

    • EXACTLY!!  DC’s powers that be are LAZY!!!  Create ORIGINAL black, gay, asian, hispanic, russian, etc, characters!!  Don’t swap the characters races because it IS insulting to all of us!!  Black Lightning, Vixen, Cyborg, Bumblebee are all great examples of great ORIGINAL black characters!!  Why can’t you do this again DC??!!

  • I have no problem with Barry being the main guy again. 
    I just wish they’d stop gender/raceswapping characters and actually dare to create new “main” characters besides the established ones.

  • I get it.  Something had to be done to make DC reflect modern society, and something had to be done to make DC more diverse and bring in younger readers.  But I’m another one of those people who used to spend an insane amount of money at DC, and now spend $0.  Some of the new continuity has been brilliantly executed(Earth 2). And some downright confusing and convoluted(Batman post new 52).  But I think they’ve successfully alienated lifelong fans by keeping some continuity and throwing the rest away.  The last ten years in the DC Universe were epic. It was great to see characters grow, and dynamics change.  Every event, even the ones that weren’t that great, seemed innovative, and like it was leading to lasting change, and the younger generation of heroes getting their shot.  A lot of it now just seems like middle aged writers trying to make every hero dark, and cool, for a new generation. It’s all a little “Poochie” from the Simpsons. I don’t want an edgier darker superman. That’s what Batman is for. Superman is supposed to be the standard.  Maybe it’s gotten better, but I stopped reading when it became clear that he was no longer going to be the character who’s so “good” that it’s annoying.  It seems like bringing in new readers could have been done just as easily with a fresh start in the form of a new imprint specifically for that purpose, or really rebooting and starting over fresh, rather than a half ass reboot where some things change, and some stay the same, with the assumption “don’t worry, eventually they’ll forget that it makes no sense for ages/races/genders to change based on flash slightly messing with history”, and ending what was arguably the best run of DC comics in years. Anyway. End of rant.  They’ve still got some great writer’s, but New 52 was a bad, poorly executed idea.

    • I do not understand how anyone can say Earth 2 can be brilliantly executed. Maybe those weren’t your Wally West’s? It is a disaster, the characters I cared most about have been massacred wholesale slaughtered.

  • Not having many good Kid Flash stories is reason enough to bring back Kid Flash, to tell the stories you can’t with an adult Wally.
    Although… a young a Wally does mean he couldn’t have been Flash on the Titans or been friends with Nightwing, so DC’s continuity does get even more messed up. 

    Still, let’s be honest here. There is one reason Wally is back, and that’s likely the exact same reason he’s black: there’s very likely a black Wally in the Flash TV show. 

  • […] (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); When DC Comics launched their company line-wide New 52 reboot nearly three years ago, there was one glaring omission from their character line-up (well, to be fair, there were a few, but this was maybe the biggest.) Wally West, the man who wore the mantle of the Flash for the better part of twenty five years was nowhere to be seen, and was instead replaced by Barry Allen, his predecessor as the Flash. Barry had been dead and gone for decades, and was only recently brought back to life a few years prior. Wally was, for all intents and purposes, THE Flash for a generation, a position solidified by his being the Flash in the animated Justice League series as well. When IGN did their 100 Greatest Comic Book Heroes list, Wally made it all the way to the #8 spot, well ahead of Barry Allen. But with the coming of the New 52 DCU, Wally vanished. Read full article […]

  • I completely understand this.  I couldn’t imagine the response from the fans if they restarted Dick Greyson back in his youth as Batmans trusty side-kick.  This would rob us of Night Wing.  

  • I thin that DC are basically allowing younger readers to have the same experiences that we had reading comics through our lives. You mention in the article that the reason you love Wally is that you got to grow up with him, got to see him grow and become the hero he was pre-52. I think that DC have finally cottoned on to the fact that they need to get younger readers in for the medium to flourish in the future and so they are providing the means for the characters to become something meaningful to them as opposed to us miserable old sods who just want everything to say the same and carrot topped. 

  • They need to give up this ridiculous New 52 project, and give us back the DC we love. I would actually start buying the books again if they did. I used to have a 50 $ pick up list every two weeks. I now spend 0$.

  • All the points you bring up here are great, but I have to disagree with your views on him being African-American. It is offensive, to me at least, on a number of fronts. 

    Firstly, it’s downright insulting to the millions of fans who cried for Wally to be brought back into the comics. The Wally West we knew and loved was a pasty ginger kid, and he was great, he became as popular as Barry Allen, rightfully took his place on the Justice League, and grew into his own man, just like Dick Grayson. I wanted that Wally West back, the guy who had a rich history and fan following. But no, that’s not what we got. Instead of the nerdy kid who loved The Flash, we get a troubled youth who hates him. It’s the complete opposite of what we wanted.

    Now onto the aforementioned elephant in the room. He’s black. And yes, I find that to be a problem. Now, I’ll start off by saying that I find the blatant lack of African-American characters in comics to be a problem itself, but changing the race of a pre-existing character in an effort to somehow shoehorn diversity into comics is not the way to solve it. In a way, it shows that DC haven’t got the balls to just create a new character with a different race, do they not have confidence in their writers to create exciting new characters? Apparently not. 

    It’s downright insulting to the writers, artists, the African-American community, and to the fans. I just wanted Wally back, how could they have made such a mess of that?

  • Don’t worry… this will all be undone when they finally announce this is actually Earth-52 and everyone is back on Earth 1 waiting to be picked up again.

  • So, there’s nothing intrinsic to Wally West’s character that says that he has to be white, so on that level I have no concerns with him being black; my only question is what that says about the New 52 continuity.  Wasn’t it launched as a “soft reboot” with an updated timeline, but still the same universe?  If Wally’s black now, doesn’t that imply that he’s a different guy?  Still Iris’s nephew, but he has different parents now, right?  I’m into having a black Flash (unless they ever try to turn him into The Black Flash), but it makes the New 52 seem more like Ultimate DC than a new timeline of the same universe.  Maybe that’s how it was always intended, and I just missed the memo.

    • I certainly hope your not comparing what they did to wally the same a what marvel did to spiderman. Because the change from peter to miles was brilliant.  Miles is his own person not a replacement 
      All dc did was create a new character and slap someone else name on them. If you take a character change his looks, change his background, and change his personality is he even the same character.I will miss wally and the new 52 has no wally west