Tuesday, July 03, 2007

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 be 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?


  • At 1:17 AM, Anonymous Mike Lepp said…

    Man, I agree. Bart is probably my FAVORITE comic book character of all time next to mainstays like Spidey, Bats, and others. My hopes are still that they bring him back as Impulse in some way or other.

    First S-Boy, now this. Are they TRYING to push Tim into becoming Batman through these senseles tragedies?! Oh, no. I hope Dan DiDiot doesn't read this post and get a half-baked idea for a Batman story.

    I really miss Young Justice.

  • At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Death has become the new "chromium cover". Sad, really.

  • At 12:35 PM, Blogger ssjgokillo said…

    I gotta completely agree with every point you made in this post. One thing that I always loved about DC vs. Marvel was how the heroes were always heroes, not some anti-hero political statement. But as time has gone on, DC has systematically killed just about everything I've loved about their comics. Had Dido actually killed Nightwing in IC like he had planned, I would've stopped reading all together. Now with the death of Bart, I'm just about there.

    I was actually kind of excited to find out Bart would be assuming the Flash's mantle. Up until I picked up issue #1 of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. And it was true, the fun loving Impulse we all knew and loved had been replaced by a brooding moody speedster.

    I would like to go back to the old days when having a "big event" in comics was actually a big thing, and not a yearly occurence. Sure, IC was interesting, and 52 was cool, with it's unique way of telling the stories, but now it's lost it's importance. Why should I get myself emotionally attached to any of these characters when I know that next year either A) They're going to die, or B) They're going to be changed so far that they may as well become a new character.

    Anyways, I guess that's about all I have to say on that.

  • At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Bob said…

    I'm a french fan and i so totattly agree with you.

    The speedster family is my favorite from all the comics and Bart was one of the best.

    DC try to become more Marvel-ish but i sort of give up on Marvel cause of its near infinite plots where people die come back etc.

    Bart come back, you were so great.

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger Jeff said…

    dc isn't alone in this case, marvel is just the same way. I totally aree with you too Bill.

  • At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Dan Hallberg said…

    Amen, brother. If this stuff with Kyle Rayner doesn't clear up then I'm gonna be seriously pissed. That'll be 2 of my top three favorite characters in comics.

  • At 12:12 PM, Anonymous RaikiriTitan said…

    Completely agreed. I may have stated this over a million different ways on the DC message boards.


    My thread.

    Thank you for everything you said. Im just as disappointed.

  • At 2:58 PM, Anonymous arielle said…

    that is effed for killing bart allen. he was the best teen superheroe ever nest to the first robin.
    i want yj back but dc dark will probably screw it up.
    way to destroy an original didio

  • At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We are in the new 90's. A time of chaos and misery!

  • At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Mike said…

    Anyone read Bart's funeral in Countdown? It was actually well done except for the other plots in the book butting in every now and then. It just made me miss Bart and Kon more though...

  • At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Mike Lepp said…

    raikirititan, I read your thread on the DCboard and...wow, you've said EXACTLY how I feel. About wanting to write comicbooks, feeling helpless, etc. Maybe one day, one of us will be the rabid fan-boy/girl to bring Bart back. :)

  • At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Marcus said…

    As far as I understood, the whole premise of INFINITE CRISIS was to do away with the dark and gloomy Frank Milleresque stories, and replace them with bright, heroic, escapist stories. Yet, as Bill points out so colloquially, it's now DCDark, and we've had SO many deaths now. And yet, we're getting the collected edition of CAPTAIN CARROT around Christmas, along with a new series. I'm happy about it, and yet horrified.

  • At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Soulshad0w said…

    The thing that kills me about this whole thing is how bad Didio insults our intelligence. He is attempting to make it sound as if they planned all along to kill Bart as part of their grand scheme.

    Really? You mean you thought it made excellent business sense to have all the Flash and Bart fans buy into a comic advertised as being on-going (as opposed to a limited series) where at the end you intend to say "Ha Ha! We tricked you into investing into this character when all of the storylines we put around him were simply throwaways!" You honestly think we are that dumb, Didio?

    If so, you can add it to the ever-growing list of why I stopped buying DC Comics.

    You know, DC's new attitude is completely summed up by Matt Brady's interview with Judd Winick in Newsarama (reprinted on this site under Robin II's entry) where Winick in talking about Todd's return said he didn't care about the why, how, and what of it. Um, aren't those very essential parts of storytelling? You may not care about them when you come up with an idea, but you damn well better have them very distinctly mapped out when you put them out for the consumers. And Winick never gave a care (which quite honestly is the problem with his writing, most consistently shown with the Outsiders where after four years I still see no evidence he himself has the slightest clue about his direction for the book). Unfortunately, Didio and the rest of the editorial staff has adopted this philosophy. I do believe they have an idea of where they want the DCU to be. Problem is, they really haven't spent much time figuring out how to get there. Say what you want about Marvel, but they do seem to have firm grasp on the details and a concrete map to go from point A to point B. DC leaves from point A to point B without any solid direction and are suffering for it.

    Just look at 52. I will freely admit that as a storyline, I thought 52 was excellent. Problem is, its original STATED purpose was to fill in the one-year gap. Didio's own admission is they changed that strategy while writing the first five issues of the comic book. Huh??? You mean to tell me that early in the process you guys were already deviating from the outline and script? No wonder the individual comics fell out of sync and seemed neglected during this time. They spent so much time revising the "core" storyline that they had insufficient resources to apply to the monthlies. And they suffered for it to the point some of them ended up contradicting each other (Supergirl, Cassie, Black Canary, and Nightwing being prime examples as their personalities seem complete opposities in the books they feature prominently).

    If anything, it seems DC's current strategy is to keep hyping the big event while using the monthlies to supplement it. Um, that seems backwards to me. Especially since back in the old days (especially the 80s) when the mega-stories first started, the big events were supplements to the monthlies. Granted, the big events would set the tone for the entire universe (mostly), but the individual storylines of the monthlies would not be dramatically affected. Now, we are seeing books (especially the Titans) undergo wholesale changes thanks to the big events. And in many cases, unlike Marvel (for the most part), the changes are abrupt and jarring even when you have the same writer continuing with the book, as opposed to the big storyline being woven seemlessly into the monthly. Problem with that approach is the monthlies are the backbone of your business as they are the titles which will continue to run even after the big event is done. They should take the main priority. But they are being treated almost as an afterthought by DC these days. And it has effectively killed my love of the industry.

    :;sigh:: Sorry for the rant, guys. I'm just really frsutrated lately by the whole thing. DC seemed like it was heading to a good place just a few short years ago. Problem is, they had no idea how to get there and didn't let any of us know until we were halfway on our journey (in the wrong direction).


  • At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    Hmm...they're killing of the whole third generation heros (or second depending on how your looking at it)
    I mean, Superboy and Kid Flash? And then there was Spoiler who, eventhough she wasnt that big, was one of my favs.

    And when Superman, Donna and Green Arrow died, they came back...wtf?

    It's not fair for these youngsters. I mean, they're either dead or have some serious issues. Like Wonder Girl and Robin have there whole *love* thing going on. And Cassie is just freaking mental now.

    Such a shame.

    And I wanted to be a writer for DC when i got older.
    But i dont know about that anymore. I bet everyone will die in some nuclear war by then.

  • At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Phil Watts, Jr. said…

    Everyone says that at least Bart died a hero. In my opinion, he died as a joke. The panel where he gets beaten to death by the Rogues while screaming "I am the Flash" says it all!

    These writers stripped him of any semblance of a personality in their attempt to shoehorn him into the role of being the next Flash, and now that they made him the Flash, they couldn't find a way to make it work. So they did the only thing they could think of whenever they get writer's block...they kill him off.

    In my opinion, they should've kept him as Impulse, since he had a seperate identity and a personality that set him apart from the rest. But then again, they would killed him off much sooner.

    It sucks that you can't get too attached to a character in fear that they'll soon strip them of everything you like about them and have them die in the most gruesome death scene they could think of. Come to think if it, that's the only time these people ever show any imagination, because they can't show it any other way.

    They need to destroy and rebuild DC...and I don't mean the DC Universe either (it's safe to say that we've ALL had our fill of THAT), I mean toss out all these unimaginative writers and editors and replace them with people that actually care.

  • At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wy oh why is death such a money spinner?
    Bart was pure and simple solid gold to the ttans, young justice, he would probably have made a great leaguer one dasy.

    But No.

    Alas, DiDio has decided to go for shock and Taboo over happy families. And that is what the titans are. They do not deserve to be ripped apart the way they are.

    Too be completely honest I feel that a)bart should be brought back (i mean if Wally can why not Bart) and B)the entire DCU should just be LEFT ALIVE for a while.

    And if anyone had to die, let it be somone that either no one cares about or that really deserves the peace.

  • At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    why dont they bring back Chrome Covers??????

  • At 11:21 PM, Blogger Nightwing said…

    Thanks for all the comments, guys. It's interesting that not a single poster has defended this decision to kill Bart.

    I wonder how much longer we will be stuck with DCDark?

  • At 12:46 PM, Anonymous soulshad0w said…

    You know what? I'll defend it just a little bit. You see, I compare Bart's death to driving drunk in a Ferrari. After a good night of drinking and getting behind the wheel of your luxury automobile, you just might decide it a good idea to take it off-roading through a forest at about sixty miles per hour. Inevitably, you will cause the car to wrap around a tree. Assuming you live, the car is almostly certainly going to be beyond repair. So you are going to find yourself with no choice but to send it off the scrap heap. Which is exactly what happened with Bart. He was damaged so far beyond repair that they had no choice but to gack him.

    Of course, the whole scenario I described above turns on one thing. That you made the extremely stupid and indefensible decision to drink and drive in the first place. Which is the absolute equivalent to what DC did when they made Bart serious with a flimsy explanation: they made an extremely stupid and indefensible decision.

    For all the people who say they had to make him serious to give him the role of the Flash... that's complete crap. It's not like Wally became Batman-light when he took over the role following Barry's "death". He retained a decent amount of humor, especially for someone who was still early twenties at the time. Granted, he did become a little more serious, but being married and becoming a father will do that (trust me, I have firsthand experience with that). Most importantly, no matter what he remained Wally. Instead of letting Bart remain Bart, they instead tried to turn him into Barry Jr. As a result, the new Flash was so tight that I could see Alan Scott, Mr. Stick-Up-The-Ass himself, telling him to loosen up. It is criminal what they did to Bart's character. And they broke it so badly that they almost had no choice but to bump him off.

    Like I said, it is just one more in many reasons I feel like Didio and cronies are getting to where they want the DCU to be by the seat of their pants rather than good planning, and consequently why I won't be spending my money on their product anymore.


  • At 12:50 AM, Blogger Avi Green said…

    Boy, I wish I'd seen this entry earlier, but now that I have, lemme say that I'm quite impressed with what just about everyone here has to say. There's just one thing missing: if you ask me, there should be some commentary on the defamation and abuse of the Atom and his ex-wife, Jean Loring. The way they degraded BOTH of them in Identity Crisis has made me even more of an Atom fan than before, and I'll stand by both Ray and Jean with might and main. That's one of the reasons why I decided not to read the "All-New Atom", because of how it was being launched at the expense of those who came before the new one. A few years ago, it seemed as though, after Ray's appearances in Hawkman, that they were leading up to a new starring role for Ray in a new solo book, which I would've been delighted by, even if it were just a miniseries. They really fooled us there, even with Firestorm.

    I think the Silver Age Atom and his ex-wife could sure use some kind of support now, if you ask me, just as much as Bart Allen needs it.

  • At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I totally agree with you. Bart is my FAVORITE comic book character of all time, especially when he joined the Teen Titans. He was a "rebel" compared to Wally which is what made him so likeable. When he picked up the Kid Flash name, the Teen Tians series had fans all over it. My hopes are still that they bring him back in some way. His death was forced because of trying to have Bart flow with the Flash legacy (too quickly) and that Wally wasnt even dead and didnt get great reviews. First Superboys death..which was done very respectfully but still, he was just hitting things off with cassie, getting used to his abilites and understanding himself and that he wasnt just a clone of superman. now this. They have 2 down and 1 to go with outa the three superhero rebels (Tim, Conner, Bart)..lets hope DC brings the trio back together...alive

  • At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "(comic book companies seem to hire anyone with a SAG card)"

    FYI - Writers don't generally belong to the Screen Actors Guild, unless they are actually actors. The writers we get in comics (like Whedon and JMS) would belong to the WGA, the Writer's Guild of America.

  • At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would take your diatribe a lot more seriously... if Kory weren't explotatitvely cropped off at the chest and crotch in your banner.

  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger Stacy B. said…

    You bring up some very good points in your piece, but I wonder if you realize how much of this has been said before? People have complained with every death that has happened in the history of comics. You usually have two real choices, stick with the series and support it, or stop purchasing it and enjoy the back issues.

    The biggest way to let comic companies know that you aren;t happy with them is not by posting on the internet anonymously, but by writing them and telling them, and your local comic shop, that you will no longer purchase a title you are not happy with.

    Speak with your dollar.

  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Bryan said…

    Comic companies complain that new characters aren't financially viable for them, that fans don't connect with them the way we do with the classic characters.

    Well, here was a relatively new character who graduated into his own book... twice, and was an integral part of two team book re/launches.

    So how does the company treat their new intellectual property, one that may actually have (pardon the pun) legs? Staying power? They get rid of him. Killed, dead, gone, buh-bye. (same applies to Superboy. two regular series, and the same two team books as Bart).

    People didn't steer clear of Fastest Man Alive because it starred Bart, they steered clear because it was a terrible story. And now we'll never get another good one, because that possible has been taken off the table.

    Good luck, executive morons.

  • At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    At least you Bart fans haven't had to go through 30 years of constant teases of the return of your favourite speedster -- these last 2 years especially.

    Bart hasn't even been dead for a year yet. His death will be retconned. You'll see.

    It's only Barry Allen fans that get the continuous shaft.

  • At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Doesn't anybody realize that Bart isn't really dead? The same day his "death" issue was published was also the same day that DC hinted at him going to the future with the LOSH in the "Lightning Saga" finale.

  • At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Ivan W. said…

    Even if he isn't really "dead" dead, DC Comics pretty much "robbed" long-time readers of a legacy. As much as I like the new series, when DC keeps mentioning legacies, it's a kick in the teeth that all of a sudden, Barts (which has been going on since the early nineties) is to wind up powerless and dead within one issue.

    Granted, it's filled me with enough piss and/or vinegar to start writing a Bart Allen story of my own.

    Thank the presence for the extra 51 universes...

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