Jun 25, 2010

Can We Get Over Wally West's Costume Yet?

So there was a bit of an uproar a few years ago when Barry Allen was announced as returning as the main Flash. Fans of Wally West - myself included - felt cheated that "our" Flash was getting pushed to the side, even if, we acknowledged, that they had pretty much already done with him what they could do as a DC Comics mainstay. The truth is, Wally had been developed so much that a very significant chapter, even a book, in his story was over. He was at the same point that Barry was in in 1983, when they decided to retire him.

Then we were told that Wally would be a backup feature in Barry's Flash book, and there was an uproar because he was "just" a backup. Then we were told that they were going to figure out something else for Wally, and he wasn't going to be the backup feature anymore, and there was an uproar because he was going to be absent, mainly. And then there was an uproar because they decided to change Wally's costume. Some people decided it wasn't different enough from Barry's. Some people decided it took too much away from Wally West.

To which I say, can we get over this yet?

Seriously, folks, DC can't win. They made up their minds to bring Barry back. I don't like it as a fan of Wally West, but objectively, I can see how it's a smart move. And I really get everyone's complaints about the whole thing about Wally being demoted (but again, to be fair, he was already demoted before Barry Allen was announced as coming back). But the costume, folks? Really?

For those who are saying it's not different enough, look at that again and tell me that you can't tell from a glance which one is which. Aside from Wally's costume being darker, the emblem, the mask, the belt, and the eyes are completely different. It takes no more than a passing glance to really get who's who, and in faraway group shots, it either (1) doesn't matter which one is which, or (2) will be made clear through speech balloons. If you can't take the time to pay a closer look at the pictures, then how are you ever going to survive reading some of the more picture-dependent comic book stories, such as Watchmen, Top 10, or anything from MAD? Seriously, you pay so much for a comic; don't just breeze through it. Enjoy the artwork. Take it in. Look at it. Soak it up.

And for those who say Wally's costume is too different, all I can say is, WOW, the Internet has really paved the way for all sorts of complaints, because back in 1993, when Mark Waid, Greg LaRocque, and Roy Richardson did "The Return of Barry Allen" and really kickstarted Waid's run on Flash into high gear, Wally's costume was already different, and no one complained about it. Furthermore, no one ever said anything about how "they're too alike." In other words, the previous two complaints were nonexistent back in 1993, and I thought that we were supposed to be a "more sophisticated audience."

Even when Brian Bolland did the cover for the trade paperback, he paid tribute to Barry Allen's first appearance and did the "film reel" cover. But you'll note how it's clearly a different Flash in the reel from the one breaking out of it.

Note also how Wally's got the Batman eyes and the V-shaped belt (which I like better; it's more streamlined) going.

But then you have people complaining about the emblem! Oh no! It's two streaks instead of three! Again, like I said, no one complained when it was done on this guy:

The animated Flash from the Bruce Timm-helmed Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series resembles the costume they gave to Wally so much that if anything, Wally's new costume is more "Wally" than the old one ever was. When kids think of the Flash, a lot of them think of this Flash. They know it's their Flash.

Which leaves the question of the mask. As you can see, the nose is covered, so it resembles Batman more, and differentiates Barry from Wally more, in case people still need another visual clue on how to tell Barry and Wally apart. Well, in 1999, to cap off his run, Mark Waid did a storyline involving a "Dark Flash," a darker version of Wally named Walter West from another timeline. (This was when they were trying to test the ultimately-to-fail Hypertime concept.)

The story went over well, and, like with Spider-Man's black costume, the suit became so popular among a certain sect of fans that they wanted Wally to switch to it full-time, and they really came crawling out of the woodwork when it was announced that Wally was going to get a new costume. What these guys failed to acknowledge is that, much like the alien costume, it may look cool, but it didn't fit Wally's personality, so why would he wear it? Still, it seems that the new costume reminds everyone of Walter's costume, even if the only thing it took from Walter is the mask.

With a synthesis of three Wally-centric things, Wally West's new Flash costume is so much more "Wally West" than his previous, it's-all-Barry-except-for-the-belt costume ever was.

But honestly, folks, it's all so superficial. This hatred of Barry Allen - a fictional character - on account that he pushed Wally West - another fictional character - to the side is a little ridiculous, not to mention myopic. If Wally West still had his own title, and it was on the same stature as Barry's, then I bet everyone would be reading both. But since it's not, we get people boycotting Barry's title. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with not buying a comic book, but reasons like this are ridiculous. For a character that can't ever acknowledge your own existence, you're depriving yourself of good characterization, good artwork, and good contemporary-styled Silver Age ideas.

The Flash by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul is one of the best books on the market. I highly recommend it, and Wally West was always "my" Flash.


Darrell D. said...

Ehh, the costume is just boring, that's my biggest gripe. For something that was hyped, it really fell short. I have a feeling that it was a result of EVS' limited design sense, however.

Duy Tano said...

It's interesting that you posted now, since it's been a while since I read this post. My opinion on the FLASH comic has changed since then (I think it's too decompressed and padded, but points for Filipino artist Francis Manapul).

Not liking the costume is a valid opinion and liking the costume is a valid opinion, but the people who at the time were consistently bitching about it months later just boggles me. Surely, there's more substantial stuff to discuss.

Darrell D. said...

I agree, I haven't read the new series, mainly because I am not a fan of Geoff Johns. I read Flash: Rebirth and that was enough for me to realize it wasn't going to be my cup of tea. Not a problem, I have plenty of things to read, though.
The costume is one of those things where fans will go completely insane and start ranting how the company doesn't respect the imaginary character. (Also see: Peter Parker) Rabid comic fans haven't changed in the 30 plus years I have been reading.
It would be sad if there wasn't a level of hilarity present.

Dan P. said...

I never liked Wally in the red suit. Not even early on, when he was Barry's sidekick. I know *I* complained when Wally took over in 1987 in Barry's clothes. I also complained at the suit change later because it was too dark and he got "Batman" eyes.

And I complained recently when Barry returned and he put on Wally's suit (the belt and ear-wings are dead giveaways). Made no sense to me. I hate these arbitrary changes. You'd think Barry would need something that made him comfortable, such as his classic suit, since he came back into a world he's not familiar with.

But none of this compares to the New52 reboot which killed off the real Barry Allen and gave us some different guy who goes by the same name. It's all jacked up now. Flash is totally FUBARed for me...

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