High Five! Comics

Refrigerator Busting – You Know What the Speed Force Needs More Of?

Posted on: November 18, 2009

In San Diego, Geoff Johns mentioned we’d be seeing a new speedster. For two months I went on and on to anyone who’d listen about how the new speedster had better be a girl, and how come we don’t really have a girl speedster?, and HEY! SHOULDN’T THE NEW SPEEDSTER BE A GIRL?!

Two months later, at Long Beach Comic Con, I poked my hand in the air and asked:

“So, the new speedster you mentioned in San Diego, any chance it will be, you know, NOT a boy?”

Johns leaned into his mike.

“Definitely a girl.”

Or something like that, I was too busy spazzing out. But here we are. Flash: Rebirth #5 has finally made it’s way to the shelves.

Wally got a new costume. Whatever. Little Irey’s the new Impulse! Liberty Belle seems to be embracing her speedster roots!

Rob and I have been discussing the various DC “families” quite a bit lately. The Batman family is the most diverse, gender-wise (BarbaraKate, Stephanie, Selena, Renee, Helena, and I’m sure Cass will show up again one of these days.) Superman’s got, um, Kara. The Green Lantern Corps has thousands of female members, but as far as the 2814 family goes it’s pretty much just Carol. Wonder Woman doesn’t really have a “family” in the sense that the other four do, and until recently the Flash Family women were just the wifeys. Joan, Iris, and Linda are some of the best written wives in comics, but speedsters they are not.

Still, you can’t just go creating female characters for the sake of having female characters. Part of the fun of Marvel and DC Universes is the rich history, the Big Picture that all these little stories are told against. Any new hero, male or female, needs to feel organic – there’s got to be a reason for them to exist. Thanks to Tim Burton, Batman: The Animated Series, and now Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the Dark Knight has been the most popular DC character of the past few decades by a big long shot. Subsequently, the Bat family universe has grown by leaps and bound since the eighties.

Superman and Wonder Woman? Not so much. Yes there’s Connor and Krypto and Kara (and Karen? sort of.), and Cassie and Donna, but when you compare these relatively small posses to the massive Bat-family, the Green Lantern Corps, or the ever expanding Flash Family, Kal-El and Diana don’t have too many mini-mes. Those two are the platonic Zeus and Hera of the DCU, to replicate them too many times would negate their entire mythologies.

I’d certainly like to see fewer derivative female heroes in comics, but we need more women saving the world, period. They’re more likely to stick around if they’ve got a real place in the Universe, which is why the Bat-family women have managed to not only remain integral to Gotham, but to the DCU as a whole, even carrying their own titles. Bringing in more female heroes by using the existing hero families as a jumping off point is the easiest way to get more women into comics and keep them there, on the page and in real life.

But here’s why Irey’s a big deal. Jay was your grandad’s Flash. Barry was dad’s. Wally was ours. If the tradition continues, Iris West just might be The Flash to my kids. Now that’d be something.

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7 Responses to "Refrigerator Busting – You Know What the Speed Force Needs More Of?"

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I’m also hoping that Jesse Quick stay’s on as Jesse Quick (with, y’know, some pants, maybe). That “girl power” page had a lot of impact, and I could see some really cool mentor/student adventures with her and Irey in an Impulse book or as a second feature in Kid Flash…

Definitely! I was also pretty irked about Jesse’s disappearing pants. Really?!? One of the only practically dressed women in comics, and they take her pants away?!?!

I vote second feature in Kid Flash, it’ll be fun to watch Bart get annoyed with Iris. 😀

Completely agree with you Flash #0 sticks out as a pesanorl favorite. A few years ago I had to prune my comic collection, and the entire Mark Waid Flash run made the cut. Thanks for this blog and for bringing back such good memories!

Cool! Not only do they need to continue the trend of strong female characters with their own titles, but they need to carry them on into toys as well. My daughters love superheroes, and of course they love superhero action figures – unfortunately the female characters tend to be few and far between. Although I will admit there are far more available than when I was a kid.

[…] High Five! Comics talks about that “new hero” who “step[s] into an old speedster’s boots” in Refrigerator Busting #2: You Know What the Speed Force Needs More Of? […]

Iris the next Flash? I’d put money on her being at least the next Kid Flash. Mark Waid spent so much time foreshadowing it during his run (and Kingdom Come) that they’re sure to follow through eventually.

But at this point, I don’t think we can expect a new main Flash for a long time. The job has changed hands (boots?) three times in as many years. Much as I love him, I didn’t want Barry to come back — his influence as a dead character has been too important for too long — but one thing that helps is the unspoken promise of stability at long last. They’ve got to stick with Barry now, at least for a few years; they’ve invested too much in his return.

That makes things a little… complicated for the current generation of readers. As you say, Barry was our parents’ Flash, Wally was ours. (I came in at #42, during the excellent Bill Loebs run that’s sadly overlooked nowadays.) But our kids? They’ll have the same situation with Flash that they do with Green Lantern — a sort of equilibrium, with the first three heroes all bearing the name at once. Our three guys are safe; although I shudder to think of Wally getting bounced from title to title like Kyle Rayner, Kyle’s still doing pretty well for himself. But new kids won’t have a Flash to call their own. They’ll just have to learn the history of the ones we’ve got.

That’s why it’ll be so important, once Rebirth wraps up, to tell new Barry stories that don’t rely too heavily on the old ones. If he’s our main Flash again, then he has to be accessible for new readers. I wish I could be optimistic about that… unfortunately, Geoff Johns is the most continuity-obsessed writer to hit comics since Roy Thomas. He’s very good at stories for diehard fans, very bad at welcoming newcomers.

I hope by the time I have kids and they’re old enough for comics, DC has something akin to the Marvel Age line. In so many ways, their main line is just not for kids anymore.

ANYWAY. All that said, I’d love to see Iris be the Flash someday. Bart is still ahead of her in line, but I have a feeling that if he ever takes up the cowl again, it’ll be in some future era. There’s precedent for that (ask Barry) and DC won’t want to repeat their failure with Bart-Flash in the present.

I also agree about Joan, Iris, and Linda being superb female supporting characters. Joan even continued to be one in Wally’s book during the years that Jay was “dead”. But for my money, Iris takes the cake; as written by Cary Bates (for 10 years!), she was the best non-superhero wife in any comic. Waid made a big deal of Linda being important and independent and so on; Bates just quietly wrote Iris that way. She’s a model that modern comics would do well to follow.

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