It’s February and it’s a blessed time of year for it’s when I was born. Since we talked about Captain Cold last time I did a Spotlight, and it was recently announced that Wally West is returning to DC Comics after having been gone for a few years, this has caused me to have The Flash on my mind. With it being so close to my birthday, I’ve decided to cover my favorite Flash, Wally West. The fastest man alive, but not the first nor last to own that title, he may have been one of the best, having learned how to harness his powers in ways those before him had not. So how does a guy get super-speed and end up in a bright red onesie? Let’s find out!
Wallace Rudolph West was born to parents that weren’t that supportive, it wasn’t the worst family but if you got to choose one, his wouldn’t be in your top 50 choices. Wally was just a little kid when The Flash, Barry Allen, the second man to take on that title, came running into existence and immediately became Wally’s idol. Wally would have a Flash fan club in his small town where he was the club’s president…and only member. Obsessed with the Flash, his father tried to tell him to stop with all the fantasies about hanging out with the Flash. At a family reunion his dad yelled at him in front of everyone for having been daydreaming about the Flash and causing a mess. Embarrassed, he ran to hide and met a familiar looking family member he had never met before who told Wally to never give up on his dreams.
This motivation didn’t leave Wally, and he’d frequently start visiting and staying with his aunt Iris West since she was far more welcoming than his own parents ever were. The only downside of staying with Aunt Iris was that she had this sort of boring boyfriend, Barry Allen, a forensic scientist who was a nice enough guy, just…so boring. That is, until Barry told Wally that he was good friends with The Flash, and suddenly Barry was much cooler to the young Wally. Introducing Wally to the Flash was a dream come true, and even better, The Flash explained to Wally how he’d gained his powers by demonstrating the chemicals set up exactly as they were when he was struck by lightning to gain his powers. Wally thought it’d be so cool if lightning were to strike him at that exact moment in front of those exact same chemicals. Almost faster than Barry could explain how incredibly improbable that was did it actually happen. Wally was transformed into the fastest kid alive, Kid Flash, and taking on a copy of The Flash’s costume he would join in fighting crime.
Wally was able to help Barry out quite a bit, and with his assistance became just as much a thorn in the Rogues’ side as The Flash himself. Eventually he donned a costume that wasn’t just a copy of Barry’s thanks to ANOTHER lightning bolt hitting a machine that gave him a new yellow and red combo. Wally would join up with Robin, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl to form the Teen Titans and fight crime while hanging out. Wally would form lifelong friendships with all of them, especially Robin, Dick Grayson. Wally’s dream had come true; hanging out with The Flash, becoming a speedster, being on a super team, and he was even offered his own TV show. Using his superspeed he played “himself” in dramatized adventures on a moderately popular TV show.
Did you know that while being struck by lightning and doused in chemicals would normally kill or maim most people, that Barry Allen was quite the lucky fellow? Part of the reason for that may have been that he was a full grown adult when it happened. Sadly, Wally was just a still-growing kid when this happened to him, and it seemed that he was starting to experience problems with his powers. Frequently hitting a “wall” like many athletes when it came to pushing himself, he’d end up unable to move at super speed. Worse still, he had learned that his speed was slowly killing him. Wally would have to use special effects on his show to safely make him look like a speedster. He was effectively retired for his own good while still rather young.
Then it happened. The Crisis on Infinite Earths had erupted and the multiverse was on the verge of destruction. Wally came out of retirement to help even at the risk of his own life. While he was expecting that this could be his last run, he was devastated with how events transpired. Wally would be shot with a laser that while curing him of his speed-induced dying, caused his speed to be greatly reduced to only the speed of sound. A Flash did die that day, but it wasn’t Wally and it wasn’t Jay Garrick, the first Flash, it was Barry. Sacrificing himself to save all of reality, Barry made one final run to put a stop to the Anti-Monitor’s plans. The world had lost a hero and Wally had lost a father figure, mentor, and friend.
Wally refused to believe Barry had died and was only going to take on the costume and name of The Flash temporarily while Barry was gone. His debut as the new Flash wasn’t great, failing to stop the villain and having the whole city think he was not The Flash at all. Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, promised to help protect the city along with the first Flash, Jay Garrick. Wally went back to his Kid Flash costume, defeated. When Dr. Alchemy, a tougher member of Barry’s Rogues Gallery, was able to be a match for Jay and Hal, Wally realized Barry was truly dead and that this wasn’t just going to be for a little while. He had an epiphany and was able to step up and save the day, earning his place as the new Flash.
Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time just getting to the point where Wally is The Flash, and it looks like we’ll have to save that part for next time. Wally was The Flash I grew up with, and while I like Barry in a father figure way for Wally, he could never beat the kid who got to live the dream. He not only got to meet his hero, he got to join up with him and help him. He even did something few sidekicks ever get to do; he took over the mantle and held it for quite some time. Come back again later this month for more about Wally West and his adventures as The Flash.
Dr. Alexander Bustos