Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mentor and Protégé

Lorendiac of the Toon Zone Forum has posted an interesting article that carefully outlines the "10 Types of Superhero Successors." The first category on the ten-item list is "The Carefully Groomed Protégé," and the example used to illustrate the point is an obvious one. Wally West assumed the mantle of the scarlet speedster after spending decades as a faithful sidekick. When Barry Allen died, a worthy successor was ready and waiting. How can we explain the fact that readers seem unwilling to readily accept Bart Allen as the Flash, then? Is it simply because the relaunched book has been poorly written? Or is it because it sometimes feels as if this new Bart fits more appropriately into one of the other nine types of successors? At the very least, Wally's exit from the DC Universe was needlessly swift and awkward, and Bart's unexpected transformation during the events of Infinite Crisis has left us with a superhero successor that seems unfriendly and outright unfamiliar.

In 1985, Barry Allen died during the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Wally West soon took over the role. He was probably about twenty years old at the time. (Dick Grayson, his contemporary, a fellow founder of the original Teen Titans, was stated to be “twenty” during the events of COIE.) If we buy the version of Wally’s origin story that was later offered by Mark Waid in the "Born to Run" story arc (a four-part flashback sequence in the Flash title in the early 90s), then Wally got his speedster powers at the tender age of ten. So from Wally’s perspective, he had been Kid Flash for about ten years before moving up to take over his mentor’s role; and from the perspective of veteran DC readers, he had actually been training for this moment for about 26 years!

Diehard fans of the Silver Age Flash naturally were unhappy about Barry’s sacrifice, but as far as I have heard, it was generally accepted that if you granted the assumption that someone was going to “inherit” the mantle of the Flash now that Barry was gone, then that “someone” obviously ought to be Wally. No one (to the best of my knowledge) ever made a convincing argument in the late 80s that some other character would have been a better and more deserving choice! No one denied that Barry would have approved of Wally’s decision to keep the Flash tradition alive, had Barry still been around to actually comment on it...

1 comment:

Daniel Preece said...

This is all fiction. So I hate the pointless changes, revamps, retcons that DC is obsessed with.

I thought COIE was going to make the DCU better. It has only opened the gates to obliterate any semblance of continuity.

I never recommend DC anymore. I don't want anyone blaming me for giving them a headache as they try to figure out just who the characters actually are.