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Wednesday, May 28, 2014 

New Flash TV series draws from Geoff Johns's retcon

I guess it figures they'd rely on the most obvious, new-as-possible sources for developing a second TV show based on the Scarlet Speedster. John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry Allen in the first series from 1990, will play Henry Allen this time, and the setup for the story goes like this:
...one of the show's central mysteries is centered on Barry's mother being murdered under unexplained circumstances, and his father being falsely convicted of the crime.
It gets worse. According to the official description:
Barry Allen was just 11 years old when his mother was killed in a bizarre and terrifying incident and his father was falsely convicted of the murder. With his life changed forever by the tragedy, Barry was taken in and raised by Detective Joe West, the father of Barry’s best friend, Iris. Now, Barry has become a brilliant, driven and endearingly geeky CSI investigator, whose determination to uncover the truth about his mother’s strange death leads him to follow up on every unexplained urban legend and scientific advancement that comes along. Barry’s latest obsession is a cutting edge particle accelerator, created by visionary physicist Harrison Wells and his S.T.A.R. Labs team, who claim that this invention will bring about unimaginable advancements in power and medicine. However, something goes horribly wrong during the public unveiling, and when the devastating explosion causes a freak storm, many lives are lost and Barry is struck by lightning. After nine months in a coma, Barry awakens to find his life has changed once again – the accident has given him the power of super speed, granting him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Though initially excited by his newfound powers, Barry is shocked to discover he is not the only “meta-human” who was created in the wake of the accelerator explosion – and not everyone is using their new powers for good. In the months since the accident, the city has seen a sharp increase in missing people, unexplained deaths and other strange phenomena. Barry now has a renewed purpose – using his gift of speed to protect the innocent, while never giving up on his quest to solve his mother’s murder and clear his father’s name. For now, only a few close friends and associates know that Barry is literally the fastest man alive, but it won’t be long before the world learns what Barry Allen has become…The Flash.
And the pilot episode's director said:
[David] Nutter, who also directed the infamous “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones, told CBR that the pilot was heavily influenced by the Geoff Johns run from the comics — not surprising since Johns co-wrote the Flash-themed Arrow episode “The Man Under the Hood” and serves as an Executive Producer on The Flash.
Okay, I've read enough. It was bad enough when Johns retconned Barry's background 5 years ago, as he brought him back from the afterlife for otherwise fully commercial reasons. Now they have to add insult to injury by stuffing mass deaths of bystanders into the mess, in a move reminiscent of the pointless, sensationalized deaths that have become particularly commonplace in crossovers since the mid-90s. And for anyone who realizes how the obsession with darkness ruined superhero comics, using Johns's retcon as the basis of this new take on the Crimson Comet is just rock bottom.

To be sure, I shouldn't have to mind when TV producers take liberties with the source material. And ordinarily, I don't. But the difference here is that, as mentioned before, they've based their setup on a story Johns already used back in the comics, so there's no liberties being taken here at all, just reliance on an ugly retcon that was foreshadowed in Johns's 2003 Flash story featuring a new take on the Reverse-Flash, which played more like a caricature of past renditions.

All the same, I don't have a high opinion on the short-lived Flash series from 1990, because even back then, Danny Bilson and Paul deMeo did go for some of the easiest and harmful cliches available. And how is it that a guy can get killed by an explosion but a criminal can't get electrocuted to death after Shipp's Flash stirs him into an updraft, hitting a line of neon light bulb cables? In retrospect, that series has only insulted my intellect, leaving it hard for me to feel sorry it didn't find an audience.

Predictably, Mark Waid also sold out. After seeing a sample screening, he said he wasn't happy with the darkness, but proceeded to praise it anyway:
“You know what? I liked it. I’m not keen on the whole ,’my mother was killed’ retcon, because I don’t understand why everyone has to have Batman’s origin. But, that said, I really like the visuals of it. I like the look of it. I like that he seems to be having fun as a superhero. Because, again, if your superpower is that you can run really fast and make time stop, it would be a blast. I don’t want to hear your problems. How you can have that problem and still be upset? ‘Oh my diamond shoes are too tight. Oh no!’ So I think that’s awesome, and I gotta say — I admit I got chills when he said, ‘My name is Barry Allen, I’m the fastest man alive.’ That gave me chills.”
Later, he went even further with his "diplomacy", and said:
Since Comicbook.com’s interview, it appears that Waid has gotten a look at the full Flash TV pilot, and he was really impressed with what he saw, even to the point that it alleviated some of his initial concerns. Waid tweeted, “Not only is the #Flash pilot EXCELLENT, but (for this) the dead-mom retcon doesn’t grate. Great show, and Tom Cavanagh is astounding.”
Even if they don't make it graphic, I don't care at this point; they're drawing from the worst of sources. It sounds like he's so desperate for his favorite hero to turn up in live action, he's willing to go for anything. But not me. I've learned the hard way that it's not helpful to be so begging for every favorite book of mine to be brought to the silver screen and stereo, even at the cost of integrity and what made it work in the first place. This would not work for the Fantastic Four and Avengers, and I don't see why it should here either. And using the work of some of the worst writers in comics to craft the series doesn't inspire confidence.

I've respected what Julius Schwartz, Robert Kanigher, John Broome and Carmine Infantino brought to the world far too long to accept this betrayal of their visions. So, I cannot and will not bother about this new Flash TV show. I see no logic in turning the Scarlet Speedster's vision so dismal.

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I'd like to this that the trend where Barry's mother got killed by another person actually has its precedents in the 1980s. Sometime ago, Barry's wife Iris got killed by Reverse Flash prompting Barry to avenge her ordeal at his hands or something like this. This is continued in later stories where in the 1990s Captain Cold takes place of Barry Allen, his sister Golden Glider in place of Iris West and Chillbaine in place of Reverse Flash. In the early 2000s, you'd have Wally West as Barry Allen, Linda Park as Iris West and Reverse Flash being renamed Professor Zoom (Linda wasn't exactly killed off but the plot device practically works the same).

It should also be noted that sometime after their deaths, both Golden Glider and Iris West re-appeared in another form or two (though I never got the comatose projection thing for Golden Glider as it doesn't do much for her and that stories that involve astral projection at all depict it as very brief for convenient storytelling). And that in the New 52 Flash, Patty Spivot and Iris West switched roles. In the older stories, it was Iris who was Barry's girlfriend and Patty who became the female Flash instead.

I meant to say "I'd like to say this" because that plot device had its roots as I found out. Barry Allen dating another woman isn't anything new. What is new is that both Iris and Patty switched roles in the New 52, but this is at the expense of Bart Allen who got demoted from being the grandson of both Iris and Barry to somebody who has no clear relation to either of them.

This wasn't new before considering that this similarly happened to Supergirl back in the late 1980s. Interesting her trajectory and character development mirrors and even predates that of Bart Allen. Both of them are relatives of the protagonists who come from another world (in Bart's case, another timeline) and are sent to live with acquaintances of sorts (Kara living as Linda with the Danvers, Bart with Max Mercury). Both of them grew up, then got killed off and then revived in some other form. Except at the some point in the late 1980s and much of the 199s, Supergirl was reinvented from the ground up as a person made in the likeness of Superman who possesses telekinesis (which is shared with Superboy) and fused with a dying girl. It's not exactly always good but I'm given the impression that these writers knew what to do with Supergirl back in the 1990s considering that for a time being she wasn't related to Superman due to the "one Kryptonian" editorial policy.

And the plot point where Barry's father is falsely convicted of murder does have its precedence, however in the older Fantastic Four stories. The father of both Invisible Woman and Human Torch was also convicted of murder. The children who would grow up to be Invisible Woman and Human Torch were sent to live with somebody else, which is also a lot like what became of Barry Allen in the New 52 Flash #0 where he got sent by Darryl Frye.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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