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Drawing Crazy Patterns – Flash Stories Ending With Iris West Complaining About Barry Allen

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics).

Today we look at five times that a Flash story ended with Iris West complaining about Barry Allen.

Enjoy!

Before I begin, let me note a few things…

1. This is only when the story ENDS with Iris complaining about Barry. There are a ton more stories where she complains about Barry at some other point in the story. Iris complained about Barry a LOT.

2. But Iris was also in a LOT of stories, so even though she sure did her share of complaining, she was in a lot of stories, so there were plenty of stories where she DIDN’T complain about Barry. And once she married the guy, she became a heck of a lot more supportive of Barry.

3. Barry WAS kind of weird, ya know? Dude was always late and seemingly inconsiderate of Iris a lot of times.

With all that being said, let’s watch Iris rip on Barry at the end of five Flash stories…

From Flash #106…

From Flash #121…

Do note that in the second story in that issue, Iris is complaining to herself about Barry being so slow to propose to her. Seriously, lady?

From Flash #136…

From Flash #138…

From Flash #140…

If you have suggestions for future installments, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

28 Comments

Wow! She was a real bitch wasn’t she! Talk about mental abuse! Poor Barry!

Ethan Shuster

July 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

I think they made the wrong old Justice League member wife the psychotic murderer. They should’ve brought back the old mean and insulting Iris back to do it.

capt usa(Jim)

July 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

It makes me wonder about those DC execs that went to the trouble to bring their poor little whipped boy Barry back while effectively getting rid of Wally.

Idea for a future art challenge: crossing over books from the old days. This way, you could have Iris meet Herbie’s dad. “I swear, my Barry is the slowest man alive!” “Oh, yeah? Try having a FAT LITTLE NOTHING FOR A SON!!!!!” Then cut to Reverse Flash dazed on the ground, victim of one of Herbie’s lollipops.

jeez, the sex musta been fantastic to put up with that level of abuse…

It was less a question of Iris being a bitch (or Barry being whipped) than Barry & Iris being a terrible couple.

Nearly every Silver Age DC couple was working the “love triangle for two” schtick, but they all had their own angles on it. Lois and Superman were engaged in a battle of wits. One was always trying to trick the other. It was a juvenile variation of romantic comedies of the era (i.e. – “Lover Come Back”). Science Fantasy elements were substituted for sex, but otherwise you half expect Lois to room-mates with Doris Day.

The Atom was constantly working to advance Jean Loring’s career to the point where she would marry him. That element of female rejection of the male made them more unequal as a couple. Judge for yourself how that might have effected later decisions to depict her as insane.

Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan broke up almost immediately in Green Lantern. One party, or the other, was trying to patch up something that was already broken. There was never any real reason for them to get back together, which is how Hal became such an eligible bachelor in the Bronze Age.

Wonder Woman was dealing with pretty explicit disapproval of Steve Trevor by her mother (and entire culture). She was choosing between two identities in a way that the men really were not required to.

With Barry and Iris, there are not any obvious outside impediments. Iris was one of the least career driven of the Silver Age DC women. Only Alanna was less work driven and she was a “look good naked” Space Princess of the Deja Thoris school. Barry is not much more involved in his role a police scientist. The first time that we see him at work, he is slacking off reading a comic.

In other words, the only reason that they have a hard time seeing one another is that they choose to do something else.

Barry makes exactly that choice constantly. Sometimes Barry is doing urgent Flash stuff, but other times he is just hanging out watching kids play (or goofing off in some other way). Iris may be harsh, but she is right. Barry is lazy and barely engaged with their relationship.

However, Iris has the worst possible reaction to Barry’s laziness and disinterest. She berates him constantly and about everything. That is not exactly the best way to get an emotionally disengaged man to raise his game. In other words, they are in a vicious circle that ends badly 99% of the time.

Worst couple of the Silver Age.

The Crazed Spruce

July 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

And yet, they were the first at DC to actually get married. How about that.

I used to love The Flash as a kid, back in the late 70’s-early 80’s, and by then they were already hitched. The weird thing is, after they tied the knot, they really clicked as a couple.

Travis Pelkie

July 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Wow, Dean is so damn smart. I’m jealous, I mean it. That’s amazingly insightful stuff and it makes me rethink all of what I know about the Silver Age DC stuff.

And yet, they were the first at DC to actually get married. How about that.

Just four years after Aquaman and Mera, and five years after Ralph and Sue Dibny.

Don’t sully the issue with facts, Buttler. Jeez…

Dean, the only dynamics out of all the ones you describe that sound good to me are the Lois and Clark one (I can see what you mean about the romantic comedy elements) and the Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor one (good point about women having to choose between two worlds in a way men don’t). The other ones you describe, Ray and Jean and Hal and Carol, sound just as bad and dysfunctionally warped as the Barry and Iris dynamic. And what they all have in common is they were dynamics created by John Broome, who I’ve never really found to be a particularly good writer.

Travis Pelkie

July 25, 2011 at 2:04 am

Wow, why didn’t they make Iris into a villainess (a la Carol/Star Sapphire) and call her the Ball Buster? Yowch!

And while I’d say T is right about those dysfunctional relationships, they’re (sorta) true to life. There are certainly couples out there who have similar dynamics and for people outside looking in, they’re totally screwy. But it works somehow for them.

I’m…I’m not projecting anything in myself on the Barry/Iris thing. Or vice versa, or whatever. No, no, no true to life there…(whistles innocently). (I kid, mostly.)

It seems pretty silly that the literal fastest man alive would ever be late for anything.

I’m not that well versed on the Silver age Barry/Flash stories as others, but didn’t they establish that Iris was actually from the future? (or am I just confusing a couple different characters with each other)

@ Travis Pelkie:

Thanks. You are too kind.

@ T.

To me, one of the charms of the Silver Age is reading adults trying (often awkwardly) to explain the complexities of adult relationships to children. You get the odd moment that seems like it could have come straight out of HBO show, like Lois discovering that Lana has an identical autographed Superman photo to hers. With the exception of the (really) over-worked secret identity schtick, DC was working from a pretty broad palette. All those relationships are messed up, but each in their own peculiar way.

With regard to John Broome, I guess my big criticism would be that he tended to be a bit sloppy. He would drop in a great character moment, or a big sci-fi twist, only to totally lose interest in it almost immediately. Those early Broome-Kane Green Lantern stories are less bland than maddeningly inconsistent. Stan Lee tinkered (the key to Marvel’s success IMO), but he knew a winner when he found one. Broome couldn’t seem to leave well enough alone.

From her perspective he’s inconsiderate and never tries to apologize or attempt to make up for his actions. She knows he’s capable of more and that he is a good guy becaue she’s seen that herself. But he does this over and over. He’s lucky she stayed with him as long as she did. Someone who is constantly late or blows you off to do something else gets dumped usually.

But once she found out he’s the Flash, the complaining slacked or she kept up the pretense to keep him in the dark about what she knew. And once it was in the open between them the teamwork truly shined. It seems more of an issue of him being overprotective and lacking trust in his girlfriend/fiancee.

And while I’d say T is right about those dysfunctional relationships, they’re (sorta) true to life. There are certainly couples out there who have similar dynamics and for people outside looking in, they’re totally screwy. But it works somehow for them.

Oh, I totally agree that such relationships are often found in reality. In fact, one could even wonder if Mr. Broome had a sort of codependent, masochistic streak in his relationships based on how he seemed to write the ones in his books. The men seem downright abused in every John Broome book I’ve ever read. It’s just that while I don;t mind them in a movie like Blue Valentine, I don’t find them particularly enjoyable in otherwise lighthearted superhero stories geared toward children, especially because they seem to be presented as so casually normal.

In some ways though I do find Iris West more agreeable than Golden Age Lois Lane. Clark Kent was constantly emasculated by Lois Lane, but at least he seemed to be a hard-working, dedicated guy, even if he was kind of meek and yellow-bellied. Barry though does seem to be kind of a callous slacker, especially given that he could totally avoid being late if he wanted given his Flash powers. He could also use his Flash powers to advance his day job career, similar to how Clark uses his Superman powers to help him get stories and scoop Lois. Barry on the other hand does the bare minimum in work and romance. Even in his superheroics, to be honest, he’s an underachiever. Think about it, is there any other superhero with such a consistently wide gap between their power levels and the power levels of their opponents? If he put his mind to it, all those fights should have lasted a panel at most.

Hit reply too soon, oops. Anyway, my point was that unlike Lois Lane, when I think about it maybe Iris West had more of a reason to bust Barry’s balls than someone like Lois did to treat Clark like dirt, which I guess is similar to what GMVictory is saying.

It seems pretty silly that the literal fastest man alive would ever be late for anything.

It was kind of implied, although I never recall it being said explicitly, that he did it on purpose to help throw her off the track of his secret identity, kind of like how Superman acted meek as Clark Kent to throw people off his scent. One also gets kind of sense from all his smirking in the panels where Iris is bawling him out that he kind of enjoys messing with her too and gets a kind of kick out of pissing her off, as if he’s using passive aggressive retaliation against her in response to her overtly aggressive ballbusting. Flashdickery if you will.

The more I think about it, the most interesting this dynamic may be after all, dysfunctional as it is. Maybe Barry has a masochistic streak and gets a perverse sexual thrill from being debased by Iris, which is why he constantly invites her scorn when he could so easily avoid it using his speed. Also, maybe she has a sadistic streak and purposely chooses a slacker like Barry so that she has an on-call doormat to abuse, and thus the relationship works for both of them.

I’m not that well versed on the Silver age Barry/Flash stories as others, but didn’t they establish that Iris was actually from the future? (or am I just confusing a couple different characters with each other)

Yes and no.

Yes, she was from the future, but no, she wasn’t from the future in the same sense that you typically think of the phrase. In other words, she didn’t even know that she was from the future, as she came to the present/past as a baby. So as far as she knew, she was just like everybody else, so it really did not affect her characterization.

Well, I don’t care what anybody says about Iris, I still think she’s more sane than Silver Age Lois Lane.

@ T. –

The more I think about it, the most interesting this dynamic may be after all, dysfunctional as it is. Maybe Barry has a masochistic streak and gets a perverse sexual thrill from being debased by Iris, which is why he constantly invites her scorn when he could so easily avoid it using his speed. Also, maybe she has a sadistic streak and purposely chooses a slacker like Barry so that she has an on-call doormat to abuse, and thus the relationship works for both of them.

Slacker is exactly the term that I would use to describe the Silver Age Barry Allen. The guy is massive under-achiever and it is entirely accounted for by a lack of effort. That realization does make Iris and Barry much more interesting.

My theory is that they met in college when Barry was a promising Pre-Med student. Iris fell in love with the idea of being “Mrs. Doctor Allen”. Barry applied to the police academy as a kind of fall back position. Well, the rate of pre-marital sex really spiked in the 1920s and has been flat (at 95%) for a long, long time. An educated, monogamous couple in the fifties were almost certainly sleeping together. However, oral contraceptives were not widely available. So, a pregnancy scare might prompt Barry to jump at the chance of an immediate income.

All of a sudden, they are kind of stuck together and mutually resentful.

My theory is that they met in college when Barry was a promising Pre-Med student. Iris fell in love with the idea of being “Mrs. Doctor Allen”. Barry applied to the police academy as a kind of fall back position. Well, the rate of pre-marital sex really spiked in the 1920s and has been flat (at 95%) for a long, long time. An educated, monogamous couple in the fifties were almost certainly sleeping together. However, oral contraceptives were not widely available. So, a pregnancy scare might prompt Barry to jump at the chance of an immediate income.

All of a sudden, they are kind of stuck together and mutually resentful.

They started dating after he was already working for the police. In one of the early Flash stories, Barry notes that it is one of their very first dates.

@ Brian Cronin:

They started dating after he was already working for the police. In one of the early Flash stories, Barry notes that it is one of their very first dates.

Great. Now I have to come up with another useless Flash theory. ;-)

I went back and checked and your dream is still alive, Dean!

The implication is that Iris and Barry have only recently started dating, but it is not stated outright, so your theory can still work!

Well, I don’t care what anybody says about Iris, I still think she’s more sane than Silver Age Lois Lane.

I thoroughly agree. She’s the template for all these horrible girlfriends but I think she gets more of a pass because she’s an iconic part of superhero comicdom.

[…] Again, in this issue, Iris is trying to chat Patty up about how “exciting and scary” would be to move in with a boyfriend.  Seems like a natural and standard conversation, but Patty just shuts her down with a kind of bitchy comment.  Maybe Patty is completely insecure about her relationship with Barry (though she has no reason to be), but she really comes off as very unlikable during her scenes with Iris.  Then again, Iris was always a questionable catch back in the day. […]

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