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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #480

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Welcome to the four hundred and eightieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seventy-nine. This week, I accidentally did a rather morbid theme, as all three legends ended up being about death (well, two of them were and once I realized that two of them were, I added a third to make it an official theme). Did Barry Allen’s long murder trial lead DC to having him killed off? Was Damian Wayne never supposed to live past his first appearance? What strange tribute did a French newspaper give to Herge upon his death?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Barry Allen’s long murder trial inspired DC to kill him off in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

STATUS: False

trial1

In the mid 1980s, the Flash’s ongoing title was wrapped up in a very long storyline that involved the Flash killing his nemesis, Professor Zoom, after Zoom tried to kill Flash’s second wife.

Barry Allen describes the situation pretty well to his friend Hal Jordan here…

trial2

Soon after the trial storyline wrapped up, the Flash died in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8…

crisis8

Reader Alex Barfield asked:

Brian- I read somewhere a long time back (maybe in Wizard or an old letter column or something) that the interminable nature of the Trial arc is what led to the idea that Flash should die in Crisis. Basically, DC said “he has to die” because the Trial resulted in the character being viewed as damaged goods by the readers (and, by extension, DC).

That is not the case, as was explained in a previous Comic Book Legends Revealed installment, Flash writer Cary Bates made the trial storyline so long specifically because he knew Flash was going to die, so he figured why start a new story?

But Alex also noted:

has anyone at DC ever articulated the thinking behind the decision? I remember, even as a 7-8 year old kid, thinking that Flash comics seemed pretty grim and rudderless (not that I could have articulated it that way at the time) even before Barry offed Zoom. So it may just be that the Company thought that he didn’t synch well with modern comic publishing trends. Or maybe Wolfman or somebody in editorial liked the symmetry of bookending the Silver/Bronze age with the “birth” and death of the same character. But I’d be interested to read a Legends piece about the decision-making process if anybody at DC has ever elaborated on it.

Sure, Alex. Marv Wolfman spoke about Barry’s death in an interview with the Silver Age Sage a few years back, stating:

Please note that I didn’t think it was a good idea to kill The Flash but those were my marching orders, so I did the best I could to make his death as moving as I could… Much of the reason the people in charge didn’t care for Barry Allen was that he was considered dull.

So basically the whole “doesn’t synch well” bit is the answer.

Thanks to Alex for the question and thanks to the Silver Age Sage and Marv Wolfman for the information!

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Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was Dumbledore originally going to be straight in the Harry Potter films?
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On the next page, was Damian Wayne originally going to die at the end of his FIRST storyline?

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44 Comments

Hopefully there were no news stories about the Congo that day…

I do choose to interpret Barry’s death as the symbolic demise of the Silver Age, must like his rebirth can be said to symbolize DC’s regress into Silver Age-style characterization and ideologies following Flashpoint.

i always looked at barrys death not only of the ending of the silver age for dc but at long last a orginal version passing the torch to his successor aka wally becoming the new flash in crisis. and interesting that grant was actully planning to kill damian right away since the one thing dc hates is even batman or their other heros having offspring saying it would age the character. glad grant did not go through with whacking damian right away.

I do choose to interpret Barry’s death as the symbolic demise of the Silver Age, must like his rebirth can be said to symbolize DC’s regress into Silver Age-style characterization and ideologies following Flashpoint.

Why do people keep saying this? How has DC regressed into Silver Age-style characterization and ideologies following Flashpoint? How on earth is New 52 a return to the Silver Age?

Boy, I appreciate the creativity, but that’s some awkward paneling in that Flash comic. It almost has a palindrome quality to it.

And Damian is coming back already? I mean, not a big deal from someone whose grandpa using the Lazarus Pits, but that wasn’t very long, was it? And the idea that the whole motivation for having him appear in the first place was that is, while obviously exactly what Morrison intended, show how he can go from great ideas to a little too precious sometimes. “Batman has a living son!!” “Batman’s son is dead!” Yeah, that would have seemed worthwhile.

Cary Bates also talked about the reasoning behind the Flash’s death in The Flash Companion from TwoMorrows, I believe. As I recall, when the word came down that the Flash was going to die in CRISIS, Bates decided to extend the murder trial storyline rather than wrap it up and start up something else before the book was cancelled.

Yeah, the New 52 is pretty much the opposite of the Silver Age. It’s a ridiculous comparison.

About Damian Wayne . . .

Denny O’Neil refuses to acknowledge his existence.

Wait, the Silver Age was that time when everyone had their arms chopped off, right?

I seem to remember reading that Marv Wolfman planned to kill or retire Wally around the same time. Brian, did you do something on who would have been Flash if not Wally, or am I imagining reading that?

Kind of an abrupt column end this week? No “Heck, I implore you” ?

THe silver age had been over for a good ten years or so before COIE happened. Are people really going to try and argue stories like Hard Traveling Heroes or even The Jokers Five Way Revenge are Silver age stories? LOL

Jorge Martinez

July 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm

His death is what made me interested in DC. I thought DC was dull. When I saw they offed a (what I considered at 11 years old) cheesy old super-hero and replaced him with Wally…I jumped on!

Sadly, I still think Barry is dull. I’ve always been a Marvel guy but from Infinite Crisis until collected a good amount of their titles. The core DC titles and some of their newer stuff as well. I enjoyed Infinite Crisis but hated One Year Later. Then it just got worse. I picked up some of the new 52 and can’t get into it. I don’t collect any DC at all now.

I won’t go off on a rant about Barry vs. Wally. But to me it’s the equivalent of the replacing the current version of Batman with the Adam West version…and putting the newer more modern costume on him. Don’t get me wrong…I love me some Adam West Batman..But…

ohwell.

I love Barry. I still think they should have stuck with Wally. More than any other legacy hero, he’d earned the gig.

Agree totally with Fraser.

When the first CRISIS was published in Brazil, it contained an article called something like “The Trial of the Flash’s Death”, debating all the reasons for the Flash’s death. No, it wasn’t written by Brazilian editors, it was a traslation of something written by, I dunno, Wolfman? Bates? Someone from DC.

I no longer have my old comic books, so I can’t check. But yeah, they said pretty much the same as what Wolfman said in the first legend. Barry was the poster child for characters from the Silver Age who failed to resonate with post-Marvel Revolution readers.

Barry’s death could be seen as having been a symbolic death of the Silver Age; sure, the Silver Age was over by then, but it was still pretty much in continuity; but that wasn’t true anymore Post-Crisis, so it was at least the burial of the Silver Age if not the actual death.

But to say that any other Silver Age elements have come back with him? Man, how I wish there actually was some truth to that statement!

ParanoidObsessive

July 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

“Yeah, the New 52 is pretty much the opposite of the Silver Age.”

I’ve always seen the New 52 as being a return to 90’s values. Which at face value seems like an utterly lunatic decision to make, considering how the 90’s nearly murdered the entire comic industry.

Which may have played a very strong role in my going from regularly reading about a dozen different DC titles a month to regularly reading precisely zero DC titles a month after Flashpoint.

Not that Marvel’s been winning me over for the last few years either, though.

the New52 Barry Allen is dull because DC sucked out all the interesting pieces that were added by Geoff Johns in the year after Rebirth. Post-dead Barry was darned interesting to me, but this empty shell currently inhabiting the Flash title leaves me cold.

I have every Barry Allen Flash comic since about 1971. Big fan. Never saw him as any more/less dull than Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Bruce was just a rich emotional cripple who liked to assault people, and Clark was a dork who couldn’t get the girl of his dreams. Oh, what intense drama those two presented [snark].

I hated COIE once they killed Barry Allen. The death of Supergirl gets this special, giant-sized issue and a mournful cover and all that…and Barry gets a few blurbs on the last page. Supergirl was a nothing character, in comics or in the history of comics. Barry Allen SAVED THE INDUSTRY.

That’s right, Barry Allen revived the entire superhero genre which led to the Marvel Universe and so on. Without interest in superheroes, the comic book publishing industry would have died out some time in the 1970s as people lost interest in every other comic book genre. It was superheroes that reinvigorated the industry and still represent virtually every profitable comic on the stands today.

And now, we’re seeing multi-million dollar movies being made about superheroes–none of which would have happened if not for Showcase #4 in 1956.

SO DC OWES THIS CHARACTER SOME RESPECT. Superman gets respect for starting this whole genre. And so Barry Allen deserves respect for saving it.

Signed in just to say great post, Dan, and I agree with you 100%! Long live Barry Allen!!!

IIRC, according to John Byrne the reason why Barry was killed was because the editorial regime thought that he had became “dull” and had a hard time connecting to the then young audience as a result of him becoming “too old” due to him getting married (and later, having kids). Hence why they replaced him with the much younger 19 year old Wally West. Fast forward 15 to 20 years later, and DC did the exact same thing to age Wally as they did Barry. The lesson to be learned here is that the MU and DCU superheroes SHOULD NOT age.

Jeff Nettleton

July 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Saw the Tintin piece in a terrific documentary series, History of the Comics, the 9th Art. It was a European production (I believe in Spain, and either with British co-operation or just revoiced for the UK), which covered comic history from the Victorian Age to about the mid-90s. It features some newsreel footage of Herge, as well as a look at many of the comics. It’s a great little series, released on VHS, here, by White Star Video, in 4 volumes. The last volume ended with a look at 10 promising newcomers to keep an eye on. The only two Americans featured were Matt Wagner (with multiple shots from Mage and Grendel) and Geoff Darrow (before Hard Boiled).

Jeff Nettleton

July 18, 2014 at 8:56 pm

sorry, that was mid-80s, for the History of the Comics scope. It came out on video in the early 90s.

Up front, I never collected Flash, although I did read a few Silver Age Flash stories as a kid in the ’60s. Anyhow, my thoughts on the Trial of the Flash is that in the real world, the Flash/Barry Allen would never have been brought to trial because his killing Professor Zoom would have been regarded as justified homicide. And given that Zoom had previously murdered Iris, no jury in the world would have found Barry guilty of murder. Now if Zoom had surrendered to Barry and Barry whacked Zoom’s head off, that would be an entirely different matter, but when you kill someone when that person is in the act of trying to unjustly murder someone else, even if that person is you, to my understanding you will not generally be charged with a criminal offense. Unless I’m missing some key element of the story, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And I don’t buy the notion, oh, he’s a superhero, he HAD to find another way to stop the murderer from murdering again without killing him. That just sounds like utter hogwash. The writer could have come up any number of different ways in which Barry could have inadvertantly killed Zoom in a way in which Barry might have both in the letter of the law and in the mind of a jury been determined to have committed first degree murder, but the scenario as presented is most definitely not it.
Gets off the soapbox.

|Rod G.
|July 18, 2014 at 11:32 am
|
|About Damian Wayne . . .
|
|Denny O’Neil refuses to acknowledge his existence.

Then Denny O’Neil is an overgrown child. It’s one thing not to like a character, but denying they exist and refusing to acknowledge them is just like a 5 year-old putting their fingers in their ears and babbling “naa naa”. Personally, while I respect what O’Neil did with Batman and his incredibly volume of work on the character, I don’t think he’s entitled to wash Morrison’s jock when it comes to writing talent. I think Damian Wayne is arguably the best Robin ever, and that’s with a comparatively small sample of work to flesh out his character compared to other former Robins.

Grow up, O’Neil. Thanks for your great work, but that doesn’t mean you own the Batman mythos.

@Jorge Martinez: That’s sums it up pretty good.

I started out as a DC kid, then turned completely to Marvel comics (after reading a Spidey/Hulk/Woodgod issue by Byrne) for years, but CoIE and the glimpses of a decaying Flash got me interested in DC again. The artwork was fresh and exciting and DC seemed to do something diiferent and new compared to Marvel at the time. I collected both Marvel & DC for quite some time, then mostly DC for the last 10 years.

The Barry Allen trial thing felt kinda strange – it was still “old,dull,crappy art” DC for me.

Btw: The New 52 was a perfect opportunity to stop buying DC stuff altogether and save a lot of money. Like later pre-Crisis DC I can sum it up in one word: ‘Meh’.

If only it were true that DC had returned to the Silver Age types of stories. Maybe in some better world where comics still cost 12 or 15 cents.

“Man, can you imagine never getting Morrison’s Batman and Robin series?”

Yes, I can. I might be the only guy who thinks so, but I hated Morrison’s run on Batman. After a 30+ year uninterrupted run collecting BATMAN and DETECTIVE, Morrison single-handedly broke me of that habit.

Then came the New 52…. Maybe Morrison did me a favor.

I was always a big Barry Allen fan. Collected all the series up to the end of the Trial. I always thought of the Barry/Flash as the most pure hero, because he didn’t need a murder in his past to think he should use his powers for the good of humanity. A real human being. And, now, they have screwed up that unique part of his story. I hated the whole Trial storyline, but held on thinking that they my hero would come back better than ever. Then, COIE came along and I finished that story and slowly stopped collecting anything. I think the declining art of Infantino was the end of Barry/Flash and still do to this day.

I loved the old Barry/Flash. Mostly because he was a pure hero that didn’t need a murder in his past to know that he should use his powers for the good of humanity. Now, they have screwed that up, too. I always thought the declining art of Infantino led to the demise of the comic, and still do.

Timothy Markin

July 19, 2014 at 4:30 am

I’m probably the only person in the free world to say this, but I will be glad when Peter Jackson quits playing in the Tolkein toy box and gets busy with the Prisoners of the Sun movie. I was in awe of the first Tintin flick, and have been a fan since Tintin was serialized in Children’s Digest forty years ago. I’ve read every Tintin book at least three times and am as anxious for the next Tintin as all the Star Wars fans are for episode 7.
As for the Flash, I only get enjoyment out of pre-1980 Flashes, as I remember the trial issues as being dull and plodding and just can’t bring myself to reread them. Maybe my memory of those books is faulty but nearly every DC from the eighties just doesn’t interest me much, certainly not those Flashes.

Andrew Collins

July 19, 2014 at 7:54 am

As for the New 52/Silver Age comparison, I get where the original poster is coming from if you think about how DC has been doing a weird “mash up” of the two- reverting back to many of the original Silver Age identities (Hal is GL, Barry is Flash, Babs is Batgirl, etc.) while still trying to tell “grim and gritty” style stories. The results have been absolutely terrible, of course, which is why I don’t buy any DCU titles, for the first time in 20+ years of collecting…

Blade X also touched on a big reason why mainstream superhero comics have gotten stale for me. With Supes, Spidey, Batman, Flash etc. we have seen time and time again how DC and Marvel want them to live in this perpetual ‘groundhog day’, where time never seems to pass and change is only ever temporary. Big events like deaths, births and marriages are rendered meaningless because we all know they will all be undone in a few years as soon as some writer starts complaining that they can’t write Spider-Man married or some editor gets into their head that Flash isn’t selling because he’s got kids, or whatever the reason is to hit the “Return To Old Status Quo” button. I got tired of that game a long time ago…

I really don’t get all the New 52 hate. Have any of you actually read Scott Snyder’s Batman?? Geoff Johns’ work on Green Lantern and Aquaman are some of my favorite comics that I’ve ever read, especially Aquaman…so freakin’ good! I dunno, maybe some people just like to complain…

Any parent who names their kid “Batman” is just asking for him to get beat up on the schoolyard playground a decade down the line!

Da Chef: I am in awe of the idea of being turned onto Marvel Comics by Woodgod. That’s one path that may be unique.

Andrew, agreed. I don’t know when the idea started that older characters are the kiss of death–Reed and Ben would have been in their late thirties, as they fought in WW II, for instance.
As for Wally, Blade, I’ve never heard any claims he was getting too old or too married–Dan Didio has never made any secret he wanted Barry back because, Silver Age.
Fred, I agree the trial arc was an illogical mess. It would have worked better if Bates had been able to shorten it, as originally planned, but it still wouldn’t have been good.

|Rod G.
|July 18, 2014 at 11:32 am
|
|About Damian Wayne . . .
|
|Denny O’Neil refuses to acknowledge his existence.

Then Denny O’Neil is an overgrown child. It’s one thing not to like a character, but denying they exist and refusing to acknowledge them is just like a 5 year-old putting their fingers in their ears and babbling “naa naa”. Personally, while I respect what O’Neil did with Batman and his incredibly volume of work on the character, I don’t think he’s entitled to wash Morrison’s jock when it comes to writing talent. I think Damian Wayne is arguably the best Robin ever, and that’s with a comparatively small sample of work to flesh out his character compared to other former Robins.

Grow up, O’Neil. Thanks for your great work, but that doesn’t mean you own the Batman mythos.

Denny O’Neil is the guy who created Damian’s mother and grandfather. I think he’s entitled to have an opinion on how they’re used by subsequent writers. And O’Neil is of the opinion that Batman & Talia never consummated their relationship, so therefore never had a child.

And Morrison couldn’t even be bothered to reread Mike W. Barr’s SON OF THE DEMON so that he could reference it accurately for his story that built off of it. Pretty sloppy, IMO.

Another dead character (Damien) is coming back to life? Do the executives at DC not care that this cheapens the issue of Batman where Bruce spends the entire issue crying over the death of his son? Oh, look- he’s back… but he’s a clone! No, he’s sent from the devil! No, he’s an alien!

But the worst part is that the news media still falls for this ploy. Look, DC is killing off Robin! It’s headline news! Everyone buy the books. Oh, wait, he’s back.
Look, they’re killing Bruce Wayne! Oh, wait, he’s back also.
Look, they killed… who cares any more.

I’m generally a fan of Infantino, but his art was pretty poor at that time.

Wriphe, you are not alone

If only it were true that DC had returned to the Silver Age types of stories. Maybe in some better world where comics still cost 12 or 15 cents.

Yeah, if only DC went back to publishing banal stories that insult the reader’s intelligence and make no damn sense. That would definitely make this a better world.

Renenarciso, what you describe sounds like an article in Amazing Heroes #91: “Who Doomed the Flash?”

Yeah, if only DC went back to publishing banal stories that insult the reader’s intelligence and make no damn sense. That would definitely make this a better world.

What do you mean “went back” to stories like that. What you just described is the typical modern Didio-era DC story: insults intelligence and makes no sense,

I have to say, Ashton Burge, I both agree and disagree with your post… I (and a lot of others) totally agree with you that Snyder has done some great “Batman” work, and I also quite enjoyed the New 52 “Aquaman” stuff I read. That first issue was one of the best ways I’ve ever seen anyone acknowledge that tired old “Aquaman talks to fish, he’s useless out of water, he’s a crappy superhero, blah blah blah…” thing.

I’ll even add to your list of good New 52 runs: The integrated “Rotworld” storyline that began Snyder’s “Swamp Thing” and Jeff Lemire’s “Animal Man” was FANTASTIC, in my opinion. Two great writers, working both together and apart, doing a story that was in turns thrilling, horrifying, and heartbreaking, and walked in the footsteps of the giants that predated them (Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, respectively) while still forging their own paths.

Where we disagree is that I completely understand (and participate in) the “New 52 hate”. The problem is, while those titles are great (arguably, obviously, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion), they are VERY much the exception. The rest of the New 52 (and even some of those titles after their good initial runs) has almost universally run between mediocre and bad. Not only that, but DC editorial has seemingly gone out of their way to turn the company into a creatively stifling and unpleasant work environment. I don’t have the link anymore, but do a quick Google search and you can find a pretty damning (and well researched) timeline of how the DC editors have mistreated and alienated DOZENS of creators over the last few years.

So, the “TL,DR” version is: I agree with you that those titles are great, but that’s about 40 – 50 good issues out of hundreds published since the New 52 started. That is not a very good success rate.

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