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March 12, 2008

Comments

Captain Average

How have I not heard of this before? Wow.Fascinating piece on a character I miss.Thanks Mark!

Reggie

Mark,
Long time reader, first time commenter.

I, for one, hope that they never revive Barry Allen. While, I loved the character, I think that there should be some respect for "death" in the comicssphere. I mean, you know it won't be too long before Steve Rogers is back, and I won't even start with what's happened in the Spiderman books.
This subject has been beaten to death, ( pardon the pun), but it would be nice to know that we could count on the dramatic impact of a characters death to mean something.

Brian Disco Snell

I don't know. Does everyone need to be resurrected, thereby making death nothing but another meaningless plot device? I miss Barry Allen, but I hope they leave him dead. It would be nice to have one example where a hero makes the ultimate sacrifice, at it really is a sacrifice, and not just an inconvenience.

Mark Engblom

Wow...Reggie and Brian....are you guys related to Debbie Downer? Hey, just kidding. Yeah, I take your point on death being meaningless in comics....but really, do you think ONE guy staying dead is going to somehow teach us about death's permanence? Really?

Plus, most of us have dealt with actual human death enough to know that it's (A) permanent and (B) it sucks...and don't really need a pretend person to bring those points home. After all, what's the point of fantasy fiction if you can't bend the rules a bit (or alot)? I mean, it's not like DC hasn't gotten any mileage off of Barry's death, and What It Means...but with the rather outlandish resurrections of Green Lantern and (especially) Green Arrow, I think all bets are off when it comes to preserving whatever molecule of integrity remains with Barry's death. With the magic hokus-pokus and metaphysical re-jiggery of the Final Crisis coming up, what better time to "adjust" the status quo and bring Barry back? I mean, if you want to continue properly grieving Barry's death, read the first 100 issues of the Wally West Flash series.

As a Barry Allen fan, I demand my resurrection story! ;)

Mark Engblom

"How have I not heard of this before? Wow.Fascinating piece on a character I miss.Thanks Mark!"

Thanks, Cap! It's definitely one of the more "under the radar" Barry-related stories, so I thought it would be fun to spread the word. Not that I've got the readership of The New York Times or anything...but it's nice to know others enjoy this kind of thing.

Kyle

Aw, come on Mark, what's so outlandish about a guy being conned into leaving Paradise to go back to a life he basically hated to fill an empty shell of a homeless body that's been going around shooting bottle-tipped arrows at people? Nothing at all outlandish about Green Arrow's revival... [cough, cough]

Anyway, looks like I'm going to have to go back and find some old Quasar issues to read. I never got into that series at all, and so never read more than one or two of the books, but you've got me interested. What a great story! "Burie[d] Al[i]en" indeed. Hah! I absolutely love it!

Mark Engblom

LOL! I'd forgotten just HOW outlandish Green Arrow's resurrection was until you reminded me. For the record, I enjoyed that story by Kevin Smith (one of the few Kevin Smith products I've enjoyed), but the method of revival was pretty crazy.

As for Quasar, I've only read a handful of issues myself and found them fun, if feather-light, reads. Gruenwald was a master of writing what I would call straightforward adventure with an obvious slant toward the younger or new reader (imagine that...someone gearing comics toward KIDS!). Not to say the stories aren't enjoyable, but you won't find, for instance, the deeper cosmic stuff of, say, a Jim Starlin or Steve Englehart. In away, I could almost see Quasar stories passing for what is today the Marvel Adventures line of more straightforward stories...simple, but never simplistic.

Wes C

Great posts Mark!

I'm torn though.

Crisis on Infinite Earths coincided with my entry into the comics world. The Flash was the first big name character I knew to die. It was a really big deal to me; as I was not yet jaded about the countless resurrections in comics.

In a way I want to honor his sacrifice.

But yeah, whenever I think of the Flash it's ALWAYS as Barry Allen first, then I have to remind myself to substitute Wally for Barry. :(


I'm glad Marvel handled Barry with the respect and admiration he deserved.
After all I guess there wouldn't have been a
"Marvel Age" without him.

Chris

Didn't know they brought Buried Alien back after the race. Amazing.

The only reason I can see for keeping Barry dead is that, in this way, he can stand as the Last Martyr. Everyone else has come back to life, except for Supergirl, and no one remembers her. Besides, she was replaced by another model.

With Barry staying dead, it gives an edge to many of these stories. They can talk about sacrifice and loss, and actually cite an example that's still relevant.

Course, that said, if they think it'll sell books, that can change in an instant.

Mark Engblom

When I think about it, I think my desire to see Barry back in action stems from just how poorly the character was treated in the years leading up to his death.

As an avid Flash fan since about the mid-70's, I had bought every issue new off the stands from that time on. However, that dedication was really put to the test during the dreadful "Trial of the Flash" storyline. Charged with the murder of the Reverse Flash, writer (and editor) Cary Bates made the trial insufferably long, boring, and relentlessly negative to the point of parody. Making it worse was a "past his prime" Carmine Infantino turning in some of the most phoned-in artwork of his otherwise distinguished career...all of which made the final two or three years of Barry's "life" a dispiriting, depressing slog.

So, when you look at Barry's death in Crisis from this standpoint, you might be able to see how it came off as not so much a noble sacrifice as it did the last straw of a long, drawn out "execution" of a character they clearly had no use (or creative ideas) for. The exciting new twists introduced years later by writers like Mark Waid and Geoff Johns made Barry's dreary decline all the more disappointing, since there were clearly fresh, amazing stories left to tell with a character like the Flash.

I guess some of this lingering bitterness colors my cheerleading for Barry's return, since I'd love to see him given the shot he deserves with creators that truly have something to say about the character.

Brian

Mark,
I get your point about fantasy and its ability to revive characters, but must respectfully disagree. Perhaps it is hokey to invest so much in characters that you care when they "die" (I always think of Chandler's line on FRIENDS, when he doesn't feel sad at Bambi's mother's death: "Yes, it was very sad when they stopped drawing her"). Still, especially when we're younger, I think we often do invest, and comics (or any popular media) can be a way to learn about those larger issues before we have to confront them in real life. And dramatically, for me anyway, it takes away from those moments to have them revived: the death of Gwen Stacey was powerful because it seemed shocking and permanent, and was another reminder to Peter Parker that superpowers can't solve every problem. Same with Phoenix in the X-Men. Same, I suppose, with Captain America and the Flash (although neither of those guys are characters I know as well). Revival can certainly be handled well by a talented creative team, but I agree with some of the earler posters that it can also just be a cheap trick.

That said, I do wish there was a way Marvel could revive Mark Gruenwald, the best editor it ever had. (:

Mark Engblom

All good points, Brian. I would probably agree with you on the general principal, but it seems when it comes to Barry Allen and his chump treatment/death of convenience, I make an exception.

I agree...the death of Gwen Stacy remains so powerful because of its permanence, and I've commented before that the Green Goblin's resurrection (despite taking a bat flyer through the chest) does take something away from the original story. I admit that. I guess I'm willing to look the other way when it comes to Barry Allen, though...partially to give the character a second chance, and partically because he (and his fellow heroes) live at an entirely different "level" than regular people like Gwen Stacy. It's intersting that, within this almost godlike association of heroes, death doesn't quite mean what it does to normal humans (much as it does in ancient myths), and works in the sense that escaping from death is the ultimate wish fulfillment in an industry built on wish fulfillment.

ploni

Um...people...don't you remember INFINTE CRISIS?...When the speedsters broke the speed barier and 'the speed force was gone'(whatever that meant).Barry Alen was THERE running with other two 'dead speedsters'!
Thinking about it that was the only god thing that came out of issue four.
Oh and it means that D.C are liers.
And that you silver age 'fan'aticsshould be full of JOY!

Mark Engblom

Yes.

MaGnUs

Barry Allen's death was heroic, yes, but I am of the mind that if a resurrection is well done (Superman, Colossus, Bucky, Hal Jordan), and a good story is told, it's for the better.

Nimbus

Wait? Captain Marvel was in that race, right? Isn't one of her powers the ability to turn into light? It certainly doesn't take 8 hours for light to get to the moon. She should have won that race no problem!

Sheesh. What happened to realism in these comic books? :-)

As to Barry coming back, well, as I mentioned in the last post and ploni mentions above, he's "alive" and well in the Speed Force. So bringing back into the DC Universe should be easy peasy! I think it'd be awesome if Barry came back to save the day and beat the big bad at the end of Final Crisis.

Mark Engblom

I can't remember all the details, but Captain Marvel was only allowed to race if her feet hit the ground at some regular interval (can't remember what that was), so that she was still technically "running". The Runner was understandably a stickler on the "foot contact" point. I've always thought her inclusion was pretty bizarre, but Marvel's never really been overflowing with super speedsters, so I guess they had to rationalize a bit to get her in there. Plus, I think she was still a relatively new character, so maybe they wanted to raise her profile a bit (although I'm not sure how much an under the radar title like Quasar might have boosted her profile).

"I think it'd be awesome if Barry came back to save the day and beat the big bad at the end of Final Crisis."

That, my friend, would be amazing....and almost too good to even hope for. What a perfect "book end" to his sacrifice in the original Crisis.

ShadowWing Tronix

I've been unavailable for the past week, so I'm late to the party. Not sure if this will even be read, and I might not think to double check this. However, what if "Buried Alien" turns out to *be* Barry? Access, anyone? Maybe Fastforward's being brought into the Marvel Universe was the starter to the "Brothers" getting their knickers in a bunch?

I knew the Flash only from Super Friends/Super Powers Team. (My limited comic money going mostly to Transformers.) They rarely used secret identities. I didn't even know "Barry" until the live-aciton series. (One of the few live-action superhero series with something resembling worthy supervillains. I'm looking at you, Lois and Clark! Superboy! MANTIS! Adventures of Superman!) So I don't have the ties to Barry that Mark does. My first Flash comic was in the Wally era, the what would become infamous "coming out" of the Pied Piper.

I have to say that just because other characters had silly resurrections (and the aforementioned Transformers had their share) doesn't mean everyone should. I'm sometimes disappointed that characters never age, so you have to rewrite their origins every couple decades or reboot the whole timeline. Even if Barry has an better out or two (hiding in the Speed Force, brought to another dimension), it sounds like just compounding the problem.

I'm also tired of Gwen Stacy. Thanks to the new cartoon, I'll never escape her now.

Matt

Buried Alien is a classic!

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