The Flash seems to have a tendency to change the world. When you look back on all of DC’s universe-shattering events, from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS through FLASHPOINT, the Scarlet Speedster has played a key role in each of them. Which means that with “Rebirth” on the horizon, you may just want to pay attention to Barry.
Joshua Williamson, the writer of the Flash’s new twice-monthly series, certainly has been giving him a lot of thought. While he promises THE FLASH: REBIRTH will tie in pretty strongly with Geoff Johns’ DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH, the story will also bring some dramatic new changes to Barry’s life, introducing a new crop of speedsters that the Flash will take under his wing. We were curious about these new characters and the story Williamson and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico have built around them, so we spoke with Williamson, asking him about The Flash’s place within this summer’s big event as well as the Flash’s importance and popularity as a character, and what he would do if he could be Flash for a day.
There have been a lot of speedsters over the years in the pages of The Flash. It feels like you’re fully embracing this tendency with this series—is that deliberate?
Yeah. I love the Flash and I’ve wanted to write the Flash for a long time. There are a bunch of different Flash stories I’ve wanted to tell, and one of the notes I had for myself was “no more speedsters.” I wanted to just stick to Barry, and I had this whole thing planned out. But then I had a moment when I was looking at that note, and I realized that I was wrong. Sometimes you’ve got to flip the switch, right?
I love the Flash family, and I liked the idea of there being a bunch of them. So I thought, “Let’s do a lot. Let’s just do a whole lot of them.”
I just started working with that idea and building around that. It’s so big. It made it feel like a big story, but it also made Barry question himself. If there are this many speedsters around, what makes Barry Allen the best suited to be the Flash. Why is he the master of the Speed Force? Is he the master of the Speed Force? It makes you question these things. It’s funny, whenever we have these interviews, people always ask me that question: “Why is Barry Allen special? There are a lot of speedsters in the DC Universe.”
I believe that the questions we ask, the characters should also ask. Why is Barry Allen the best? I was able to dive into that with all of these speedsters. Plus, we got to create a bunch of new characters, which is always cool.
What can you tell us about this new batch of speedsters? Are there any that stand out from the pack?
We’ve been talking a lot about Godspeed, the main antagonist for Barry and the new speedsters. We also have a new female speedster that’s coming in. There are a couple of teenage speedsters, and then there are a couple who are older. It’s really a diverse cast of speedsters that we’re bringing in.
But I’d say Godspeed stands out the most. I don’t want to get too much into the other ones because I don’t want to spoil it.
So what can you tell us about Godspeed?
I think of him as being a vigilante who has sort of gone over the line. He definitely does things that he feels are the right things to do. I always love the saying about how everyone is the hero of their own story. That also applies to villains. A lot of times they feel like they are the hero, and I think Godspeed definitely thinks of himself as the hero. He is willing to do the things that Barry isn’t willing to do. That to him makes him a hero even if it sometimes means killing people.
Getting back to what you were saying earlier, what does dealing with a bunch of young, fresh speedsters do to Barry? How does it affect him?
It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster for him. It’s a lot of up and down. It’s a lot of crazy things happening. At some moments he’s happy, and at some moments he’s overwhelmed with it. It really puts him in a position where he feels like he’s responsible for them, but then as he’s working with them, he starts to realize how much he enjoys being a teacher and a mentor. He feels like he was kind of missing having a sidekick and now he has a bunch of them.
Will we be seeing some of Barry’s familiar villains in this story? Any sign of the Reverse-Flash or Captain Cold?
I’m going to try to use everything at some point or another. In this first story arc, we’re mostly going to focus on these characters. We’ll have some small cameos and teases throughout, but the first arc we’ll really be focused on the newer stuff. But yeah, man, if I can get to all of them—Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, all of the Rogues, Murmur—I want to use as much as I can.
You look back at all of DC’s universe resetting events, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Final Crisis and Flashpoint, and the Flash has played a key role in all of them. “Rebirth” is no different. Can we expect elements of Geoff Johns’ “Rebirth” story in your comic as well?
Yeah, you really can’t read Flash: Rebirth if you haven’t read DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH. You could, but it’ll probably mess you up. You’ll see things and be like, “What is that?” If you did read Flash: Rebirth without reading DC Universe: Rebirth, you’d probably find yourself wondering what happened and you’d want to go back and read it. You would want to see more of it and understand it better. Some of the stuff that’s going on is so crazy and exciting. I get goosebumps when I see some of these pages and when we talk about some of this stuff. It’s really exciting to see what’s coming.
With Barry, I wonder. He’s tied into all those events, at this point in time it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? Because he’s so tied into those events, he will always be tied into those events. These storylines become such big pieces of the DC Universe and it ties him to it so strongly that when the next one comes up, he has to be a piece of it.
Do you feel any pressure writing Flash coming right out of one of these events?
From day one, when I finally got the job and I was in the room with Geoff looking at everything, I was just thinking, “I can’t mess this up.” There was definitely a lot of pressure there, but it’s helped getting to talk to Geoff, who has worked with Barry Allen and has worked on the TV show and wrote what is easily one of the best Flash runs ever. This last weekend, I went down to Indiana to Mark Waid’s comic book store and got to sit and talk to him about his run on the Flash. It really is a reminder of how much I love this character and this book. I hope that I live up to my own love of it.
Between the comics, the TV show and now a new version of the Flash on the big screen, the character has never been more popular. What is it about a hero who can run really fast that speaks to so many people?
I think it’s just that people wish they had that power. They wish they could be in all these different places. They wish they could move faster and do things faster. I think that’s really what seeds that—his power. I mean, I wish I had that speed. I wish I could run around and do the things that Barry Allen does. I think that the power kind of seeds it for people, but it’s the character itself that waters it and makes it grow. It’s Barry Allen. It’s the storyline itself and his motivations as a character.
I remember working at a comic book store in high school and college and talking about powers and what you would do with them. It just seemed like the ability to move quickly would be something that would be really fun. But then once you start reading the comics and start getting into the story, you fall in love.
Well, then in the spirit of those comic shop discussions, if you did have Barry’s abilities, but only had them for one day, what would you do with that day?
Tough question. I just moved into a new house, and we’ve only moved the big stuff. My comic book collection is still at my other house. I haven’t moved it over yet. If I had speed powers, I would organize my comic book collection and put all my books on my shelves. I have three Ikea shelves that haven’t even been built yet. I would do all of that in a split-second.
I would try to be a good speedster. I would try to do all of those little things that I know I need to do around the house that I could do in, like, two minutes time. I’d get them all done really quick. I’d finish the household, and then I’d just run around the world. I would go and see every little thing I could possibly do in one day. I would try to do some good with it! I’d try not to be so selfish with the day.
The Flash races into a brave new world on June 8, 2016 with THE FLASH: REBIRTH #1 by Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico. Barry’s story then continues in THE FLASH #1 by Williamson and Di Giandomenico on June 22, 2016.
This is the latest in a series of interviews looking at the many DC comic books that will be spinning out of this summer’s "Rebirth." Keep an eye on DCComics.com for more!