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Author Topic: Mark Waid and the Flash  (Read 12773 times)
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Great Rao
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« on: November 06, 2005, 05:04:02 PM »

Administrator's note: this thread is split from this one.

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Though I'm hardly a fan of Mark Waid's "contributions" to the Flash (this could be a whole other post, but sufficed to say, Mark Waid is to the Flash what John Byrne is to Superman) it is interesting to mention how he pointed out that at DC, there is just about a CIVILIZATION of "pure" speedsters: Max Mercury, Jessie Quick, Johnny Quick, XS, Impala, the various Flashes over the years, and so on.

You've stated before that you don't like Waid's work on the Flash, so I'm not going to try to change your mind - but I feel that your comparison of Waid to Byrne is completely off the mark and I need to go on the record that I disagree.  As a quick example, that a look at Birthright vs. Man of Steel!

Waid seems to love what has come before him.  He is about respecting and incorporating the past - along with his own ideas - into an exciting present; Byrne is about tearing down everything that has come before him.

I would say that in some ways Mark Waid is to the Flash what Edmond Hamilton is to Superman.  It's almost like Waid was doing with the Flash what he wanted to do with Superman:  He gave the Flash a "Flash Family", the Flash travelled all through time, went to the future and was a hero, there were super-powered descendants across the ages, and there was an almost universally known "Flash Legacy;" along with mind-blowing new plot developments every issue.   That's exactly what should have been going on in Superman - Waid added all this mythology, legacy, and heroism; whereas Byrne destroyed mythology, legacy, and heroism.

Waid's run on the Flash was the only bright spot in DC's output at that time and is the only book that I found really exciting, that  made me look forward to the next issue.

That's my off-topic say, and if anyone else feels like chiming in here, go right ahead and I'll split this all off to a new thread.

S!
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2005, 01:19:40 AM »

Quote from: "Great Rao"
You've stated before that you don't like Waid's work on the Flash, so I'm not going to try to change your mind - but I feel that your comparison of Waid to Byrne is completely off the mark and I need to go on the record that I disagree. As a quick example, that a look at Birthright vs. Man of Steel!


You are correct when you say that the comparison to Byrne is inexact, because at least Mark Waid incorporates what has come before whereas Byrne doesn't bother to attempt. Mark Waid has written stories I personally, enjoy: for instance, his JLA: YEAR ONE had its moments, and he did several Superman backups in ACTION COMICS that were a great deal of fun. And while I'm not a fan of everything he did in BIRTHRIGHT, Mark Waid got a sense of who the character was and wrote him admirably, creating a worthy reboot story for the character incorporating many wonderful elements from past stories. Byrne, on the other hand, has never written anything that I have truly liked, and has never contributed an idea that wasn't destructive.

As an aside, let me point out that in the few interviews I've read of him, Mark Waid is a genuinely funny human being and if he's ever here in Miami, I'll take him out and buy him a peppermint schnapp, because somebody that knows who Ultra the Multi-Alien is, by definition is a cool guy I wanna hang out with. I would not say the same of Byrne; every story I've heard of him as a person shows a childish egomaniac. And doesn't he look like the creepiest serial killer ever?

However, I feel the comparison to Byrne DOES hold up in the sense that both impose their personal views on characters where it is unjustified for them to do so, where it conflicts with what has been established.

My dominant objection to Mark Waid's run on the Flash is that he had the Flash behave in a manner that was totally out of character, projecting Waid's own personal social and political views on a character for which such projection is innappropriate and unwarranted.

Imagine, for example, if a Parents' Group took over writing the next James Bond movie. Instead of messing around with bikini and catsuit clad spy babes like every teenage boy wishes they could, Bond was rewritten by the Far Side-glasses wearing Mother's Group to mess around with women in the only manner that it ought to be: in the bonds of holy matrimony, with a Mrs. Bond they take extra pain to be as boring and personality-free as possible. Wouldn't it be outrageous for said Parents Group to impose their perspective on movies, whose function is entertainment, not moral instruction?

Quote from: "Great Rao"
I would say that in some ways Mark Waid is to the Flash what Edmond Hamilton is to Superman. It's almost like Waid was doing with the Flash what he wanted to do with Superman: He gave the Flash a "Flash Family", the Flash travelled all through time, went to the future and was a hero, there were super-powered descendants across the ages, and there was an almost universally known "Flash Legacy;" along with mind-blowing new plot developments every issue.


Otto Binder made a lot of contributions to the Superman Family as well, but I see what you're saying.

But this statement here hit the nail on the head of why it is I don't like the Waid FLASH run if for no other reason than omission. There was one DC speedster that Mark Waid has never used in his entire Flash run, which seemed to get mileage out of (no pun intended) every speedster that there ever was, even those Three Russians.

Who can it be?

It isn't Max Mercury, that's for sure; he was pulled from Dimension Nowhere to become the Zen Guru of speed, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of skidmarks.

It's Impala, the Zulu speedster from the Global Guardians. Yes, Impala had lost his powers in JLQuarterly #17 (1994) but last time I checked, Max Mercury hadn't been in a DC Comic since the 1940s. Apparently, reviving a forgotten Golden Ager and establishing why they didn't age in the interim, setting up a retroactive backstory involving Native Americans and the 1950s, a heretofore unrevealed connection to the Quick Clan, and making them into a major DC player - there was plenty of time for THAT, but a three panel sequence just to get Impala back into fighting trim is an unaccountable waste of precious, precious comic space.

And I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Impala is from a different race and from a foreign country. I'm not saying Mark Waid is prejudiced, I am however, bringing this up as being absolutely typical of Mark Waid's white bread, middle America perspective that he chose THE FLASH as the vehicle to cram down the throat of the comics world. This wouldn't be so intolerable (Cary Bates for instance, was a midwesterner who was always unceasingly polite and he wrote some of the greatest Superman stories ever), if it wasn't for the fact that Mark Waid, with all the crass unprofessionalism of a fanfic author, ignored the Flash's previous characterization in order to graft and transplant - Frankenstein-style - his own worldview onto a character that has a perfectly workable personality.

The defining character traits of Wally West - the personality that he was given that made him an interesting character in his own right fit to be compared with the characters before that had the name - was that while Wally was fundamentally a nice, decent, funny human being, he nonetheless was a young man in his twenties who was awash with hormones, his moods swinging, falling in love with woman after woman. We readers rooted for Wally because he made all the wrong choices with his love life.

Mark Waid however, couldn't take all that malt-sharing and hand holding hanky-panky going on in Speedsterville, and married him off to some bland, personality-free Lois Lane equivalent. It really says something about her lack of personality that I can't remember her name. Marky Mark had the Flash MARRY, despite the fact the decent but boyishly immature "Peter Pan" Flash would rather face Captain Cold, Rainbow Raider, the Trickster and Grodd all at the same time before even *considering* being tied down with a ball and chain. Characters grow and change with time, and it might have been interesting if someone with a grasp of the character, like Messner-Loebs or the Baron/Guice team, had remained on the title; watching the Flash acquire dignity and maturity and eventually, perhaps, marrying and settling down. But Mark Waid didn't tell that story; he did not have the Flash grow and develop in any realistic way; he throws us headlong into the Flash marriage and engagement and asks us to accept that the fact that he's getting married is a sign he's matured - despite the fact he's got it backwards: we have to see the Flash mature before we can accept the engagement. We can't just see the wedding and buy that he's a different person. Something that important has to happen "on camera."

Another character in the forefront with Messner-Loebs that faded to the background the INSTANT Mark Waid's name hit the writers' box was the Pied Piper, a major supporting figure in the years after Crisis, a redeemed, eccentric supervillain who became to the Flash what Snapper Carr was to Hourman, a loveable character that may possibly be one of comics few open homosexuals, a detail revealed and handled with dignity by his creative team. This character faded entirely into the background and has for the most part never been used again.

Oh, wait. Mark did get some use out of the Pied Piper, having him build some radio earpieces for the Flash and never mentioning his homosexuality ever again. Gee, I take it. All. Back.

Wow, this post is longer than I intended, and I haven't even GOTTEN to the "Speed Force" yet. A retcon of this magnitude - a powerful force that was around "all along" but that there has never, ever been a shred of evidence for its existence except those stories set in the past that Waid wrote himself to "prove" the speed force was "always there" ...all of it is really insulting to the intelligence of the comics reader, just like asking us to believe Superboy had never really been in the Legion of Super-Heroes was insulting and just like asking us to believe that Superman had never been in the Justice League until recently was insulting. Worst of all, this isn't some cute fact to throw back and forth, but something that fundamentally alters how the Flash's powers - previously easy to explain and based in real world physics intimately researched by the savvy Julie Schwartz - operate. Costumes of "solidified speed," "deriving sustenance from the speed force," and "I will remove the speed from those objects" implies an understanding of how the world works that borders on the demented. To say nothing about being unintentionally funny, and not in the charming way the Silver Age can be, either: unintentionally funny because of the total cluelessness of the concept.

The Speed Force's insane "Snake Oil" properties, the arrogance of the retcon that insinuated the Speed Force into every aspect of Flash history like a loud party guest that just won't leave, and the total denial of the scientific accuracy that previously had been the Flash's trademark, all these catapult the "Valhalla of Speedsters" amongst the nakedly egotistical, self-aggrandizing concepts John Byrne "created" to leave his mark on comics history at the expense of said history.
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2005, 03:27:56 AM »

Can you elaborate on the scientific accuracy of the non-speed force Flash?
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2005, 06:01:51 AM »

Quote from: "MatterEaterLad"
Can you elaborate on the scientific accuracy of the non-speed force Flash?


I assume you mean the Wally West Flash in particular? Alright, well, here are a few examples:

The Wally West Flash required an enormous amount of calories to power his superspeed metabolism, a nod to a realistic concern that made his power more interesting, or at least more complicated. In FLASH #1 (1987); when running across America, Wally actually physically collapsed from hunger. While the (excellent) previous version of the Flash had this problem to a lesser extent, it was really a problem that gave the Wally West Flash his unique identity, one which Mark Waid did away with. When inside the universe of Chester P. Runk in FLASH #9-11 (1988), Wally West faced the very real problem of starvation as a result of the limited resources.

Also, Wally West (pre Speed Force) destroyed and wore out any variety of normal clothing and footwear that he wore when he accelerated to high speeds. He often destroyed birthday presents and gifts by using superspeed while wearing them, which he had to account for!
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2005, 07:49:12 PM »

My issue with the Speed Force is it's too much 'it can do anything'.

At least with Barry's old total control of his atoms and molecules, it took some thought and strategy to come up with a new super-speed stunt.

Now, Wally's Speed Force he can just about do anything that crosses the writer's mind with no need for even the slightest degree of mental muscle exertion.  No costume?  Just whip one up from 'speed force energy'.  Villain got you down?  Just steal his weapon's speed with the Speed Force.  I mean, Wally is already to fast to be credibly challenged by any of those costumed fools in his Rogue's Gallery; giving him basic omnipower is pushing things far beyond acceptability.

Now, if the Speed Force came with specific rules and boundaries on what it can and cannot do, then that would have worked.  But it didn't.
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2005, 11:35:19 PM »

Well, OK, I can see how more consistent rules make the Speed Force more palatable, I just didn't see a lot of realism in the original derivations and aquisition of speed powers (though I liked them just the same)...I think we all have troubles with new explanations though for some reasons the Speed Force never bothered me, but I'm the first to complain about some of the mythos from the Bronze Age, so what can I say... Cool

Thanks all...
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« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2005, 04:19:41 AM »

Julian, don't hold back: tell us why you really don't like Mark Waid's Flash! And be specific this time!:D

Seriously, this is all very educational.  All those 80s-90s Flash comics just looked like crap to me. Now I know someone put his indidual stamp on them.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2005, 10:52:02 PM »

I have barely scratched the surface of what this run did wrong.

Here's a big one: IMPULSE. Oh, man, where to even begin. Why is this character in FLASH comics, when he could be skateboarding wearing sunglasses while he tells kids about a "radical, new" X-TREME sports yogurt? When Bartholomew Allen first showed up, I honestly thought he was a joke; a parody character like "Poochy" from THE SIMPSONS.

Other characters may be more annoying than Bart is, but Impulse is by far the most inauthentic and soulless. Impulse is a Bizarro world version of ENDER'S GAME: Ender and his friends showed kids were far, far smarter than grownups give them credit for. Impulse showed they are far, far dumber. Instead of talking to kids and figuring out how they think and act, Waid instead used every stereotype fifty year old men have about kids: lazy, mischevious, short attention spanned, and shallow. For godsakes, his NAME is "Bart." Impulse's "superspeed from birth" gave Waid an excuse to use a stock character; a stereotype with a good rationale is nonetheless a stereotype.

I shouldn't be too hard on him, though: if his offense at the Flash's sleeping around is any indication, the only time Old Man Waid probably sees kids is when he gets up from his rocking chair to tell them to stop playing on his lawn.  :lol:

Quote from: "TELLE"
Seriously, this is all very educational. All those 80s-90s Flash comics just looked like crap to me. Now I know someone put his indidual stamp on them.


If this conversation has encouraged you to pick up some of the Mike Baron or Bill Messner-Loebs FLASH issues, I think its done its job.  Cheesy In the hands of those two geniuses, even Silver Age diehards could accept a new guy as the Flash, just because it was so GOOD, characterized so well, and written so imaginatively (from the Flash's superspeed enemies to the wonderful Chester P. Runk, a fat man with a dimension inside him).

Now, if only they could get them out on trade paperback...  Cheesy
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