The Hero Reboot Challenge: The Flash

Posted: June 12, 2011 by silvertomatoproductions in Comics, Comics Editorials, Tomato Fixes, Tomato Surprise

THE HOOK (PART ONE)

“I’ve gotta be honest, Iris: your husband will never be the

fastest man alive.”

– Ed Thawne, “The Unstoppable Force”

In Central City, nothing ever moves quickly. For all of the less-than-stellar things you can say about the little town that could, it hasn’t earned that name by rushing into anything. The solar panels on the roof of the governor’s mansion were dragged there with grandeur, and the city’s skyline shined like the Second Coming, eventually. The people that live here are like that, too: if the city didn’t dictate their rhythms, you could say that they dictated the city’s. Just ask Ed Thawne, Central City’s top physician. Needless to say, he never had much competition, (the c-word was rarely uttered in this place) but he was gentle enough for his name to make the rounds early and often. City folks never called it a doctor’s appointment; it was just “going to Ed’s”.

Perhaps this was why Centeral City was so struck when Ed Thawne retired. Usually, when a man as old as Ed retires, a pine box of some sort is involved, and everyone rents a nice tuxedo or dress. Edward Thawne, however, retired in the most basic sense of the word; one day, the aging doctor woke up to find that realigning his bookshelf was more appealing than realigning somebody’s back, and that was that. A somber mood fell over the little town, or at least a somber enough mood for six-packs to be bought and consumed in his honor. But no retirement is a good retirement if it doesn’t end sometime, even if it’s just for a old college friend. After all, it wasn’t every day that you saw two people survive the same lightning strike. And it wasn’t every day that they were married.

THE HOOK (PART TWO)

“I dunno, Barry. Am I crazy?”

“Yeah. I mean, probably. Here’s hoping the loony van has a

side-car.”

– Iris and Barry Allen, “The Unstoppable Force”

Iris and Barry Allen were not the type of people who Dr. Thawne had expected to see in his office. You could pick those people out from a crowd of thousands: the heavy drinkers, the ones who thought they could relieve themselves on the third rail of a subway and still be fertile afterwards. For one thing, they both had heads on their shoulders. They’d applied for the same job at S.T.A.R. Labs, the state’s leading engineering think-tank, impressing the higher-ups so much that a second position conveniently sprouted up a week later, filled by Barry in half that time. Certainly, Barry could be brash at times, and Iris a little too ambitious, but neither suffered from what, in Thawne’s opinion, was the only disease that could make Darwin roll in his grave. At any rate, here they were in his office, for the seventh time in as many days. At the risk of sounding morbid, it was easy to see why: the glow of Iris’s face had been masked by a thick layer of burn cream, and the usually spry Barry was turning corners, for the first time, through the use of a manual wheelchair. Their official explanation had been a lightning strike, but Ed knew even then that it had to have been something more. Besides, he thought, it wasn’t his job to pry, which was why he’d simply shut his mouth and opened his jar of Plasticine, handing a lump of it to Barry. “Make a pancake for me, Barry.”, he’d said, as was standard operating procedure when testing a newly impaired person’s fine motor skills. “Really, doc? You sure you don’t want Gabriel’s Horn or anything? Infinite volume is all the rage these days,” he joked.

Next to him, Iris squirmed at her husband’s humor. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a good sense of humor; she was just as in on the joke as he was, but he sometimes forgot that he spoke in a different tongue than Central had gotten used to. They were new to the ecosystem already, and Barry stuck out like a white peppered moth. She caught herself in mid-thought, as she’d done during each of these sessions: Barry had been affected by the accident far more than she had, and if it helped him cope, a little comedy was fine by her.

“OK, Barry, ball it up and squeeze for me,”  said Dr. Thawne in an even tone. Under his breath, Barry chuckled. Just because he was the only member of MENSA in Central City (there would’ve been two if those pretentious eggheads weren’t such sexist pricks.) didn’t mean he couldn’t be a middle-school boy at heart. After all, if he was stuck in this office for another hour, the least he could do would be to entertain these coats. So, he picked up the clay, and began to knead it. As he did, he began to ball up his thoughts as well: six months ago, he and Iris had been working on a friction-resistant polymer. SFV-300 wasn’t supposed to be earth-shattering, just a bullet-point for the next “car of the future”. But then the lightning came, and Barry learned a few things about their creation. The first was that it caught fire easily. The second was that it spread quickly, particularly over flesh. And the third? It gave his wife super-speed.

THE CAST

OUR HEROES

IRIS ALLEN/THE FLASH has always been too curious for her own good. Even as a young girl, she’d be more interested in traversing the fifth dimension than the floors of the mall, and more enthralled with mapping genomes than mapping the face of the current teen sensation. Today, she might have been able to fit in, but growing up, the world was too small and the monotony too big for the mind of Iris West.  That is, until she found Barry Allen and life began to pick up speed. They both have dream jobs at the prestigious S.T.A.R. Labs, and a better half that seems too good to be true. But when a lab accident causes her decelerating life to change in a flash, will she be ready to care for an ailing husband and become Central City’s greatest superhero?

BARRY ALLEN prides himself in being able to think his way out of any situation. The world, in essence, is a big computer, so everything has a logical origin and end. Even the most beautiful things, like his top position as S.T.A.R. Labs and his long, happy marriage to his wife Iris, have to end sometime. When a freak chemical accident robs him of the use of his legs, Barry Allen thinks that he can see the loop closing already. But as Iris reveals to him her plans to be Central City’s newest protector, and exactly what gave her the opportunity to do so, Barry finds himself involved in the front lines of a new war on crime that doesn’t seem to have an end in mind!

THEIR ALLIES

DR. ED THAWNE has been Central City’s top physician for almost as long as there’s been a Central City, though he’d prefer you . When you’ve done what he’s done for as long as he’s done it, nothing can surprise you. However, it seems that the world shocks the good doctor a little more every day. Costumed crime has come to his hometown, and Ed isn’t sure how to treat the problem. But a patient of his may soon rise up to provide an answer…

CAPTAIN ANJU JOSHI is a small-town cop. She does her job well, when it involves drunken brawls and expired insurance and property damage. A new breed of theatrically terrifying trouble is quickly brewing, however, and she may be the only cop fast enough to fight it. If keeping the streets clean means enlisting help, she’s prepared to lead the charge, even if it means immersing herself in the world of one Scarlet Speedster!

MAX MERCURY still remembers the one time his old folks let him stay up to watch TV, as Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind. He’s part of the old folk himself now, but stays ahead of the curb as the future-focused head of S.T.A.R. Labs. As he learns more about Central City’s newest phenomena, though, the future may speed right to his doorstep!

THEIR FOES

OWEN MERCER/CAPTAIN BOOMERANG could never quite keep from coming back to the family business of organized crime. His father, Digger Mercer, had been a drug kingpin on the East Coast, but his mother was determined never to let Owen follow in his footsteps, so they moved to the frugal farmland of Central City. But, as Digger grew up, he began to become well-versed in the art of flashy “gimmick crime”, founding a group of equally anarchic shakers called The Rogues. It won’t be long, however, before a skirmish with the Flash makes Mercer’s entrepreneurship noticeable enough for   his father to come calling!

TANIA HAWTHORNE/TAR PIT never wanted to model. She’d always been an agile dancer, honing her skills in secret for years. Unfortunately, modeling wanted her, so she let it use her for a while in order to pay the rent. After you have a meltdown on stage, however, there’s no saving your career. As the landslide of Tania’s life intensified, she turned to Owen Mercer, who promised her fantastic powers at a price. Fantastic powers she received, able to mold and bend her body like churning magma, but not before joining the Rogues as the crumbling coal monstrosity known only as Tar Pit!

SAMUEL SCUDDER/MIRROR MASTER always brought out the best in people. Even if you were as beautiful and charming as Iris Tate, he could always make you shine, and shine the two did. But then she’d ran off to college, wanting to study chemistry and not settle down with him. Now, he’s back in Central City, and the more he learns about how much Iris has changed, the more he begins to change himself. Luckily, one Owen Mercer is there to help him rebound.

YASO SHIGA/THE TOP was born in a world that was always spinning. After a birth defect damaged his cerebellum, he could not perceive objects as still. Soon enough, this led him to develop a circular way of walking that unleashed vicious teasing at school. Armed with a device that allows him to unleash centrifugal force like a tornado, Yaso dropped out of middle school and became the youngest member of the Rogues in hopes of curing his mysterious condition. Until then, it may prove to drive him mad.

LEONARD SNORT/CAPTAIN COLD has recently done a lot of floating. After years of matching wits with a notable superhero of Keystone City as the villain Captain Cold, his life became empty, and he turned his freeze-gun on himself hoping that, if and when he arose, the hero of Keystone City would return with him. After The Rogues thaw him out, however, Leonard finds that the world is very different from when he last saw it; people like Owen Mercer and the Flash are giving the costumed tradition a bad name, and he won’t rest until he makes the new struggle of the superheroes into something his old adversary would smile upon, even if that means putting both the Scarlet Speedster and Central City’s new kingpin of crime on ice!

Well, I’ve said my piece. At this point, you’ve read through page after page of my thoughts on the various Scarlet Speedsters and what makes them all tick, and you either want to march me into town with gusto or march me out of town with my head on a post. I’m fine with both reactions, and there’s probably not much I can say here to change your opinion, for better or for worse. However, I’ve made some choices here that are, by my count, unorthodox. It’s easy to see that this isn’t your grandparents’ Flash, nor is it your parents’ or maybe even yours. I’m not going to apologize for these, but I at least want to explain my logic, for the curious and skeptical among you. When Jeff Harris challenged me to reboot the Scarlet Speedster, I groaned. It’s not that I have any sort of hatred for any of the characters to wear the lightning bolt; I really liked Wally in Justice League Unlimited, if only due to the smooth soliloquy provided by the excellent Michael Rosenbaum, and I liked Barry well enough in Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier, one of my first gateways into comics. If anything, I groaned because the history of the Flash is so convoluted, and the extended families of the Garricks and the Wests and the Allens so massive that I knew going in I’d have to do some pruning. As much as I love the rich mythology of the Flash, every pitch I do must have the first-time viewer in mind.

So, the question arose: if I was only going to put one speedster behind the mask, who would it be? My first impulse (no pun intended) was to put Wally in the role, but I felt like Mark Waid and Geoff Johns have said most of what could be said about him. If this was going to be my Flash pitch, surely it should be my Flash. My mind drifted to DC’s receht reboot, where the cover of JLA #1, DC’s marquee launching pad for their new universe, contained a whopping ONE female. If the four-color universe came to ours, if fantastic powers rained down from the sky and were given to all of us, it would take the most unlikely of miracles for the world’s leading group of superheroes to be that white, that male, that straight, and that able-bodied. In particular, a large part of what you just read was written on a two-hour car trip to Michigan, which took place just shy of a week after I learned that Oracle, one of the only disabled characters in modern media, would be taken out of her chair in September. Quite frankly, I was disgusted with the lack of disabled characters in comics with every bit of the intensity I had about its lack of ovaries. Would it be cliche to say that the whole thing came together in a flash?

Now that I knew Iris would be my star,  I had to flesh out her supporting cast. Captain Anju Joshi was a holdover from another long-dead project, but beyond her, I was working from a blank slate. The Flash, luckily, has plenty of amazingly inventive foes to work with. However, only a few of them had the one trait of all perfect villains: being a dark, twisted mirror of the hero. The defining motivator of the Allens, I realized, was illness; finding a healthy way to cope with the kind of evil that isn’t a physical person and their actions.  But what if you couldn’t find an outlet like they did? What if your only way to hold yourself together was to dress up in neon spandex and paint the town red in the worst possible ways?

When I was in fifth grade, I had an English teacher who’s husband had lived with melanoma for years. He was a pastor, and they were both, as my teacher would later put it, madly in love. Before I left elementary school, her husband had died, and while I’d never seen the two together, attending his funeral was an eye-opening experience. I’ve realized, putting this pitch down on paper, that this story couldn’t have been written the way it was without having had them in my life, and streaks of their light show up in the Allens whenever I write the duo. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Reimann.

I hope you enjoyed the pitch. Jeff Harris will see you next weekend, when he takes on my challenge to reboot the totemic titan, Vixen!

Sincerely,

Tomato Surprise

(Disclaimer: All original ideas, scripts, pitches, and concepts presented by Tomato Surprise are TM and © Justin Martin. Any use or presentation of the materials found here without the expressed written consent and permission of the author is strictly prohibited. All rights restricted.)

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