It’s no secret that The Flash is coming to TV during season two of Arrow. Grant Gustin (Glee) will portray the Scarlet Speedster and his alter ego, forensic scientist, Barry Allen. While Flash already had a shot at the small screen in a very cool (and underrated) TV series in 1990-1991, this is the first time he’ll be interacting with other DC heroes in an ongoing fashion…beating the long-promised Justice League movie to the punch by several years. The coolest thing is, the Flash mythology is uniquely suited to television, perhaps more so than the big screen. Here are eight reasons why…
Flash boasts some of the most diverse, colorful, and fun villains in comic book history. His rogues’ gallery only lacks some serious mainstream exposure to rival the guys who routinely torment Batman or Spider-Man. But what sets these guys apart from the usual collection of freaks and madmen is that Flash’s baddies aren’t necessarily evil or even all that insane (although some of them are). Most of them are just straight-up super CRIMINALS. The Rogues have their own code of honor, their own unique fashion sense, and have generally been portrayed as more interested in big scores and outwitting their nemesis than world domination or body counts.
If the Flash showrunners are smart (and the early involvement of Geoff Johns, who was responsible for some of the best Flash stories of the last decade or so makes this all seem promising), these won’t be “villain of the week” scenarios, but rather an ongoing supervillain “problem” that plagues Central (or Keystone) City…possibly one that predates Flash coming on the scene! In other words, while most superhero shows (like Arrow) build the supporting cast around the hero, with Flash, there’s the unique possibility that the villains and their relationships to Flash, the city, and each other, will be at least as important as Barry’s relationship with his civilian (and heroic) supporting cast. Which brings us to…
Flash Is A Police Officer
There sure are a lot of police procedurals on TV, aren’t there? How do you set a superhero show apart from others, especially when yours is a spinoff of ANOTHER superhero show on the same network? You bring in an element that “traditional” TV viewers recognize…in this case, elements of the time-honored police procedural drama! Barry Allen is a forensic scientist, which means that The Flash could very well be the first superpowered procedural drama in TV history.
Barry’s affiliation with the police department automatically ups the action-factor of the show. There’s a good chance that time spent without Barry in the iconic red costume will still be spent tracking criminals or following his police colleagues around on cases. Barry Allen is a crimefighter by day AND by night, so Barry Allen is a crimefighter by day AND by night, meaning there’s virtually no danger that Flash will turn into a Smallville-style soap opera.
There’s a reason that Flash’s costume has remained virtually unchanged since 1956. It’s about as perfect a design for a superhero as you’re ever likely to see. The Flash will inject a needed dose of color into the somber world that Arrow portrays week in and week out. While Arrow has done a terrific job of taking Green Arrow’s rather uninspired comic book look and translating it into something appealing and practical on screen, it’s still just a Green Arrow costume and a dude with a bow. Let’s get some red and gold on the screen, please!
The Flash should be FUN. Barry Allen has always been portrayed as a pretty square character (and it looks like Grant Gustin will continue this tradition), which will allow for some humor at his expense. At the same time, he’s a capable police scientist, which means that he isn’t as clumsy or clueless as a Peter Parker or the act that Clark Kent puts on. And since showrunner Andrew Kreisberg has assured fans that Barry “isn’t a tortured soul” and that he’s “a comic book fanboy,” it’s safe to say that Flash will be a lighter counterpoint to Arrow.
The bright colors of the costume mean that Barry WANTS to be noticed and recognized as a hero and not a vigilante. His inside knowledge of law enforcement techniques will make him uniquely suited to NOT be seen as a vigilante or a menace. With any luck, we’ll get to see some fun reflections of how the public reacts to the Flash. He’s not a vigilante or an urban legend like Green Arrow, and there certainly won’t be any of the endless soul-searching we saw with “The Blur” on Smallville. Let’s put it this way: in the comics, the citizens built an entire museum dedicated to The Flash. Now THAT’S celebrity!
Flash’s power set is tailor made for a modest TV budget. But don’t forget: he’s much more than just a guy who can run really fast. Super speed can be depicted in any number of ways, but the manipulation of the speed force (the energy field that DC speedsters draw their power from) can also have some unintended consequences, from granting unsuspecting folks super powers to opening up dimensional doorways.
What’s more, Flash has always been known to intentionally or unintentionally vibrate his way between dimensions or travel through time. Let’s see: a nerdy protagonist with powers and a skill set that lend themselves more to defense and smarts than pure offense who can pull off some timey-wimey shenanigans from time to time? Gee…do you think fans might be ready for a show like this?
Since the introduction of Flash will open the door to a host of other superpowered characters to this DC Television Universe, it’s likely that we’ll see other speedsters. Not only would a character like Jay Garrick (costumed or otherwise) be a welcome addition (in a perfect world, he’d be portrayed by previous live-action Flash, John Wesley Shipp), but relatively obscure characters like Max Mercury could function as potential mentors to Barry. Even one of the prime candidates for Barry’s love-interest on the show, Iris West, would automatically put her nephew, Wally West, into the discussion, opening the door for one of the most beloved characters in Flash history to not only show up, but potentially put on a costume of his own! Who needs a Justice League, anyway?
For nearly thirty years, Flash has been the star of one of the most consistently well written and drawn comics on the market. The list of talented individuals who have crafted his adventures during that period reads like a who’s who of the best writers and artists in the business. Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mike Baron, Ethan van Sciver, Brian Buccellatto, Francis Manapul…and that’s just off the top of my head. All of these folks have added to the Flash legacy in one way or another and seeded the character’s history with any number of concepts that can and should be explored on the show.
Forget about a Flash movie. There’s more good material here than an entire film franchise could handle. Need just one example? From 1983-1985 the Flash comics were devoted to a storyline that came to be known as “The Trial of The Flash,” which dealt with what happens when Flash commits manslaughter while defending someone he loves. This is the kind of story that could define a show’s third or fourth season (if it lasts that long), and would be unlike anything we’ve yet seen from a superhero TV show or film.
He’s a Big Gun
After Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, Flash is one of the most recognizable characters in the DC stable. He’s appeared in nearly every animated incarnation of the Justice League, had his own live-action TV series once already, and there’s plenty of action figures, t-shirts, and merchandise sporting his iconic lightning bolt logo. The colorful nature, infinitely marketable (and timeless) logo, and proliferation of costumed bad guys would also make this the first CW show to lend itself to broader licensing opportunities. While there aren’t that many exciting potential action figures on Arrow (although that’s changing fast during the show’s second season), Flash could be a marketing machine.
Don’t think for a second that giving a founding Justice League member his own TV series right in the middle of the current superhero boom in Hollywood is any kind of accident. Whether or not this will have any effect on the possibility of a solo film for the character or his participation in the Justice League movie (which is so far off in the remote future that it’s barely even worth mentioning) is irrelevant. Flash is arguably DC’s third or fourth most recognizable trademark, and this is isn’t an opportunity Warner Bros. will want to miss.