What’s Next for The Flash?

Joshua Williamson talks about the aftermath of Flash War, the fate of Wally West, and what's next for Barry Allen.

For the last two years, Joshua Williamson has been steering the adventures of Barry Allen and the rest of the Flash family in the pages of The Flash for DC Comics. In the wake of Wally West’s return in DC Rebirth in 2016, Williamson and a number of talented artists have delivered a book that is completely accessible and familiar to fans of the TV series, while simultaneously drawing on decades of Flash history. At 51 issues and counting, it’s one of the most impressive runs on the character by any writer, and it recently wrapped up two massive stories, with “The Perfect Storm” and “Flash War.”

For some creators, that might be enough. But from what Mr. Williamson tells us, there are even bigger things awaiting Barry, Wally, and some long-lost members of the Flash family before he reaches the finish line. Beware, because this interview contains massive spoilers for recent Flash stories, so if you aren’t caught up, you might want to do this before reading (or watching) on…

Den of Geek: You just had a pretty big story wrap in The Flash with “Flash War.” Can we talk about that ending? Because you said the magic word that no Flash fan ever wants to hear, which is “Crisis.”

Josh Williamson: I mean I’ve been telling most people, ever since we started talking about “Flash War” was that it was really going to be the beginning of a Flash story. It wasn’t going to be something that stands on its own and really what we saw was the first battle of this big storyline we were going to be planning, and you could see that Hunter [Zolomon] talks about it. Hunter is like, “there’s something coming that is bigger and there needs to be a Flash.”

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For every big Crisis, there always has to be a Flash, right? They’re so tied into the heart of the DCU and they’re always a part of any kind of big Crisis story. Hunter warns them. He says that throughout the story where he’s like, there’s something coming that’s bigger. I don’t think you guys are ready for it. We need a Flash that is ready. That’s part of his motivation. And so you see that that thing that he’s talking about is that last page is the idea that there’s a Crisis coming.

And is that mysterious character at the end a new character or is that somebody that we’ve seen before?

It’s a weird mix of both, I guess. The best way to put it is that it is a new character who will have a history with the Flash family. That’s the best way I can put it. It’s definitely something we’re trying to build. It’s gonna be a little bit of a slow burn. I really do feel like I want to be the [Flash] equivalent of Doomsday vs. Superman. 

And before that ending, there was the other ending, which sees the return of Bart Allen to the DC Universe. I feel Bart is kind of trickier for everything because we’ve already established that there are rules that speedsters have to follow in order to return to this reality, correct? So what was it that allowed Bart to return?

Well the original Bart Allen we brought back, he had died, or we saw him get absorbed into this Speed Force back during Flashpoint. He had his own mini, it was a Kid Flash miniseries. At the end of that he became a White Flash, as a parallel, or a reverse from the Black Flash. He became this White Flash and he helped Barry make his way back and then he was absorbed into the Speed Force. We didn’t really know what happened to him or where he was and if you go and look at what was going on with Wally, Wally would have been trapped in this Speed Force for all of New 52 and then he was able to find his way back and find his lightning rod.

Impulse/Bart Allen was also lost in in the other side of that. Part of the reason why I wanted to tell the story the way we did, was at the end of that story both Barry and Wally lose at the end. They both lost the war. Hunter’s the one that won. I wanted it to be this thing of Hunter thought he was manipulating them but he accidentally released Bart at the same time. If you go back and you look, part of the reason why Wally wasn’t able to come back was because no one remembered him. Once Barry remembered him, he was able to pull him through.

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But the thing is, there was nobody to remember Bart. But that energy has been building, right? With Iris and Wally, and when we get to that story, that moment where he is able to remember his family, that energy is able to bring Bart through. It was because of Wally being able to remember the idea of the Flash family as a whole. That’s how Bart makes it through on that last page. Bart will have an adventure. He’s not going to be in The Flash book for a little bit. I don’t know the exact issue number, but we’ll eventually get there. And then we’ll see some of that stuff play out over awhile in The Flash, but it’s really a big part of the future that DC gave us, some of the stuff that we’re building here.

For a guy writing The Flash, you take your time with these characters. Wally was kind of the kickoff of Rebirth but then you kept Wally away for a while in the main book, and now he’s here and it seems like he’s taking more of a prominent role. How do you balance this? You’re very slowly bringing in these other members of the Flash family.

It’s definitely part of the challenge. I wanted Wally in the book from the beginning. Here’s the thing. You can’t just say, “I want.” You have to have a story, a plan, an idea to how it can work. You can’t just be like, “I want Wally in the book. Give him to me.” That isn’t how it works.

Same with Bart. I couldn’t just go, “I want Bart in the book, give him to me.” I had to come up with an idea, and a story, and a way to execute this. So with Wally I was able to get Wally in occasionally, and once we knew we were going to do “Flash War” and we knew what the story was, it was easier to get him in the book on a regular basis. That’s what we started having him during the Grodd storyline. So we could build that tension between him and Barry.

It can be tough to balance it out. With right now, Wally’s going to leave the book in issue 51. In that you’re gonna see what happened to him after “Flash War.” We’re telling you where he’s going, what other book he’ll be in, because his story’s going to continue. The book is going to focus on Barry for a little bit. It’s almost like a weird push and pull, like a rollercoaster ride of breaking the Flash family apart and then bringing them back together. That’s how we’re going to create that balance of making sure that there’s always a story reason for them to be around each other. 

Like I said, Bart’s not going to be in the book a little bit, so I don’t have to worry about that as much right now. Honestly it’s one of my favorite things about superhero comic books. I always like the character interactions. I like when Superman is around Batman. I like when Hal is around Barry. I like when these characters that I love are bouncing off each other. And now I was able to do that with Barry and Wally. So eventually being able to have Barry and Bart, or Wally and Bart, it’s a lot of fun to be able to write those interactions, so it can be a challenge at times but I like the challenge.

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We saw Jay Garrick briefly back during “The Button.” With everything happening the way that it is now, and everything building towards this Crisis, whatever it may be. When will we see Jay again?

That’s a tough question to ask. I mean he’s definitely out there. I can’t really say where he’s gonna show up next. I know. But I can’t really say. Sooner than later. That’s the most I can tell you. I like Jay a lot. I was really glad we got to write him for that one moment. I felt that it was something heartbreaking.

I remember we came up with this story and the idea that it was going to happen, and I was like okay it’ll be a surprise. It was almost one year to the day from Wally returning, so we knew that Wally returned in DC Rebirth in May of 2016. And a year later in May of 2017 we were gonna give you a taste of Jay and then take him away. Just to kind of remind you that this is not gonna be an easy battle. I remember thinking, “oh man, this is gonna be so heartbreaking.” I love Jay, too. I’m really glad I get to write him for this scene, but he’s gonna show up and we’re gonna yank him back. And I was like, “it’s all right. It’ll be a nice surprise. It’ll be okay.”

And then he was on the cover. And I thought, “oh no! Everyone’s gonna think he’s coming back in this issue.” So it was definitely heartbreaking to sort of tease that, but at the same time I know the bigger plans for all this stuff, and I know the stuff that we’re building and planning and I think it’ll all be worth it in the end. I think people will really be happy with everything by the end of all this really big, huge story we’re telling.

It was worth it for that cover, though!

That cover was awesome! Jay Fabok is an amazing artist. I really like working with him a lot. He actually, going on a little tangent, he drew my second job at DC, and I actually wrote his first job. So it was his first gig and my second gig we worked together. And then years later we got to do Justice League vs Suicide Squad #1 together, which was a big event for both of us. It was both of our first event books, so it was cool. I think that was six years later or something like that? Maybe five years later we were able to come back together and do something like that. It was great.

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I seem to remember hearing when Rebirth first launched that everybody needed a two year plan on their books. And we’ve just passed the two year mark with you on Flash. Was “Flash War” always your endgame?

Bits and pieces of it was. I had the story that I’d wanted to do. We knew there was a certain map planned out. We had talked about it two years ago. We just weren’t sure where it was gonna fall, and how. The end of my two year plan was the Grodd story (“The Perfect Storm”). That was the end of my two year plan. But then we saw this opportunity “Flash War” right after. We were like, oh this is perfect, let’s do this. All these bits and pieces of stories I wanted to do I was able to find a home and build out to be this big “Flash War” story. And do Barry versus Wally, which had never been done.

The Flash arrives every other Wednesday from DC Comics. Wally West will next be seen in Heroes in Crisis, which arrives on September 26.