Wally West a.k.a Kid Flash
First Appearance: Flash #110 in 1959
Created by: John Broome and Carmine Infantino
Full disclosure here, the Flash is one of my favorite characters. And I’m not talking about Barry. Don’t get me wrong, Barry is awesome, love Barry. But I really started to ramp up my collecting right around Crisis on Infinite Earths. And as we’ll get into later, this is when Wally picked up the mantle of the Flash and stopped being Kid Flash. So for a huge part of my life, Wally West was the Flash. It’s like Doctor Who, you can pretty closely guess someone’s age by who their favorite Dr. is.
So I grew up with Wally as Flash and it’s still hard for me to think of Barry as the Flash, even though I know he was the Flash that most people a little older than me think of as the Flash. So let’s get into the actual origin of Wally West, Kid Flash and the Flash.
The character Wally West was created for DC comics and first appeared in Flash issue 110 in 1959 by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. If Wally’s last name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the nephew of Iris West, Barry Allen’s girlfriend and future wife. Now I’d love to be able to tell you about the amazing way Wally became the Flash…but I can’t. Why, because it’s almost exactly how Barry got his powers. Wally is visiting Central City and Barry takes him to his lab to see where he works when a lighting bolt strikes him as he is showered by chemicals. And voila, a new speedster is born.
With the help and tutelage of Barry, the new speedster became a crimefighter like is future Uncle Barry. And here’s something I didn’t know, or more than likely remember, the Kid Flash’s first costume was identical to Barry’s. He looked like a little Flash. It wasn’t until Flash issue 135 that he got his new duds. Barry was already thinking about a new costume design for Wally to set him apart and give him his own look. While Barry was inspecting an alien mind over matter machine Wally approached Barry and the machine activated and Wally’s suit changed into the new suit Barry had been thinking about. I’ve always loved this suit. Yellow and red, really simple, but very…Flashy, yep I said it. Funny silver age detail, since the new suit showed Wally’s shock of red hair, when Barry gave him a ring to store his suit he also built in dye spray that would change his hair color brown. Silver age stuff right.
At this point in time, Wally has the same powers as his mentor Barry. They can run at the speed of light, vibrate through things. They have a protective aura around them so that while running at mach 5 a bug doesn’t hit them in the forehead and blow their brains out.. Wally starts to spread his wings and begins the develop friendships with other heroes in the DC Universe. Kid Flash is one of the founding members of the Teen Titans that debuted in The Brave and the Bold issue 54. The Teen Titans had some amazing adventures but over time Wally began to get sicker and sicker the more he used his speed powers. It was determined that since the chemicals that doused him when he was young and his body was still developing had damaged his cells. At 18 he decided to retire as a crimefighter telling the Titans he was hanging up his running shoes and focusing on his personal life and college.
I remember picking these Titans issues off the shelf. My love of all things Flash carried over to the Titans back in the day and that was probably the book I read first. I’m actually thinking of doing a series on the origins and backstories of teams. So one on the Teen Titans, Sinister Six, that kind of thing. If you’d like to hear that leave a comment over at the site on the episodes page.
So, what gets Wally to come out of retirement. It was DC’s imprint changing event, Crisis on Infinite Earth where Wally comes out of retirement to aid his mentor. Unfortunately when he arrives on the battlefield he finds Barry’s costume and ring. Barry has died to save the multiverse. In the battle with the the anti-monitor, the big baddie in Crisis, Wally is struck by a blast of anti-matter energy from the anti-monitor. This has good and bad results. Unfortunately, Wally’s speed is reduced to the speed of sound, still pretty fast, but on the upside the wasting disease that plagued him has been cured. He can how use his powers with no ill effects.
It’s at this time when Wally realizes he must take up the mantle of his friend, ideal and mentor and leave the Kid Flash persona behind, and become the Flash. Now Crisis changed the characters in the DC Universe dramatically and no more so than Wally West. Shortly after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Flash volume 2 is released with Wally West as The Flash. The title was written by Mike Baron. I can remember picking this up and just loving it. I loved Mike Baron’s work and was really happy they gave such an important character a great creative team for a relaunch.
So after decades there was a new Flash. Not only that but one whose powers were greatly reduced from that of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen.
As mentioned earlier, Wally’s top speed was the speed of sound, where Barry could run at the speed of light. Now for comparison the speed of sound is 340.29 miles per second whereas the speed of light is 299,792,458 miles per second. That’s quite a difference. Wally also could not vibrate through objects. He could vibrate into them but they would explode. He did learn to use this ability to his benefit though and it was always interesting to see how he would employ it. Lastly Wally had to eat almost constantly due to his increased metabolism.
The new Flash title was fun and I really enjoyed it. In working on this podcast I went back and read the first 10 and I think they really held up. I am always amazed at the coloring though. It’s one of the things that are just so different from today due to computers and paper quality..
Now the writers really have fun with the character and in the first issue Wally West the Flash actually wins the lottery and becomes an instant millionaire. But the creators had a problem, people missed their beloved Barry Allen. They were giving the book a chance, but they needed to define this new Flash. This is where we start to see some of the differences between Barry and Wally’s powers as mentioned earlier. Later in the run Wally meets Linda Park and begins a romantic relationship with her and also he moves to Keystone City. Leaving Barry’s city helps Wally get under the shadow of his mentor.
Wally West really comes into his own under the masterful writing of Mark Waid. A pivotal moment in Waid’s run was when Wally has to face Eobard Thawne. To defeat Barry’s arch enemy Wally needs to run faster than ever before. It’s then he realizes he has the power to be as fast if not faster than Barry, but his reverence for his mentor has been holding him back. It was all in his head. Once he reconciles his feelings about being the Flash, he has all the powers of the original Flash. He can run as fast and sometimes faster than Barry and he is able to phase through objects. Wally finally came into his own and was confident in his role as the Flash.
Another huge milestone in the development of Wally West was when Waid introduced the idea of the Speed Force in issue 79. The Speed Force is the birthplace of all the speedsters powers. Each draws upon it for their speed and amazing abilities. And it’s funny, In doing these shows I get inspirations for other show ideas. After researching the speed force I then want to do an origins episode of the Speed Force. I think I’ll make a special series where I do the backstories of objects and places.
Well back to Wally. So now Wally has all the powers of his mentor and things are going well between him and Linda. Well when that happens in a story its time to mess things up. So enter Eboard Thawne once more. Thawne attacks Linda and in a bid to save her he travels faster than ever before and when he does Wally breaks through into the Speed Force becoming one with the power that grants all speedsters their gifts. Wally just doesn’t enter the speed force, he becomes one with it. From then on he and the speed force are connected in a way no other speedster is. Being connected to the speed force gives him even more abilities. Wally can now, travel faster than light sometimes, he can lend speed to others, even faster healing abilities, and he can also steal the speed from objects. This is when Wally truly surpasses Barry as the Flash if you are looking at sheer powers and abilities.. He has abilities that no other speedster can manifest and is one with the place of their power. On other cool addition to his powers is that he no longer needs to carry a costume around, he actually creates a suite right out of the speed force. So that’s pretty neat. I always thought have to change all the time would be a pain.
Wally then has a series of adventures and then DC decides it’s time to bring Barry back. Jeff Johns, the incredible writer and force behind the latest DC relaunch Rebirth, loves all things silver age, so he wanted to bring the classic Flash back into the DC Universe. So during Infinite Crisis Wally and his family leave DCU proper and travel to another dimension to leave the simple life. At this point Bart Allen becomes the new Flash. We haven’t talked about Bart, we’ll save him for another cast. But he’s a speedster related to Barry and Iris and was in various teams including Young Justice.
Unfortunately fans did not appreciate the change and his title, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive did not last long and he was killed off in the final issue. Wally then returns with his family to find his killer and bring him to justice.
At this point however DC has brought back Barry Allen and now we have two Flash’s. Not just two speedsters, but two characters calling themselves the Flash. I remember thinking are they going to give him a new name, kill him, – him, what are they planning. Well I have to say I never dreamed up what they did poor Wally when they launched their New 52 line. What they did was, are you ready, they just wrote him out of existence. In the New 52 the Wally West we knew was gone, and not only gone, he just never existed. There was a new character in the Flash universe named Wally West, but he was not the same character. It was bizarre. Where was Wally.
I’m happy to say that the powers that be at DC must have listened to Jeff Johns and they decided to ditch the New 52 and do another relaunch or as it’s know as, a Rebirth. In Rebirth we find out that Wally has been trapped in the speed force for 10 years by a powerful force. Using his connection to Barry, Wally is able to break out of his jail when Barry remembers who Wally is and their entire history that had been stolen from him. I have to tell you, this really choked me up. Just an amazing couple of pages. So Wally is back in the DCU and he’s reunited with the Titans and using the speed force he’s able to restore people’s memories of him. It’s really fun to see him in the new Titans Rebirth title palling around with Nightwing. Now I’m not sure it he’ll change his name, as of the latest issue of the new Flash title he does have a cool new suit, but he’s still the Flash along with Barry. I’m sure they’ll have to do something about that at some point and I’m curious what they’ll do and how much comic fans freak out when they do. So Wally West is back in the DCU and he’s faster than ever!