My Misspent Youth — Flash by Mike Baron and Jackson Guice

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

When I committed myself wholeheartedly to reading superhero comic books, it was understood that there was an obligation to choose between the two major publishers. Me, I made mine Marvel and I stuck with them with little variance for several years. Then my favorite comic creator, John Byrne, took his leave of Marvel to work for the distinguished competition, because they quite famously gave him stewardship of their flagship character, Superman. Although I didn’t exactly abandon my Marvel fandom completely, I followed Byrne to the other side of the spinner rack and committed myself to getting a handle on this vast, unfamiliar universe. That process was helped immensely by the cunning choice to give Byrne art duties on the big crossover series Legends, in which writer John Ostrander ushered in a new status quo for several characters. It served as intended as a gateway for me. Besides Byrne’s Superman titles, I used the limited series to propel myself into several new series that, as the covers to their first issues often proclaimed, were “From the pages of Legends.”

One of the series I started collecting was Flash. Fortuitously, I had an additional entryway to that one. It was written by Mike Baron, whose work I appreciated immensely from independent comics Nexus and The Badger, and drawn by Jackson Guice, for whom I felt particular fondness because of his contributions to some beautifully bonkers issues of Micronauts. The new series graduated Wally West, who previously did his superheroing under the moniker Kid Flash. Not too long after the death of Barry Allen, the previous wearer of the red, lightning bolt–adorned costume of Flash, West dropped the Kid part of his alias to serve as a successor.

In writing Wally West, Baron seemed far more engaged with the psychology of Wally’s new role and the strange particulars of being a do-gooder whose superpower is moving very fast. The whole first issue is largely given over to Flash taking a job for hire transporting a transplant heart across the country. His storytelling is also shaped by an uncommon preoccupation with the logistics of being a superhero. West’s warped metabolism requires him to wolf down food at every opportunity, and he’s initially fretful about how he’s going to make ends meet because the demands of his altruistic endeavors make it difficult to hold down a job. (It’s only initially because Baron has his lead character little hit the lottery early in the series.) As he must, Baron brings in supervillains, setting Flash against longtime DC Comics fearsome for Vandal Savage early on. Even then, however, Baron clearly wants to keep it as ground-level scrappy as he can.

Before long, Baron and Guice got weirder and weirder, bringing on bad guys such as Kilg%re, an out of control mechanical being, and the Chunk, a heavyset man whose body voraciously consumes matter. At times, Flash is like a superhero fever dream, proceeding with a loopy logic all its own. The DC ethos of the moment had a real anything-goes vibe, and Baron and Guice’s Flash fit squarely into it.

Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.

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