In the continued saga of “Josh reads a past series and gets a thought,” we now find ourselves revisiting Mark Waid’s the Flash series from the early 1990s.
I was reading the recently released trade of it, and found myself fixated on something that happened in #62, which was a “Year One” story for Wally West, who was the headlining Flash at the time.
This issue told the story of Wally first arriving in Central City to stay with his aunt Iris West for the summer. She introduced Wally to her fiancé, Barry Allen. After Wally helps out the Flash in stopping a robbery, Barry decides to meet Wally in costume. This is a life-changing moment for Wally, as he idolizes the Flash. He loves the Fastest Man Alive and takes inspiration from his heroic deeds. The whole scene is actually really moving.
Naturally, I turned my thoughts towards the present and whether or not we get much like this anymore. And we don’t, really.
Mainstream superhero comics by Marvel and DC tend to be more action-focused. It’s more about the struggle between the hero and the villain. Sure, you do get character moments from them often enough, and things do slow down sometimes. However, they don’t really meet any “normal folk” in costume.
They also don’t really stop disasters as much, either. I mean, that’s fair enough — earthquakes and hurricanes don’t make for compelling antagonists. Still, it would be cool for them to actually help people avoid property damage instead of actively cause it.
A big part of this seems to be the cynicism that has caked all over the modern superhero comic. People in the world tend to hate the heroes for the property damage and the constant infighting (looking at you, Marvel). This seems to be less of a problem for DC, but they still tend to have public relations problems that result in them having ardent and vocal critics. I went back and read Tony Bedard’s New 52 Blue Beetle series recently, and good lord did Jamie Reyes go through some absolute crap with the public in that comic.
Now, there are some nice exceptions. Greg Rucka has given Wonder Woman some good moments like this. Luke Cage has the status of the community hero and seems at least willing to engage with them in most comics, especially in Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers a few years back. Ta-Nehisi Coates has remembered that the Black Panther is a man of his people, too. And there was this moment from Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman, but that was almost 10 years ago now:
That being said, these instances are still few and far between.
Heroes are more fallible and human these days. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s actually a really good step forward for the overall genre.
Still, what about the kids in the Marvel and DC universes that see these people as idols and examples? What about the people who are still astonished by seeing men and women fly? You could give these people some really good moments where they show how kind they can be and realize the symbols they have become.
Obviously you don’t have Batman, Hawkman, Deadpool, Logan, or the Punisher do stuff like that. But what about Spider-Man, Superman, the Flash, or Ms. Marvel? They are the kinds of characters that should be more receptive the kind of things they represent.
I struggle to believe that everyone in these worlds are so ungrateful to the people that have literally saved the planet on multiple occasions and stopped violent criminals. Some should still respect, admire, and even be awestruck by them.
That’s not too much to ask for, right? A feel-good moment now and then?