Character Issues: Barry Allen

The Stats:
Name:  Bartholomew Henry “Barry” Allen
Height: 6’0
Weight: 195
Powers: The Fastest Man Alive
Type: Misplaced Silver Age Rabbit
Excels at: Making the laws of Physics his bitch
Fails at: Existing outside of the Silver Age

Learn more about Barry Allen here.
The Character:

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DC’s greatest hero.  The one who gave his life to save the Universe in Crisis of the Infinite Earths.  The Crisis was the glorious death of the Silver Age for DC and Barry Allen was the most prominent death.  He was the poster boy of the Silver Age of DC heroes; ridiculously overpowered, one note and kind of an asshole. Barry was considerably more likable than his peers in the Sliver Age JLA and as such was relatively well regarded.  Barry died, people cried and Wally West took over as The Flash.

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Wally was a Flash of the Modern Age.  He had a clear personality, physical and emotional limits and actually developed into a hero before our eyes.  Wally grew more powerful, matched Barry’s abilities and established himself in the Modern Age.  Barry existed as an idealized piece of nostalgia that motivated Wally to be a better hero.  Barry was gone for nearly 20 years and Wally was the Flash that many current fans identified with.  Then Final Crisis happened.

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…but you can’t escape a bad Editorial Decision

The Issues:

Barry returned and promptly started ruining every bit of development Wally enjoyed over the previous 20 years.  He took over the Flash title and made Wally West a background character. He alienated his wife by obsessing over the death of his mother. He reintroduced the element of Time Travel and all of the confounding shit it entails into the mainstream DC Universe.  Knowing how much of a disaster traveling through time could be, Barry selfishly travels through time to save his mother causing the Flashpoint paradox and ruining half of DCs series for the next four years.

Here’s why Barry is an asshole for traveling through time to change the past.

  1. Barry is a scientist. – He understands the way the physics of the DCU work.  He knows that creating paradoxes is bad.
  2. Barry is one of the most established Time Travelers in the DCU.  He’s done it dozens of time. Even without the scientific brain guiding his decisions, Barry knows creating paradoxes is BAD.

Flashpoint demonstrated why the Silver Age had to die.  Silver Age heroes are far and away the most self-absorbed group of characters ever written.  They make decisions that serve themselves with no regard for how those decisions impact others.  They were protected from the fallout of their actions due to how the books were written.  All of the stories were self contained and the actions of the heroes were localized.  Barry Allen created a cataclysm that killed BILLIONS of people, to save the life of someone who died decades ago.  Wally had the ability to time travel, he NEVER went back in time to change the nature of Barry’s ‘death’ during the Crisis on The Infinite Earths.  Wally dealt with his grief like an adult and moved on with his life.
The Fix:

Not surprisingly, The Flash TV Show has resolved  many of the lingering issues with Barry in their handling of the character by tying his actions directly to consequences.  When he starts acting like a self-obsessed goon, his friends and family react negatively towards him or call him out on his bullshit.  He has to weigh the consequences of using his powers in a world full of other people.  He has to process the loss of his mother and incarceration of his father like everyone else does and NOT rely on his powers to change the past and magically erase his grief.  He tried, but was stopped by an older and wiser version of himself.  The TV version of Barry Allen acts a lot like the Post-Crisis Wally West.

The fix moving forward is to merge the characters.  Give Barry Allen Wally’s personality and sense of maturity.  This allows DC to move forward with creating a new Wally West to serve as Kid Flash.  Wally was well accepted because he was a Flash that had depth and nuance to his character.  He was flawed and experienced episodes of doubt while working to live up to Flash legacy.  Barry can be this guy.  Do a hard reboot of his character. Give him an character arc similar to Wally’s that involves him screwing up while learning to use his powers.  Have him learn his limits and show how her surpasses those limits.  Don’t present him as the battle tested veteran, have Barry be a fresh faced rookie who is finding his way in world full of heroes.

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