Wally West is set to appear on the Flash TV Show in this week’s fall finale, so now is the perfect time to look back at how the first meeting of Barry Allen and Wally West has been portrayed over the years.
Silver Age: Flash #110 (1961)
The cover features the Weather Wizard in his first appearance, while a backup story introduces Kid Flash. Iris West’s nephew Wally — a huge fan of the Flash — comes to visit her in Central City, and she arranges a surprise: Her friend Barry Allen knows the Flash, and he just might be able to introduce him!
It’s a DC comic from the early 1960s, so Wally is basically the 1950s media ideal of a ten-year-old: Well-mannered and wide-eyed, saying “Gosh!” and “Jumping Jets!” and otherwise waiting for his elders to speak.
Interestingly, Wally is wearing a bow tie when they meet, but Barry is not.
Barry talks up how the Flash sometimes stops by to use his home lab, and makes a quick-change to surprise the boy, and as he talks about his origin (in surprising detail, minus of course his identity), the accident repeats itself. Wally immediately gains super-speed, and immediately starts speeding around in costume.
Flash #110 – Story: John Broome. Art: Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.
Post-Crisis: Born to Run / Flash #62 (1992)
“Born to Run” is actually the second post-Crisis retelling of their meeting, but the first (Secret Origins Annual #2) didn’t add or change anything.
This time around we get the meeting from Wally’s point of view, set in the 1980s. Wally is visiting his aunt Iris for the whole summer, a welcome escape from the parents who don’t understand him. He sees his idol, the Flash, stop an armed robbery (and actually helps a little), on the way to meet Iris’ fiancé Barry Allen. At first, Wally is thrilled to meet a police officer…only to have his hopes of excitement and danger dashed as Barry turns out to be just a grown-up nerd.
Now it’s Barry who decides to introduce him to the Flash, and this time Wally is skeptical — until the Flash really does show up, and the scene continues much as before. It takes a bit longer for Wally’s speed to kick in, but once it does, he’s off and running.
Since Wally was the star of the current book at the time, and storytelling had moved toward strong characterization and multi-part stories, “Born to Run” brought a much more interesting presence to both characters. Getting past 1950s archetypes helps as well, and we see the beginnings of the more irreverent, slightly hotheaded Wally who eventually inspired the animated Justice League characterization.
Also worth noting: Wally’s home life has changed drastically. In the 1960s, he grew up in a picture-perfect family. In the late 1980s, that was revealed as a sham. In 1992, the sham was retconned away and his family had always been dysfunctional, with Iris being the only one he could really relate to.
Also: still no bow tie.
Flash #62 – Story: Mark Waid. Art: Greg La Rocque and Jose Marzan, Jr.
New 52: Flash Annual #3 (2013)
This Wally isn’t a fan of the Flash. In fact, when Barry first runs into him, he’s spray-painting anti-Flash graffiti, because he blames the Flash for not saving his mother when Grodd took over the city for an extended period of time during Forever Evil. Barry is not impressed, and brings him in to the station, where he’s picked up by his aunt Iris, whom he barely knows, but is his only remaining relative. Iris, unable to relate to Wally, convinces Barry to help him out as sort of a big brother.
As far as speed goes, Wally doesn’t pick it up until five years in the future. He’s present when Barry dies in battle, and the power transfers to Wally, who vows to use it as a hero…and to avenge his friend’s death.
It’s a drastic change: We get a Wally who starts out despising the Flash instead of idolizing him, who doesn’t get along with Iris at all, and whose family is not just dysfunctional but full-on broken before he’s orphaned. And of course he’s not a speedster in the present day, only the future.
Flash Annual 3 – Story: Robert Venditti and Van Jensen. Art: Ron Frenz and Livesay.
Flash TV Show (2015)
In this version, Wally West is Iris’ long-lost brother, not her nephew, and a lot closer to her in age. What brings him to Central City, what he thinks of the Flash, and how he gets along with Barry remain to be seen.
I’ve been meaning to do something with that pun for a long time.