A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about the upcoming ‘Dark Cheerleader Mary Marvel’ that was coming in the DCU. Several people took me to task for singling out DC and not writing about how many of the same dark, cynical and death-filled story lines were/are happening in the Marvel Universe as well. These folks are right, of course. It’s happening at both companies. I suppose the difference for me is that– my own personal point of view– the contrast between Marvel and DC has been for years that Marvel’s books were always darker in tone– more supposedly based in the ‘real world’… and that DC’s offerings were brighter… more colorful and came from more of a place of hope and light. The heroes of the DCU stood for optimism and the promise of a brighter future in the face of forces that would bring darkness and destruction to the world. In essence– the DCU was, to me, the place for a more stark contrast between the forces of light/good and the forces of darkness/evil. Perhaps that’s a naive and myopic viewpoint (and also maybe entirely off the mark… but it’s my perception nonetheless)– but DC comics were always more colorful and fun for me.

Now Bart Allen joins the ever growing list of characters who are dying in the DCU.

This one hits a bit closer to home since I was in on his very beginnings, having been asked to design his IMPULSE persona when Mark Waid created the character in FLASH (which granted me the title of ‘co-creator’… but make no mistake, this was all Mark’s baby. I was happy to accept the royalties and residuals that came from that status, but I didn’t have any illusions). Let me be clear– I haven’t read FLASH #13. I don’t really read that many superhero books anymore because the dark and depressing nature they’ve adopted just doesn’t interest me. I got my fill of that in the mid 80’s with DARK KNIGHT and WATCHMEN. I’ve read many reviews of the ‘event’, though… and I think the reaction overall has been that the story was 1) very badly done… and 2) in the end, a real yawner and not something that’s had the ‘stunning event impact’ that DC was hoping for. I think this is symptomatic of the idea that fans are simply getting a bit weary of all this kind of thing. I think that the event-comic-that-heralds-the-death-of-lots-of-characters has become the new gold-foil/Lenticular/Acetate/holographic cover of the 2000’s. They’re stunts… gimmicks meant to sell comics. The writing seems to have taken a back seat to earth-shattering events that are having less and less impact as they are overdone.

I’ve had many conversations with creator friends of mine about the pendulum swing that happened in the wake of the IMAGE explosion back in the early 1990’s. The sort of ‘we don’t need no stinking writers’ attitude of the IMAGE founders resulted in what were nicely drawn comics with little story, for the most part. They became commodities and not comic books with good stories to go with the flashy drawings. The other major companies, in response, tried to emulate the initial massive success IMAGE had by doing similar types of books with crazy cover gimmicks thrown in for good measure… and the quality of the entire industry, for the most part, suffered. It drove many long-time fans away. In the aftermath of that sales bloodbath, the creative pendulum swung in the writers direction and away from the emphasis only on artwork as the selling point. It’s been that way for some 15 years or so now…. and I think that pendulum swing may have reached its apex. My feeling is that in recent years, the quality of writing in comics has diminished. Maybe it’s not the writers’ fault… maybe it’s editorial edict that has replaced good story, plot and character development with the stunt… the event… to sell comics. Maybe I’m just a middle-aged fuddy-duddy who has lost touch with what makes for interesting comics.

I hope the latter is true, for the industry’s sake. I’d hate to think of another big downturn in sales due to a drop in quality. That wouldn’t help anyone– especially those of us who make our livings in this business. What do the rest of you think? Am I that far off base….? Anyone read FLASH #13…? Did you find it to be a good story? Feel free to leave your thoughts on any of this.

OK… that’s it for today. Back to work for me.

This is Entry 393.



  1. Leaf Says:

    On a whim I picked up Flash #13 and found it be ho-hum. For the death of a character you want something a little more than him yelling, “I’M THE FLASH!” before getting his arse handed to him in a Pink Floyd laser light show or having all the villians unmask him and stand around, “Hey, he’s just a kid.” “Gee, he’s young.” Sad, silly and flat. Just another reason why I don’t gravitate towards DC comics anymore unless they’re the Vertigo imprint. Hopefully, Sinestro will redeem them a bit in me eyes this afternoon.

    Excellent sketch, Mike.

  2. Andy Turnbull Says:

    Great picture of Bart there Mike. I flicked through the issue and shook my head. So much for Infinite Crisis allowing the DCU to become less grim and gritty. I think it was a complete waste to kill of Bart, especially as Marc Guggenheim was starting to reclaim the character after the botched relaunch.

    Death in comics is over-used and lacking in impact nowadays hence we are now left with heroes being basically kicked to death. Way to go.

    The Spirit and The Brave & The Bold aside I don’t read anything from DC anymore, it’s just not fun anymore. (I’m waiting for Jeff Smith’s Shazam to come out as a trade).

  3. Kevin Girard Says:

    um, happy belated birthday!

    first off, i read flash # 13 expecting something totally different. i’ve been waiting for the return of barry allen for years. marv wolfman once came up to my table at the chicago comic con in 99 or 00 and we just grilled him on all things crisis and teen titans. we asked him all sorts of questions only he would know, and of course, the “is barry really dead?” question arose. he told us he never really intended for barry to DIE. he always maintained that barry could pop back into reality anywhere at any time.

    ever since INFINITE crisis, DC has been hinting not so subtly that barry isn’t dead and there have been total cocktease moments where you think he’s going to pop up… then nothing. flash #13 was the biggest of these moments. with iris coming back, AGAIN, and fortelling bart’s death, to the speed force being drawn out of bart and being released elsewhere, it all just seemed so perfect to bring barry back. of all the characters to be killed and brought back so many times, why not barry?

    flash has been poorly written AND drawn ever since the post INFINITE crisis reboot, and at least it has ended as it began. hopefully they’ll relaunch with barry or wally back in the driver’s seat of the speed force, but who knows? dc is obviously leading up to another crisis event and it’s all getting so redundant, i’m not even sure i can handle it anymore. i have faith in geoff johns though. his direction is really working for the DCU. hopefully they are giving him carte blanche to rework things over there.

    yikes. sorry for such a long post.

  4. Bill Williams Says:

    I’m tending to cut writers some slack and not just because I write the occasional thing.

    The way the DC process works now is that the editors direct characters with a more hands on approach. Editors come up with story arcs and they call up writers to execute those ideas with as much style and grace as possible. For writers, it is easy money because the plots are already approved by the editors.

    That top down process would seem to streamline the process of the never-ending mega-crossover but stifle creativity in the same stroke of the pen. Imagine landing a top job as a writer and getting handed outlines of your first year of stories.


  5. Ed Harper Says:

    Personally I want a story. Maybe I’m getting jaded, but when I buy comic books for the art, I don’t buy the next one unless there is a story. And I am *first* attracted by the art and the subject. I want characters that I can identify with, or admire, or aspire to be like. I want an interesting story. I don’t care if the setting is in reality (more fantasy the better: Go Tellos!) but I do want a happy, triumphant ending.

  6. Scott Arnold Says:

    As an artist I’ve been pretty happy that art has been given prominence, as a reader I’ve been apalled at what has passed for writing. There are exceptions, some guys I can really get into – but I’ve found (as I think everyone has echoed) that too many writers (by choice or by company force) are having to conform to a house “style” which is crippling the visions of individual writers and replacing good stories with events. It all smacks FAR too much of 1991. I remember when it all fell apart then, and it seems to be teetering on that precipice all over again (we even have our varient covers back).

    There are exceptions, certainly, but the shift has caused me to read far more indie books than mainstream of late… and I think that’s a reflection not just on the quality of “indie” books, but on the homogenization of mainstream work to the point that it’s all too interchangable.

    I’d be curious to hear what young readers feel, though. The Image boom was my teenage years and I remember really liking some of the glitz and gloss at the time… I’d be curious how the (few) young readers the medium has are feeling about “their” formative books at the moment…

  7. Drew S Says:

    No you’re not far off base. You nailed it. I don’t want depressing, fractured, angsty a-holes. That works for some characters, but not all of them. It’s not too much to ask for the big two to put some actual…what’s the word…superheroes on the buffet. That’s why I tend to stick with Invincible.

  8. Dean Trippe Says:

    I was in New York hanging around Jim Hanley’s Universe with my pal Vito between bits of MoCCA this weekend, drawing sketches for the employees and talking to customers and I met a really cool fangirl, who like me, preferred the Impulse version of Bart Allen to all later incarnations, by far. She was hoping to snag an Impulse t-shirt or something, but there really isn’t a lot of merch for the best Bart.

    Impulse was an excellent, unique entry into the Flash legacy. His origins were clever, his personality was fun, and by God, his costume ROCKED.

    Somebody needs to pluck Impulse-Bart out of the past so we can have the right version back.

  9. Mike Thompson Says:

    Amen to that, Mike! Marvel and DC write by committee (of editors and only a select few writers whose work is vastly overrated: Bendis, Millar, Straczynski, Johns, Morrison, and Winick come to mind). Comics are about as low as they could possible go right now. If you can’t read a stand-alone story without being tricked into purchasing the various off-shoot mini-series and one-shots in order to get the ‘complete story’ (that’ll be the day, there’s never a complete story anyway, just a platform for more mega-crises/crossovers), then I’ll have nothing to do with them. Thank God creators such as yourself still stand up for morally responsible and well-made comics. Too few of you to go around, I’m afraid.

    (BTW, I teach third grade. I try to get kids to read in various ways, one of which is to toss a couple of comics into the reading basket. I wouldn’t think of giving a student any current Marvel or DC mainstream books right now. How bad is that? Abandoning the very age-group that once was the primary consumer of said periodicals.)

  10. Josh Says:

    I bought I think the second issue of the new volume of The Flash. And it looked cool but I wasn’t really hooked with that issue. But I was disappointed to find out that they’re killing off Bart Allen. It worked with the tradition of generations of Flashes. But I’m also happy that they seem to be bringing Wally West back as The Flash. I didn’t start reading The Flash comics until Wally had become Flash. It was about the time that the live action tv show premiered. And I think that was also about the time that I started to really get into comics. If anyone’s going to replace Bart, I’m happy with Wally being that person.

  11. Bill Nolan Says:

    Great sketch, Mike. I’ve always been a huge Impulse fan. I sold off most of my comic collection a few years back, and Impulse was one of the few series I kept. And Mark Waid’s first run on Flash. Now, the Mark Waid of 2007 may not thrill me as much as the Mark Waid of the past, so I’m not really interested in reading his new Flash series. The DC Universe has been far too polluted in the past few years for my tastes, so much so that I don’t think I will ever go back into it full force. I pretty much just stick to the writer-dominated Vertigo titles and the toon-spinoffs. It really sucks not being a fan of Geoff Johns’ writing these days. Makes it very hard to read anything from DC.

    And, finally, let me just add that I agree with everything that Dean Trippe wrote above. The DCU needs a character like Impulse again. Free of the mindwipe/rape/gunshot-to-the-head taint that has made the entire line pretty much unreadable for me.

  12. Matt Linton Says:

    I did read Flash #13, as I was giving the run by Guggenheim a chance after the pretty awful launch. Honestly, the character who died had little in common with Bart Allen/Impulse, and really hadn’t for years. Waid makes the point in his Newsarama interview better than I could, but essentially, what started as a fun, comedic character became “Flash-lite” before the Impulse book ended. He was matured in Teen Titans, and took on the name Kid Flash, but then they really didn’t do much with him after that, until he disappeared in Infinite Crisis, and inexplicably reappeared years older as the Flash.

    The issue itself was fairly well-written (Guggenheim is very talented), but at the end of the day, it didn’t really feel like Bart Allen died.

    On a related note, Wally returned in JLA #10, and in that story the Legion “captured” someone else in a lightning rod and took them back to the 31st Century. Chances are it’s either Bart Allen or Barry Allen.

  13. Eric Says:

    I also felt weird reading a comic that featured a bunch of middle-aged men in bright costumes kicking a teen-ager to death. It just strikes me as the kind of thing that I don’t want to pay $3 for.

    Andy Turnbull: Your pull list is my pull list, except you should be reading All-Star Superman and maybe even Justice League Unlimited too.

  14. Jordy Says:

    So many characters at both Marvel and DC have died that the events lose its impact. I personally don ‘t care about a character dying unless its for a good reason or there ‘s a great story / a good motivation for it. Comics seem to be completely event-driven now. Hope there won ‘t be too many comicbook-deaths in the near future.

    I just want good stories and good art, that ‘s all I ‘m asking. Not big life changing events. They (both companies) promise life-shattering events all the time but they don ‘t deliver. On the plus side, I ‘ve never known you were responsible for creating Impulse. It did get me interested in your run(s?) on the Flash / Impulse, which is fun.

  15. Jim McClain Says:

    I’m right there with you, Mike. 42 years old, and I barely read superhero stuff any longer. DC has really let me down. On the other hand, Marvel’s all-ages stuff is just great. I have a one-year old daughter, and I’m always on the lookout for stuff she’ll want to read in a few years.

  16. Mike Says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mike. You’re not a fuddy-duddy, even though we all seem to feel like one every now and then. I’m a little behind age-wise but I feel the same way. Comics are just too dark and gritty these days. I don’t mind it if it fits a certain story or character, but when it’s company-wide for a long time, that just drives me bonkers. I don’t read DC books really, they haven’t gotten me hooked at all, although Identity Crisis was worth the read, so I passed on the Flash issue. Marvel I only read a select few and they range from an X book here or there, X-Factor is very well done, and a few others. Jeff Parkers First Class series reminds me that comics can be fun again, if they’re allowed to be. And your mini with him has been a blast. I liked Ant-Man, it was fun as well, even though not many people liked it. But back to the main point comics need to be fun, with great stories and good art is always a plus but it doesn’t always make a book to me. Bring back to story driven books, and not this plot point crap!

  17. Chris B. Says:

    I actually thought # 13 was the best issue of the bunch, even though that’s not saying much. I really felt for Bart at the end. Now, please, for the love of Pete, Mike, we got Waid back. When are you gonna give in to fate and bring us some more Flash goodness??

  18. Pablo Picayo Says:

    Bart/impulse is my favorite character. I didn’t like when they turned him to kid flash and even less when they aged him and he became the flash. The Story was not good, it seemed like Guggenheim was trying to save the character but just wasn’t allowed to. The death of Bart was stupid and pointless, but I’m sure he’ll be back one day.

  19. RAB Says:

    I’ve got to join the chorus of approval here…particularly to second Mike Thompson’s wise observations. On the one hand, it’s true that “the writer” has been elevated temporarily to the status of “his or her name is what sells the book” — also causing both Marvel and DC to recruit “big media names” who have trouble meeting comic scripting deadlines among all their other (far more lucrative) work — yet the gimmick/event/crossover-driven scene isn’t caused by those hapless souls, but rather by the editorial plotting committees that, frankly, don’t know what they’re doing.

  20. Matt Linton Says:

    Just to recommend a few great All-ages superhero comics that are coming out, take a look at SHAZAM AND THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL, THE SPIRIT, BRAVE AND THE BOLD, SPIDER-MAN AND THE FANTASTIC FOUR, MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN/AVENGERS/FANTASTIC FOUR, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and for slighty older kids (young teens) MIGHTY AVENGERS.

    I’d also recommed SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE, which isn’t really a superhero book, but is quite good. The new writer is Terry (STRANGERS IN PARADISE) Moore.

  21. Erik Burnham Says:

    I gotta go with similar sentiments.

    If I have to sacrifice a gallon of gas to buy a comic, I want that comic to make me feel good about the experience.

    And I don’t understand why Bart had to be killed; Wally could’ve just as easily come back and, through some ‘Speed Force’ quirk, Bart could’ve been de-aged again. You then have two characters and happy fans of two characters… but hey, I digress. Don’t see any fuddy-duddyism on anyone’s part for being down over that kind of direction seemingly everywhere.

    And to the mention of First Class and the Marvel Adventures/All Ages stuff… yes! Lots of fun that I can share with the youth. (Saying that made me feel older than I should. Sheesh.)

  22. rodrigo Says:

    i agree.
    i admit i actually like some darker tone in (some) comics, it seems that it is made that way because of some explosion in comics, expanding the idea that theres always somebody dying and that everything is horrible and that theres no hope, but its not only in comics, if you take music for example, teenage kids are listening to band they feel and look as “dark”.
    although, you are basing your opinion on those mainstream comics, i cant really talk about independent comics over there, because im from south america, but i doubt everybody is doing the same thing!

    well, lucky us we still get a few good stories about fighting evil and not being it(evil i mean)

  23. rodrigo Says:

    oh, yeah… Hero Squared is a great comic! and not dark at all, with good story and good dialogues and good art! at least till where i have read…

  24. Trick Says:

    I read the issue, adn then read Justice League right after it. And was offended that apparently DCU editorial thinks the fans are idiots. THe same week Bart dies, the legion takes a soul back to the future in a lightening rod? This “event” combined with the terrible writing in Robin has made me an extremely unhappy fan.

  25. Kyle Latino Says:

    Oh man. I never liked the Flash until I read Impulse. I loved the fun nature of it all. Bart, Max, the Green Cigarette. Man, those were the days. Bah.

    The other day I realized that I’m not buying any DC books anymore. I think it’s partly because of burn out from 52, which I loved. But I think a big part is also the dark/death stuff happening. I used to swear by DC, but not anymore. Weird.

    But like you say, one day the pendulum will swing back.

  26. Bart Allen Says:

    Dont worry guys. I’m still alive. The wonderful people at DC have just put me in continuity limbo. Give it five years, maybe ten, I’ll be back. Hey, if Mr. Johns can bring back Hal, I’m sure the good folks at DC know not to keep me on permanent hiatus. Oh, and check out the Booster Gold series. Remember, that guy travels in time! So, I’m sure, through some dark marvel I’ll pop up in that book. And, of course, keep picking up countdown!!!

    PS: Kon-El says hello. 😉

  27. Billy Says:

    I never picked this up, and I’m glad I didn’t. Bart Allen has been gone from my world for a while, Geoff Johns turned him into whining little jerk, like every character he got his hands on in Young Justice. The DC Universe is getting worse and worse, I really can’t understand it, they have great talent there but all these decisions are just terrible. Whats going on? Great sketch!

  28. Kofi Jamal Simmons Says:


    I haven’t picked a comic in months. And this is a clear reason why. There are a thousand ways to bring back Wally or Barry and killing one of the cooler and most interesting characters in the DCU. Given who his backstory touches on so many elements in the DCU, he’s clearly a person who should have grown into a man, but as a hero.

    This whole “a Flash must die” bit is pretty stupid. Barry’s death was about something and instead of moving the characters, they try to rehash the same thing. Magic usually works only once, time these companies learned that.

    I’m planning on getting a few books. Sadly, I’m not lookiing forward anything. Maybe some Johnny DC stuff or Marvel Adventures books. At least I can get a good read, nice art, and the characters are themselves. If anyone has any recommendations for great superhero comics, feel free to list some.

    Thank goddness for trades and old comics!

  29. Nirmal Says:

    I thought the story itself was well done, it was just executing poor editorial policy.

  30. rashad Says:

    it wasn’t that bad. I’m a huge Bart fan but it doesn’t hurt me to see him go. i figured he was doomed once they aged him.

    but i disaggree with you about comics being of less quatlity these days. maybe if you only look at marvel and DC. but as a whole the industry is more diverse than ever. when i go to a shop now there are tons of things to choose from, indy, manga, mainstream, european, etc.

    i’ve studied comics for the last 5 years or so searching for this golden age of perfection. and while i appreciate the art and style of older comics (by older i mean anything past the last 3 years and all the way back to the golden age) the stories as a whole were pretty bad. for every superman or capt. america there were at least 10 copies. if that were to happen now fans would be outraged. and really the stories were cheesy. sure they can be nostalgic and fun but they were pretty cheesy. of course there were exceptions but no where near enough. sure comics were selling millions if copies in the golden age but if most of those were just lame clones of other books, is that really good? i mean seriously where is this time where comics were so good. i’d like to go and buy them.

    i think as longtime fans get older our tastes change cause we’ve seen all the different types of stories so anything new comes off lame and our memories hype up older stories.

    but anyway i don’t always agree with the changes going on in mainstream comics but i think they are written at an average level that was not there in the silver and golden ages.

  31. Victor Torres Says:

    Hey Mike – I feel where your coming from about the deaths in DC and the darkness- but i feel that the stories coming out of DC actually lead up to things and mean something – unlike Marvel – i don’t know, that’s my take on it really. Sometimes things like that need to happen so everything can come back to being cheery at points.

  32. Strannik Says:

    Personally, I am not keen on all the “oh noes comics are so gosh darn dark” whining that seems to have permeated the internet over the past few years. Mostly, it’s because I believe that the so-called “dark” stories are as interesting and as well-written, if not more interesting and better written, then the so-called “light-hearted” stories. That and I’m only 21, so I’m not quite as nostalgic as many other fans seem to be.

    That said, the problem with DC is not that the stories are “dark” or “grim” or “gritty” or whatever buzzword the fans are fixated upon at the moment. The problem is that, more often then not, they’re simply not well-written. And the most recent issue of Flash most certainly belongs in this category.

  33. Erik Burnham Says:

    “Personally, I am not keen on all the “oh noes comics are so gosh darn dark” whining that seems to have permeated the internet over the past few years.”

    Well (and I do take note of your other point about some badly written stories) the thing that’s frustrating is that so MANY books are dark and dreary. Well written and well drawn in many cases, yes. But still — that shouldn’t be the majority of the mainstream superheroic fiction’s domain, nor should interesting adults be the main focus of their efforts. (Honestly, it should be closer to the ‘all-ages’ mark. Not kiddie, mind you, but ALL AGES.)

  34. Josh Says:

    I know I will be in the minority here, but I liked the issue. It caught me by suprise and I thought Barts death was a really good one. It was heroic and showed a maturity that his character had finally understood the meaning of his legacy. I thought the creators did a nice job on the writing and the art and I am really excited about the books next phase.

    As for the writing in comics I just can’t get there. I think their are more good creators workingnow than any time in the fifteen years I have been reading. I think the biggest problem now is that the companys are getting greedy again. They are trying to force comics to grow faster than they should. The industry was growing on it’s own organicly we don’t need a hundred variant covers and thousand events one after another. We need solid creators working on solid books that come out on time.

  35. Duncan Says:

    I mean no offense Mr. Wieringo (I don’t feel comfortable calling you Mike), but I am probably younger than most of your other posters (being that awkward age of 17) and have only recently gotten into comics. My Bart Allen experiences come from Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans run. I liked him the most in the beginning arcs, when he had just become Kid Flash. He was a lot smarter, but at first he was like some obnoxious know-it-all who was trying to prove that he was more than an impulsive idiot. My favorite Bart Allen moment is when he drove a Batmobile and crashed it. Which makes me happy to hear that Johns is writing a short tale about Bart in the Batplane for TT#50. Again, I mean no offense.

    I also have to say that I am one of the few who did like the story. I believe though that death now should rarely be about who died, but focus more on how everyone reacts to his death. I am looking forward to Countdown #43 and All Flash for this reason.

    And to add my two cents about the “grim and gritty” issue, as long as I enjoy the story, I don’t care about how dark or how light it is.

  36. mattcomics Says:

    Okay something I would like to clear up for some of the other posters here. Having an objection to the extreme amounts of darnkess and gore in the comics is not an arguement to just return, verbatum at least to another age. If I want Batman to be less of an a-hole doesn’t necessarily mean I want him to sound like Adam West! I don’t understand why the inudstry and fandom think camp and uber-darkness are the only two choices. Bloated multi-part events full of blood and death are a cheap way to get a sales spike.

    I agree with you Weringo and I’m glad that people like yourself in the industry are aware of it as well. Perhaps there is a real possibility for change.

    Also, I hope to get to see you drawing a more iconic kind of Spider-Man book if Marvel decides to make one because the picture of Peter Parker in “interupted photo assignment mode” was excellent.

  37. Strannik Says:

    “Well (and I do take note of your other point about some badly written stories) the thing that’s frustrating is that so MANY books are dark and dreary. Well written and well drawn in many cases, yes. But still — that shouldn’t be the majority of the mainstream superheroic fiction’s domain, nor should interesting adults be the main focus of their efforts. (Honestly, it should be closer to the ‘all-ages’ mark. Not kiddie, mind you, but ALL AGES.)”

    I would agree with you if “all ages” entailed intelligent, well-written stories with substance. Unfortunately, in my experience, old-age stories tend to wind up badly written, kid-orientated stories that talk down to every age group (Especially the kids).

    Of course, ideally, comic book writers would be able to tell whatever kind of stories they want, be they all-ages, adult-orientated or everything in between. But, since American superhero publishers would never go for that sort of thing, I’d settle for good all-age stories.

    “I think their are more good creators workingnow than any time in the fifteen years I have been reading.”

    From what I’ve seen of 70s, 80s and even 90s comics, motto.

    “Okay something I would like to clear up for some of the other posters here. Having an objection to the extreme amounts of darkness and gore in the comics is not an argument to just return, verbatim at least to another age. If I want Batman to be less of an a-hole doesn’t necessarily mean I want him to sound like Adam West! I don’t understand why the industry and fandom think camp and uber-darkness are the only two choices. Bloated multi-part events full of blood and death are a cheap way to get a sales spike.”

    I won’t presume to speak for other posters, but personally, I don’t think of it in those terms. First, I think what most fans who complain about “dark” and “gritty” comics really want is the return to the Bronze Age of comics, with a little bit of Silver Age weirdness sprinkled in liberal doses (see: some of Heroic Publishing’s better titles, AC Comics (sans bondage and creepy fetishes), Spider-Girl,etc). Second of all, I don’t think comics that often gets labeled as being “gritty” and “dark” and whatnot are not really gritty,or mature or dark. It’s just, as you yourself said, sales bait. Most of the stuff people complain about happened to minor characters, and even then, it wasn’t really that bad. Batman may be a bit of an ass, but Black Terror (from “Terra Obscura”) was a genuinely deranged, genuinely psychotic individual who did something rather twisted and sick to his sidekick. Whatever troubles may befall Superman was nothing compared to what happened to his panaches. Public Spirit from “Martial Law” was revealed to be a sadistic murderer. Omni-Man from “Invincible” turned out to be an alien conquerer who casually killed off the members of his universes’ equivalent of Justice League. Titan from Dark Horse’ short-lived Comics’ Greatest World line was a deeply troubled man who let his personal demons get the best of him. Similarly, for all the complaints about the carnage and darkness in “Infinite Crisis” it was nothing compared to “Zenith, Phase III” where several universes were devastated, a number of established UK characters (and close panaches thereof) met truly gruesome, and often deeply disturbing end. And finally, for all the complaining about what happened to the members of Marvel Family, it was still nothing compared to what took place on the pages of “Miracleman.” In the end, nothing that took place in mainstream comics is really all that dark or gritty or whatever. It’s just posturing for the sake of sales. And, unlike most of the above-cited examples, it’s not really that well-written.

    Maybe if comics were truly dark, or, for that matter, mature and well-crafted, you might have a case. But as it stands, DC and Marvels are acting like teenagers who are trying to pretend to be adults and failing miserably.

  38. Dave Tilley Says:

    I agree Mike 100%, i think death has become nothing more then the siney cover of today.
    But you know how I felt about Bart

  39. Strannik Says:

    Oh, and, lest you think that I’m only here to complain about the complaining, I really like the Bart Allen sketch featured in that post, Mr. Wieringo.

  40. Adam Dickstein Says:

    It shouldn’t be surprising that I agree whole-heartedly with Mike. It why I’m a Star Trek fan and not a Battlestar Galactica fan. I have to believe the we as a people are going to achieve all that we have the potential to achieve, otherwise why bother trying. Dark is fine and I love a good WATCHMEN-esque read but Dr. Manhattan is not “My Hero”. The Punisher is not my hero. Green Lantern is. Why? At the core of the character is using nothing more then willpower to overcome fear. Now that is something I want to be able to do.

    As an aside, I loved it when Kid Flash (Wally West) became Flash after the heroic death of Barry Allen. I loved it when Bart grew-up and became Kid Flash. These moments had impact and paid homage to the legacy of a classic character concept. Bart’s evolution to becoming Flash was flawed. It lacked impact. For one thing, though I’m sure he was Kid Flash for a while, it felt like it was only a year at best. Wally was also a great Flash and a great character and didn’t need replacing. In one fell swoop, an aged Bart and a dead Superboy completely vaporized my interest in the finally well-done and revitalized Teen Titans.

    So if Bart does die…who is the Flash?

  41. Strannik Says:

    “It why I’m a Star Trek fan and not a Battlestar Galactica fan. I have to believe the we as a people are going to achieve all that we have the potential to achieve, otherwise why bother trying. Dark is fine and I love a good WATCHMEN-esque read but Dr. Manhattan is not “My Hero”. The Punisher is not my hero. Green Lantern is. Why? At the core of the character is using nothing more then willpower to overcome fear. Now that is something I want to be able to do.”

    In my opinion, it is much more interesting to see flawed, quarky, well-rounded characters trying to achieve greatness (both Nite-Owls, Kyle Rayner, Phil Seleski (the Valiant version of Doctor Solar), Ted Kord, Spider-Man, Grifter, the Runaways, etc), then it is to see characters who are already paragons of virtue reaffirming their superiority over and over again (I am looking at you, Hal Jordan 🙂 ). Heck, that’s the reason why I prefer Battlestar Galactica over Star Trek. Much as I like Picard and Kirk, they are never truly in danger of screwing up, making mistakes and generally winding up on the wrong side of the issue, which cannot be said for new BSG characters.

    But that’s just me.

  42. Jay Says:

    I already stopped reading DC Comics (and as that was the only comic book company I was still reading, ALL comics) during the World War III “specials”. I have kept my eye on the industry through various websites, hoping for a turnaround someday….but clearly, the death of Bart Allen (who has gone horribly wrong since he stopped being Impulse) is an indication that things are getting worse, not better.

    I don’t think that it’s writer-versus-artists; I rather think that it’s writers-versus-editors. I don’t think it’s light-versus-dark; my two favorite characters WERE shades-of-gray, well rounded characters. But they *triumphed in the end and were, when the chips were down, good.* That’s the difference maker. Doesn’t have to be a “paragon of virtue”. DOES have to be *essentially* good, and rise above their flaws at the end. One of those two characters is now dead; the other has lost the spark that made him special.

    Having said that, I do agree with Mike that DC was the brighter company…until recently. Some of that can be attributed to Dan Didio, some to his prececessors. But it’s safe to say, at least so long as Didio shall last, that I won’t be reading any comics at all…unless Didio shows more sense and puts some different, brighter books out by way of the Multiverse. But I doubt it.

    Farewell, Bart! And may some subsequent Editor fix the damage done to you, and so many others.

  43. Marla Says:

    While I agree that lack of decent writing and deplorable editorial edicts are ruining the medium in general and DC comics in particular, I cannot agree that “another big downturn in sales due to a drop in quality” would be a bad thing. It is the only way the industry will learn. The problem now is that there are no negative consequences to ruining a comic, a character, for outraging fans or for driving them from the medium.

  44. Rob Says:

    Well said. The death of superheroes has completely lost all meaning. Once DC killed off Barry Allen, countless imitations followed–even the death of Superman. Then Supergirl, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and just recently, Captain America. Death is not only a gimmick–it’s also disingenious most of the time. Sure, Barry Allen’s still dead, but the others have all returned. And you know that Cap will be back before too long. As far as Bart goes, why did they even take him out of the Teen Titans? He was perfect there! They DO need a Kid-Flash or Impulse in the Titans, so who knows…perhaps he’ll be back.

  45. Mike Lepp Says:

    Man, you pretty much nailed it dude. I’ve been reading comics since I was three years old man! It’s what I learned to read on and it’s been a healthy habit of mine for the past fifteen years. With all of this capitolization on dark events signaling the deaths of characters, many readers care, for just to get sales is just…well, aweful. I miss fun books LIKE Impulse! That was and still is my favorite comic book ever. One reason being that I always felt like Bart was a character I was growing up with. At different points in my life and his publication we’ve been the same age and have had similar attitudes and personalities. And with him ‘graduating’ from sidekick to Flash, it kinda paralleled with my graduating from High-School to Real Life. And to have him just be killed like that is alittle painful for me to read. In the past few years, DC has killed characters I’ve cared and read about for years. Superboy, The Question, Impulse, and others. And the way Dan DiDio talks about it in interviews, you can really see where Mike’s coming from. I mean, this is a field I’ve wanted to go into my whole life. I want to write good stories. Not events and not pointless sales-raising deaths.

  46. Sethemo Says:

    I am a huge fan of both DC and Marvel, and although I am a rather young reader I have gone out of my way to read every comic I can lay my hands on. Considering that my job is working with comics at a rather large literary retailer, my access to comics is rather extensive.

    This being said, I have only one short thing to say about this article in particular.

    There are some terrible older comics, and there are some amazing older comics. I feel it is possible that I may be biased but, there is no doubt that this article is as well. I love Impulse from the get go, and I love his end. I consider newer comics to be 1981 to the present. Each of the major events have their horrible parts. Events such as Secret Wars, Millenium, all the way to World War Hulk and Countdown. Comic books have never really been the pinnacle of literary excellence, and for one era to be considered better than another is pointless or even mildly insulting to any generation.

    I hope you are not sore about Bart’s end, it was tragic and I personally felt that it was not necessary. Death is upsetting like that even for someone detached from the world as a reader is detached from a comic.

    Regardless of it all, they brought back Bucky, they brought back Jason Todd, in the end, in comics, this no real death. These characters are ideas, and they are immortal. So no matter how “dark” they want to be, they cannot help but have that silver lining. And I like that. I like comics.

  47. Steve Doll Says:

    Just to chime in my two cents, quite frankly it shocked and saddened me. The brutality of it all, I mean. There had to have been a better way to bring Wally back than to kill Bart. And the way they went about doing it. I can’t teach that nugget of Flash history to my nephews for almost 10 years.

  48. NDCoggshall Says:

    I did pick it up…
    but I only read Bart’s statements and thoughts.
    (love those character color cordinated boxes)
    Just to see what his final words would be.
    Own all his Imp and Kid Flash career,
    so figured should see how he ends….
    at least he had a funeral in countdown 43.

    when it comes to the flash series…
    only have the first few and the last.
    Like most comics….it got boring.
    Have such small bits gets so annoying
    (rather have 200 pages b&w, every couple of monthes
    than 22-32 Full color, every monthes)
    the stories could be much more fleshed and smoothed
    rather than staggeres, studders, and cramped conditions.

    I am rambling.


  49. Jim Grossmann Says:

    What if orchestras were guided by modern comic book editors?

    First concert: The flute players all fake heart attacks on stage. Other members of the orchestra try to “save” them, but to no avail. The conductor turns to the audience and announces the Death of the Flute Players. Second concert: Requiem for the Flute Players! Third concert: The orchestra struggles to play a flute concerto with no flutes. Fourth concert; Crisis in the Orchestra! Whole sections vanish or change in weird ways. The French horns have become saxophones! The string section has gone electric. Oboes become the lead instrument. Concert X: One Year Later: The Return of the Flute Players!

    An orchestra should be able to play music with the instruments that it has. A comic company should be able to tell stories with the characters and settings that it has. Deaths and alterations in a comic book universe grow naturally out of story lines, rather than being forced upon the story lines.

    Great site you have, Mike.

  50. Csi Says:

    Well, it dissapointed, the issue I mean, and just when Bart was very very promising. The issue made me quit. All flash is allright with Wally avenging, but…still the story is SO VERY VERY artificial. Not what it used to be when I was 15 years younger…

  51. Mark Says:

    Hi Mike –

    I found your site looking for some feedback on the death of Bart Allen. I’m one of those who grew up with DC – when I was 11/12, the Silver Age was in full flower – what a glorious time to be a fan! I gravitated to DC because, as you said, they seemed more fun. I didn’t need Superman worrying about his rent or being and alien, he could fly! He was strong, etc. etc. etc. It was enough that he foiled attempts to take over the planet or dupe him into misusing his powers, or give away his secret identity. I loved those heroes, and never thought I’d see them die. When Barry Allen died, I actually cried. I knew Supes wouldn’t stay dead, but we saw Barry wither to nothingness. I actually wrote my only letter to DC – direct to Julius Schwartz, telling him I approved of the heroic death of someone I had followed so long. I also cried when Hal Jordan redeemed himself and reignited the sun – and now Hal is back… So we come to Bart Allen… I don’t know – I know it’s a tragedy, but it just seemed so lackluster. Killed by the Rogues and saving lives – that IS a way the Flash should go… But it never seemed like DC was truly comfortable with Bart, who had a very cool origin… After a while they just seemed to play him for laughs… Then came his injury and re-emergence as Kid Flash – that made sense… Then we lost Wally, Bart aged overnight and gets to be Flash for… 13 ISSUES? A little over a year? They must have had this in mind for a while – Bart just seemed too disposable and I feel like they’d rather deal with the fate of the Rogues (and return of Barry?) than with a character who never really got a fair shot at longevity… You know, Mike, I am tempted to treat much of the Bart Allen arc like we all treated the gnomish guardian angel who gave Barry his powers – as an aberrant story that should be ignored. Finally, one last little rant, one that won’t get me much sympathy with today’s readers… I HATE the Speed Force! I’m not sure why, but it strikes me in the same way the midichlorians did in Star Wars as a way to explain the strength of the Force. Flash and Green Lantern always seemed grounded in SF to me – I liked that the Flash was a result of chemicals and lightning… Not that he somehow was given the gift of speed by some supernatural force… SF and fantasy are rarely a good mix – one or the other is compromised, or you get somewhat silly combos like Krull… I know DC likes this concept, likes that all the dead Speedsters go to the Speed Force, know they like the Black Flash – who looks cool but I don’t buy him, either… (sigh) Guess I’m just an old Silver Ager who still remembers those old covers (some of which didn’t even relate to the story), remembers Go Go Checks and Red K stories and Imaginary Tales – some of which still kick Elseworld’s butt! End o’ rant.

  52. Jonathan Myers Says:

    Bart deserved better, Mike. I’m glad your recognizing poor editorial decisions. Marvel and DC have to stop killing heroes and start pressuring writers to come up with inventive storylines. There’s no excuse for poor story points for a great hero like the Flash, or for the newly mantled Bart Allen. I’m a long time Flash fan and this just pissed me off. Keep up the good work, Mike.