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Baron and Messner-Loebs’ Flash

PART TWO · Mouth Full of Dynamite

The Mike Baron era of Flash comics consisted of 14 issues and an annual until a new creative team took over.

This new stretch of Flash comics was written by William Messner-Loebs, who was an indie guy in the 80s, then a hardcore mainstream guy in the 90s, and hasn't worked on many comics since. He fell on hard times and by 2005, there was activity to help turn things around.

Earlier this year, his circumstances weren't much better, and a GoFundMe campaign has been sparked as a result. Didn't want to bury the lede here while I ramble on about some old-ass Wally West stories so I thought I should give you the courtesy of a heads up. It's a serious, heartbreaking situation that merits examination, and while I'll touch upon that as I go, I want to continue focusing on this specific batch of stories, Flash #s 15-29 and assorted.

Greg LaRocque was Loebs' primary artist/collaborator on this title. Above is the first page of their first issue. I love the design of it, and it's really indicative of things to come: emphasis on the civilian/supporting cast. Reminds me of the lady who got blown up in a Gotham subway car in Dark Knight Returns #2.

Here's a classic splash page.

Issue 20 is one of my favorite issues due to its quite awkwardness. Wally West's luck goes from bad to worse until he finds himself homeless.

The staging of this interaction --!

That guy appeared from out of nowhere and is never seen again. What happened here exactly? Pickpocket, sure maybe, but there's no set-up or delivery. So eerie.

Cut to issue 26. I hate seeing eating in superhero comics - Spider-Man sitting on a ledge eating a hot dog with another character makes me want to puke - but I'll make an exception here.

Haven't read this issue since it came out. Spoiler alert.

I'm getting the sense that the situation at DC had changed at this point. Initially, the company was riding the ripple of change caused by Crisis. Flash in particular was to set itself apart from its own history. But once Baron/Guice and editor Mike Gold left, the complete overhaul would be slowly undone.

Did the fans not respond favorably to the new Flash? Did editors have their own axes to grind? Did everyone agree that the experiment failed and that returning to the old status quo was a better, safer direction?

Here's a sampling of what DC was putting out around this time.

Baron's work wasn't completely discarded. Loebs made sure to keep certain elements around such as Wally's eating habits and his villain-turned-pal Chunk. His development of Tina and Speed McGee is really well done. (Unfortunately, he also kept Wally's parents around. They are the worst.) Loebs also walked the tricky line of introducing his own quirky elements while appeasing the conventional readership who wanted a "return to glory."

He also liked Wally taking a beating.

This round of comics were far from perfect, though. Mike Collins drew Flash Annual #2 and Secret Origins Annual #2. (Featuring Wally's shrink who was created and hilariously written by Baron.) Issue 19 was drawn by veteran Jim Mooney, the issue itself signaling the definitive return to the status quo by featuring all of the Rouges. Issue 23 was drawn by another rookie, Gordon Purcell,who drew a "Bonus Book" a few issues earlier. Annual #3 was drawn by yet another rookie, John Koch, who has a handful of credits to this day. Rough stuff all around. At least Issue 29 was drawn by the fun and capable Grant Miehm. (And written by Len Strazewski, the only fill-in for Loebs.)

Loebs had a few things to say about his work on Flash that are documented in three parts. It reaffirms what I suspect, that Loebs was an excellent team player while trying to do unconventional things in a time when that sort of approach had some major competition.

[Cont.]

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One Response to Baron and Messner-Loebs’ Flash

  1. Vanja says:

    Yeah, these are all around solid superhero comics. The Wally winning the lottery thing was surreal, and establishing the shrink as a supporting character was pretty characteristic of Loebs run as a whole. The writer never seemed at home with the superhero trappings involved, and seemed to be much more interested in the sociopolitical issues you mentioned. Reading his work on Liefeld’s random “Maximage” book recently, I was reminded of this much superior run on “Flash”.

    It’s like you said, both Baron’s and the Loeb’s runs were ultimately overshadowed by Waid’s work, which in retrospect itself ended up being supplanted by Johns’ Silver Age styled work, first with Wally and eventually by his resurrecting Barry Allen himself and leaving Wally on the side, where he has remained ever since.

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