The Flash is one of DC Comics’ premiere heroes, with the Scarlet Speedster being a mainstay in the Justice League. He’s also the star of a recent live-action movie, though said film was notorious for several reasons. Sadly, it appears that the negative connotations thrown toward the movie aren’t exclusive to it, with the Fastest Man Alive seemingly struggling across the board.
The reception toward the movie as a whole was lukewarm at best, with the comic books — both new and old — also being in a state of flux. That’s without even getting the live-action Flash TV series on The CW, which had been increasingly criticized long before it finished its run. This has given the hero an all-around barrage of whammies, which is something that James Gunn must circumvent in the upcoming DC Universe reboot.
The Flash’s Live-Action Adaptations Have Mostly Failed Him
The Flash was one of the first “upcoming” DC Extended Universe projects announced after the release of 2013’s Man of Steel. The movie was also heavily delayed, going through several directors and released in theaters a little while after the live-action TV show aired its last episode. Beforehand, the movie was hyped up as a game-changer in superhero cinema, which was definitely welcomed given the recent stagnation of the genre. Of course, this was all compounded by the controversial actions of the movie’s star, Ezra Miller, putting a massive damper on it. Conversely, some fans took issue with the movie adapting the Flashpoint storyline without ever establishing the hero’s place as a solo hero in the DCEU. Conversely, the obvious attempts to use nostalgia in order to sell the movie weren’t enough to save it, with Michael Keaton’s version of Batman failing to attract moviegoers.
The Flash struggled at the box office, with many fans also finding the movie to not be nearly as good as early hype described it. Now, it’s been revealed that the movie’s toy line was also a bit of a washout, with the Batman figures released for it vastly outselling The Flash himself. It’s easy to argue that this is partly due to the perception of Ezra Miller’s take on Barry Allen/The Flash, which was heavily criticized back to his portrayal in 2017’s Justice League. While that may be the case, Miller is the highest-profile version of The Flash at the moment, and it seems that this has rubbed off on other media.
It’s worth noting that the aforementioned Flash TV series was by no means beloved when it finally reached its end in 2023. Part of The CW’s Arrowverse, The Flash lasted for nine seasons, with its finale being the end of its shared universe of DC adaptations. The show’s first two seasons were lauded by fans and critics, with many seeing it as the best take on Barry Allen yet. Sadly, the show began going downhill in its third season, and by its conclusion, it had become synonymous with many of the failings of the Arrowverse projects. Sadly, even some of the other mediums are being affected by this reputation.
The Flash’s Comic Books Are Seemingly Losing Reader Interest
Not only did the Batman toys in the Flash movie toy line outsell the actual Flash figures, but the character’s classic comic books are seemingly decreasing in value. And this isn’t the only woe that the hero has experienced on the printed page recently. The Joshua Williamson run on The Flash had a fairly mixed reception, with its highest highs drowned out by intense lows. Conversely, there was also the fallout of the controversial Heroes in Crisis, with fan outcry toward the treatment of Wally West reaching a fever pitch.
The Jeremy Adams run did a lot of heavy lifting to fix these issues, namely by making Wally The Flash again and focusing on the relationship with his wife Linda and their kids. The series was lauded as the perfect example of progression in superhero comics, but even this fantastic comic book came to an end far too soon. Jeremy Adams’ run is now ending, giving way to a new series with a darker tone. Thankfully, Adams is writing a miniseries based around Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. But it’s tied more to the resurgence in prominence of the Justice Society of America than the strength of The Flash as an intellectual property. Still, Wally’s place as the Scarlet Speedster and his deserved reverence has been noted by fans, and it offers a way to get the hero out of his current slump across all media.
Wally West Can Save The Flash IP in the DCU
It’s inarguable that Wally West is the most popular version of The Flash. More so than any comic book character (including Marvel’s Spider-Man), Wally West has changed, grown and been fairly relatable throughout his publication history. This was especially the case when he first replaced his uncle Barry Allen as The Flash. Since then, he’s had numerous incredible storylines that are some of the best DC comic books ever published. He has far more iconic stories to his name than Barry Allen or any other version of The Flash, yet he’s only really been adapted in the role through the DC Animated Universe.
At this point, however, it’s an absolute must for Gunn’s DC Universe movies and TV shows to focus on Wally West as The Flash and not use Barry Allen. Though he may be the progenitor of many classic Flash concepts, he’s associated with an infamous flop of a movie, a TV show that far outstayed its welcome and for “stealing” the mantle from Wally in the comics. This can be done by simply having The Flash appear in movies such as Superman: Legacy, with these quick cameos being the Barry Allen version. That way, the mantle is already established without giving the character a solo project so soon after The CW show or the movie.
When the time finally comes for a new Flash project, it might be best to turn it into a Max streaming series. Adapting Mark Waid’s “Born to Run” storyline would again showcase and zip through Barry Allen’s life, making Wally West the true protagonist. Another option is for the next Flash movie to open up with Barry as The Flash and Wally as Kid Flash to establish their history before cutting to the modern day with Wally as the current Flash. Most importantly, audiences need to quickly be made aware that there is a new Flash in town. This is likely the only way for some moviegoers to give the Fastest Man Alive a chance again on the big screen, especially with how contentious the franchise as a whole has become.