DC Histories: Wally West (Kid Flash I / Flash III)

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the Flash with the most epic story of all, Wally West.

Flash: Born to Run (1999) Trade Paperback Cover

Wally West first ran onto comics pages in 1959, just three years after Barry Allen, the second Flash, debuted. The nephew of Iris West, Barry’s girlfriend, Wally was a big fan of the Flash. When he learned that Barry could get him and the Flash together for a chat, Wally was ecstatic. Seeing as how he was the Flash, Barry easily made good on his offer. Finding himself alone with his idol, Wally asked how the Flash got his speed. The Flash told him that he was standing in front of the very chemicals that Wally was standing in front of when a lightning bolt hit them, dumping an electrified chemical mess on top of him. Just as the Flash said this, the exact same thing happened to Wally.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #110 (1959)

It was a two-in-a-million coincidence. Just like that, Wally had superspeed like his hero. Realizing that he had no choice but to take Wally under his wing, Barry revealed that he was the Flash and that Wally would be his sidekick. Wally became Kid Flash.

At first, Wally’s costume was just a miniaturized version of Barry’s outfit. In some panels, it was a little tough to tell the pair apart from each other.  For example, take the first appearance of the Cosmic Treadmill. Wally is clearly smaller than Barry, but just glancing at the pages could cause confusion to the reader.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #125 (1961)

A short time later, Wally was given his own distinct and iconic costume.

This time period was a heyday for teenage sidekicks. For the most part, they were relegated to the pages of their mentor’s comic books. This changed when Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad had a crossover in the pages of DC’s team-up book The Brave and the Bold. There, the three teens were called to Hatton Corners to help the local population in a generational dispute.

From The Brave and the Bold (Vol. 1) #54 (1964)

After battling a pretty lame looking villain named Mister Twister, the three teens decided to keep hanging out together. From there, the first version of the Teen Titans launched. The Titans got together and took on various wrong-doers and ne’er-do-wells in the DCU. Over the next few years, Wonder Girl and Speedy, Green Arrow’s partner, joined their group. The teens remained friends even after the Teen Titans petered out.

Over in the pages of Flash, Wally continued to assist Barry and he had the occasional solo backup tale but any developments in Wally’s life were fleeting.

In 1980, that began to change for not only Wally but the other teen superheroes. That was when Marv Wolfman and George Perez launched The New Teen Titans. There, a new character named Raven pulled together members of the now defunct Teen Titans along with several newcomers like Starfire and Cyborg. Finding himself attracted to Raven, Wally agreed to join the new group.

From New Teen Titans (Vol. 1) #1 (1980)

After several years with the New Teen Titans, Wally found that he just didn’t like being with the group any longer. In fact, he didn’t even like being Kid Flash at all. He feared that his powers were actually doing damage to his body and he was reluctant to use them. Added to that was the fact that he was now enrolled in college and his time as Kid Flash was keeping him from being a full time student. He handed in his Flash ring, which housed his costume, and quit the Titans.

From New Teen Titans (Vol. 1) #39 (1984)

As tends to happen to heroes, Wally didn’t stay out of the superhero game for long. Less than a year later, Dick Grayson, now operating under the new name Nightwing, and Donna Troy asked Wally for help after Raven’s father, the demon Trigon, returned to menace the world. Reluctantly, Wally agreed to help.

From New Teen Titans (Vol. 2) #2 (1984)

After this adventure, he still stayed mostly retired from his role as Kid Flash. It was a moniker that Wally didn’t feel comfortable with anymore.

All of that changed when the Crisis on Infinite Earths hit. During that adventure, Barry Allen died saving the universe. His body appeared to crumble as he thwarted one of the Anti-Monitor’s plans for universal destruction. That left the DCU without a Flash. After talking with Jay Garrick, the original 1940s Flash, Wally learned that his body was no longer being damaged when he used his speed. Unfortunately, his powers now peaked at around the speed of sound, which was significantly slowly than his old top speed. To honor Barry’s memory, Wally took on the Flash mantle.

From Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (1986)

It’s hard to understate the significance of those five panels. With Wally West deciding to take on the role of his former mentor, he was fulfilling the underlining destiny of every superhero sidekick. He had taken up the banner of his fallen father-figure and promised to keep Barry’s memory alive. It was a moment of legacy. With the passing of the name ‘Flash,’ Wally showed a respect for what had come before and a promise to keep Barry’s ideals alive.

Soon after taking Barry’s former costume, Wally revealed both his and Barry’s secret identities to the world. He wanted everyone to know that Barry had died saving them. To do that, he had to give Barry’s name to the masses so that they could place a name to Barry’s heroic actions.

With Barry’s name firmly etched on people’s minds, Wally nearly derailed the Flash’s goodwill by being a bit of a jerk. When a local hospital asked Wally to transport a heart to the west coast during a massive snowstorm, Wally wanted his reward to be a bit more than a pat on the back. With no income of his own, Wally wanted his local hospital to give him free health care for doing them this favor. After all, everyone else was getting monetary compensation out of this deal so why shouldn’t Wally? The hospital’s director held his nose while agreeing to the deal.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #1 (1987)

In that very issue, Wally’s financial future looked suddenly brighter when he discovered that he had won the lottery. As a young 20-something without a background in finance, Wally started living large. The house he bought was enormous. He began running through a steady stream of women companions, eventually spending most of his time with a very attractive model. His mother, a fairly selfish woman, suddenly turned up on his doorstep asking for a place to live. On top of that was the occasional supervillain to battle. Wally thought he had all of this well in hand until his mother told him that he’d lost all of his money in bad investments.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #14 (1988)

It wasn’t a high point in Wally’s career.

Wally was able to pull in a somewhat steady paycheck by joining the Justice League in its brand new international capacity. Instead of joining the team based in the United States, Wally was a member of the Justice League based in Paris. This branch of the team was dubbed Justice League Europe. Wally’s immaturity and dickishness were played for all they were worth while he was with this version of the League. Power Girl was less than impressed with her new teammate.

From Justice League Europe #1 (1989)

Around the same time Wally joined the JLE, a supporting character made her first debut in the pages of his solo title. A local newscaster named Linda Park was introduced while interviewing Captain Cold, who had recently gone straight. This former Rogue and his sister had become bounty hunters and attempted to use Linda’s coverage as a free advertisement for their business. Linda tried to keep things professional.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #28 (1989)

Very shortly after this report, Linda began doing a report on one of Wally’s cases. The two came into close proximity. Wally’s womanizing caused Linda to be wary of him, though they remained somewhat close afterwards.

During the early part of Wally’s time as the Flash, his speed levels swung erratically. Though he was first relegated to only moving at the speed of sound, Wally eventually began to up his top speed. However, there were times that his speed completely abandoned him, leaving him in a lurch. It made him to become unreliable to his colleagues. Things came to a head when Barry Allen returned from the dead. Or, at least, someone who looked like Barry Allen.

When a man looking and sounding exactly like Barry Allen turned up on Jay Garrick’s doorstep one day, Wally’s world flipped upside down. A happy new status quo began as Wally happily stepped aside for his rejuvenated mentor. Suddenly, the tenor of Barry’s actions changed. He became vicious and attempted to murder a foe. Only then did Jay and Wally realize that ‘Barry’ was actually Professor Zoom, Barry’s arch enemy. Zoom had underwent plastic survey to look like Barry. Realizing that Zoom was attempting to destroy Barry’s legacy and his roll in the DCU, Wally became enraged.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #79 (1993)

His speed, which had never even approached Barry or Zoom’s level, suddenly kicked into high gear. Wally realized that the only blocks to his abilities had been ones that he’d put in place himself. He hadn’t wanted to outshine Barry so his subconscious slowed him down. With this revelation, his speed now had no limits.

Mark Waid wrote this story. His run continues to be one of the best ever written for the Flash. Waid was focused on the idea of the Flash legacy but also the Flash Family. He brought back Jay Garrick, the original Flash, as a supporting character alongside other Golden Age speedsters Max Mercury and Johnny Quick. He also brought Johnny’s daughter Jessie into the mix. Even more importantly, Waid co-created the character of Bart Allen, Barry Allen’s grandson from the far future. Bart became Wally’s sidekick, which meant that Wally had completely embraced the role that Barry once held. He was now a mentor to a young speedster. The Flash Family was fantastic and lead to some great group shots.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #110 (1996)

Another key element of the Waid run was his creation of the Speed Force, the fundamental aspect of the universe that powered the various speedsters. It explained why Barry and Wally were seemingly powered by electrified chemicals, Bart by genetics, Jay by hard water fumes, and Johnny by some mathematical formula he invented. Those were all things that kickstarted their ability to access the Speed Force but it wasn’t what actually powered them.

Meanwhile, the Justice League was in disrepair. While Wally had been a member of the League since its international inception, he’d jumped from the Paris affiliate to the American one. Even that one fell apart and Wally found himself on a brand new Justice League stocked of only the heaviest of heavy hitters. At first, Wally didn’t have much time for Kyle Rayner, the man who had become Green Lantern after Hal Jordan went insane. Hal had been a close friend of Barry’s and Wally still looked up to him. Wally thought that Kyle wasn’t fit to wear Hal’s ring.

From JLA #2 (1997)

Eventually, the two of them became friends but it was touch-and-go there for a while.

Back in his solo book, Wally was finally settling down with a single lady. After spending the beginning of his Flash career enjoying the perks of being a celebrity, he started dating Linda Park exclusively. Their relationship eventually became serious and Wally proposed. Linda became Wally’s rock and allowed him to become centered as a man and not just a superhero. Finally, in 1998, the couple married.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #142 (1998)

Life was happy for Linda and Wally. Linda kept her job as a reporter and Wally kept his Justice League gig. They were both fulfilled by their careers and genuinely loved each other. Things couldn’t have been more perfect.

Until the new Zoom showed up. Then it all changed.

Hunter Zoloman, a criminologist, arrived in Keystone City to help both the cops and the Flash in their efforts to take down the Rogues. When he asked Wally to change the past, to make up for a serious mistake that Hunter had made years ago, Wally refused, saying that time wasn’t something to be played with. Enraged, Hunter attempted to use the Cosmic Treadmill, the device Wally and Barry had used years earlier to travel through time. The Treadmill exploding, nearly killing Hunter in the process. While recuperating, Hunter discovered he had powers. Thinking that he would be helping Wally by eliminating the things that held him back, Hunter took on the name Zoom and tried to kill Linda.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #199 (2003)

He failed in his attempts to kill Linda, but he did end up killing the twins with which Linda had only recently become pregnant. The loss of their children was devastating to the pair and even after Zoom was defeated, a depression fell upon the couple.

A few months later, Zoom returned to battle Wally again. The Cosmic Treadmill became a part of the battle and Wally found himself jumping around time with his foe. Finding themselves back at the spot where Zoom had assaulted Linda over a half year earlier, Wally shoved the Zoom he was currently fighting in the way of the past Zoom’s attack. This blocked Linda from getting the full strength of the attack. Back in the present, Linda suddenly found herself nine months pregnant. It was like a scene from Looper.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #225 (2005)

Luckily, Linda was already at the hospital. The doctors got to work and, minutes later, Jai and Iris West were born to proud parents.

The happy parents didn’t have long to celebrate their new children. When the Infinite Crisis hit, Wally worked with Bart in an attempt to trap a powerful enemy in the Speed Force. Wally moved so quickly that his body began to be pulled away from Earth. In his attempts to fight this from happening, he found Linda to say his goodbyes. Instead of letting Wally go, Linda latched on along with Jai and Iris. The four sped off into the unknown.

From Infinite Crisis #4 (2006)

In their absence, over a year passed in the DCU. During that time, Bart Allen had taken over the Flash mantle and he’d been killed just a few months later. Shortly afterwards, Wally and his family were pulled back from the distant planet they’d been living on thanks to a plan put forth by the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the Wests’ absence, something strange had happened to Iris and Jai. Both had grown at an accelerated rate and they developed super powers. Unfortunately, these were sort of weird powers. Iris found that she could vibrate through objects while Jai got strangely large muscles. It was disconcerting.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #231 (2007)

With Wally and his family back, his series restarted after having taken the previous year off. Now the story focused entirely upon Wally dealing with his kids. Linda, who used to have her own life as a reporter, now seemed to find a new job simply analyzing what her kids were going through. It was a huge shift in tone that was jarring when compared with what had come before.

Then, suddenly, Barry Allen came back from the dead. This time, it wasn’t Professor Zoom pulling a fast one on Wally. This was actually Barry. His return pushed his past sidekick back out of the DCU’s limelight. Now, three Flashes were running around but it was obvious that the focus was all on Barry. In an effort to streamline and update this confusion, Wally gained a very slightly different costume, Jai lost his powers, and Iris became a full-on speedster when she took the name Impulse.

From The Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 #1 (2010)

These updates and changes ended up doing no one any good. The New 52 was quietly in the works and there was no room in it for Wally or his family. They have yet to appear since the relaunch.

As much as I love Wally, his story had come to a natural conclusion. For fifty years, Wally had a clear, definable story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Most characters in serialized, long-form comics aren’t granted that luxury. Readers got to watch Wally grow from being a teen sidekick to fully formed, competent hero who saved the world time and again. His maturity and character were developed incrementally by a series of writers, all of whom were expanding upon what had come before and moving forward with a clearly defined take on the character. For the most part, these tales worked. The story of Wally West remains a triumph of serialized fiction overseen by a changing lineup of writers, editors, and artists. Wally may be gone, but he left one epic story in his wake.

Jeff Reid really loves Wally West, in case that wasn’t clear. Learn about other stuff he loves on Twitter.


  1. I miss this character. But the “world” he lived in and characters he interacted with are all gone. Bringing him back wouldn’t be the same.

  2. Of course, since Wally was the Flash I grew up with he’s my favourite, but he’s soooo much more of a compelling character than Barry Allen. Wally grew and changed and learned over time – he wasn’t perfect and he made a lot of mistakes which is what made him so interesting. I struggle to find anything interesting about Barry despite all the attempts to retcon some intrigue and danger into his past, hence why I’ve dropped reading regular Flash comics for the first time in years although he’s my favourite superhero. The Wally stories got ridiculous towards the end for sure and there is probably no way to bring him back now that they have replaced him with Barry – but the stories with Barry haven’t improved, so the problem has always been the stories not the character of Wally.

    • I agree totally about Wally, it’s exactly why I liked reading that character. I’ve enjoyed the new Flash series, the art is great and the story is interesting, but I’m not connected to Barry Allen so it is a drawback. If it slips at all from its current quality level, I would drop it.

  3. Totallly agree with Mike and Sonorous. Wally is far more interesting than Barry ever was or will be. They should have left Barry and Hal dead. Their replacements were just better characters.

  4. Even though I have several of those issues and the complete Teen Titans Marv Wolfman and George Perez run, for some reason can’t remember any of those stories. It’s as if they were erased from my memory and never happen …

  5. Wally and Tim were two of my favorite characters. Growing up in the 80s and 90s i’ve loved watching them grow up with me. They will be missed.

  6. A great summary. Wally is my Flash, and I tend to agree that the ability to develop him makes him a more fascinating character than Barry. DC seems to have such reverence for the Silver Age characters that their more recent versions get short shrift.
    Whilst I agree that Wally’s story certainly has an arc to it, I’d hate to think that the lacklustre final chapter really represents the end of his story – it’s unrepresentative of the Flash of the 1990-2000’s and does the character a real disservice.

    • Agreed. Especially because I think Wally as a father could have been interesting. They shouldn’t have aged the kids or given them powers but it would have been interesting to see a guy who has basically lived his life in the fantastical world of superheroes would be able to balance that with being a good father for his kids. Alas, that was just not to be.

  7. And now, for the opposing viewpoint….

    I suspect that it’s a matter of who you grew up with. Barry will always be the Flash for me. He has a keen analytical mind, yet is almost entirely lacking in social skills (You want character flaws? There you go.).

  8. Wally was my Flash, but I knew Barry outside of the comics – The Flash tv series and cartoons but just as Kyle was replaced by Hal (kinda) which had me for a while, I must admit Barry and Wally are not really all that different in their personalities. Correct me if I’m wrong, I have 5 Flash (Wally) issues but a lot of Justice League and a few Flash guest appearances with both Flashes and they have this similarity in terms of dialogue….

  9. While I like and respect Barry, I prefer Wally as Flash. He’s got more depth and is more interesting, as others have noted. And sure, he has a definite character arc, but what an ignominious end. Those last couple of books with him were not that great, especially with the kids. Just wiping him out in the reboot was weak, given his 50-year existence. They should have skipped Bart for now and added him later.

    But man, that initial Waid run was fantastic!

  10. Is the Waid run compiled in omnibus or trade?

    • Various storylines from Waid’s run were put into trades about ten years ago, but they’ve been out of print for a while. They don’t house his complete run, but they are good. I’d be surprised if we got a Waid Flash omnibus anytime soon, as I believe Waid is on the outs with DC’s current higher-ups. However, his run is slowly being digitized with a few issues being released every week. That may be your best bet right now, unless you want to go bin diving or eBay bidding.

    • thanks… found some of the trades on line, but difficult to find out what issue #s they are compiled from. will check out the dgital