The iFanboy Letter Column – 04/16/2010

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means freedom as the work week has ended and the weekend can begin. For others, Friday means you’re back on the road in some strange city and in some strange hotel.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —

Quick question: what are good Barry Allen stories that aren’t Crisis on Infinite Earths and the [recently] completed, The Flash: Rebirth?

Jackie T.

Hey, what timing! Now that The Flash #1 has finally hit and it’s the very deserving Pick of the Week, you’ve got yourself a great new Barry Allen story to check out.

Okay, now the question gets a little bit tougher to answer.

See, the thing is that Barry Allen’s time as a hero ended with Crisis on Infinite Earths (and whether you want to call that the end of The Silver or Bronze Age is up for debate), and until The Flash: Rebirth and The Flash he never got The Modern Age treatment. So I can recommend you great Silver (or Bronze) Age Flash or Justice League of America stories but the storytelling style will be vastly different than what you’re used to know. I don’t know if you’re into that kind of thing or not.

What I can recommend is a book we recently talked about on the Pick of the Week show, JLA: Year One. It’s the story of the formation of the Justice League as told by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson and Barry Allen plays a big part in the story. It’s a really nice tribute to The Silver Age tinged with late 1990s sensibilities.

Barry also had the tendency to pop up in the modern day Flash book when it was written by Mark Waid and then by Geoff Johns. You can find him in quite a few of those stories.

(I like they way you prefaced a Flash question with “Quick Question”)

Conor Kilpatrick



This has been buzzing in my head for a while. When the weekly “Why does Conor hate Gambit” inquiry rolls around, he always brings up Gambit’s “nebulous energy powers” and I’d have to agree that poorly-defined superpowers are a major annoyance. It doesn’t put me off a character or a story, but it does make me roll my eyes whenever someone’s powers are deliberately left vague. Sometimes it seems like the writer either doesn’t care that much or just wants to leave an opening for the character to MacGyver his or her way out of a tricky situation with some hitherto unrevealed aspect of their power. The classic 90’s energy powers are the worst offenders in this category, but a dishonourable mention has to go to the “half-man, half-animal” characters, who always have “enhanced strength, speed, durability, reflexes and senses” regardless of what animal they’re supposed to be. Are there any particular superpowers you guys dislike or find annoying?


If I put my mind to it, I’m guessing I could pick apart plenty of powers, but then we’d be here all day, I’d have to look for a ton of images to go along with it, and who’s got time for that?

There are plenty of bad powers out there. At one point, I think they were just throwing anything at the wall to see what would stick, and over time, writers would work really hard to come up with plausible reasons for why that might work.

Take Stiltman for example. You can tell me whatever you want about gyroscopes and computer stabilization, but it’s simply dumb. On the other hand, Marvel pretty much admits it at this point.

In terms of unexplainable powers, I always spend a lot of time thinking about the made up science powers, like “solid sound” and characters like Klaw and Songbird. Klaw is made of sound? That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

But my all time favorite stupid powered character is Triathlon. Due to his affiliation with a cult, his physical abilities have all been unlocked to that of roughly 3 times that of normal human potential. On paper, it’s really not a bad idea, but every single time I think of it, I crack up. And it’s not like he was just some side character. He was created by Kurt Busiek, and was on the Avengers!  Come on!

Then again, a guy with a bow and arrow hopping around next to Thor is pretty damned goofy too, so who knows?

Josh Flanagan


  1. You know what, I’ll come out and say it:

    Frank Miller did a great Barry Allen in The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It isn’t his comic but still, Miller made him a very good secondary character. Plus he makes him say one of my all time favorite line in a comic.

    "Kids, these days, can’t tell the difference between just plain old and classic"

  2. Something that struck me about Flash #1 was how Silver-Age-y it felt, while still grounded firmly in modern storytelling and art conventions. Maybe it was the bright colors, maybe it’s just a byproduct of the characters, but it just felt darn optimistic. It was a breath of fresh air after Blackest Night, or, crap, I guess after what feels like ten or fifteen years of melodrama and angst. I’m hoping the signs I see in Brightest Day, Flash, and the solicits for the Heroic Age are indicative of an era to come in which comic creators aren’t afraid to look on the bright side everyone once in awhile.

  3. I’m with John in the sense that I raise an eyebrow whenever I see a set of powers that include enhance strength, enhanced reflexes, invulnerability, and the likes. It doesn’t bother me so much if some are animal related, just the fact that that’s the standard for heroes in a lot of cases.

    And it certainly is tough to recommend great Barry stories. I recently saw a trade at my LCS called FLASH VS. THE ROGUES. Features silver-age stories by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and other great creators. Again, you have to go into it understanding that they are stories from a different generation and, thus, will read differently. But I day it’s worth taking a look if you’re curious.

  4. I think Tom Katers would have some suggestions about good Barry stories.  Or just listen to his Tom vs. The Flash podcast.  It’s hilarious and informative.  Really, he’s gotten me interested in The Flash and now i’m a fan.  So thanks Tom!

  5. I always thought Nightcrawler’s powers were lame.  Yes, teleporting is cool, but it seemed like that was about all he could do.  It was not until I saw X2 and realized the advantages of the BAMF.  Angel is another example.  Sure, he can fly, but that’s about it.  Dozens of heroes can fly.   

  6. "What are good Barry Allen stories that aren’t Crisis on Infinite Earths and the [recently] completed, The Flash: Rebirth?"

    Crisis was a "Barry Allen story"? Flash Rebirth was "good"? Is there really a general consensus on those points? Either way, I’ve got to pick up JLA: Year One already after hearing it recommended so much. I love anything Waid was writing in those days.

    Good mailbag, guys.

  7. All Silver age Barry Allen stories are otally worth accompanied by Tom Katers.

  8.  I nominate the Blob for worse "superpower". When I envision him it’s always with___________(insert character here) bouncing off of his belly. Not knowing when to lay off the cheesy bread is not a superpower

  9. RE: Barry Allen question

    There was a great miniseries titled FLASH & GREEN LANTERN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD that came out in 2001 but is still in print. It’s co-written by Mark Waid with pencils by Barry Kitson and it’s quite good. It was published in the days when Barry and Hal were both dead and it gives a mini-retrospective on both of their Bronze-age careers amongst very entertaining episodic stories as well. Highly recommended if you’re looking for good Barry stories.

  10. Thanks for answering my question, Josh! Scientifically unsound powers don’t really bother me, at least they’re trying to explain them, even if it is bullshit. It’s the total lack of explanation that bothers me more.

    Also, Stiltman? Don’t get me started…

  11. @RapidEyeMovement – Your question reminds me of an awful Martian Manhunter power from Giffen/DeMetteis’ run of JLA. When battling Despero, an angry alien who hates the JLA, J’ohnn uses the power of "Mayavanna," something that was never mentioned before or since. Apparently, J’ohnn was able to give someone the ability to see the thing that they desired most and this would fill them with happiness. But, he was only able to use this ability once in his life. It was a horrible plot point as it literally came out of nowhere with no set-up.

  12. @JeffR: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. The Martian Manhunter’s weaknesses to fire has also never been laid out straight either.

     By the way, I second your Flash/Green Lantern: Brave & Bold recommendation. Good read!

  13. I love how Kirkman subverted the generic energy powers in Invincible with Atom Eve.