In June 1987, Eisner Award winning comic book creator Mike Baron began writing what would become Wally West’s earliest adventures as “Fastest Man Alive,“ The Flash! Today DC Comics presents those tales as a 480-page collected edition for the very first time. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life to save millions. With his mentor gone, Wally West took on the role of the Fastest Man Alive, but he didn’t exactly ease into things, and soon found himself in confrontation with one of the Flash’s most formidable foes, Vandal Savage.
The death of Barry Allen gave the character of Wally West a new sense of purpose. Despite the risk of taking the name and costume of The Flash, he was determined to live up to the example that Barry Allen had set for the world. That job, however, would not be easy. He was consigned to relatively low speeds, only 700 miles per hour or so. Also, he won the lottery and gained a fortune, which allowed his more selfish characteristics to thrive, and when he lost it all his life went into a tailspin. Writer Mike Baron also introduced many new aspects to the former Teen Titan, some that have since become a staple of the beloved hero.
Chris Braly: This was a very big milestone for The Flash. How did you get the gig to write this new chapter in the life of Wally West? Was he part of the pantheon of characters you hoped to pen when you began working for DC?
Mike Baron: Mike Gold was my editor at First Comics, and when he moved over to DC Comics in 1987 he immediately offered me The Flash. I’d always liked the character, but the truth is that I was willing to write whatever they handed me.
Chris: You had a very unique approach to the character. Tell us a bit about that.
Mike: The book was unique in several ways. First, Wally West was replacing Barry Allen. This was a big deal. Second, I figured out that in order for Flash to move at that speed, he would burn up enormous amounts of calories. So he had to eat enormous amounts of food. Third, I made him a careless young man with women, as so many young men are.
Chris: Have any ideas occurred to you after your run concluded that you later thought you might’ve wanted to explore with Wally West?
Mike: It was thirty-three years ago and early into my career. After a year, I simply ran out of ideas and I put down the book. That wouldn’t happen today, and the fact is that I regret doing it. Since then, my thinking and approach to story telling has changed a lot and thankfully I no longer run out of ideas.
Chris: What stands out in your mind about that run that you’re most fond of?
Mike: I’ve written so much since then, but I think I would like to go back and read those issues again. I remember Jackson Guice’s artwork, particularly his cover art for issue 5. It was my favorite cover from the run. I also quite enjoyed developing Chunk’s character, making him more of an outcast. And the creation of Kilg%re was pretty special (from issue #3), a new enemy that the Flash accidentally released from limbo, and it wound up wreaking havoc on S.T.A.R. Labs.
Chris: You’ve been doing a lot more creator owned work and a lot less mainstream comics lately, even recently returning to your biggest indie creation Nexus with a prose novel. How was that received?
Mike: The response on Kickstarter to the Nexus novel has been tremendous! The book came about when Steve “the Dude” Rude asked me what would be the ultimate Nexus story. “Nexus vs. Galactus” I answered at once, but since Marvel owns Galactus, we had to create our own. So instead of Galactus, it’s Gourmando. I worked up a series of scripts for Dude, who then paid me, and then changed all my dialogue. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the result. I felt the novel building inside me and a couple years ago when I couldn’t sleep, I wrote it in a fever. There’s something liberating about the subject matter. It was a joy to write and touched on so many themes—world building, personal morality, the nature of God, the nature of the universe, the nature of Ylum, delving into all the principle characters in depth. I’m writing a second Nexus novel. Dude will be releasing the collection he worked on sometime next year.
Chris: After successfully running the campaign for Nexus novel on Kickstarter, you then turned around and kicked off a spectacularly successful campaign for your next comic, Florida Man on Indiegogo. Where did that story come from?
Mike: Florida Man chose me. Every time I went online, I would see another ‘Florida Man…’ story. (You can find an aggregate of them all at Floridaman.com). And it just hit me. “I gotta write a novel about this guy.” But, not all the Florida Man stories. Some are too crude, or gross, or despicable. I just wanted to tell the ones that make you laugh. So I created Gary Duba as a redneck every man, incorporating some of those Florida Man news stories, and also pulling a lot of it from thin air. The inspiration for the character of ‘Patrice’ came from Danny Bonaduce’s autobiography, Random Acts of Badness. You’d have to read it to understand, but it was an inspiration. My artist is Todd Mulrooney and he’s working on it now. We hope to get the Florida Man graphic novel out sometime in November, but you can still back it until then on Indiegogo.
Chris: So what’s the next comic project for Mike Baron?
Mike: It’s called ‘Thin Blue Line’ and I’m not sure how it happened, but it happened real fast. I was chatting with my friend Joe Arnold on Facebook. I’ve known Joe for years. He’s a cop and a damn find artist. I think it may have been Joe’s idea to do something about the police. The story wrote itself. Joe’s a Brazilian ju jitsu guy, so that gave me the jumping off point. Joe said he thought all cops should train in BJJ because it allows you to subdue someone without doing serious injury. And this defund police movement, which is promulgated by what I consider to be vicious children who don’t understand civilization, inspired me to want to show why I believe we need the police. The proof was everywhere. It’s a great story.
Chris: I’m excited to read it Mike. Thanks for chatting with me!
Mike: My pleasure.
Collected for the first time comes Eisner Award nominee Mike Baron’s The Flash detailing the aftermath of the epic DC Universe changing event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC Comics has collected those first nineteen issues of high velocity action written in one impressive edition called Savage Velocity which is out this week and available now wherever fine comics and graphic novels are sold or you can order a copy here!