When it comes to comic book characters, the casual fan will give you the tried and true favorites. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man. One character that has tended to get lost in the shuffle is good ol’ Barry Allen, The Flash himself.
I first fell in love with the character when the CBS show from 1990 debuted which starred John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen. I had certainly been familiar with the character thanks to his inclusion in the Saturday morning cartoon favorite Superfriends but admittedly didn’t know too much about him to care apart from the fact that he was a friend of Superman. The series was the second real attempt that I can think of where a major television network dropped a lot of money on a series involving superheroes (The Incredible Hulk was the first attempt which they were able to pull off by basically making the show the superhero version of Les Miserables. Wonder Woman was more of a light hearted spoof similar to Batman from the 60’s but it was still good.). While this experiment ultimately didn’t work, I do think it ended up paving the way for what we’re seeing today. It was a respectful take on the character which, apart from movies and cartoons, Hollywood wasn’t willing to try due to the budgets involved in getting the stories off the ground. If there was ever a television show that debuted twenty years too early, it was The Flash.
What is it about Barry Allen (or Jay Garrick or Wally West) that intrigues me? I would have to say what really sticks with me most about the character is his optimism. In a lot of ways, the character is the human Superman. Clark Kent is as optimistic about life and people as they come but being an alien, there is a sense of detachment you have as a reader. There are things that happen to him which you cannot relate to. I can always speculate how I would react if I were given Superman’s powers (I’d probably become a vicious dictator.) but I cannot really relate to him apart from the feelings of alienation he sometimes feels.
With Barry it’s different. While he has powers no human will ever have, he certainly reacts to them how I expect anyone would. He’s amazed at what he can do. He’s like a real life comic book fan being able to perform some of the stuff he has only read about. He’s goofy, awkward, and just an average guy that can run circles around the Earth in the time it takes people to walk across their home.
When the real world goes nuts and you see atrocity after atrocity on the evening news, images that make you feel helpless because you know there is nothing you can do to change them, having an escape, even if that escape is in the realm of fantasy, can brighten up your day even if it’s just for a forty five minute television show.
What kind of character is The Flash? The Flash to me embodies what is good about the human race. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes, but at the end of the day we do what we can to help our fellow man out when they need our help. And damn if we’re not using our powers to try and impress some ladies as well.
Now one benefit of The Flash Appreciation Day is the fact that it helps a great charity, The Hero Initiative. Comic books writers and artists create amazing worlds for fans to enjoy but in reality they sometimes don’t get the financial recognition they deserve. Some comic book writers and artists have fallen on especially hard times due to medical issues which prevents them from continuing their work. The Hero Initiative helps pick up the slack for them so they can get the help they need all the while being able to work again if they are able to. Some of these artists and writers have laid the groundwork for the amazing movies, television shows, and comics we’re reading today but financially aren’t getting the benefits of their work. Whether that be through bad financial planning, a poorly written contract, or just being a team player and working on a title they didn’t necessarily create but added something too is irrelevant. Anyone who has made your day brighter by their contributions to the arts like this deserves our support. Whether that be by contributing directly to The Hero Initiative on their website at http://www.heroinitiative.org or by doing something as simple as going to Smile.Amazon.Com and selecting The Hero Initiative as your charity of choice so that when you purchase anything on Amazon, a portion of your sale goes to the charity, you’re helping people who laid the groundwork for the worlds we enjoy today.