The Fastest Man Alive: A Tribute To Wally West
On this day in 1959, DC Comics published The Flash #110 by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, and introduced the world to a brand new speedster as Barry Allen gained a sidekick in the form of Kid Flash. Wallace “Wally” West was the nephew of Barry’s girlfriend Iris, but over the years he grew from a sidekick to a Titan, to a hero in his own right after inheriting the mantle of The Flash.
Wally came from the small town of Blue Valley, Nebraska and was the child of inattentive parents. However, he idolised his Aunt Iris, who worked in Central City as a news reporter, and looked forward to the summers he could spend with her. One summer, he discovered Iris now had a boyfriend named Barry, and while spending the day with Barry at his crime lab he was accidentally caught up in an identical accident to the one that made Barry Allen into The Flash.
Wally became Kid Flash, and found he could zip from Blue Valley to Central City in seconds any time he wanted to. He trained with Barry to get his powers under control after they nearly killed him, and became a hero in his own right and joined the New Teen Titans while attempting to maintain the normal life of a university student.
After Barry Allen’s heroic sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally West stepped into the role of The Flash, but found himself struggling to escape from his uncle’s shadow. He won the lottery and became something of a playboy, but that all changed when he met the love of his life in TV reporter Linda Park, who would later become his wife and the lightning rod that kept Wally grounded.
When Professor Zoom travelled back in time posing as Barry Allen, Wally was forced to face the specter of his uncle’s legacy. He overcame the mental blocks that were literally slowing him down, and managed to defeat the Reverse Flash, and in doing so he truly became The Fastest Man Alive.
Wally established himself as The Flash in his own right with his own friends, allies and enemies. New Rogues such as Tarpit, Girder, and Murmur appeared in the Gem Cities to add to the ranks of Captain Cold, Heat Wave and Weather Wizard, and new incarnations of The Trickster and Mirror Master would only serve to add to Wally’s troubles.
Perhaps his greatest enemy was once one of his closest allies, the criminal profiler Hunter Zolomon, who became the new Reverse Flash, Zoom. Zoom critically injured a pregnant Linda Park, causing her to miscarry. With the help of his time travelling uncle, Wally was able to undo these events, and the couple were blessed with two happy, healthy children in Jai and Irey.
When Superboy Prime threatened the entire Earth, The Flash Family attempted to trap him in the Speed Force, and though it didn’t work Wally and Linda elected to stay there, sending Bart Allen back as the new Flash while they raised their children. Not long after, they returned to Earth with Jai and Irey aged to about ten years old, and able to access the speed force in new and interesting ways.
Wally and his family were thought lost following Flashpoint, but the character was reintroduced as a teenager whose parents had abandoned him in the wake of the Crime Syndicate’s attack on Earth. When Wally was taken in by his aunt Iris, Barry Allen attempted to bond with the tearaway youth and eventually they found a common ground after Wally from the future arrived in the past as a new incarnation of The Flash.
This was all turned on its head by the return of the previous continuity's version of Wally West in DC Universe Rebirth #1, slightly younger but with memories of how the universe should be. It was established, rather clumsily, that this Wally West and the new Wally West were cousins both named after their uncle.
Despite a rough five years or so in the early 2010s, Wally West in any incarnation represents the legacy of The Flash and the youth, optimism and heroism that makes the DC Universe great.