Sunday, August 22, 2010

Barry And Iris

Let me preface by saying the latest Flash series has been enjoyable enough, albeit bogged down by Geoff Johns' patented glacial pacing.

But, if I were writing the Flash, I'd be doing something completely different.

What would I do?

Barry and Iris.

Let's review the history of this couple (necessarily abridged, so no nit-picking! And if any of it isn't canon anymore, it's DC's fault for not telling us!!) .

In an origin that parallels Kal-El, Iris' parents tried to protect their infant daughter from a devastating world war by sending her into the distant past of the 20th century. She grew up there, unknowingly an orphan displaced in time, where she met and married Barry Allen, and she soon discovered that both her husband and her nephew were super-heroes.


And then she was killed by Barry's self-appointed arch-enemy, becoming one of the first "girlfriends in refrigerators" (dressed as Batgirl, no less!). Except Iris was only mostly killed--her family in the future managed to "rescue" her "consciousness" before death, and implanted it into the body of some poor brain-dead person, saving her to live the rest of her life in the 30th century. After undergoing lengthy personal trials, Barry learned the truth, and went to live with Iris in the future.

Their happiness was short-lived, as within a month, Barry was pulled away to fight the Anti-Monitor, and he died. But during their brief reunion, Barry fathered twins (who went on to become super-heroes) with Iris, and they went on to have Berry and Iris' grandchildren (who went on to become super-heroes). (Hey, exactly how old is Grandma Iris now compared to Barry, anyway? Shhh, no nit-picking!). The twins died heroically, never having known their father, and he never knew them.

But history tends to repeat itself with Barry and Iris, and to protect the life of her grandson, she took him back to the 21st century. And the grandson died heroically, but fear not...he was resurrected by 31st century pseudo-science.

And Barry? Of course, he too was brought back from the dead, and reunited with Iris.

Don't you see? This is like The Time Traveler's Wife, except better because they're both time travelers who always come back, and also they both have died and been reborn, plus he's a super-hero and she's the wife and aunt and great-aunt and mother and grandmother of super-heroes.

It should never be just Barry.

It's Barry and Iris.

It's the story of a love that has transcended centuries, has overcome life and death, the couple that simply cannot be separated, and who have created an era-spanning generational family of heroes. That should be our story.

I was never in favor of bringing Barry back. But since they did, how can they ignore the powerful story possibilities in favor of more Rogue hijinks?

It's not Geoff Johns' fault--this is the take pretty much everyone else has had on the Flash over the years--heavily Barry-centric and old school, with pretty much zero respect for Iris. She's a female reporter, but whereas Lois Lane gets all the props, it's pretty much just a resume line with Iris, and we never saw her winning Pulitzers and taking in Intergang. She's the progenitor of an entire line of super-heroes, yet no one regards her with 1/20th of the awe and respect they give the JSA (hey, Alan Scott--when your kids go on and have children, and they become heroes, then we can talk about this "generational hero" business).

Unfortunately, Geoff Johns hasn't done much with Iris, either. How much of her did we see during the six issues of Flash: Rebirth? A handful of panels? And in the new Flash series?? Does she really exist just to send Barry text messages and appear in maybe one page per issue, if that?

And while the jury is still out on the outcome of the current storyline, one of the future Rogues has revealed that an other-dimensional "Mirror Lord" "will take possession of Iris...changing her into one of your greatest Rogues." Really, Geoff--that's the best you can come up with, turning Iris into a knock-off Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire? Are you that blind to the possibilities Iris presents (and are you that Green Lantern obsessed? What's next, Barry gets a sidekick named Pieface?!?)??

Now, it's a time travel story, and maybe Barry will find a way to avert it--but I suspect it's going to become the basis for the upcoming "Flashpoint" event, and so the first real story of Barry and Iris reunited will be--to make her a super villain? To reduce her once again a mere motivational prop for our hero, to be "the reason Barry kills someone?" Hasn't that story already been done?

Think back to the best, most human moment in Final Crisis. It was when Barry freed Iris from zombiehood with a kiss. That's what we have here...a love so powerful it can overcome the Anti-Life Equation. Even on the "day evil won," it couldn't beat these two and their love.

That
is Barry and Iris.

That's what DC has on their hands--a love story that makes Lois And Clark look like the Lockhorns, a couple that founded a thousand-year meta-dynasty, a couple who keep overcoming time travel and death to be with each other. And nobody at DC, save for one brief flash from Grant Morrison, seems to have any idea what they have, or what to do with it, so Iris gets put on the shelf again like a good Silver Age super-hero girlfriend.

She's a time traveling, body-shifting Lois Lane, with Superman's origin, and everyone she touches becomes a God of Speed. And yet we've spent far more time on Barry's new office mates so far than we have with her. She could be, should be, one of the great comic characters, if anyone would just stop to look at her story--and yet they continue to treat her like the Wertham-mandated girlfriend, the necessary but perfunctory appendage of the male hero.

And it's really bugging me, because it shouldn't be just Barry...it should be Barry and Iris.

I'm no writer, and no one will ever put me in charge of the Flash. And I doubt that I'd be able to specify exactly what they should be doing with Iris, at least with any clarity.

But if I were writing that title right now, I wouldn't spend 6 pages on Barry saving a helicopter while I deigned to give Iris a mere couple of panels standing around wondering how he is. And I wouldn't transform her into just another woman-in-peril for Barry to save.

I would write about Barry and Iris.

10 comments:

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Snell, you naive little man. Don't you realize that Iris is just another supporting cast member and supporting cast, especially wives, get in the way of all the really cool superheroics and romantic subplots? Comics should all be Superfriends, just bloodier and "gritty" like we always wanted it to be when we where 7 years old.

I mean, don't you listen to the "creative staff" when they give interviews?

(the preceding had enough sarcasm that, if somehow turned into a liquid form, would fill a TARDIS)

notintheface said...

When any current writers (*cough*JMS*cough*)claim they don't want their books to be bogged down by the supporting cast, it's usually code for "I can't be bothered with doing the research bother to get the characters right".

Things are so bad that even Lois Lane the grande dame of superhero wives, is getting shafted. These days Luthor's Lois robot gets 10 times as much panel time as the genuine article. Here's Lois' typical dialogue in EVERY ISSUE of "Grounded" so far:

Lois: So, how long are you gonna do this walking thing?

Broody Superman: I dunno.

Lois: Can you tell me why you're doing this?

Broody Superman: Nope.

Lois: Won't people miss Clark?

Broody Superman: Whatever.

Kelson said...

I really, really like this idea. Admittedly, one of my favorite Flash stories ever is Terminal Velocity, which is all about Wally and Linda, so I guess I'm primed for that kind of structure. All the same, as I read each issue of Flash: Rebirth last year, I kept wondering where the Barry we'd seen in Final Crisis was...and it always came down to that scene with Iris.

Buyog said...

I really think you're onto something here, but I fear it may be doomed to the same failure as the Spider-marriage. The current generation of writers and editors at the big two can't quite get a handle on how to write a capes-and-tights book about a loving, committed couple: even Lois and Clark are bickering or apart a good portion of the time.

Admittedly Waid tried to make it work with Wally and Linda, and we ended up with this amazing DC-continuity Incredibles-style book. But it didn't last long enough to gain traction, and Wally had to step aside for Barry's return.

Now that I think about it, the three main Flashes (Jay, Barry, and Wally; I don't count Bart's short tenure) are all in long-term, loving marriages. That's rather remarkable, and certainly something that could play into your Barry+Iris angle.

Saranga said...

Iris is originally from the future? I did not know that. I had always assumed she was a superhero wife and had not a lot going for her, I guess I was wonrg!

Can you recc any trades with Iris in?

snell said...

Saranga--it was "revealed" that Iris was from the future in Flash #203 (1971), making it effectively one of the first retcons. Thanks, Robert Kanigher!

Sadly, in the 100 previous issues, Iris was never really treated as much more than a superhero wife/girlfriend, and in all honesty things weren't much better later either. Hey, it was Silver Age DC, you know? My rant was more about the wasted potential, because if you actually look at her history, she runs laps around Lois Lane (in my opinion).

Even more sadly, almost none of the Barry Allen Flash is in trade these days, unless you go for the mostly-out-of-print-and expensive Archives or the cheaper but B&W Showcase phone books...neither one of those is up to the seventies yet, I believe, so no "Iris is from the future." She did play a role in some of the later Waid/Wally West era, and with Impulse, but it was a pretty small role, and I don't know if I could recommend reading that just for her stuff, unless you were a Flash fan already.

Kenneth Allen Sims II said...

Yes, Johns has that much of a crush on Hal Jordan, and you should be editing, if not writing, the Flash

Saranga said...

i've read all the impulse and most of the wally as flash run, and she's ok in those, but she's def more a motherly figure rather than a char in her own right. which as you've pointed out is wasted potential.

Perplexio said...

I agree-- Don't mess with Iris like that!

If they're going to mess with Barry's love life... why not make his almost-second wife, Fiona Webb, a rogue instead?

Since Thawne/Prof. Zoom can change the past, Johns could easily do a story where Eobard Thawne goes back in time incognito and courts a jilted Fiona Webb and really helps her cultivate a hatred for Barry... Now THERE'S a story. And it could/would also serve to develop Iris a bit.

snell said...

Good thought, Perplexio.

Now that you mention it, there's a whole segment of Barry's & Iris' life that's been completely neglected.

What happened during their brief month together in the future, before the Crisis? Did Iris now about Barry's near-marriage to Fiona? Does Barry know the story of the twins he fathered, and their children? It would seem to me this would be the first thing you'd do post-resurrection...but nope, gotta fight some Rogues for 6 issues...