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June 19, 2019

Happy 60th Birthday, Kid Flash


It seems odd to note the 60th anniversary of the creation of a character called “Kid Flash”. But Kid Flash, originally a fun teen called Wally West, has since 1959 been allowed to grow up, assume the mantle of his idol and mentor The Flash (police scientist Barry Allen), get married and have children, and, because this is the American superhero genre, kind-of die. Time moves slowly within the continuity of DC Comics’ superhero adventures, and so Wally West, once “The Fastest Boy Alive”, is now in his early twenties, adding perhaps ten years over the course of sixty years.

If only that happened to his readership. Many of us watched West grow up, slower than we did, but at the same time as we did.

And we watched him achieve with (what seemed to be) permanence what Batman’s sidekick Dick Grayson can never do: become The Flash.

It was (albeit under awful circumstances – the death of Allen) the fulfilment of an aspiration of all teen readers: that these kid sidekicks would eventually stand on their own feet. Batman’s teen sidekick, Dick Grayson, would eventually stop being Robin and become Nightwing (and briefly became Batman): Green Arrow’s kid sidekick Roy Harper would eventually stop calling himself Speedy, struggle with drug addiction, and rename himself Arsenal or Red Arrow: Aquaman’s kid sidekick Aqualad would gain magic powers, be called Tempest, but disappear into obscurity: Wonder Woman’s kid sidekick Wonder Girl would go through a myriad of confusing changes but eventually just go by her actually name, Donna Troy. But only West would ever ultimately fulfil his potential and be The Flash.

In 2009, in what we regard as a poorly thought-through editorial decision, American writer Geoff Johns brought Barry Allen back from the dead in order to resume the persona of The Flash. Wally West’s role within DC Comics’ superhero continuity has as a consequence been uncertain. Most recently, in the new title Heroes in Crisis, Wally West has been clubbed to death. But superhero deaths and resurrection are as common as the passage of day into night into day. We hope Kid Flash will be around to celebrate his 60th birthday.