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  1. #1
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    Default The myth that Barry Allen is "boring": where did it start?

    First, an important qualification and disclaimer: this topic is not to dispute anyone who honestly holds the opinion that the character of Barry Allen/the Flash is boring. All of us have the prerogative of thinking and feeling that any fictional character is boring or uninteresting, and I understand and respect that.

    What this topic explores is the myth that the Barry Allen character is axiomatically, *factually* boring by nature. Many people seem to believe this without actually getting to know the character. They read or hear about it somewhere else, and go into the character with that presumption already baked in. But how and where did this idea originate?

    People's mileage may vary on how interesting they find characters, but an objectively boring character is unlikely to have headlined a successful franchise for decades. There might have been some rough patches and a need to give the character an extended rest, but I disagree with the idea that Barry is fundamentally boring. Nevertheless, it's a myth that keeps perpetuating itself in spite of ample contrary evidence.

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  2. #2
    Invincible Member Digifiend's Avatar
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    Probably because readers in the 90s hadn't read much of him, since he'd been killed off and Wally had taken over. Doesn't help that Barry is the FIRST silver age superhero (it's generally accepted that Showcase #4, his 1956 debut, is the start of the silver age), so he might have been seen as generic.

    And was he always a CSI, or is that just a recent thing they added to make him more interesting? Forensic science wasn't well established 60 years ago.
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  3. #3
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digifiend View Post
    Probably because readers in the 90s hadn't read much of him, since he'd been killed off and Wally had taken over. Doesn't help that Barry is the FIRST silver age superhero (it's generally accepted that Showcase #4, his 1956 debut, is the start of the silver age), so he might have been seen as generic.

    And was he always a CSI, or is that just a recent thing they added to make him more interesting? Forensic science wasn't well established 60 years ago.
    He was called a "police scientist" back in the day, but essentially, the same job that we call "CSI" today. He was a forensic scientist from Day One.

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digifiend View Post
    Probably because readers in the 90s hadn't read much of him, since he'd been killed off and Wally had taken over.
    It actually predates Wally becoming the Flash as Marv Wolfman has said one of the reasons Barry was chosen to die was because those in charge considered him dull.

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    I think it was a general opinion that the old D.C. was boring and the new D.C. was better.

    Look at this way. In the early 1980s, the comics weren't selling as well as they had, and in the shops, most readers bought Marvel. The young generation at that time didn't bother with D.C. and considered it boring. Those of us from the previous generation who still read comics were few and far between. So when D.C. changed in 1985--many of the old fans that hadn't left, would have left at that time--and the new readers were people that hadn't read the comics before then. They were buying D.C. for the first time--and cognitive dissonance would induce them to believe those were the best comics.

    Even if you did pick up the old comics, you'd really have to read a lot of them to acquire a taste for them--as with anything--and you probably wouldn't like them at first because they didn't give you the same taste sensation you were used to. We're apt to just say something is boring, if we don't want to be bothered with exploring it any further.

    So that general sense, that the unexplored D.C. of old was boring, was applied to Barry Allen because he was the one character most identified with those comics and the one who had never been re-imagined for the post-Crisis comics.
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  6. #6
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    I think what really hurt Barry is the Trial of the Flash story, which (if memory serves me right) dragged on and on for over a year, something compeltley unheard of at the time. It was the last real Flash story before Crisis and was very poorly received.

    The last impression of people got of the Flash wasn't a very good one.

    Prior to that, honestly a lot of Pre-Crisis superheroes didn't HAVE strong personalities. The gimick sold the story, but the deep characterization. Once DC started trying to be more character heavy, Barry was already out the door.

  7. #7
    Incredible Member The no face guy's Avatar
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    I think in part it had to do with disgruntled Wally West fans. Barry Allen was out of the picture pretty much from 1985 to 2009, that's almost 25 years...a long time. So I think there was a lot of resentment because Wally West not only held the title for so long, but also because Barry Allen died one of the most noble deaths in the DC Universe, and it was generally accepted that the mantle had been rightly passed on. (though maybe not for Barry fans)

    I am a wally fan, but I have to confess that I'm actually finding Barry Allen more interesting, largely because he has the skill as a forensic scientist which is applied to storylines, and in a long era of popular anti heroes & brooding tough guys, like Superman, Barry is the archetype of a good person, which is refreshing and interesting in itself. Off topic, but I think the solution was to make room for both Barry & Wally, which they did, with Wally in the Titans and frequent cameos in the Flash, unfortunately DC chose another path.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The no face guy View Post
    I think in part it had to do with disgruntled Wally West fans.
    Except the idea that "Barry is boring" existed before Wally became the Flash. There are certainly some Wally fans who hold and push that idea, but the idea existed long before then. Even Wolfman, who didn't want to kill Barry off, referred to him as a 'fairly boring character' personality wise while citing The Trial of the Flash as the likely final nail in the coffin.

  9. #9
    Mighty Member Waterfall's Avatar
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    Since Silver Age.

    His stories used to be fun, but by no means it had anything to do with Barry on a personal level. He's even more boring than ever at the moment, which is an accomplishment made by DC writers.


    p.s: Modern Wally is also boring as well. but Barry was never interesting to begin with, while Wally simply lost his appeal over the course of time.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buried Alien View Post
    First, an important qualification and disclaimer: this topic is not to dispute anyone who honestly holds the opinion that the character of Barry Allen/the Flash is boring. All of us have the prerogative of thinking and feeling that any fictional character is boring or uninteresting, and I understand and respect that.

    What this topic explores is the myth that the Barry Allen character is axiomatically, *factually* boring by nature. Many people seem to believe this without actually getting to know the character. They read or hear about it somewhere else, and go into the character with that presumption already baked in. But how and where did this idea originate?

    People's mileage may vary on how interesting they find characters, but an objectively boring character is unlikely to have headlined a successful franchise for decades. There might have been some rough patches and a need to give the character an extended rest, but I disagree with the idea that Barry is fundamentally boring. Nevertheless, it's a myth that keeps perpetuating itself in spite of ample contrary evidence.

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    The late 1970s/early 1980s, when his comics were long, boring slogs. Like many Silver Age DC characters, The Flash failed to age graciously with its original readerbase. It's no wonder the decline of once outstanding titles like The Flash and Green Lantern happened at the same time as Marvel's rocket rise to the top of the market. This is where it started. This is something made up by consensus rather than some factual statement. When someone says "Barry Allen is boring" what they are saying is "I think Barry Allen is boring and am corroborated by others who have said the same thing."

    I believe the closest reason to a fact you will get is that they decided to completely revamp everything about his origin, character motivation, and stapled foundation from his successors recently popular modern run to update him all at once. I don't think you do this unless the company's opinion of the character was anything but "He's boring and needs to be less boring."

    These things aren't necessarily insults. Wally was also boring. He was a Silver Age relic from a declining franchise, too. Teen Titans and The Flash both were declining at the same time. Wally got back to back updates and boosts in New Teen Titans followed by his own Flash run that Barry never got. So his modernizing into a less boring character was more natural and gradual, as opposed to Barry who got 30 years worth of modernizing literally over night. So nothing of it seems right to the character, because there wasn't much of a story getting him there.

    I think Barry Allen is boring now because more of his comics are bad or boring or mediocre than not since he came back, in my personal opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by The no face guy View Post
    I think in part it had to do with disgruntled Wally West fans. Barry Allen was out of the picture pretty much from 1985 to 2009, that's almost 25 years...a long time. So I think there was a lot of resentment because Wally West not only held the title for so long, but also because Barry Allen died one of the most noble deaths in the DC Universe, and it was generally accepted that the mantle had been rightly passed on. (though maybe not for Barry fans)

    I am a wally fan, but I have to confess that I'm actually finding Barry Allen more interesting, largely because he has the skill as a forensic scientist which is applied to storylines, and in a long era of popular anti heroes & brooding tough guys, like Superman, Barry is the archetype of a good person, which is refreshing and interesting in itself. Off topic, but I think the solution was to make room for both Barry & Wally, which they did, with Wally in the Titans and frequent cameos in the Flash, unfortunately DC chose another path.
    Barry Allen is boring dates from long before Wally West ever put on the big boy costume. It was a well known fact behind why they killed him off.

    The same thing happened to Wally. Though Wally was still very, very popular at the time. He was killed off and replaced because one person specifically thought he sucked and was boring.
    Last edited by Dred; 05-30-2020 at 03:32 PM.

  11. #11
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    I think the larger shift from the “inoffensive, good-hearted occasional dork (in a good way)” to “the boring dude” pretty much has to be tied to the one-two punch of both his return with Infinite Crisis/Flash Rebirth combining with the then even *harder* punch of Flashpoint/New 52 to Wally fans: I think the “jab” in Barry’s initial return, with the implied rejection of Wally’s return to the role after Bart’s failure, and Johns’s attempt to reformat the franchise around Barry, could have been rolled with by Wally fans... but the New 52 then coming in and exiling him entirely and treating him as a liability?

    That “radicalized” the Wally fans in a way that Kyle Rainer fans weren’t by Green Lantern Rebirth and the return of Hal, and they sought out an easy argument for why it was a bad move.

    ...So, I think the “boring” accusation reflects one that would be leveled at Hal, were it not for three things: Hal was arguably more popular and treated much worse than Barry in his initial exit, Wally was most definitely more popular than Kyle and had a much more successful run, and DC rejected the vehicle for fusing the fanbase together that they had with the Flash unlike they did with the Green Lanterns. That last one, I have to confess, seems crazy in hindsight; Johns’s job on Green Lantern had paid almost grotesque dividends, and Barry + Wally was a very strong pair of pillars to build on.

    It also didn’t help that after the first bit of the Barry run in the New 52, Barry’s books kind of got hit by the “New 52-bug”; you had basically one really good couple of arcs followed by ones that seemed to struggle just as much as anything else, and seemed to disprove the idea that Barry was a “better” choice than Wally (and it needs to be admitted that the question of who was a better Flash choice was pretty much all that Wally fans cared about while fuming on the sidelines for a time.)

    I think the TV show helped, but we still have a fractured fanbase where Wally fans will attack Barry as long as DC keeps stumbling into bad treatment of him.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rend20 View Post
    Except the idea that "Barry is boring" existed before Wally became the Flash. There are certainly some Wally fans who hold and push that idea, but the idea existed long before then. Even Wolfman, who didn't want to kill Barry off, referred to him as a 'fairly boring character' personality wise while citing The Trial of the Flash as the likely final nail in the coffin.
    That doesn't pass the smell test. I can believe that Wolfman might have said something like that--comic book professionals say a lot of things that I take with a grain of salt--they are pestered with so many questions that they just say whatever will shut people up. But he would have known better than to say something so simplistic.

    The Trial was a story arc that shook up the status quo, it broke with tradition--it might not have been successful with some readers, but it certainly stepped outside the comfort zone. The reason that Bates had to keep it going for so long was because the publisher wanted it to be the end for Barry Allen, to tie in with the events of Marv Wolfman's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Wolfman would know that, so I don't think he would throw Cary Bates under the bus for doing something mandated by his own project. It's also an early example of the extended story arcs that would become routine for Wolfman and others--what we now call decompressed story telling. I think most readers at the time, used to stories wrapping up within six issues, were just baffled by the fact that the story didn't do that and it kept going. That might have been the reaction at the time--but I think in hindsight it deserves some respect.

    If you look at all the D.C. characters that came out of the revival that Barry started in 1956, hardly any sustained their run right up to the Crisis. There was Barry Allen and Sgt. Frank Rock--I can't think of any other individual characters that had a continuous run in their own comic. Those other characters, because they were desperate for sales, had to keep changing up the formula to stir up interest in a new run. But Barry was a dependable character. Most of the revival super-heroes got cancelled in the late 1960s/early 1970s--they went through the relevance era of experimentation which was a critical success but a financial failure. The Flash flirted with relevance but he always remained a reliable source of entertainment for comic book buyers, who (it turns out) just wanted a fun issue each month.

    I think it was that even-handed, routine, endurance that were then seen in the rearview mirror as "boring." And even Barry didn't get to have that dependable record for his entire run--because they did kill Iris off to shake things up and spike the sales and they did have him kill Eobard Thawne and be put on trial for his murder and they did kill him off in an act of ultimate heroism.

    Wolfman was working at D.C. in the late 1960s and returned in 1980, so he would have known all this about the Flash history--and he would know that Barry wasn't boring.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    That doesn't pass the smell test. I can believe that Wolfman might have said something like that--comic book professionals say a lot of things that I take with a grain of salt--they are pestered with so many questions that they just say whatever will shut people up. But he would have known better than to say something so simplistic.

    The Trial was a story arc that shook up the status quo, it broke with tradition--it might not have been successful with some readers, but it certainly stepped outside the comfort zone. The reason that Bates had to keep it going for so long was because the publisher wanted it to be the end for Barry Allen, to tie in with the events of Marv Wolfman's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Wolfman would know that, so I don't think he would throw Cary Bates under the bus for doing something mandated by his own project. It's also an early example of the extended story arcs that would become routine for Wolfman and others--what we now call decompressed story telling. I think most readers at the time, used to stories wrapping up within six issues, were just baffled by the fact that the story didn't do that and it kept going. That might have been the reaction at the time--but I think in hindsight it deserves some respect.

    If you look at all the D.C. characters that came out of the revival that Barry started in 1956, hardly any sustained their run right up to the Crisis. There was Barry Allen and Sgt. Frank Rock--I can't think of any other individual characters that had a continuous run in their own comic. Those other characters, because they were desperate for sales, had to keep changing up the formula to stir up interest in a new run. But Barry was a dependable character. Most of the revival super-heroes got cancelled in the late 1960s/early 1970s--they went through the relevance era of experimentation which was a critical success but a financial failure. The Flash flirted with relevance but he always remained a reliable source of entertainment for comic book buyers, who (it turns out) just wanted a fun issue each month.

    I think it was that even-handed, routine, endurance that were then seen in the rearview mirror as "boring." And even Barry didn't get to have that dependable record for his entire run--because they did kill Iris off to shake things up and spike the sales and they did have him kill Eobard Thawne and be put on trial for his murder and they did kill him off in an act of ultimate heroism.

    Wolfman was working at D.C. in the late 1960s and returned in 1980, so he would have known all this about the Flash history--and he would know that Barry wasn't boring.
    That your greatest praise of the character is dependability is the exact reason the idea of him being a bit dull and boring was born of that era. A near decade of gimmicks to boost sales and increase interest is exactly because people thought he was boring. Tossing the love interest into the fridge to incur male angst is one of the oldest maneuvers in the books.

    And yeah, Wolfman notably hated Wally and liked Barry.

  14. #14
    Incredible Member The no face guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rend20 View Post
    Except the idea that "Barry is boring" existed before Wally became the Flash. There are certainly some Wally fans who hold and push that idea, but the idea existed long before then. Even Wolfman, who didn't want to kill Barry off, referred to him as a 'fairly boring character' personality wise while citing The Trial of the Flash as the likely final nail in the coffin.
    Interesting I wasn't aware of that, I take it you were in your teenage years or older back than. Was this because comics were starting the dark gritty era of the Dark Knight, and the rising popularity of anti heroes and outsiders like the X-men? I never saw him as boring, so curious to know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The no face guy View Post
    Interesting I wasn't aware of that, I take it you were in your teenage years or older back than. Was this because comics were starting the dark gritty era of the Dark Knight, and the rising popularity of anti heroes and outsiders like the X-men? I never saw him as boring, so curious to know?
    100% X-men and Marvel. The audience was getting older and Marvel hit the zeitgeist while characters like Barry were the most notable who didn't. Death of Iris is one of the most obvious attempts at a late attempt to win back that waning audience.

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