Wednesday Comments – In Defense Of DC Comics New 52’s Wally West

There are times when it’s discouraging to call yourself a comic book fan. First there were the horrible threats that Janelle Asselin received after she provided a critique of a comic book cover. Then there was the minor outrage to Comic Book Resources resetting their forums in an effort to create a more civil environment.

I don’t have a horse in the CBR forum controversy because I was never really a member. And there’s nothing that I can add to the defense of Janelle Asselin that she hasn’t said very eloquently herself.

But this fabricated controversy about the new Wally West is something that both makes me sad to be a comic fan and something that I feel like addressing.

Regular readers know this, but I’m a pretty big fan of Wally West. I remember being excited when he took up the mantle of The Flash in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 and I vividly recall picking up The Flash #1 from a newsstand in 1987. I’ve got a complete run of his time as The Flash. So, for me Wally West was my Flash.

Here’s something else you may not know; just like the current Wally West (and the current President of the United States) I’m half-Black and half-white.

It’s because of these two things that I’ve got a bit of a problem with how people are (over)reacting to the introduction of Wally West in The New 52. So many different people have so many different problems with Wally.

He’s not the same Wally West. He’s not really Wally West. He shouldn’t be Black. It’s ok that he’s Black, but he shouldn’t be a stereotype. The negative is frustrating.

It’s great that people have their opinions. And people are certainly entitled to their opinions. And the awesome thing about the internet is that everyone can express their opinions, and do so anonymously.

So let me address some of the common complaints about the current Wally West and off up my take on the various stances.

He’s not the same Wally West. No one is the same character that they were prior to Flashpoint. Clark Kent is different. Bruce Wayne is different. Even Hal Jordan is different. Barry Allen is different.

Let’s look at Wally’s peer group prior to Flashpoint. Speedy, Starfire and Cyborg are all pretty different than their previous incarnations. Furthermore, Donna Troy and Aqualad don’t even exist. In fact only Dick Grayson is essentially the same character that he was prior to Flashpoint, but in fairness he’s also one of DC’s oldest characters.

And if you’re complaining about Wally, do me a favor and don’t google anything about Bart Allen.

He’s not really Wally West. No matter what his racial make up or skin tone was, he was never going to be the Wally West that longtime Wally West fans wanted him to be.

Even if Wally were introduced as a redheaded, white teen he still wouldn’t be the same Wally West. He wouldn’t be a married father of two. He wouldn’t be the first of his generation of heroes to assume the role of his mentor. He wouldn’t be the guy who mastered the Speed Force. He wouldn’t be the bratty sidekick who grew to be the mature hero and icon.

None of the things of substance that made Wally West who he was a character prior to Flashpoint would have happened to this hypothetical white, redheaded teenager, so he wouldn’t really be the same Wally West.

Believe me, being the long-time Wally West fan that I am, I’d have loved nothing more than for a full grown pre-Flashpoint Wally West pop out of the time stream and into The New 52. But I also realize that was never going to happen. I’ve let go of the idea that that Wally West will return. But on the plus side I’ve still got that complete run of his title to comfort me.

Wally West shouldn’t be Black. C’mon. Really? This needs to be addressed? In 2014 it’s an issue if a character is reintroduced in a darker shade?

It’s totally ok that Wally West is Black. If DC and Marvel never created another white male character for fifty years, white males would still have more than enough representation in comics. Diversity is never a bad thing, especially in a medium that’s so overwhelmingly white.

It’s ok that Wally West is Black, but he shouldn’t be a stereotype. I’ve read the annual in question and while there are plenty of gripes that I have with the issue, the depiction of Wally is not one of them.

I didn’t find Wally West to be all that stereotypical. Yes, he’s seen tagging a wall (that means he’s spray-painting graffiti) but a) it’s anti-Flash graffiti and b) he’s got a beef with The Flash. And that’s something that a kid acting out would do.

Yes, Wally West grew up without a father. But that’s because his white dad, Iris’ brother, ran out on Wally and his mother. And yeah Wally’s mom is missing too, but the Crime Syndicate just ravaged Central City so her being missing isn’t that hard to believe. There was an entire miniseries devoted to what happened in Central City, it’s called Rogue’s Rebellion.

And yes, Wally West’s male role model is a criminal. But that role model is his white uncle David (actually it’s Daniel, thanks to the comments for pointing out my careless mistake) Iris’ other brother, who became the Reverse Flash and someone that Barry put in prison, thus earning the scorn of Wally.

Yeah, Wally wears a hoodie. First off, he’s tagging a wall and probably doesn’t want people to get a good look at him, so it’s practical. Secondly, lots of people wear hoodies. I still wear hoodies. There’s nothing inherently Black or stereotypical about wearing hoodies.

Now if Wally West spoke like Luke Cage spoke in the 1970’s or 1980’s, that would be stereotypical. If Wally West were wearing pants that were saggin’ and an oversized white t-shirt like a cornerboy, that would be stereotypical. If Wally West were obsessed with gangsta rappers and held a gun sideways, that would be stereotypical.

The Wally West in The Flash Annual #3 just isn’t that stereotypical to me.

Ok, I’m done.

I hope last Wednesday you went out and got some fresh new comic books from your local comic book shop.

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