There is no arguing that Flash is one of the best known and most important superheroes in the history of comics. Debuting in 1940, nearly two years before Wonder Woman, the first Flash, Jay Garrick, was the first superhero to regularly appear in three separate series. The second Flash, Barry Allen, kicked off the Silver Age of comics when he made his debut in 1956 and became the patron saint of the DC universe when he sacrificed himself to save the multiverse.
The third Flash, Wally West, was the first sidekick to make good on the promise and be promoted to the main role. The fourth Flash, Bart Allen… well, he didn’t get much of a chance to really prove himself. His run as the Scarlet Speedster lasted just 13 issues. Here are 5 reasons why Bart Allen deserved a better shot as the Flash, and 5 reasons why he didn’t…
10 Why: Legacy
The Flash isn’t the first legacy hero in comics, but he was the first one where that legacy really made a difference. When comic fans think about legacy characters, Flash is always at the top of the list. From Jay to Barry to Wally, there was a Flash for every generation, and Bart was set to be the Flash for a new generation. Cutting Bart off just as he was starting to run put an end to the legacy aspect of the Flash, and that has led to decades of mixed feelings for fans.
9 Why Not: DC Rushed Him Into The Job
When Wally West became Flash, readers had decades of stories about his time as Kid Flash to show that he had earned the right to take on the mantle. Wally had spent time learning not only from his mentor Barry, but from the first Flash Jay Garrick as well. He also spent a lot of his hero career with the Teen Titans, growing up with other superheroes.
Bart, on the other hand, had only recently become Kid Flash. Before that, he had spent time as Impulse, a name he was given because of his inability to think before acting. Bart was a hero at heart, but his brain was just catching up with him, and being thrust into the role of the Flash when he still had a lot of growing to do wasn’t good for anyone.
8 Why: Even Wally Took Time To Win Over Everyone
It can be hard to imagine these days, but when Wally West first became Flash, there were those who weren’t sure he was up for the job. Wally was still young, just turning 21, and he was overconfident and kind of a jerk. In the comics, the other heroes still saw him as the teenaged kid who hung out with Robin and Speedy, and gaining their respect was difficult. For readers, there was a concern that Wally’s womanizing would tarnish the name forever.
Some fans say Wally didn’t really become Flash unit he was well into his own run as the Scarlet Speedster, possibly as far as fifty issues into his own series. Still, others feel like it wasn’t until Mark Waid took over Wally’s stories before he really became Flash. Whatever the case, everyone seems to agree that Wally wasn’t really worthy of being called Flash during his first 13 issues, and that was all Bart ever got to prove himself.
7 Why Not: He Wasn’t Ready
If Wally wasn’t really ready to become Flash when the costume was passed on to him, Bart was even further behind. Bart was still in his early teens when he was suddenly aged up between panels of Infinite Crisis and thrust into the role of Scarlet Speedster. Sure, he wasn’t as goofy as he had been during his Impulse years anymore, but Bart was still a kid, a kid who was finally starting to find his place in the world when he was forced to become the most famous speedster in comics.
6 Why: He Had The Talent
Bart did have one thing that none of the other Flashes had; he was born with his powers. In his early years, Bart couldn’t control his speed and was aging quickly. To help keep his mind growing with his body, Bart was raised in a virtual reality world that moved as fast as he did. It wasn’t until his grandma Iris West brought him back in time to get help from Wally that Bart was able to stop aging at superspeed.
But all that time living in superspeed meant that Bart had a better handle on the power than just about any other speedster before him. Where Barry and Wally could read a book at superspeed and only remember what it taught them for a short period, Bart could read an entire library in a day and remember every detail of every book.
5 Why Not: Wally Was Still In His Prime
When DC decided to make Bart the new Flash, it felt like they were fixing something that wasn’t really broken. Wally West was a very popular character, and his while his series was going through a rough patch, that was only because DC hadn’t chosen a full-time replacement writer for Geoff Johns, who had left the series just five issues before Wally was sent away.
The “death” of Wally felt like a decision that was made only because Barry had died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and DC wanted to make sure a Flash died in Infinite Crisis. It didn’t actually push anyone’s story forward, and it took away one of the most interesting and loved characters that DC had.
4 Why: Removing Bart Started A Chain Reaction
Fans weren’t happy with the decision to get rid of Wally and replace him with Bart, this made the higher-ups at DC act impulsively, bringing back Wally and his family in a Justice League/Justice Society crossover that feels like he wasn’t supposed to be a part of. They also killed Bart in a truly horrible way.
All of this set the stage for the mess that DC finds itself in these days when it comes to the Flashes. Barry returned not long after Wally, and he brought a teenaged Bart back with him. This all led to Flashpoint, which saw both Wally and Bart erased from the DC universe. Both are back now, but Wally is all kinds of messed up, and Bart is back to being Impulse.
3 Why Not: He Didn’t Fit Anywhere
To make Bart into the new Flash, DC had to age him up fast. He went from being somewhere around 15 to being 19 or 20 years old in the blink of an eye, which they explained as him spending years in another dimension. This left Bart in a very weird spot; he was now four or five years older than all of his friends on the Teen Titans, but was still too young and inexperienced to join the Justice League. Bart was a man without a supporting cast forced into his own series.
2 Why: He Was Growing
In the 13 issues as Flash that Bart did get before he was brutally murdered by the Rogues, which was very out of character for them, he had started to grow into the role of an adult hero. Marc Guggenheim, best known today as one of the main people behind the Arrowverse, had just taken over Bart’s series and was resetting the narrative.
Could Guggenheim have made Bart into a character worthy of being called Flash? Could he have set a course where Bart Allen would still be the Scarlet Speedster today? Unless you can vibrate your molecules and travel the multiverse, we’ll never really know.
1 Why Not: He Was Good Where He Had Been
In 2006, no one was looking for Bart to step up and become the fourth Flash, at least not at the time. People loved Wally as the Scarlet Speedster and Bart as Kid Flash. We were excited to see how Wally’s life would be different now that he was the father of twins, and we were all looking forward to seeing Bart grow up to be the hero we knew he would be. Instead, everything was rushed, and years of amazing stories were lost to the gods of what could have been.
Bart Allen truly never got a chance at being the Flash, and he really should have been given one.