8. Wally West (AKA The Flash MK III)
Not all superheroes are killed by cosmic events; some are simply erased from existence altogether… Wally West first appeared in 1959, in a classic silver age story by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. The nephew of Barry Allen (Flash MK II), Wally assumed the identity of Kid Flash and accompanied his Uncle Barry on his various adventures in much the same way that Aqualad, Speedy, Etta Candy and Robin accompanied Aquaman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and Batman, respectively.
Then came Barry’s death during the culmination of the Crisis on Infinite Earths event. The death of The Flash was treated by fans as a genuine tragedy and few spoke out against it. In fact, to modern comics fans, the first Crisis and the death of The Flash is seen as the definite ending of the Silver Age and thus, the dawning of the Modern Age of comics… Wally’s ascent to becoming The Flash MK III was long-form comic book storytelling at its finest. Wally was a very different character to Barry and the fans found him irritating at first. Where his predecessor was dependable, confident and poised – the epitome of the Silver Age superhero – Wally was reckless, brash and, at times, totally stupid.
Still, the fans eventually warmed up to Wally as he slowly filled out his uncle’s costume. An utterly superb run by writer Mark Waid completely fleshed out the character and he became, essentially, the Barry Allen of the 1990’s and 2000’s, thoroughly beloved by comics fans. Then, it all went pear shaped. For some reason, Wally buggered off to an alternate universe, leaving Bart Allen, the kid speedster known as Impulse (who, despite being named after a deodorant, had headlined a really fun solo series in the 1990’s, as drawn by an upcoming Humberto Ramos), to become the Flash MK IV. This time around, Bart had been aged somehow into adulthood, which meant that the fans had been cheated out of a long-promised bildungsroman. This new Flash was a complete unknown to DC readers, many of whom had come of age reading Wally West stories and had no interest in the publisher’s attempt to re-create the third Flash’s origin story.
Bart Allen’s tenure as the Flash MK IV proved intensely unpopular with fans and ended up getting cancelled. After just over a year of publication, Bart was dead and Wally was being welcomed back into the fold. This new Wally, however, was weighed down by two bratty kids and a fairly crappy life which was, once again, much too close to reality for a lot of the 80’s and 90’s kids that had grown up with Wally. Finally, following on from the runaway success of Green Lantern: Rebirth (which saw the return of Silver Age Green lantern Hal Jordan), creative team Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver published The Flash: Rebirth, which re-positioned a newly resurrected Barry Allen once again as the primary Flash. Wally West took his final, somewhat sad bow in 2011, when DC re-launched and re-booted its entire line under the banner of The New 52 initiative.
In this new universe, Barry Allen was the one and only Flash and Wally West had apparently never existed in the first place. Although his presence has been cruelly teased a few times since then, Wally West, as we knew him, apparently died the worst possible death a comic book hero can endure. With no fanfare, no variant covers, no commemorative merchandise and no follow-up issues depicting spandex-clad funeral processions, Wally was simply retconned out of existence. …And boy, the fans were mad about that one. If a character dies on the page, he/she may well return, but if they simply cease to exist, erased from continuity because of DC’s fears that their supposedly hip new audience wouldn’t be able to handle the presence of more than one character per story, then all bets are off.