Sorry I’ve been quiet the past few weeks, everyone. My head has been messed up, and getting worse. My roomie took me to the ER a couple nights ago because of it. Basically, I’ve been experiencing a lot of the same symptoms I did when I got my concussion, but I haven’t had a fall or anything else that should trigger it. The docs at the ER think it’s “benign positional vertigo,” basically a fancy way of saying I get dizzy from standing up. Except it happens sitting or lying down as well. Either way, the past couple days since that diagnosis, I’ve stayed home and rested. I can’t do much (even a couple small tasks like loading the dishwasher and picking up my prescription yesterday were too much), so I’ve been mostly relaxing and watching Netflix. Today, it’s been the first few episodes of season 1 of The Flash.
Now, growing up, I’ve always loved the Flash. Doesn’t matter if it was Barry or Wally, I’ve loved him. Sure, he has one of the lamest rogues galleries of all comic book heroes (even lamer than Spider-Man, which says something), but that didn’t matter. See, as with all great protagonists in history, Flash’s greatest enemy has always been himself. How this manifests for him is quite a bit different from how we normally see it in others. Take Iron Man for example. He’s more typical of the “own worst enemy” type, where his alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors are more dangerous to him than the villains he faces. Not so with Flash. Flash is closer to Superman in this regard. See, while Superman is often portrayed as one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe, he’s really not. Not even just on earth, though he does rank among the top tier. Superman’s greatest weakness is his power. More specifically, since he’s so powerful in so many realms, he has to hold himself back for fear of hurting or even killing others. The DCAU got this together real well with the famous “world of cardboard” speech in the season finale for one of the earlier seasons of Justice League, seen here. Others, like the Green Lantern (in all incarnations), are limited by their imagination or something similar.
When it comes to speed, Flash beats Superman, hands down. We rarely see this though because Flash’s greatest weakness is his power as well, but rather than his needing to worry about harm to others, it’s harm to himself. Specifically, if Flash does not restrain himself with his speed, he will lose himself to the very source of his power, the Speed Force. We see one such instance in another season finale of Justice League where it takes the rest of the league to bring back Flash, with him even remarking himself that if he goes that fast in the future, he won’t be coming back. That clip can be seen here. For reference, this finale has two of Superman’s greatest foes, Lex Luthor and Brainiac, fused together into a godlike being. Brainiac’s sheer knowledge and power coupled with the imagination of Luthor, and none of the rest of the league can even stand up to him. It’s only when Flash goes all out, running at speeds he never thought possible, hitting over and over in the same spot at speeds too fast to be seen (and with strength almost equal to Superman’s) that he saves the day.
Yeah, that’s something that’s often overlooked. Flash’s claim to fame is his speed, but all of the other factors associated with that speed are things like fast healing and super strength. In fact, two of the many people who have held the mantle of the Flash over the years (namely the two I mentioned earlier, Barry Allen and Wally West) are so fast as to be able to outrun death. So yeah, super powerful, but has to limit himself or destroy himself.
The reason I’m talking about Flash though is that I’m loving and hating what the CW has done with the character. Three episodes in, and I’m brought to the verge of tears frequently by the emotional nature of the show, and how they depict Barry’s life. The third episode ends with Barry, visiting his father in prison (because his father is blamed for the murder of his mother, despite the fact that it was a yet-unnamed speedster, I’m guessing Zoom, who did it), and his father telling him the story of his first steps. A similar thing happens, sort of in reverse, in the first episode of season 2 of Orange is the New Black, where one of Piper’s new bunkmates in the Chicago prison is bugging her for info about the time she was born in order to do an astrology chart for her. We even have said character say something along the lines of “didn’t your mother ever tell you the story of your birth?”
And this is where things get even sadder for me. Stuff like that, which so many people apparently take for granted, is stuff I never had. I’ve never heard the story of my birth, of my first steps or first word. I’m not an orphan, per se, as both of my “parents” are still alive. However, they were never really parents to me, and so, in a lot of ways, I can relate to this version of Barry, who lost both his mother and father at the age of 11. Thing is, he can still visit his dad, has a good relationship with him, despite his dad being behind bars. It’s little touches like that which I find the best in character back stories, and particularly how they handle them. I mentioned a while back that I’d be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, writing a novel, and it’s stuff like this that I’m working to keep in mind for my characters. My protagonist is a “cast-off orphan,” like me, but other characters will still have these happy relationships with their families, and it will be a challenge for me to include those, just as I imagine it’s a challenge for those coming from happy homes to imagine what it’s like never having that.
So, I guess my advice for today is this: never judge someone by what little you may know. Every human has layers to their identities, and many of us don’t show them all.