Comics / Spotlight

The Flashes' Secret Ids Going Public

By Cury
May 6, 2003 - 22:05

This article is the most thorough account of the secret identity aspects of the lives of Barry Allen and Wally West, the Flashes. It is an authorized republication from a message board posting. The Comic Book Bin hopes you enjoy it as much as we did. By Marcelo Cury

After reading Green Arrow #17- which was very good- I decided to check some facts on the moments when Barry Allen and Wally West had their identities revealed. The result was a bit too big, but I'll try to post it here anyway in several smaller posts (under this topic). (I guess I'll be stealing SNW21's thunder as über-poster & Flash reference here, but I swear it's just this time, hehh)

A Flash-fact if there is one: The Flash doesn't have a secret identity- since he ditched his "Kid Flash" persona and took on the mantle of Barry Allen (his late predecessor), Wally West's life is an open book to the public.

But it didn't begin that way- as anyone who has read the first couple of issues into Wally's run as the Flash (Flash v.2 #1 & 2), and the "Legends" mini-series as well- will attest, the Flash did have a secret identity, at least for a short time.

Also, Barry Allen never revealed his identity to the general public, but after he died (in the Crisis), everyone knew his secret. So how did that happen?- or better yet, did it happen?

The answer is no. There were a few hints here and there, but no actual revelation... or at least till the November, 2002 issue (#17) of Green Arrow, where newcomer writer Brian Meltzer did us Flash-fans a favor by telling us about Barry. Or rather, Oliver Queen himself did:

Green Arrow: "It actually started with Barry. When he died, we all lost a friend. But Hal [Jordan, Green Lantern] lost a brother. It was Hal’s idea to gather Barry’s keepsakes. Not just to honor him... but to protect his identity and those close to him. Unlike Barry, though, we weren't fast enough. The [Flash] Museum opened its newest exhibit six months later, and the whole world knew. Take it from me... that's the real reason Wally went public."

Imposter Syndrome

Actually Mr. Queen only missed the mark on his last sentence- though hey, it is the character's opinion and thus not necessarily wrong. Wally West did go public with his secret identity for two reasons: First and foremost, to honor Barry's memory- as Wally himself said several times. Let's take a look at one of those times just to make sure- a conversation between the Flash and DEO's Agent Chase in the recent The Flash Secret Files & Origins #3 (11/01), as written by Dan Curtis Johnson:

Agent Chase: "Why did you go public with your ID?" Flash: "(...)It wasn't the Flash who died in the Crisis, it was Barry Allen. When I went public, part of the reason was to make sure he didn't get forgotten."

Wally's other reason to go public in the beginning of his career as the Flash was, he was going through an identity crisis- due to the pressure of having taken on Barry's mantle, which meant the world to him.

Even though it was Flash writer Mark Waid whom better dwelt on the subject, there is a passage from Secret Origins Annual #2 (1988) by William Messner-Loebs that shows it best- when Wally's shrink tells him, "You're allowed to be alive when Barry's dead."- and then goes on to explain the whole "Imposter's Syndrome" he said Wally was suffering at the time (ergo, feeling that Barry's boots were too big for him to fill).

Of course, Waid did go further with the theme in his great "The Return of Barry Allen" storyline- when Wally finally came to terms with all that and became his own man, the ultimate Flash.

But let's move a little further backwards to take a better look at the identity crisis deal: Even though the first time Wally "became" the Flash, it happened in the last issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths... but it was shortly after that, in Legends #1 (11/86, scripted by Len Wein) that he officially debuted.

His ID still a secret, Wally is questioned by a group of New Yorkers after defeating the villain Deadshot- "Didn't you use to be taller?", "Why didn't ya just catch the bullets- or vibrated through them?"

...because Wally's top speed by then was around Mach 1 if you remember the Crisis- As Kid Flash, Wally had a strange disease that was killing him every time he used his speed, and after he was hit by a blast from the Anti-Monitor, he was healed- but as Jay Garrick noted- his speed was greatly reduced (and as time passed, Mark Waid established that Wally's disease & limits were not really due to his metabolism, but the result of mental blocks which have been shattered since then).

Anyway, after returning Deadshot to the Police, the Flash goes to the Titans Towers to find someone he can talk to, Gar Logan (Changeling).

Let Me Tell You a Secret

In Legends #4 (02/87), the Flash encounters Captain Boomerang, one of Barry's old foes (from Australia). Boomerang, as well as the general public, isn't aware of his secret identity just yet- though he acknowledges it is Kid Flash who's wearing his enemy's colors:

Captain Boomerang: "Well, fancy meeting you ‘ere... Kid Flash! (...) I ‘eard you was tryin' to fill the old boy's boots, but frankly mate, you just ain't man enough!"

By the end of Legends #6 (04/87), Wally refuses Dr. Fate's invitation for joining up with the all-new Justice League, saying "I'm still trying to sort out all the mess my life has become- but I'll be there if you really need me!"

...And cut to Wally's own series, Flash #1-2 (06 & 7/87, written by Mike Baron), where alas!, his identity is still a secret. Not a very well-guarded or important one, but still a secret. For instance... when he's called by a Hospital to help them with the transportation of a heart for a transplant, he is surprised they found him at home (the Hospital was given his home number by the Titans).

Also, by the time he's returning home from his task he foils up some terrorists' attempt at hijacking an airplane and has to reveal his ID to the airport Police... and when he's treating his wounded hand with a doctor at the Hospital, his girlfriend is actually startled that Wally told him his secret. And so on.

To tell the truth, Wally tells about a zillion people his identity as the Flash in those first couple of issues: he simply doesn't care it's a secret- of course, to honor the memory of the late Barry Allen.

But even so, it is still a secret, only a not well-guarded one at all. When Wally wins the lottery by #2, he is given the money by the state's governor on TV- and it's never mentioned he's the Flash!!

In Flash #3 (8/87), Wally meets Tina McGee, a beautiful scientist, and while flirting with her he's asked:

  Tina: "Why do you wear a mask?" Flash: "(...)Tradition, respect for Barry... but I don't lead a double life.

A Normal Life

...As was the idea since Flash #1. So far as Flash's 3rd issue, Wally doesn't have a secret identity per se, he just doesn't care- but the public in general isn't aware he's the Flash (or aware of "the Flash's real name" if you will).

In Flash #5 (10/87), after moving in from his shabby Brooklyn apartment to a mansion in Southampton, Long Island (bought with some of the lottery money), Wally is surprised by the editorial of a local newspaper, about the town's liability insurance being cancelled since Wally moved in. Enraged, Wally meets the President of the City Council in a nearby restaurant:

City Council President: "(...)The truth is, Mr. West, your realtor was under obligation to tell us that he was selling that property to a super-powered individual(...)"

So there you go. By the time of Flash #5, the hero's identity is no longer a secret to the world at large. But can we say the Flash revealed his identity in that issue? No!

  What about the other issues? No- there isn't a specific moment he revealed his identity as the Flash to the world- it was a gradual process since #1. (I'll get to Flash Annual #8's controversial "Year One" tale... and then return to Green Arrow #17, fellow Flash-fans... just hang in there!)

In fact... ever since he finished High School, Wally wasn't very comfortable with his secret identity. Take a look at the 1978 "Dollar Comics" Flash Spectacular (written by Cary Bates). Upon his imminent graduation, Wally chooses to tell his parents he's Kid Flash- and once the ceremony is over, he actually tells Barry (then the Flash) that he is planning to drop his super-hero career once he finishes College!

There are echoes of that story in Secret Origins Annual #2 (again), when Wally recalls a time during the trial of the Flash (when Barry- as the Flash- was in jail for the murder of Professor Zoom) in which he's talking to Barry and says he's quitting being Kid Flash once he's gone to College- that he wants to lead a normal life, lead a family, etc. (Interestingly enough, this same Flash Spectacular featured Jay Garrick, the original Flash, then of Earth-2, revealing his secret identity to the general public in a magazine article for the first time!)

But on to Barry's death & beyond:

  Barry, as the Flash, died in the Crisis- but we never got to see his funeral nor anything. Barry's widow Iris Allen's book The Life Story of the Flash (late-1997, written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn) doesn't mention a thing about secret identities or Barry's funeral- but (and I'm nitpicking here) there is a picture of a Daily Planet (newspaper) of the time, with the headline, "Flash perishes.

The Museum Knew

Once the trial was over and the Flash (Barry) was declared innocent, he went to the future with his then- presumed-dead- wife- returned-from-the- future Iris, his identity still a secret to the world (he was unmasked by his Attorney during the trial, but thanks to a Gorilla City plastic surgery, his face was altered and no one recognized him. Once he got to the future, his looks were restored).

So after the Crisis the world knew the Flash was dead- but what about Barry? Barry had been declared a missing person by the Police, being missing since his almost-wedding to Fiona Webb (when he, as the Flash, killed Professor Zoom in self-defense).

Back to Flash #1, "He [Barry] died owning thousands of Dollars in legal bills. The Justice League had to pay for his funeral. He left me his costume- and a picture of what a hero should be."

So the League paid for his funeral, eh? But whose funeral was that- the Flash's, or Barry's? Or was his identity revealed to the world as soon as he died?

Once again, let's take one more look at the quote from Brian Meltzer's Green Arrow #17 of 11/02:

Green Arrow: "It actually started with Barry. When he died, we all lost a friend. But Hal [Jordan, Green Lantern] lost a brother. It was Hal's idea to gather Barry's keepsakes. Not just to honor him... but to protect his identity and those close to him. Unlike Barry, though, we weren't fast enough. The [Flash] Museum opened its newest exhibit six months later, and the whole world knew. Take it from me... that's the real reason Wally went public."

 And now hang on to your winged hats, Flash-fans... for the final, and most troubled leg of our journey: Flash Annual #8 (1995, written by Mark Waid).

All DC's annuals of 1995 all had the same theme- "Year One". The Flash's issue told the reader a never-seen-before period of Wally's life- the period between Barry's death and the Legends mini/Flash v2. Series... namely, Wally's last adventure as Kid Flash- his last adventure wearing his yellow costume before he took on Barry's mantle.

A few months after the Flash (Barry) died, the Flash Museum in Central City was preparing to set up an exhibit honoring the late hero- as the world mourned

Kid Flashes City

Dexter Miles, the museum curator, was suddenly confronted by someone wearing the Flash's uniform- saying he was not dead. Miles, of course, knew it was Kid Flash- who then said he was protecting the legacy until Barry returned.

Wally, you see, hadn't accepted Barry's death- since there had been no body, Wally believed Barry would eventually end up finding a way to return- he was probably lost in another dimension or something.

The conversation between the Curator and Wally-as-the-Flash was cut short by a Police alert: Dr. Alchemy, one of Barry's enemies, was back in town... and Wally ran to the city's rescue!

...only to meet a crushing defeat as Alchemy turned his Flash costume to chalk dust, leaving him with only his underwear- humiliated in front of a large crowd. Wally was then saved by the Green Lantern, then a Hal Jordan recently-returned to active duty, who said from then on he'd split his time between Coast City (his hometown) and Central City.

That night back in the Flash Museum, Wally was approached by Jay Garrick and a very angry Green Lantern, who showed him the latest newspaper edition, saying:

Green Lantern: "(...)In fact, the whole world saw you today- unmasked. To protect his parents and friends, the League chose not to tell the world Flash's real name. But now that Wally West has been caught on film as his would-be replacement, the trail will lead back to him anyway."

The paper had the humorous headline, "Kid flashes city, Green Lantern saves crowd."

Wally then said the two elder heroes could stop him from taking over Barry's mantle, but couldn't stop him from protecting Central City as Kid Flash- and he returned to his yellow uniform.

A short time later, as Kid Flash raced to stop yet another attack by Dr. Alchemy, he was joined by Jay Garrick and Green Lantern- both heroes had been looking over Barry's home after his death. Since by then Wally was pretty slower than the two of them, they got to the villain before him- and were severely defeated

Saving Grace

Kid Flash arrived just in time to save the heroes' life- and when he was cornered by Dr. Alchemy, he finally realized Barry Allen was dead- he accepted the death of the Flash.

In order to save his friends- and himself- Wally put on the spare Flash costume inside one of Barry's old rings (which Green Lantern had taken from him back at the Museum), and saved the day.

Green Lantern and Jay Garrick then said Wally had earned the right to take over Barry's place as the Flash. (By the way, for those of you questioning Jay Garrick's presence in this tale... yes, it's a bit confusing- for right after the Crisis ended, Garrick and the rest of the Justice Society were transported to Limbo and stayed there for a few years- in the 1986 special edition, The Last Days of the JSA. The obvious conclusion is, the Flash Annual #8 tale happened immediately before Last Days... so no real problem there.)

So if Wally was really unmasked during this told-later adventure, then it kind of negates his Legends bits- and the first few numbers of his own series, right? Not exactly- The way I see it, we can get away with a clean-cut continuity without having to "negate" anything- after all, the whole thing about the Flash is transparency and easy-access-for-everyone, right? So let's keep it that way!

Summing it all up, then:

The Flash was unmasked as Kid Flash in the "Year One" tale of Flash Annual #8... Meaning the press, and the world at large, realized it was Kid Flash who was sporting his late-mentor's identity- but never made the connection between Kid Flash and Wally West! by the time the Flash (now Wally) began having identity crisis problems, he moved to New York City- looking for his friends' help- the Titans' help... even though he was not a member of the team at the time.

Legends #1, after Wally had defeated Deadshot: Flash: "Gotta get away(...) find someplace quiet where I can think- and these days the place that comes closest to fullfilling that description is the Titans Tower. It's not exactly home- but for now, it'll do!"

We can only suppose Wally had dropped off College by the time he first took on the Flash's ID (Flash Annual #8)... for then it was right off to Legends, and his own series- where he lived by himself in Brooklyn, New York- and after winning the lottery, moved to a mansion in Long Island (Wally ended up losing his money in Flash #14, and had to move to a very poor New York tenement by #15... but that's another story!)

What About Barry Allen?

So again, after all the Darkseid affair was over and the heroes had won (Legends), Wally realized the best way to get rid of his ID crisis and honor Barry's memory at the same time was to live his own life... and he simply stopped caring for his secret identity at all! (Flash #1).

In Flash #2, when Wally was given the lottery money, he said (with his identity as the Flash still unknown to the world at large, remember) his goal in life was to pursue a Doctorate in Physics- so either he was fibbing to the cameras, or he really had the intention to go back to his academic life once he'd settled his current problems.

But what about Barry's death?

Both Flash Annual #8 and Green Arrow #17 clearly show a Justice League concerned about protecting his secret after his death... and as to Green Arrow #17, his identity was only revealed by the Flash Museum in an exhibit they did to honor him.

Remember the Museum was setting up an exhibit at the time Kid Flash took on the Flash's identity? So there you go- after "The Flash" was revealed to be Kid Flash by Dr. Alchemy, the people of the Museum, even against the JLA wishes, decided to go public with Barry's identity- and they did just that once their exhibit was opened to the public (Dexter Miles, the Museum's Curator, was aware of his friend Barry's double-life).

When the Flash was buried and the JLA had to pay for his funeral (Flash #1), they didn't tell anyone the Flash's identity- as Dexter Miles remembers the funeral in Flash Annual #8, "Superman and the others spoke at his funeral (...)."

I guess the only question without an answer is whether Barry Allen himself had a funeral as well, meaning, for his civilian identity (keep in mind he was declared a missing person after the whole Professor Zoom affair, not dead).

I really think that Barry was only properly put to rest after the Flash- after the Flash Museum went public with his ID. Also, I'm unsure whether Barry's parents got to know their son was the Flash- for as per Flash #143 (12/98, written by Mark Waid), "not long after Barry left us, his parents passed on"- and yes, we saw the graves!

Regarding graves, then... I recall two times Barry's tombstone was shown- The first time happened in Flash #18 (11/88, written by Messner-Loebs), when Vandal Savage hid a kidnapped baby in Barry's grave and Wally ran for the rescue. Weird enough, it happened in a cemetery around New York City, and even Wally notices it's odd Barry wasn't buried in Central City.

There's an explanation for that one: Messner-Loebs always said he wrote the Flash issues in the "Marvel Method", or "plot first"- where the writer gives the artist a general outline of the story and then writes the dialogue over the artwork- thus Wally's remark was Messner-Loebs quick and easy way out of it. Anyway, Barry's tombstone has a Flash insignia on it- meaning, everyone knew it was the Flash that was buried there

Barry's Puzzle

Back to the cemetery scene in Flash #143, Wally sees Barry's parents' graves because he's there to protect Barry's own grave against the villain Cobalt Blue (never mind this villain, too lame a storyline to get back on).

Upon seeing Barry's tombstone- much larger than the simple one in #18, and more of a tribute to the Flash, Wally says: "Barry's monument dwarfs all the others in Central City cemetery and it's not big enough(...)".

Well, that's it. I for one am happy with the answers I got from gathering the many different passages of the Flash's career.... and I feel everything important there is to be known about Wally's identity as the Flash going public, and the revelation of Barry's secret upon his death, has been told.

Green Arrow #17 was the last piece to the puzzle- so a big "thank you" goes to Brian Meltzer, a much more capable writer than the way over-hyped Kevin Smith, his predecessor on the title.

If you have any questions, doubts, comments- and more important than everything, corrections, please say so!

Regards from a fellow Flash-fan.

Here are some comments by fellow Flash fan SNW21.

Hello Fund! Excellent research. I found an answer for you (based on a question you asked in one of your above posts) and have an important question that was brought up from something in GA#17 which can't really be fixed based on current continuity. I'll get to this last statement I just made in a few minutes. I'd like to address a question you brought up with an answer to it.

You're question was: "Also, I’m unsure whether Barry’s parents got to know their son was the Flash- for as per Flash #143 (12/98, written by Mark Waid), “not long after Barry left us, his parents passed on”- and yes, we saw the graves!"

Well, I went back a couple of issues to The Flash#325. Let me answer this all up by stating a couple of lines from The Flash#325.

The Flash#325: Page 11: (This is two issues after Barry killed Zoom.) Barry and Wally race back to Barry's parents house and his mother Nora says: "Oh Barry, Thank the lord Kid Flash was able to find you. Henry and I were worried sick.

Henry says:"Our hearts go out to you, son. You don't know how much we wanted your wedding day to be the happiest day of your life. But you mustn't forget you only did what you had to do to save Fiona's life."

So, from this issue alone we know his parents knew his secret identity. I should also mention that he did take off his mask then as well (he still had his normal face and yellow hair). So it's not like they assumed The Flash was Barry Allen. At the same time, though, they still had no clue that Kid Flash was Wall West. I'd go back farther, but I don't have every issue of The Flash from the first series. I could only go as far back as The Flash#275. I'll do my best to see exactly what issue it was but it'll take some time. When I do though, I'll post it here a.s.a.p. I think this should be enough to answer your question though. Barry's parents did know that their son was The Flash.

Moving on, there's one problem/question from GA#17 that can't really be fixed based on current continuity. On page 5, the first picture, in GA#17, it shows Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) on Qward with Hal holding Barry Allen's torn Flash costume. The problem with is that Hal wasn't Green Lantern then and Green Arrow wasn't on Qward during Crisis On Infinite Earths. So, the picture going with the story alone doesn't really make sense since both characters couldn't have done what they did since one wasn't even GL then and the other wasn't on Qward at all.

Why is this picture important? Because this is supposedly when and where Hal came up with the idea to gather all of Barry's things to protect his secret identity.

In short, how could they be on Qward if both of them weren't originally there during Crisis On Infinite Earths?

Anyway, I just thought I'd point this out. Anyone have an answer? I'd love to hear it.



Barry's Parents

I have some interesting news about Barry telling his parents his secret identity. I did some research and found something very interesting indeed.

As Hol pointed out, Barry told his father his secret identity when the Top took over his father's body. This happened after his father and mother were in a car accident that happened in The Flash#297. In The Flash#302, Barry reveals his secret identity to his father, who's body was possessed by The Top at the time. Barry's father got back into his body by the end of The Flash#303 issue. It turns out that Barry's father still knew Barry's secret identity once his astral form went back into his body. This happened after Barry got The Top's astral form out of his father's body. In short, even though Barry's father wasn't in his body at the time when Barry revealed his secret identity, his astral form was probably around and heard the whole thing. How can we assume this? Because once Barry's father's astral form went back into his body, he called The Flash, Barry and by the next panel, son.

This takes care of his father. What about his mother? Well, in The Flash#303, Barry decides to wait until she's stronger to tell her his secret identity (as Barry says to himself on page 2). Here's where it gets interesting. I looked through every issue after that and by The Flash#312, page 2, we hear Barry's mother say the following to Barry over the phone:

"Well, son, it does seem like we haven't heard from you much since our recuperation from that nasty accident last year! But Henry and I aren't complaining! Ever since you told us during our recovery that you're The Flash, we've understood how busy you must be!"

Now, based on this statement, we know that both his parents know his secret identity now. When did Barry tell his mother though? My guess is it happened off panel between the end of #303 and the beginning of The Flash#304. Why? For two reasons. The first reason is because there's no mention of it nor do we see his parents from the end of The Flash#303-312. The second reason I think it was between the end of #303 and the beginning of The Flash#304 is because of a few lines in #303. On page 12, Barry wonders, "What am I going to say to mom when she asks me why dad hasn't been by for a visit for the past two days?" This alone tells you Barry was gonna have to say something the next time he saw her. Finally, on page 19, after Barry's father comes about he says, "We'd better get over to the hospital, son--your poor mother must be worried out of her mind! Barry replies, "Now that's my dad!" And keep in mind that Barry was going to tell his parents after the accident, but didn't end up finding the right time to tell them. I think after everything that happened in that storyline (from The Flash#297-303), I think Barry was ready to spill the beans to his mother. If not, then just by looking at Barry's father's face when he said those words and Barry's response (and Barry's big smile at the end of the issue), you'd just have to assume that if he wasn't going to tell her then his father would. Based on what was said in The Flash#312, Barry told his mother and she assumed Barry was telling both of them about his secret identity for the first time (which we all know isn't true based on the end of The Flash#303).

  In conclusion, Barry told his father his secret identity in The Flash#302 and his mother probably between the end of #303 and the beginning of The Flash#304. Unless there are anymore questions, I think we can safely say the identity questions have been answered.








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