Monday, April 3, 2017

Wanted TPB: The Iris West-Allen Murder Saga

Writer: Cary Bates
Artist: Irving ''Irv'' Novick, Richard F. 'Rich' Buckler, Alex Saviuk, and Don Heck
Publisher: DC Comics (1979-1980)
Includes: Flash #270-284

Dork Note: As a kid these Flash issues were some of my favorites! I can still remember rushing down to the local market (Grady's) and seeing them unload the comic bundle. I stood there patiently/impatiently as the owner cut the binding and put the comics on the wooden shelf. I grabbed issue #283, paid for it, and went outside to read it on the curb. I needed to know - would the Flash finally catch Iris's killer, the Reverse Flash?!

Hopefully with the popularity of the new Flash TV series DC will finally reprint these issues!

Clipped from Speed Force an Interview with Cary Bates:

Q: How did you feel about the changes themselves, in particular Iris’ fate and the more “adult” subject matter like relationship woes, psychology, crime, violence and drugs?  There was no transition period, and issues #269 and 270 could not have been any more different in tone.  Also, were these ideas you had been holding onto and initiated, or were the changes coming from editorial.

CB: It was Ross’s contention that the most effective way to “shake things up” would be to make Barry Allen’s a living hell with a series of problems and setbacks that would culminate in Iris’s murder.   Once I fully grasped where and how far Ross wanted to go, I embraced the new direction.   Realize at this time I had been writing the Flash book for Julie for 8 or 9 years, turning out stories for him that were for the most part a seventies update/variation on the silver age Flash immortalized by Gardner Fox and John Broome.  So by the time Ross came on board,  I was totally open to the notion of trying something new.   With the agreed-upon understanding that The Flash would become a darker and more “adult” book, the initial story elements (the Nephron Project, Clive Yorkin, Melanie the ESP girl, PCP/Angel Dust, etc.)  that came out of our plotting sessions were just hints of what was to come.

Q: There are numerous psychological and parapsychological references and themes in the issues surrounding the death of Iris.  ESP had shown up previously in your Flash work, but we also see some references to behaviorism via A Clockwork Orange in the Nephron Process.  Was this something you had an interest or background in at the time?  Fans seemed to really pick up on a lot of it, according to the letter columns.

CB: Ross and I shared an interest in all things parapsychology and the paranormal, so it was no surprise this was reflected in some of the storylines.  (Brief aside: in the months before SUPERMAN THE MOVIE opened there was no advance buzz and no one knew quite what to expect… but I distinctly remember Ross telling me he had been to a psychic who assured him the movie would be a massive hit.   And the rest as they say is history…

Q: Melanie, the Girl with the Master Mind, seems to be a commentary on fandom and their role in the impetus for changes in the title.  Was her introduction and Flash’s near-retirement a way to re-establish and highlight the character’s durability?  Barry comes out of the whole experience even more confident of his Flash role, even in the face of Iris’ death.

CB: I hadn’t thought about that particular interpretation of the character, but I think it fits.  Certainly she was intended as a harbinger of the travails to come.   And then there was the specter of unfaithfulness; though Iris’s fears regarding Melanie and Barry were unfounded, the fact that she could even question his fidelity was an example of just how far the tone of the book had shifted from the Broome-Fox era when Barry’s most egregious indiscretion as a husband was his tendency to be “late”.

Q: Irv Novick was of course the artist for a large portion of your time on Flash.  After a couple of fill-in issues by Rich Buckler after Novick’s final turn (#270), Alex Saviuk ended up handling the pencils for issues #274 – 279.  You two seemed to click, especially on the super-speed sequences and the conveyance of a wide range of emotions.  Did you interact much with any of these artists, and what were your thoughts on the results?

CB: Alex and I had a good working relationship but he probably had more contact with Ross during that period.  Because Ross had spent the vast majority of his comics career as a penciller, he was very hands-on when it came to the art, including the panel breakdowns.   My plotting sessions with him were so detailed we would work out how many panels would be devoted to each scene or sequence, so I imagine he was working pretty closely with Alex as well.

Q: A real sense of loss and pain permeates the story of Iris’ murder, especially in issue #276 where Barry learns she has died.  The scene where Detective Curtis breaks the news and returns Iris’ ring is difficult to read because it is so affecting.  You really got to push the limits of Barry’s psyche, and then pushed him even further with the influence of PCP/Angel Dust.  What went into executing those heavier emotional elements, and did it give you more range for a scene like the full-speed JLA showdown in the Satellite?

CB: As I’ve already said, once Ross and I committed to putting Barry’s life on this dark path we were determined to push the limits farther than anything seen before in that era… especially for a mainstream DC hero.   Case in point: the notion of a grief-stricken Flash high on PCP going to his fellow JLAers and begging them to use their powers and abilities to bring his dead wife back to life.   Ross and I knew this was such a drastic departure from the tenets of the established Flash canon that many readers (and perhaps even some people at DC as well) would be caught off-guard… but that was our intention.

Q: Was the plan all along to reveal Professor Zoom as Iris’ killer, despite the Flash’s personal manhunt for Clive Yorkin, or was that decided while the story was already underway?

CB: Thirty years later I can’t be 100% certain of this, but knowing the way I plot it’s a good bet that I had Zoom in mind as the real killer from the get-go.   But we wouldn’t have let that foreknowledge stop us from milking the crazy Clive Yorkin character first for all he was worth.

1 comment:

Matt Celis said...

I would love to get any of those '70s to early '80s Cary Bates/Irv Novick issues in a collection or ten. Trial of the Flash by Bates/Infantino is all right, but such an ignominious and poorly done conclusion to Barry Allen.