New readers at DC Comics -- and specifically The Flash -- may not be familiar with the character of Bart Allen, at least not the original version, but recent events indicate that he’s about to become a big deal in superhero comics again. Following the events of The Flash #50, it appears that Bart and potentially other missing heroes from Flash canon are staged to return to continuity. For fans of Joshua Williamson’s excellent Rebirth run on the series, it’s time to catch some flash facts on who Bart Allen is and where he comes from.
So, who is Bart Allen? Well...
Bart Allen was created as part of Mark Waid’s legendary run on The Flash in 1994 and was co-created by artist Mike Wieringo. Both creators are well known for their stellar superhero works together, and Bart Allen is one of their essential character inventions. Bart played up the essential elements from The Flash during this era, focusing on themes of legacy as a new sidekick (and blood relation) for Wally West as well as the key ongoing plot device of time travel. Reflecting on Waid’s work today, Bart Allen stands out as one of the true highlights from years and years of great stories.
The hero made his first appearance as a cameo in The Flash #91. He was only briefly seen in a flash forward to the year 2995 where he is fleeing with his grandmother, Iris Allen, from the Science Police. He did not make his first full appearance until the following month in The Flash #92, where both he and Iris encounter Wally West in the present, becoming a permanent part of Flash lore moving forward.
The story of how Bart Allen came to flee the Science Police is a complex one. He is the son of Don Allen and Meloni Thawne. Don Allen was one of the Tornado Twins, children of The Flash, Barry Allen, and his wife, Iris Allen. Meloni Thawne was a distant descendant of Barry’s archenemy with the same surname, Professor Zoom. The combined DNA of these fast, rival family trees left Bart Allen with an accelerated metabolism that caused him to age at a rapid pace. He appeared to be 12 years old when introduced although he was only two. For this reason he was raised in a simulated reality so that his mind could keep pace with his body.
His grandmother Iris brought him back to the 20th Century to seek Wally West, the current Flash’s help, which drew the attention of the Science Police. Once Bart and Iris found Wally, he was able to fix the accelerated metabolism with a Speed Force shock induced by a race.
Bart Allen was left in the present of the DC universe to become Wally West’s new sidekick, electing to use the name Impulse. It was under this name that he began to star in his own spinoff series: Impulse. While Bart often appeared in adventures with Wally, he was raised and mentored by Max Mercury, and later the original Flash, Jay Garrick.
Even operating under a different name, Bart Allen still filled the role of Kid Flash in DC Comics, joining multiple teenage teams, first Young Justice and then the Teen Titans. It was in the new version of the Teen Titans that he co-founded where he began to mature in a notable fashion due to a deadly encounter with Deathstroke that temporarily destroyed one of his knees. It was also while with the Titans that he first elected to change his name to Kid Flash. During the events of Infinite Crisis, Bart Allen alongside almost every other Speed Force user in DC Comics helped to defeat Superboy Prime at the cost of most of their access to the Speed Force. With Wally West unable to run and with a new family to protect, he passed on the role of The Flash once more to Bart Allen.
Life After Death
While Bart Allen was only The Flash for less than three years at DC Comics, he made a big impression during that time. He fought alongside the Justice League, even earning Batman’s admiration. Unfortunately, his own series ended at issue #13 with Bart’s death. His archnemesis, Inertia, teamed up with the Rogues to rob Bart of his access to the Speed Force. Even stripped of his powers, Bart still managed to stop a device that threatened the world before being killed at the hands of Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Weather Wizard.
It did not take long for Bart Allen to be returned to life, albeit in the 31st Century. However, by the time he did return, so had Barry Allen. With multiple Flash characters at DC Comics, Bart Allen was relegated to a supporting role both in The Flash and various crossover and event comics in which he appeared. His diminished role shrank to nothing with the New 52 reboot where a new Kid Flash went by the name Bar Torr with no connection to Bart Allen.
Bart Allen’s return in the final pages of The Flash #50 marks a meaningful return to the spotlight unlike anything since his death as The Flash. While he has remained a popular character, this new appearance as tied into DC Comics’ ongoing, shared story could provide him with a notable role (and possibly his own series) once more.
“How To Win Friends And Influence People,” Impulse (vol. 1) #3
This is the essential taste test for Impulse’s earliest adventures under the pen of Mark Waid. It is an excellent single issue story in which Bart Allen attempts to adjust to the ordinary demands of high school in the 20th Century. Fun and relatable, it is one of the best teen superhero stories of the decade.
“A Kid’s Game,” Teen Titans (vol. 3) #1-5
The brutal opening to Geoff Johns’ run on Teen Titans pushed Impulse to the next level after an encounter with Deathstroke leaves him temporarily disabled. This is the start of Bart’s quick maturation as he learns to take more responsibility for himself and those around him.2comments
“Full Throttle,” The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive (vol. 1) #9-13
Even though Marc Guggenheim, the writer of this series, has stated Bart Allen’s death was editorially mandated, he still managed to write a great swan song for the character. This story shows Bart Allen at the absolute height of his power and popularity, reminding readers just how far he can go as a superhero when given a series of his own.