New writer Christos Gage on running with ‘The Flash’

(CBR) With news breaking this week that co-writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato were ending their best-selling run on “The Flash,” many believed when DC Comics‘ solicitations for December 2013 revealed Christos Gage was writing a special stand-alone story illustrated by Neil Googe (“Welcome to Tranquility,” “Wildcats”) that he would become the new ongoing writer for the series.

The veteran writer confirmed to CBR News that he is only writing “The Flash” #26 as his plate is full with a number of other ongoing projects, including his current work on DC’s digital first series “Justice League Beyond.”

That said, when editor Wil Moss offered him a single issue of the Scarlet Speedster Gage said he jumped at the chance, noting that Barry Allen has been on his bucket list ever since the Silver Age Flash was restored to DCU continuity in 2008 in the pages of “Final Crisis” and “The Flash: Rebirth.”

Comic Book Resources spoke to Gage about his thoughts on why Barry Allen remains popular after more than 50 years, why he and the Silver Age Flash are both defined by how they pack a lunch and which Golden Age supervillain he’s reimagining for his story.

CBR News: It’s obviously very exciting that you are writing “The Flash” #26, but the solicitation teased it will be a special standalone story. Are you writing the series beyond #26?

Christos Gage takes over “The Flash” with #26 — but just for one special stand-alone issue

Christos Gage: No, just the one issue, which, considering how long it took me to finish this script for the ever-patient [editor] Wil Moss, is probably a good thing. I’m working on an as-yet-unannounced video game, along with “Bloodshot,” “H.A.R.D. Corps,” “Justice League Beyond,” occasional co-writing stints on “Superior Spider-Man,” and my Season 10 Buffyverse title, so my plate’s on the full side for the next couple months. That said, when Wil approached me, I couldn’t turn down the chance to write one of my all-time favorite characters, the Barry Allen Flash, even if it was just for a single story.

Speaking of “Beyond,” you have been writing a Flash in “Justice League Beyond,” but this is the Flash — Barry Allen. What is your history with the Scarlet Speedster? Were you a fan of the character growing up in New York and Massachusetts?

Indeed I was. I first discovered him in reprints of classic John Broome/Carmine Infantino Silver Age stories, and I loved how clever they were. For several years, I lived in an area where I couldn’t find DC comics, only Marvel, but then I discovered comic shops and started following the Flash… only for him to die in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

I enjoyed the adventures of Wally West, but I missed Barry. When Geoff Johns brought him back, I began to hope I could one day write him, and I couldn’t be happier to have finally had the chance. That was a big one to scratch off the old bucket list. Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Kamandi, Rom and the Shogun Warriors.

What makes the character work for you? Again, Barry Allen is more than 50 years old and yet his spirit and heroism remain true to this day. Why does he seem to transcend time?

I think he’s both easy to relate to yet easy to hold up as an example of a hero. He’s not fearless like Hal Jordan or a billionaire perfectionist like Batman. He’s an average guy who makes mistakes but works to overcome them, who solves problems by working hard and not giving up. I like to refer to myself as a “lunch pail” writer, meaning I might not be naturally brilliant like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, but I try to make up for it by picking up my lunch pail, going to work every day, putting my nose to the grindstone and doing my best. To me, Barry is a “lunch pail” superhero.

What is about super-speed as a superpower that captures readers’ imagination?

Like flight, it’s one of those wish-fulfillment powers. Who hasn’t sat in traffic and dreamed of being able to run home? Or dropped a handful of groceries and wished they could catch them all before they hit the ground? There’s also the fact that super-speed opens the door to a lot of cool science — or science fiction — types of things, like causing tornadoes and air cushions and all that.

In your issue, The Flash loses someone important to him. I’m not sure if you’re able to share who that is just yet, but how does loss drive a character and why is it such an all-absorbing plot device?

Again, it’s pretty universal. Everybody has either lost someone or can imagine what it would be like to. We all will at some point. Whether it’s to get revenge, or justice, or make up for something you wish you’d done and now never can, it’s the ultimate motivator.

You are also taking The Flash to the heavenly skies. While the New 52 allowed for a reset on DC continuity, why is critical as a writer to tell new adventures with these iconic characters versus retelling and reimagining classic stories?

Well, the funny thing is, the story that caught Wil’s attention and led him to approach me about doing a Flash issue was my recent “Legends of the Dark Knight” story, which kind of was a reimagining of a classic story from “The Flash” #300, by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino, in which Barry Allen wakes up in a hospital bed covered in bandages. He is told the accident in which the lightning bolt struck him and covered him in chemicals didn’t give him powers, it burned him severely, and his life as the Flash is a delusion he uses to escape a grim reality — except I did it with Batman and Scarecrow. One of these days, I have to ask Joss Whedon if that issue inspired his “Buffy” episode, “Normal Again,” which had a similar premise. So clearly I’m not opposed to reimagining classic tales. But you can’t live on that. You have to move forward, or both you and the character will get stuck in a rut, which is not good for someone like The Flash.

Are you featuring a classic rogue or will we be seeing a new villain for The Flash?

Both, in a sense. It’s a new character, Spitfire, but she’s kind of a reimagining of a very obscure Golden Age villain called the Sky Pirate. She’s a crazy, murderous aviatrix. I love that word, “aviatrix.”

Anything else you can tease about your story?

Wil challenged me to come up with a good high-concept hook for a Flash story, and it took a while, but I decided to challenge both myself and the Flash by taking him out of his element… and into the sky. What good is it being able to run at super speed when you’ve got no ground to stand on?

I’ve also been a huge fan of the very clever and dazzling visuals Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul have brought to the book in their excellent run, and I’ve tried to follow their example. Luckily I have Neil Googe drawing the issue, which helps a lot.

Gage and Googe sounds like a match made in heaven. What does Neil bring to a project?

We actually had a fun run on “Wildcats” a few years back. I always enjoy working with Neil. He packs so much energy into a page, and I think that’s crucial for a Flash story — especially this one. As I said, I tried to give him challenging and awesome things to do, but I know he’ll end up executing it in better and more clever ways than I imagined. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with his art, but if you ever see Neil in a karaoke bar, ask him to sing Tom Jones’ “Delilah.” You won’t regret it.

“The Flash” #26, by Christos Gage and Neil Googe goes on sale December 31.