The fastest man in the DC Universe will soon be the fastest man on television, the CW’s Mark Pedowitz has announced. Beginning next year, in season two of the hit show Arrow, the Scarlet Speedster’s origin story will be retold, giving viewers the rundown (so to speak) on Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash.
The Flash will appear in episodes 8, 9 and 20 of Arrow, each of which will be written by Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and comic book writer Geoff Johns. David Nutter will direct the episodes, with #20 acting as a “back-door pilot” for a potential Flash television series.
This won’t be the Crimson Comet’s first live action foray onto the small screen. In addition to appearing on NBC’s campy Legends of the Superheroes specials (The Challenge and The Roast) in 1979, the character starred in The Flash, which ran on CBS for one season (22 episodes), from 1990-1991. Produced by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, with story editing by Howard Chaykin, The Flash featured soap opera veteran and future Dawson’s Creek dad John Wesley Shipp in the title role.
According to an interview with Bilson published in Comics Interview #88 (1990), the inspiration for the show came from such darkly intelligent, cutting edge works of graphic fiction as Chaykin’s American Flagg (1983-89), Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen (1986).
Bilson, assuring Comics Interview readers that The Flash would not be campy, said, “If you ever read comic books, you read them to believe them, not to make fun of them. So those books that I was talking about made them believable for adults. And that’s the kind of tone we use. You absolutely believe it. We don’t make fun of it at all. And it does have humor, but it’s all humor that comes out of the character, and not laughing at itself.”
Shipp took the show seriously as well. In an appearance at the 2011 Dallas Comic-Con, he said, “They wanted us to play the show for real. The comedy was there if it needed to be as a result of the characters. The humor was character-based, such as Paula Marshall [as Barry’s gal pal, Iris West] saying, ‘I can’t believe it was over so quickly,’ and it turns out we were watching a boxing match. Obviously, the viewer thought she was talking about sex.”
Despite being cancelled after only one season, The Flash, which was part police procedural, part super-hero hijinks, did spawn some merchandise, including a DVD boxed set ($20), a Flash TV Special comic book ($8), a Tiger Electronics LCD Video Game ($60 unopened), a Game Boy video game ($50 complete in box), a CD soundtrack ($40), and several T-Shirt designs ($25 each).
One of the hardest-to-find collectibles from the show is a life-size cardboard cutout depicting a costumed John Wesley Ship in action with a promotional speech balloon saying, “Watch me on CBS and you could win $100,000.” This item was displayed at various 7-11 stores during the show’s run and today is worth more than $100 in nice condition.
If The Flash had been renewed for a second season, a toy line would have been introduced, including action figures from Toy Biz. In 2007, Hake's Americana & Collectibles, which is a division of Geppi’s Entertainment Auctions, auctioned off an unpainted Flash TV show prototype action figure for $335.22. In 2011, a fully painted prototype figure was offered on eBay for $1,999.99, but, despite the toy never being mass produced, failed to receive any bids.