The Flash finally made it's way to the UK yesterday, and I enjoyed the pilot quite a lot - but one thing bothered me. Why is no one calling the Flash, well 'Flash'?
It's always bothered me when a comic book adaptation seems unable of uttering the heroes' name - and at moment it's DC who seems to be doing this the most. The Green Arrow took seasons before he evolved from 'The Vigilante' to, well, just 'Arrow' on Arrow. The Flash, despite featuring a scene in its pilot where Barry is christened with the 'Flash' name by Oliver Queen, is four episodes in and still calling him 'the Red Streak'. Almost saying 'The Flash' is the butt of the joke in last night's (apparently pretty great) episode:
Superman took most of his most recent movie before his name was uttered, and then, it was largely cast aside in favour of calling him Kal-El or Clark. Even the title brushed it away: Man of Steel.
It feels like in a way, they're almost embarrassed by these monikers - a bizarre thing to be ashamed of considering Arrow and The Flash are packed to the rafters with knowing Easter eggs and comic book cheese. It's almost as if it's some sort of holdover from the turn of the century before X-Men and Spider-Man kicked off the superhero movie genre that dominates today, where studio executives would cry 'no audience would accept a character with a name like that!' in aghast, the idea that the moment any superhero movie did anything remotely superheroic that people would run off in droves. Times have obviously changed, so why do we still have this holdover, one that apparently believes that a moniker like 'The Flash' is somehow more obtuse and less believable than 'The Red Streak'?
It always feels silly when it does happen - usually because the name/excuse they do come up with to cover it sounds stupider than the actual comic book thing (see: trying to cover up the giant 'S' on Supes' outfit as a Kryptonian 'symbol of hope'. Blergh.) - but even sillier in this day and age when you see this happening:
We live in a world where someone can stand on a stage at an extremely hyped event to the press and say the words 'Captain America: Serpent Society' in that order, with a straight face, and the audience's only confusion is 'Wasn't this meant to be named after a different Comic book arc?'. One where there's a very good chance that in 4 years time we'll be having someone called BLACKAGAR BOLTAGON on a big screen. Even closer to home, DC announced their own 6 year slate of Comic book movies, full of iconic names and characters - including a new version of
the red streak The Flash. Yes, the many heads of the Warner Bros. Hydra (no, not the terrorist organisation!) are largely independent and care little about what the others do, but how do we have this absurd contrast where I can already plot out every superhero movie I'll see between now and when I'm 29 years old, and yet the CW seem scared of just calling The Flash, The Flash? People aren't going to shirk away from the character just because of his name. They'll embrace it - and embrace it they did, considering The Flash's first episode was the most watched show on the CW ever.
Because what this sort of ethos forgets in its bid to hide away the comic-bookiness of comic books is that these names have power. Utter the name of Batman, or Spider-Man, or Iron Man, or Wonder Woman, and those worlds will stir the hearts of millions of people the world over - childhood memories of comics and cartoons and movies, characters that they love and have been inspired by. The tingle on the back of your neck when the words 'Captain Marvel' tumbled out of Kevin Feige's mouth yesterday speaks to the hold these characters can have on our hearts, so why shy away from that? Even the wider world has been embracing these characters, not just comic book fans, as their movies generate hundreds of millions dollars the world over. We should respect that the audience is out there and willing to accept these characters now - shirking around their real names underestimates the capacity of that audience to do so and is going to annoy fans who just want to see that character and hear their name. It's insulting to both the mainstream and the fans, simultaneously a cloying tease and an acknowledgement of some sort of quasi-embarrassment about the comic book past that shouldn't still be happening in a media world where right now, Comic book heroes are king.
The ratings aren't going to come tumbling down if you start calling Barry Allen 'The Flash' - Arrow's certainly didn't once it got past calling Ollie 'The Vigilante' - as if the deep dark secret that this is a superhero show has come out. That came out the moment the lead character starting catapulting himself around at supersonic speeds! Why embrace all the comic aspects of the character except for his own superhero name? It's not a moment that needs to be earned, the title bestowed upon him. It doesn't need to be cast off as a joke either. But hearing those familiar words will excite the audience, diehards and casuals alike, just as the utterance of heroes' names over the big screen has been delighting us for years. Until then, the character isn't really all there yet - the name is an important part of his identity.
The 'red streak' doesn't cut it. Just call him the bloody Flash already.
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