First Look: The Flash Has a Paradox Problem

If you’re a Barry Allen fan, the past month likely hasn’t gone by in a Flash.

It’s been several weeks since our last Flash comic and considering where we left things for Barry and his crew, the wait hasn’t been easy. “The Flash Age,” the current storyline pitting Barry against the formidable new villain known as Paradox, has already seen the Flash soundly defeated and seemingly killed at the hands of his newest adversary. In The Flash #752 (the last issue before DC’s publishing hiatus), readers discovered that the Flash didn’t die, but is facing the prospect of doing something that’s perhaps even worse—teaming up with the Reverse-Flash.

But first, he has to find him.

In tomorrow’s The Flash #753, Barry searches through time for Eobard Thawne as we learn increasingly more about the mysterious Paradox, who has set his vengeful sights on the Flash. But for fans of the Scarlet Speedster—and of the DC Universe in general—perhaps the best thing about tomorrow’s new issue is that it heralds more new comics to come, as many of DC’s most popular books start returning to shops and digital outlets.

To celebrate the Flash’s newest adventure, we spoke with writer Joshua Williamson about what Barry’s latest foe means for the world of the Scarlet Speedster, how Williamson’s been adapting to self-isolation and whether after four years of writing The Flash, his ideas for the speedy character have started slowing down.

Before we get into the Flash, how have you been handling things since the outbreak?

I’m pretty good. My wife and I had a baby at the end of 2019. So, we were already living a life of isolation anyway. When you have a small baby, you have to wash your hands constantly and you never leave the house, and my wife and I already work from home. We were used to a lot of this stuff like getting food delivered. Getting groceries delivered was not uncommon for us. Work-wise, nothing really changed. I was still here all the time, working.

That said, I’m very thankful that I have the work that I have, and that I have a lot of work right now. Things are very busy, and because of things with Flash, Death Metal and Batman/Superman, my workload is pretty stacked, so I’ve definitely had something to do every day.

It was funny, at the beginning of the isolation, I would hear people talk about how, “Well, now I’m going to read this book, or binge this movie and TV show,” and I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to do that.” But then I thought about it, and it’s like, ” What am I talking about? I’m still going to be here working.”

But overall, we’re staying safe and healthy here, and again, because of the baby, we had almost a three-month jump on never leaving the house and being crazy about washing our hands all the time.

It felt nice getting a new issue of The Flash in my hands, especially since we left off at such a pivotal spot. Where does Barry find himself at the start of The Flash #753?

What’s been going on is that Barry’s found out that there is this new villain named Paradox who’s obsessed with getting revenge on the Flash, but also wants to know more about the secrets of time and space and the multiverse as a whole. Two issues before this, we thought Paradox had killed Barry, but what we found out was that he had banished Barry to this forgotten realm that exists outside of time and space. That was Paradox’s realm, where he found himself when he had earlier been banished from time and space.

This is a story we’ve really been building to with this book. If you go back as far as The Flash: Rebirth #1, and you look at Flash #9 and the Flash Annual we did that was the beginning of “Flash War,” you can see it. In the Annual, there’s a mention that there’s an Iron Heights in the future, but the Iron Heights in the future only has one prisoner. And that one prisoner was caught and defeated by Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash. It was the only good thing he ever did.

You learn that the person who was in that prison was Paradox, and since he escaped, he’s been secretly manipulating things to create this attack on Barry. Barry knows all this, and he knows the only person that has ever defeated Paradox was Eobard. So, Barry needs to find Eobard and find out how he beat Paradox.

That’s where we’re at with the story. In issue #753, Barry will need to run through time to try to figure out where Eobard is. The problem is, he also doesn’t want to make a change in time and possibly create another Flashpoint. He knows the last time he saw Eobard was when Eobard was murdered by Iris in Flash #27. So, that’s where he’s at.

It’s become clear that Paradox is no run-of-the-mill villain. Eobard Thawne calls him the most dangerous villain that Barry will ever face. Can you talk a bit about how you came up with him?

One of the things I had looked into a lot was who Barry’s villains were, and if you look at things like who Reverse-Flash is, Eobard is somebody who represents speed. And then there’s someone like Captain Cold, he represents cold and Heat Wave is fire—all these different things, right? I always try to pay attention to that, in terms of who Barry’s villains are.

And I noticed that there was something really interesting about Barry. One of Barry’s biggest stories ever is Crisis on Infinite Earths. And in that story, he goes up against the Anti-Monitor and he dies. But the Anti-Monitor isn’t really considered one of Barry’s enemies. He became kind of a Justice League villain, or a villain for the DC Universe as a whole. Sometimes he’s a Green Lantern villain, like in “Sinestro Corps War.”

And I started thinking that something I felt was missing from Barry’s rogues gallery was some kind of cosmic villain like that. Then I started looking into the idea of Barry and the mistakes he had made and piecing together a villain that represented that. Someone who represented those mistakes and represented the cosmic side of things.

As for Eobard, don’t forget that he loves to exaggerate things. The idea that this is going to be Barry’s biggest battle is also sort of a weird dig because Eobard beat Paradox. There’s a certain bit of building himself up when he says things like that.

Paradox is a fascinating new character, but the way that he operates, creating all of these paradoxes, seems like it could be a challenge to write. Is it hard to stay on top of all of those changes he makes to the past and the effect they may have?

Yes, 100%. Time travel is a weird beast. I think when I’m done with The Flash, I will probably never, ever do anything time travel-related again. But it is so much a part of Flash and his character. It’s definitely a headache at times to keep track of it all, but thankfully with Paradox, we sort of gave ourselves an out that shows up later on in this arc. We explain that his powers are working because he is creating these paradoxes, but they’re not really going into effect because he’s been stealing the energy that would need to be created to make it happen.

So, I don’t have to worry about it too much, but I still want to keep it straight and look at the timelines. Thankfully, a lot of the stuff that I had Paradox impact were things that I myself had written, so I already knew a lot of it. Also, I’ve been obsessed with the Flash since I was a kid, so I know a lot of his history. There are issues of Flash that I’m writing right now that reference things going back twenty years.

You’ve been writing The Flash for just shy of four years now, which is a hell of a run (no pun intended). Did you expect to continue on the book for as long as you have? And how do you keep things fresh with a character after writing him for so many issues?

I feel like I will always have ideas for this character. Even when it’s my time, I feel like I’ve told the story I want to tell and I’m ready to move on, I’m still going to have ideas for the Flash.

When I first started on the book, I said something like, “Here’s the story I want to tell now.” But once we started working on developing it, I started seeing a bigger and bigger tapestry of what I could do. And what I would do is, even as far back as the first eight issues plus the Rebirth special, I was dropping seeds and hints of things that I eventually wanted to do. When you get around to issue #9, you get to some really big ones where I was like, “Oh, I think I can stay on this book for this amount of time.”

I always pitched stuff. That was the thing. If they came to me and they were like, “What do you want to do?” I always said, “I’ve got plenty to do.” I think it was when “Flash War” was almost finished that I went to them and was like, “This is the bigger story that I want to do that ties all this stuff together, and I’d like to stay on long enough to tell that whole story.”

I think that once I finish up with that bigger story, I will definitely be happy with it. But at the same time, I’m always going to have like four or five stories down the line to tell.

The Flash #753 by Joshua WIlliamson, Howard Porter, Brandon Peterson and Hi-Fi is in stores and available digitally tomorrow.

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