Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly… why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we have a Flash double wedding, looking at the nuptials of Barry Allen and Iris West, and Wally West and Lind Park.
The Couples: Barry Allen & Iris West/Wally West & Linda Park
The Issues: The Flash Vol. 1 #165/The Flash Vol. 2 #142
Published: November 1966/October 1998
Today: Barry and Iris’ marriage managed to see its way through both of their deaths and resurrections, and Wally and Linda had twin children, but both couples became single with The New 52 reboot, albeit still pretty interested in each other…
Rebecca: Well, my wedding date is slowly but surely creeping up on the horizon. As I’m setting up meetings with clergy and designing my wedding cake (by the way, I discovered silhouetted superhero wedding cake toppers if you’re into that), I often wish I could have super-speed– but will have to settle for doing the two Flash wedding issues instead. I was excited to look at these back to back, because other than brief appearances in other media and the pilot episode of the popular CW series (I didn’t like it), the only Flash exposure I had before this were the famous The Return of Barry Allen and Crisis on Infinite Earths storylines.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like either of these weddings.
Kayleigh: I ordered my maid of honor dress, eeeee! Fortunately it doesn’t look like something a 90s superhero comics artist would draw. I’m something of a Flash neophyte too, though I’m more familiar with Wally than Barry. (Michael Rosenbaum was pretty great, right folks?) It was a great idea to look at these issues back to back and compare the weddings of two legacy superheroes, because they could not be more different.
Rebecca: While these issues weren’t offensive, like the wedding of Black Canary & Green Arrow, I feel like both of them are bad in the way you would expect a comic book of their eras to be bad. What are the worst parts of a Silver Age comic? Ridiculous pseudo-science that doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny and over-reliance on shopworn superhero tropes? Here’s a wedding issue where Professor Zoom captures The Flash in a radiation prison(!) by space/mind-swapping places with him via speed-induced time travel(!!), but The Flash escapes the prison via sucking said radiation through the ring on his finger through which he keeps his costume (!!!) and then travels back in time so that Professor Zoom, who has made himself look like Barry Allen by MacGyvering an electric razor(!!!!), can marry Iris West in The Flash’s place. Also, at the end of the story after they’re married, Barry is still wondering if he should tell Iris about his superhero identity (the answer is yes, you jerk).
What are the worst parts of a 90s comic? The terrible art and overly drawn-out and complicated storytelling. Here’s a comic where half of the wedding guests don’t look dressed for a wedding, where the Park family’s “ancestral farmhouse” looks like a McMansion, and most of the characters (but especially Wally) have some of the ugliest faces I’ve ever seen in a comic. Also, the story ends on a cliffhanger that’s not solved in the next issue and I’m guessing may not be solved in the six-part storyline that follows it, either.
Kayleigh: I had a more favorable reaction to Flash #165. I like the ridiculous pseudo-science, the “Flash spinning like a top to stop bad guys” goofiness, and the “Stop the wedding! He’s an impostor!” drama bombs of Silver Age comics. Sure, the Editor’s Note explaining how running at the speed of light can snap Barry back to his own time is lazy writing, but that’s part of the charm. (“What should we call this supervillain who’s the opposite of the Flash? Like some kind of…reverse….Flash…”) Less charming is the Silver Age sexism behind Barry keeping Iris in the dark. I wanted to knock my laptop off the desk when Barry breaks the fourth wall to ask the readers what they would do, because I WOULD TELL HER YOU PATERNALISTIC LYING ASSHOLE! Anyway. Flash #142 is a more satisfying wedding issue story-wise, but Pop Mhan’s art is hard to look at. Though a rushed, sketchy art style is kind of fitting for a Flash comic, it looks sloppy and ugly.
Rebecca: What’d you think about the couples themselves? Iris West really comes off as a cipher in her wedding issue. I feel like I got a better impression of her doofus dad who worries that Barry may have forgotten to show up to the wedding (what?) or Barry Allen’s parents — particularly his Dad who calls Mrs. Allen “Mother” a la Vice President Mike Pence. I’m not that fond of the “Sexy Lamp” test because it often comes off as trying to do a feminist critique via objectifying, but Iris really does the least of any bride we’ve covered in this series. Linda Park’s better. The issue opens with Linda doing reporter work while also keeping tabs on Wally while he stops a bomb at city hall (and saves their marriage license in the process), and while the book does play up the “he’s absent-minded/she’s responsible” dynamic, it comes off less as Linda being a nag than Wally needing to relax and be true to himself, particularly when he runs away mid-ceremony to write his vows but then comes back and gives a fairly romantic speech.
Kayleigh: Poor Iris is a prop at her own wedding; this is emblematic of the “Gwen Stacy Problem” where the Silver Age love interests of male superheroes are blandly nice and pretty but rarely have a strong personality or inner life of their own. Weirdly, we get a better impression of Iris at Wally’s wedding, where she shows up as “Aunt Iris,” one of the few relatives Wally’s actually happy to see. Linda Park fares much better as the “90s Career Gal” who helps Wally save the day thanks to her job as a reporter, and Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn succeed in writing them as a dedicated couple who make a good team.
Rebecca: I admit I’m not that excited for the dress conversation this time around. At least they have wedding dresses, unlike some issues that we’ve done, but both of them kind of suck. Iris wears a long-sleeved plain white gown with a veil that looks like she stuck pincushion needles into a tablecloth and stuck it on her head. Linda’s dress is a similarly plain off-the-shoulder short-sleeved long dress, which doesn’t seem to have any decoration other than lace around the collar and sleeves but is slightly better than Iris’. The guests at the West-Allen ceremony look at least ready for the wedding, even if they did that thing I hated from the Storm-Richards wedding where every male character wears the same suit. I don’t know what weddings Mhan looked at when drawing the Park-West guests. I can’t believe Wally West’s dad gave him shit for his clothes. Even if you’re wearing a ruffled shirt underneath a tuxedo, you’re still not the man whose date is wearing a polka-dot mini skirt and matching bra. And she’s just the worst “What Not to Wear” offender — a lot of guests look like they’re more prepared for Business Casual Friday than any nuptials.
Kayleigh: I think Iris’s dress is pretty charming! It’s definitely a conservative style, but I like the high collar, pointed sleeves, and the unusual-but-kind-of-striking “pin cushion” veil. If nothing else, I believe that Carmine Infantino has actually seen a wedding dress, whereas poor Linda is given this shapeless white dress that’s a whole lot of nothing. I did get a kick out of Barry’s friends, like the Shakespearean actor who runs a museum dedicated to him, and former villain Mr. Element. Those are the kind of colorful Silver Age supporting characters I love. As for Wally’s wedding guests, I have nothing but full-throated laughter for Dick Grayson’s “Hi I’m in a disguise” Party City Harpo Marx wig.
Rebecca: I do feel bad that I’ve slagged on three DC weddings in a row (Lois and Clark had a good one, right? RIGHT?), especially since they’ve all been characters I’m pretty unfamiliar with. I wish that these issues had helped a bit more in explaining why these couples have been so enduring — Iris West is a principal part of the Flash television show, and even after the annulment-by-reboot current DC creators are exploring both pairings. As it is, I don’t have many feelings toward either Barry and Iris or Wally and Linda. Even my anger at Barry for not telling Iris about his secret identity is more toward boring story tropes than anything else. These issues just feel like pretty mediocre, of-their-time examples of a superhero wedding, even if each of those times were very different.
Kayleigh: By comparing these two Flash weddings written and drawn nearly thirty years apart, it’s interesting to see how “wedding issues” have changed. In the 60s, the wedding is treated like a distraction from the action rather than a major emotional turning point in Barry’s life–it doesn’t even resolve his conflict over revealing his secret identity (what a dick.) By the 90s, however, wedding issues are published as collector’s items and given much more significance. The bride is a character rather than a plot device, and there are actual quiet moments where the couple can pause and reflect on how much they love each other. Flash #142 has more on its mind than just making sure 14-year-old boys don’t get bored, and it’s the stronger wedding issue because of it.