After more than 100 issues over the past four-plus years, Joshua Williamson signed off as the writer of DC Comics’ The Flash title in September, marking the end of one of the longest (and best-received) tenures a creator has had with the character. With a pair of crossovers on the horizon, the publisher was not looking for another long-term shepherd for the title. Instead, it turned to prolific TV, animation, book, and comic writer Kevin Shinick to guide the Scarlet Speedster for a four-issue interlude in October and November (the book is published twice a month).
“They pitched it to me by saying everything that could ever be done for the Flash has been done already, so if you want to take a swing at it,” Shinick tells SYFY WIRE with a laugh. The gig was always intended to be a temporary assignment before the series gets involved with “Endless Winter” in December (running through several Justice League-related books), followed immediately by another crossover event, "Future State," in January and February. “All I’m committed to at the moment is this four-issue story,” Shinick says. “I’m excited to do more if I can.” (DC has yet to announce the next ongoing writer for the series.)
Shinick is no stranger to the world of superheroes, but he is primarily known for his work with Marvel. He was the head writer for the first season of Disney XD’s animated Spider-Man series in 2017 and 2018, and wrote both Superior Spider-Man Team-Up and Superior Carnage comics. But he’s also quite familiar with the DC Universe, having contributed a few short stories over the years as well as playfully spoofing the characters as a writer and producer on the TV series Robot Chicken and MAD. “Growing up, Spider-Man was my No. 1 guy, and then after it was all DC, it was Batman, Superman and Flash, and Green Lantern right after that,” Shinick says. “I loved Flash, and I loved the stories that I grew up with.”
With just four issues to play with, Shinick is hoping to provide an entry point for new readers. His work won’t erase anything that Williamson established since taking over The Flash at the start of DC’s Rebirth era in 2016. “I loved where Joshua was going with it, and I loved where he took it,” Shinick says. “What I’m trying to do is continue the great job he’s done, but also maybe start a little simpler. Not wiping the slate clean at all, but his run ends so [epically] that I wanted to bring it to basics again for possibly some new readers who haven’t been with Barry for a while and want to jump on in.”
The Flash’s return to basics starts with what appears to be a self-contained story — in Issue #763, on sale Tuesday, Oct. 13 — revolving around the Trickster, a member of Flash’s famed rogues’ gallery. On the anniversary of Barry’s mother’s murder, he attempts to take a day off from crime-fighting to spend time with his girlfriend, Iris West. But the break is interrupted when he realizes he’s lost the special ring where he stores his superhero costume. The new twist Shinick puts on the Flash mythos is creating an origin for the ring’s creation and how it gives Barry hope.
The amusing run-in with the Trickster is tied up quickly, but the final pages set the stage for the return of another classic villain, Dr. Alchemy, who will cause havoc over the remaining issues of Shinick’s run (#764-766). “What I wanted was the first issue to feel like a standalone until you realize the impact it has on the next three,” Shinick says. “In some ways, coming off Joshua’s run it’s a palate cleanser. You start with something simple then you realize, ‘Oh, gosh, this wasn't a one-off and then a three-story arc,’ you realize it all started from the very beginning.”
Williamson’s final issue featured a brief glimpse of Alchemy festering in his cell at Iron Heights Penitentiary. The character has made occasional cameos in comics in recent years, but he hasn’t played part in a major story in a decade. “He has been able to accomplish a lot sitting in that cell for so long,” Shinick says. “His eruption is perfectly timed.” While the writer won’t reveal specifics about the plot, the advance solicitations for the upcoming issues tease that Alchemy has “found the time and knowledge he needed to finally beat the Flash once and for all,” and is attempting to harness “unstoppable power and immortality as he devises a way to combine himself with the power of the Philosopher’s Stone.”
Clayton Henry will be handling art for the first issue, with colors by Marcelo Maiolo. Henry was supposed to stick around for Shinick’s entire run, but he was pulled into the “Endless Winter” crossover, so the remaining issues will be handled by Will Conrad and Sami Basri.
Though Shinick says he could have extended his run to five issues, he’s too busy at the moment to take an extended gig, so the timing worked perfectly. He’s currently waiting for the green light on some animated series he has sold, and is working on a potential follow-up to his 2019 Star Wars YA novel Force Collector, featuring a Force-sensitive teen in the time just ahead of the film The Force Awakens. “No one has greenlit anything yet,” he says, “but I’ve always had at least another story [with these characters] in me.” And his next Marvel mini-series, the five-issue W.E.B. of Spider-Man, is scheduled to kick off on Dec. 30 after a pandemic-induced delay.
And he’s open to a return to Central City (or other corners of the DC universe) down the road, if circumstances line up again. “I pitched this [limited] story because I have other things in development, but I’ve been having a blast doing it,” Shinick says. “I just don’t want it to seem like I got booted after four issues!”
Check out the first three pages from The Flash #763: