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Monday, September 03, 2007

In Defense of Wally West...

I was reading Not a Doormat Nor a Prostitute today and something caught my attention. I've a lot of respect for Angryrantgirl (and that's an awesome name for a blog), though we disagree a lot. But something in her most recent post has really hit my rant button.

Not the Sinestro Corps conclusions (though naturally, I disagree with those too, heh).

It's this bit:

Also, can we please stop pretending Wally was a good and decent mentor to Bart? Because the Titans and Young Justice issues Bart and Wally were in say otherwise.

And for the record? If Barry could see what a crappy mentor Wally had been to his own grandson, it would be out of character for Barry to be anything other than greatly disappointed in the ungrateful and spoiled child his nephew had grown into.


Commencing rant in five...four...three...two...one...

There is so much wrong with these statements that I don't really know where to start. I'll make a fair jump in though.

First: Using Young Justice and Teen Titans as source material? Really? As opposed to Impulse which probably has a lot more ammunition to use, except I've never read much of it?

Wally wasn't even IN Young Justice. Bart's mentor at that time was Max Mercury. Max was a damn good mentor. The only time Wally ever played a significant role in any of those events was in Sins of Youth. And honestly, funny as that was, characterization came second to humor and it's fairly unashamed about that fact.

Teen Titans? We had what? One scene? One scene in which Wally disbelieves Bart's speed learning and essentially refers to him as a troublemaker?

He was wrong about the first part, sure, and it was pretty dumb to not realize that just because he hadn't encountered the phenomenon it didn't exist. The second though...

Bart WAS a troublemaker. He was. He was named Impulse (or named himself Impulse, depending on which series you're reading at the time) because he just acts. He doesn't think. He leaves much untended chaos in his wake. That's part of his charm.

But that doesn't make Wally wrong. And while it WAS hurtful, undoubtedly, for Bart to hear him say such a thing, it's neglecting one obvious fact.

Wally West was NOT Bart Allen's mentor.

In fact, Wally had no obligation to be his mentor. Wally didn't recruit Bart. Wally didn't accidently give Bart his powers. Wally didn't even know Bart existed.

All Wally West knew was that one day, out of the blue, this other speedster shows up and his aunt is suddenly back and she begs him to find a way to save Bart's life before his powers kill him.

And he does. Obligation finished.

Iris never asked him to be Bart's mentor. At most she may have asked him to help him out a little/keep an eye out for him. Which Wally did. Wally did end up trying a few hamfisted mentor moves, like naming Jessie his successor to try to provoke Bart into shaping up. But he pretty much acknowledged he was in over his head and that Bart needed more than he could provide.

Especially since the conflict between Bart and Wally was NOT one-sided. There seems to be this idea among certain circles that the relationship was mean-old-Wally being terrible and insensitive to poor little Bart. That is not even remotely true.

Wally WAS a presumptuous and clueless jerk, yes. That's kind of expected. This is Wally after all. But from the VERY BEGINNING, Bart was a little brat. He was mouthy, obstinate, disrespectful and rude. He made it clear that he thought Wally was dumb and not deserving of respect. This attitude did begin to change over time to a grudging respect, but that doesn't change the fact that the conflict between them was not JUST Wally's fault. (Admittedly, one would expect an adult to act with more maturity...but this IS Wally.)

And you know, tangentially, Wally's an only child. And as far as we know at least, he had no real experience with kids before Bart showed up. How the hell is a college-age kid with no siblings and no babysitting experience supposed to mentor a super-speed Dennis the Menace?

The thing was, Wally knew he wasn't going to be able to be a mentor to Bart, which is why Max Mercury ended up involved. Max could do what Wally couldn't. And you know what? That's no shame on Wally at all. Some people aren't ready for that kind of responsibility. Wally had no obligation to take on that responsibility either, especially not after he saw that Bart was in good hands.

After Max was no longer able to care for Bart, Wally saw that he was mentored by Jay. Another person more adept in mentoring than he was. That's actually a very good thing. Like giving a child up for adoption when you can't take care of it. He knew it was far better for Bart than working with him would be.

That bit about Barry though. That makes me see red. Seriously. WTF?!

Barry would NEVER have presumed that Wally would be saddled with Barry's own grandson. He would never have expected that out of him. When he mentored Wally, he was about thirty, if not a little older. He was settled in to his job, he had a stable relationship, he was a mature adult ready for the responsibility. Hell, he's the one who inadvertantly CAUSED Wally's own manifestation of powers.

Wally is, at the point of time that Bart appears, approximately twenty-three years old. (This is extrapolated from him having his twentieth birthday at the beginning of his comic and being twenty-one when he first met Linda.) Since Barry died in the Crisis, Wally's inherited all of his responsibilities and all of his enemies without any of the stability that Barry had had. That's not counting all the personal shit that went down in his own comic. He'd lost the closest thing he'd had to real family, had numerous conflicts with his ACTUAL family (including the father who had scary Russian speedsters beat him to a pulp, became a manhunter, fake his death and pretend to be a ghost to entrap his son into a cult). His powers almost killed him, almost killed him again, and not long after Bart arrived, he got SUCKED INTO THE SPEEDFORCE.

You know, personally, I think Barry would understand. And that the words "ungrateful" and "spoiled" would never EVER have crossed his mind.

And it is more than possible that Bart and Wally could have interacted in the way that Teen Titans showed. They weren't ALWAYS fighting, and Wally did occasionally try very hard to fulfill some kind of vague brotherly role. He wasn't very GOOD at it, but he would try. And as time went on they DID end up respecting and loving one-another, even if they'd never be mentor and student.

It is SO not fair to try to pin Wally as some horrible mentor. Maybe in an ideal situation, he could have stepped up anyway, obligation or no, taken Bart under his wing and taught him to fly free little bird, or something like that. But Wally was young, confused, upset, preoccupied, besieged and many many other adjectives that made him not be able to serve in that capacity. He saw that lack in himself, made sure Bart had people he could turn to, and went back to his real job. Ya know. Saving Central/Keystone City and the WORLD.

Besides, he didn't screw Bart up nearly as much as Bruce screwed up Nightwing. So there ya go. :-) More superhero kids should be so lucky.

5 Comments:

  • At September 03, 2007 11:24 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well said. I'm still biting back the tears over the "everyone who likes Kyle is a moron" remark.

    I like Wally. I mean, I like Bart too, but I REALLY like Wally.

     
  • At September 03, 2007 12:41 PM, Blogger Ragtime said…

    I don't know. I was pretty unhappy in the Terminal Velocity arc when Wally tries to get Bart to get on the right track by naming Jesse Quick as his successor.

    It seemed like Wally WAS trying to act like a mentor there, and ending up (a) using and screwing over Jesse when, honestly, she was better qualified and had more experience, while simultaneously (b) just pissing off Bart without any noticeable improvement in his conduct.

     
  • At September 03, 2007 2:10 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    I'm more offended by her calling Buddy's son Cliff a rapist. Granted, what he did was inappropriate and wrong, but it's unfair to label him like that. She sounds like she drank too much "rape culture" kool-aid.

     
  • At September 03, 2007 4:19 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ragtime, yep, I mentioned the Jesse Quick thing too.

    He did try there. Did really badly, pissed off poor Jesse. I always thought that was a big part of why he'd backed off afterward in favor of Max.

    That's really more evidence that he's not Bart's mentor, in my book. He tried, failed, and figured out he's in waay over his head. :-)

     
  • At September 03, 2007 4:40 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Sally -- To be fair, she was using it to summarize the Parallax origin story at the end of Countdown not state her own opinion. (Her opinion in past posts has been that Geoff Johns is trying to destroy Kyle to build up Hal. That's why I had my own little rant a day or two ago about advertising.)

     

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