The Story Behind the Perfect Modern Superhero, 25 Years Later

What if I told you the perfect superhero for 2020 – one who perfectly fits our extremely online lives – was actually created in 1994? A character who, because of the way he was raised and his powers, has little sense of consequences to his actions, but was a thrill to read because of it? Someone who, when his solo series launched 25 years ago, 13 became a beloved character to some because of his, well, impulsive nature?

That character is Bart Allen, or Impulse as you might know him. Allen was a character rooted in the family tree of The Flash, with his grandfather being a time displaced Barry Allen 14 and other relatives being a variety of speedsters from his native time period of the 30th century. He was tethered to the history of others, but still very much his own hero in the best ways. Over his existence, Impulse has been known by a lot of different names – Kid Flash, The Flash, perhaps most inexplicably Bar Torr – and starred in many titles. But for those who love the character most, Bart was likely defined by the nearly 25 issue run writer Mark Waid, line artist Humberto Ramos, and editor Brian Augustyn 15 tackled together on the character’s solo title between 1995 and 1997.

I know that’s the case for me, at least.

Mike Wieringo’s cover to The Flash #92

I was 10 years old when the character debuted in The Flash #91, 16 but it really took Waid and Ramos’ collaborating on an Impulse for me to fall in love. There was something about that run, a rare joyousness, a palpable vitality, an energetic buzz that few superhero titles ever match. Here was a character that was like me in his youth – while Bart was chronologically two years old, he was 12 years old in appearance and mentally thanks to being raised in virtual reality – while also being aspirational thanks to his effortless coolness. Impulse was unlike anything I had ever read until that point. During that run, a lifelong adoration was formed. That’s for a simple reason.

While other comics I’ve read that are better, Impulse has the rare distinction of being the series that generated my most potent love for the medium. It formed the peak of my fandom for comics, with Waid and Ramos’ work becoming a turning point for what I hoped to get out my comics experience. 17

And that original run perseveres. In fact, having reread it for the purposes of this article, Impulse has still got it, with the energy, life and sheer fun Waid and Ramos brought to the book feeling as fresh today as it did when I was a kid. It was very much an original of a form that has become well-liked: the superhero sitcom.

That period with Waid writing, Ramos drawing and Augustyn editing has aged incredibly well, with Bart Allen being a child of the Internet before we even really knew what the Internet was. 18 So how did the perfect modern superhero come to be 25 long years ago? How did Waid, Ramos and Augustyn turn what could have been a rush job into a lasting memory for certain fans? As with many things in comics, it took a combination of opportunity, collaboration, and maybe even a little bit of fatefulness along the way.

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  1. As of last Tuesday, March 31st, to be precise.

  2. This was during a time where Barry was living in the 30th century, right before he disappeared during Crisis of Infinite Earths and also right before his essence becomes the lightning bolt that gives him his powers, because time travel in comics is insane.

  3. Shouts to inker Wayne Faucher and colorist Tom McCraw as well!

  4. For collectors out there, his first appearance was technically in The Flash #92, but his cameo was in #91.

  5. Impulse was, in many ways, my very first hang out comic.

  6. In 1995, most of our awareness of the Internet stemmed from endless discs we were given by America Online in magazines and our modems screaming at us as we logged on. It was not a great time for the Internet.

  7. As of last Tuesday, March 31st, to be precise.

  8. This was during a time where Barry was living in the 30th century, right before he disappeared during Crisis of Infinite Earths and also right before his essence becomes the lightning bolt that gives him his powers, because time travel in comics is insane.

  9. Shouts to inker Wayne Faucher and colorist Tom McCraw as well!

  10. For collectors out there, his first appearance was technically in The Flash #92, but his cameo was in #91.

  11. Impulse was, in many ways, my very first hang out comic.

  12. In 1995, most of our awareness of the Internet stemmed from endless discs we were given by America Online in magazines and our modems screaming at us as we logged on. It was not a great time for the Internet.

  13. As of last Tuesday, March 31st, to be precise.

  14. This was during a time where Barry was living in the 30th century, right before he disappeared during Crisis of Infinite Earths and also right before his essence becomes the lightning bolt that gives him his powers, because time travel in comics is insane.

  15. Shouts to inker Wayne Faucher and colorist Tom McCraw as well!

  16. For collectors out there, his first appearance was technically in The Flash #92, but his cameo was in #91.

  17. Impulse was, in many ways, my very first hang out comic.

  18. In 1995, most of our awareness of the Internet stemmed from endless discs we were given by America Online in magazines and our modems screaming at us as we logged on. It was not a great time for the Internet.