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Comic Book / The Life Story of the Flash

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The Life Story of the Flash is a 1997 DC Comics publication which chronicles the origin story and superhero career of Barry Allen, as penned by his wife Iris Allen following his death during Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story was written by comic writers Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid, with artwork by Gil Kane, Joe Staton and Tom Palmer.

The biographic tale, written entirely from Iris' point of view, tells about Barry's childhood and his work as a crime-scene investigator for the Central City Police Department, the fateful accident that would turn him into the Flash, and his interactions with other members of the Flash Family (to include his predecessor Jay Garrick and successor Wally West), other members of the superhero community, and the members of his famous Rogues Gallery. Iris also writes about how she met and eventually fell in love with Barry, her own aunt-nephew relationship with Wally, her complicated relationship with the members of her immediate family, and her personal encounters with Barry's greatest nemesis Professor Zoom and how those encounters shaped Barry's character and actions as the Scarlet Speedster.

Tropes present in this work include:

  • Abusive Parents: By Iris' account, her brother Rudy cowed his son Wally into being too afraid to stand before him. Iris supposes that it was Rudy's way of getting the love he never got from their father Ira (Rudy was a jock, Ira was more science-minded).
  • Ascended Fanboy: Prior to becoming the Flash himself, Barry was a huge fan of the comic book escapades of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, and as a child he would even dressed up as Jay and "fight crime" in his quiet farm town. Iris notes that when the men eventually met, Barry felt unworthy of carrying the mantle, but Jay gave his blessing for Barry to wield the name.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: There's no doubt that Barry's a genuinely nice guy, and Iris' book outright says it...but when Zoom killed Iris, Barry hunted him all across the planet with vengeance in mind.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Barry actually described himself as going by the book on his job. During his first meeting with Iris, while covering the scene where a dead mob boss's body was found, Barry's ruling it a suicide and refusing to rule it as a murder like a pair of sleazy cops wanted him to, and then asking Iris to lose a picture she'd taken of him on the job because he wasn't the story, served as his Establishing Character Moment from Iris' viewpoint.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Iris recalls how displeased she was to know that, not only was she in fact adopted like she'd always thought, but Ira knew and never told her.
    Iris: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME I WAS ADOPTED? Don't tell me you didn't remember! I won't stand for the men in my life keeping secrets from me anymore. Do you understand that? Do you?
  • Desperate Object Catch: Immediately following the Failing a Taxi moment below, Barry thought his mind was playing tricks on him, and he went to a diner to rest...then a waitress spilled her whole tray of food on him—but he caught all the items perfectly, a task made easier by his newly-gained Super Speed.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Iris feels that this is what helped her and Wally bond so closely, as both of them always felt like they didn't fit in where they lived (Iris because she was adopted, though it was unknown to her at the time; Wally because he couldn't live up to his family's expectations).
  • The Dreaded: Iris identifies Zoom as the one member of the Rogues Gallery that Barry actually feared, because Zoom—hailing from the twenty-fifth century—had future history at his disposal and was capable of time-travel.
  • Failing a Taxi: As with original tellings of his back-story, Iris' account reveals that this was how Barry realized the fateful Freak Lab Accident had changed him—he tried to chase after the cab when it drove past him, only to shoot past the cab seconds later.
  • For Want of a Nail: While in college, Barry's scientific genius got him offers to work at several organizations, including LexCorp, Waynetech and the Central City Police Department. If not for his love of The Flash comic books, he might have gone to work for either of the first two, which were, in his roommate's words, "offering much bigger bucks for easier jobs."
  • Intrepid Reporter: Iris' drive to be a journalist stemmed from her lifelong desire to ferret out the truth about her own life, namely, her niggling feeling that she was likely adopted due to how she never really fit in with her family (it would later turn out she was right on that point). Interestingly, she counted Lois Lane as one of her role models in journalism (and in the book's fictional reviews section, Lois is one of those who gives the biography critical praise).
  • Jerk Jock: Iris remembers her older brother Rudy as being this. In her words, he "liked football, cars, and terrorizing younger kids out of their lunch money."
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Inverted with Ira and Rudy—Ira was a scientist, Rudy was a jock, and Iris theorizes that Rudy's lack of love from Ira led to him becoming a thuggish father himself.
  • Layman's Terms: Comes up during a recounting of a conversation Barry had with a college roommate.
    Barry: Pete, check this out. I've synthesized a cold-cast polyester that reacts to hydrogen by combining—
    Pete: In English, please?
    Barry: It...expands...?
  • Loves My Alter Ego: A familial example between Barry and Wally, Barry's nephew through marriage to Iris. Wally greatly admired the Flash, but dismissed Barry as a bore (of course, this was before he learned Barry's secret). Inverted with Iris herself, as she was in love with Barry but had no romantic interest in Flash (again, before learning his secret).
    Iris: (narrating) Wally spent the next few months trying to get me to drop Barry Allen and start dating the Flash.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Barry's costume-ring had this going for it before Iris learned his secret, as it had a different origin every time she asked him about it in an off-guard moment—either his father gave it to him, or it was a school ring, or it was from a police fraternity.
  • Neat Freak: Barry was always this from childhood, according to Iris. "His room was always neat, his toys were always put away, everything had a place."
  • Oblivious to Love: Iris notes that Daphne Dean, Barry's childhood friend, carried a torch for him for years, but Barry himself never noticed.
  • Odd Friendship: Barry's friendship with the Green Lantern was a puzzle to Iris at first, as Hal Jordan was a reckless hotshot in contrast to Barry's pensive and methodical M.O.
  • Oh, Crap!: One art panel in the book perfectly captures Iris' expression when, while in the kitchen, she hears a vibrating sound behind her and assumes it's Barry coming back from patrol...only to see seconds later that it's actually Zoom dropping in.
    Zoom: Hi, honey, I'm home!
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A light-hearted example: before he got his powers, Barry was always chronically late for everything. So when he showed up for a date five minutes ahead of the proposed meeting time, it was for the express purpose of proposing to Iris.
  • Passing the Torch: Jay Garrick's affirmation of Barry as his successor, when the two Flashes met.
    Jay: The job is yours. Run with it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Immediately after Barry got his powers, this trope became a major problem between him and Iris. It actually prevented him from telling her what had happened because she, having just gotten off the phone with a couple of unreliable colleagues, expressed satisfaction that at least Barry would always stay the same...and Barry assured her of that certainty, then left without another word. It got worse after Iris became Barry's Secret Secret-Keeper, because the poor communication almost killed their marriage.
    Iris: (narrating) Today, when I think back, I still want to be angry. I just wish I knew with who. Because I ranted and raved...because he took it to heart...he kept secret from me the most marvelous thing that had ever happened to him.
  • Rogues Gallery: The book has an entire chapter dedicated to the Flash's collective of villains, and the chapter is actually titled "Rogues Gallery." Those who get mentioned in this chapter include Captain Cold, Heatwave, Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, the Top, the Trickster, Pied Piper, Mr. Element/Dr. Alchemy, Weather Wizard, Gorilla Grodd, Abra Kadabra, and Professor Zoom; and elsewhere in the book Iris recounts Barry's first meeting with Jay Garrick, in which the two speedsters teamed up to take out the Thinker, the Fiddler, and the Shade. Iris also notes that many of the Rogues are outfitted by tailor Paul Gambi, who makes quite a tidy living designing the super-criminals' costumes.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Deconstructed with Iris herself. She found out about Barry's secret identity when he accidentally revealed it while talking in his sleep, the night of their honeymoon, and she kept it to herself for a whole year before he eventually came clean...but throughout that year, Iris was being eaten up by resentment at having to play ignorant and at Barry's unwillingness to tell her the truth for so long. That resentment actually created distance between the two of them to the point that their loved ones noticed their tension.
    Iris: Can you imagine what it's like to know and not be able to say? To play stupid when the Flash has his life threatened by Heatwave or Kadabra? To pretend not to care? To wonder what else you're capable of keeping from me?
  • Separated at Birth: Iris opens the biography by briefly noting that Barry was one of a pair of twins, but that he never knew about his twin and was never told the truth about him. Although Iris doesn't identify the twin by name, knowledgeable readers will know that she's referring to Malcolm Thawne, the supervillain Cobalt Blue, who was given away at birth to abusive con-artists.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Barry being the epitome of good was why Iris fell for him.
  • Spanner in the Works: While recounting the events of Barry's murder trial, Iris recalls that Abra Kadabra tried to manipulate the events of the trial so that Flash would be convicted and disgraced for killing Zoom...but Kadabra hadn't expected that Iris herself, having been saved by her birth parents just before Zoom could kill her, would be inhabiting the body of one of the jurors and thereby standing in the way of Kadabra's scheme.
  • Spit Take: Iris recounts how, on one date, she told Barry how sexy she thought his analytical nature was; Barry's reaction was to cough an entire lemonade through his nose.
  • Written by the Winners: In an in-universe review of Iris' biography of the Flash, Toby Raynes of the Daily Star references this trope by name while then declaring that the Flash's story is in fact a story of victory.
    Toby Raynes: It is said that history is written by the victors, and Iris Allen's The Life Story of the Flash is indeed a story of victory...a triumph of one man against incredible odds and of a love that survived both death and the immeasurable and unimaginable distances of time itself.