In today’s post, we’ll be comparing the TV shows The Flash (2014) and Static Shock (2000-2004) – which elements the two already share, and which, based on the progression of Static, might eventually show up in The Flash.
First, let me say I’m very pleased with the response to last week’s post! Even the Lizzie Bennet Diaries Facebook page liked it! So, thanks everyone for checking it out 🙂
So, yes, I’ve become a huge fan of CW’s The Flash. If you haven’t heard of the new show, I’d be very surprised – the trailer for the pilot went viral over the summer (see below):
An awesome trailer for an awesome show. I’m already a bit of a superhero fan (since it isn’t that far off from fantasy), but give me a superhero show with a geeky, intelligent hero, humor, heart, and an interesting story? Sold.
Now, this past week, The Flash teamed up with its parent show, Arrow, for a two-episode crossover event. The two shows have very different flavors, so seeing each cast in each others’ cities was an interesting meshing of tones and values.
But, thinking about superhero crossovers, there is one DC hero I would absolutely love to make an appearance on The Flash at some point – Virgil Hawkins, also known as the electric hero Static. The hero would fit in well, I think, as he comes from a world not dissimilar to Barry Allen’s… at least, if we’re discussing the animated series I got to know Static through.*
Static Shock ran on Saturday mornings on the WB (which later became the CW) from 2000-2004, and my brother and I were just the right age for it. It was one of our favorites, to the point that when I asked my brother what power he’d want his character to have in my stories, he said he wanted to be like Static. I ran with that, and the character has had lightning powers ever since.
(Yes, I base my characters off of people I know. Don’t judge me.)
Here’s a quick run down of the origin story, as inspired by the series and the original Milestone comics:
A few notes on the main differences between the comics and the series:
- Though police were involved in the Big Bang, it wasn’t tear gas, but its reaction with an illegal bio-hazardous material that caused the mutations, hidden on the docks by a corrupt corporation. Also no drones, and no mentioned fatalities (though they’re implied). As a result, Static doesn’t blame the police, and in fact acts alongside them on a number of occasions.
- Virgil’s family is more middle class, and his mother’s death from gang violence significantly impacts why he chooses to throw away the gun. More on that later.
- Best friend Richie Foley, rather than Frieda, becomes the first keeper of Virgil’s secret. More on him later.
So, we’ve got a show about a geeky, lightning-powered superhero who was empowered by an explosion that changed his DNA – an explosion which changed a number of people into metahumans along with him, some with not-so-friendly intentions that the hero has to stop.
Let’s break this down a little further:
- Electrically Charged: They both bear the bolt on their chests, and Static is…well, it’s obvious what his powers are. But what is notable about Barry in the 2014 show, in contrast to other versions, is that his speed powers seem to be electric as well! His eyes spark (above), he leaves a streak of lightning in his wake,** and, when struck by a metahuman who feeds on electricity, he has a brief loss of powers. I’m curious to see if anything more comes of this.
- Science Nerds: Barry is a forensic expert, and Virgil is the “chemistry kid” in his high school, even once getting a scholarship to an advanced science institute. While Virgil isn’t quite as nerdy as Barry, and is later overshadowed in intelligence by his super genius partner (more on that later), Virgil and Barry would probably have a lot to talk about.
- History of Bullying: Barry as a child was often picked on for standing up for others, and wasn’t fast enough to get away. Virgil’s trouble with bullies, as noted in the origin video, was what landed him at the Big Bang in the first place. Both of their bullies also get superpowers and become villains, but this time around the victims have the power to fight back.
- Good humored: Whatever’s going down in their lives, Barry and Virgil know how to lighten a mood and banter with opponents. Not to say they’re never serious, but they know how to crack a joke.
- Strong Sense of Justice: Because they both grew up with supportive parents who were focused on helping others (more on them below), Barry and Virgil both developed a strong sense of justice even before they had powers, which influenced them to become protectors once they did, while others affected either panicked or turned to crime. Doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes, but they try to do the right thing.
- Role Models: The above quality also causes them to geek out around other heroes:
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: Both the particle accelerator explosion from The Flash and the Big Bang are listed as this trope on TV Tropes (see here), and provide the catalyst for the series events.
- Metahuman-of-the-week: Though Static Shock featured certain Bang Babies more than others, such as Hotstreak, both shows utilize a metahuman-of-the-week episode structure, in which a metahuman causes trouble, the hero deals with it, and the antagonist almost never appears again. But the metahumans featured are a mix of the villainous and the victimized, as people of many types were encompassed in the Mass Super-Empowering Event – some metahumans have no control over their powers, some are pressured or blackmailed into using them for nefarious purposes.
- Keeping Secrets: Ah, the secret identity. It’s essential tension in most superhero stories. Virgil constantly has to hide his identity from his father and sister while trying to explain where he goes late at night. For Barry, keeping the secret from his BFF/love, Iris West (who is, of course, fascinated by his alter ego) nearly threatens their friendship early on (personally hoping it doesn’t take more than a season for her to know, but we’ll see…).
- Missing Mom: Sadly, both Barry and Virgil lost their mothers to violence before the start of their respective series. Though Jean Hawkins’s death was never a mystery as Nora Allen’s is, and thus does not drive her son’s every action, she is still a strong presence throughout the series. As stated, Virgil chooses not to engage in the gang fight due to what happened to her, and goes to her grave to talk to her when he is particularly troubled (SS: “Tantrum”, “Jimmy”).
- Father Figures: Their father figures, however, are still alive, and plenty influential. Virgil’s dad, Robert, may be strict, but is ultimately a caring father and upstanding guy. Barry’s dad, Henry, was imprisoned for his wife’s murder, and it’s a testament to their relationship that Barry stood by his dad. But Barry also has Iris’s father, Joe, who took him in after the murder. He learns early on about Barry’s powers and, though initially concerned, comes to support his heroics. Notably, all three fathers do community-related work – Robert is a social worker, Henry Allen was a doctor, and Joe is a cop. Again, I feel this influenced their sons to become heroes later in life.
- Gadget Guys: Flash and Static are each lucky to have a guy on their side who “[makes] the toys, ” and who might be the only ones more invested in the superhero thing than the heroes themselves. Cisco Ramon created Flash’s heat-and-friction-resistant suit, for one, and Richie created the Static Saucer (a disk that Static magnetizes to fly while able to fold up small in his bag), among others. These boys also provide a good laugh when called upon.
(Major spoilers from this point on)
- Age: Virgil is 14 in the first episode of Static Shock. Barry is about 24 in his first appearance on Arrow. The age difference highlights that each show is intended for different audiences, though both have a lighthearted air. This means that The Flash can tell stories that Static Shock never could. In fact, there have already been a number of on-screen deaths in The Flash, while Static never went there.
- Story Arcs: Static Shock never really had a story arc other than keeping Bang Babies in check. The Flash, on the other hand, is concerned with finding Nora Allen’s killer, the arc of Barry/Flash and Iris’s relationship, and the question of “What is up with Harrison Wells?!” (Because seriously, that man is shady)
- Resources: Because Barry has access to S.T.A.R. Labs and its lovely crew, as well as the Central City Police, he has access to a lot more resources than Virgil ever did. To be fair, Virgil got by pretty well listening in on police communications from the “Gas Station of Solitude” and using the high school science labs.
- Diversity: I commend The Flash for taking Iris West, a beloved character who is traditionally a redhead, and deciding from the beginning to cast her as African-American, along with her father. Along with Cisco, who I assume is Hispanic (though his heritage has not been specifically mentioned yet), the main cast scores fairly well for representation. However, Static Shock not only had an African-American lead and a majority in the main cast, but also featured a diverse supporting cast, good and bad alike. The Flash is still in its early days, so I hope to see more diversity included in the future (and hey, there’s hope for Wally West/Kid Flash to become a future cast member).
Because The Flash is such a new show, which has made a number of changes from comic canon already, it is hard to say exactly where the show will go from here. But, based on how Static Shock progressed, I’d like to make some predictions of things we might see (again, spoiler alert for Static, for the comics, and all aired Flash episodes):
- Latent and Severe Reactions: One thing that happened a lot on Static in later seasons was that Bang Babies would have a latent reaction to the gas, not developing powers until months after the incident. Additionally, many of the mutations were physically severe – some examples include extra limbs, metallic skin, and inability to go out in the daytime. On The Flash, there haven’t been such huge physical changes yet. The Flash is limited by CGI budget of course, but even still I’ll be interested to see what further effects the particle accelerator explosion had on people, based on how Static explored the effects of the Big Bang.
- Power Ups: On the note of developing latent powers, in Season 3 of Static Shock Richie actually turns out to be a latent Bang Baby himself, having smelled the gas on Virgil’s clothes when they met up the morning after (at least, that’s how they explained it). He developed super-intelligence and took up the alias Gear to fight crime alongside Static.
Francisco Ramon in the DC Comics developed the power to emit powerful vibrations from his body, becoming the superhero Vibe. But that Francisco also had no friendship with Flash, so it’s hard to say whether this is what’s in store for our Cisco… but if Gear is any indication, there could be some interesting things in store for him.***
- Meeting Mom: In the Static Shock episode “Flashback,” Virgil travels back five years in time to the gang riot where his mother was killed. He saves her as Static and reveals himself to her, telling her everything that’s happened to him. It’s a beautiful moment for the show, and even though Virgil couldn’t save her, he gets the chance to talk to her and to know that she is proud of who he’s become.
Based on the comics and the sketchy Harrison Wells moments, there’s some kind of time travel stuff involved in the events of Nora Allen’s death and the Flash’s creation. And if that’s possible… well… I’m really hoping Barry gets to see his mom again and they get a similar moment. It’s probably a long way off, but I can see it happening. (Please writers? Please???)
- Static: And, as I mentioned previously, we might have Virgil himself appear on The Flash. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Virgil to live in Central City and gain powers from the particle accelerator – he originally got his powers from a similar incident. With DC hero Firestorm/Ronnie Raymond already repurposed as a victim of the particle accelerator (and the fiancé of a main cast member) in this version, it’s not unlikely for other heroes to show up for the same reason.
So, I hope you guys enjoyed that! Just one quick Public Service Announcement – if you’re interested in writing some kind words for people who really need it this holiday season, I’m participating in the “12 Days of Love Letters” project from The World Needs More Love Letters. The idea is to send a handwritten card or letter full of love and support each day from December 8-19 to the person or people nominated on the site (or just send all twelve on the 19th). Hope you check it out!
Look for a new post next Monday. Learn more about the blog here, about me here, and resources here. Check out the links for related works and Pinterest boards, and leave a comment to let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas.
Until next time,
* Some readers may have first encountered Virgil in Justice League Unlimited or Young Justice Season 2.
** At a certain high speed, a number of other Flashes also emit lightning when running (see: Flashpoint, Justice League Unlimited’s “Divided We Fall”) but it’s still notable that 2014 Barry’s lightning seems to be a consistent feature
* **I’m aware that Caitlin Snow also has a super powered counterpart in DC canon, but considering she’s meant to become a super villain… I’m hoping the writers don’t go this route (I went through that with Morgana on Merlin BBC already, please not again!)