How 1990's THE FLASH TV Show Rivals Today's THE FLASH

Eric Diaz

Eric Diaz

Sept. 13, 2018


The Flash is the star of one of the most popular DC Super Hero television shows currently airing. But it wouldn’t have been possible without another live-action TV adaptation of the Scarlet Speedster paving the way -- 1990's The Flash, starring actor John Wesley Shipp (who plays Jay Garrick in the current show). Although the original series lasted only one 22-episode season, there are several ways in which it was ahead of its time, and did a few things as good (or better) than the modern incarnation...



The Costume

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Back in 1990, live-action superheroes were out of fashion on TV, and had been for well over a decade; since the days of Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. In fact, CBS, the network on which The Flash aired, didn't want its hero in a costume at all. Thinking spandex costumes silly and dated, it wanted the character to run in gray sweatpants with light-up shoes. But Tim Burton's 1989 Batman changed the idea of how superhero costumes could be presented on film, and the network decided to go the classic costume route, but with a modern edge.

The look of the Flash costume was based on concept designs by comic book artist Dave Stevens, creator of the Rocketeer. Series producers Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo (who scripted the Rocketeer film) originated the notion that The Flash's costume was a friction-proof, deep-sea submersible suit made by the Soviet Union, hence the burgundy red color. Eight suits were created for the show, at a cost of 100,000 dollars each, far pricier than past TV superhero costumes. Nearly three decades later, it still looks bad ass.



The Theme

One of the greatest superhero themes of all time remains Danny Elfman's for Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. It stands toe-to-toe with John William's theme for Superman: The Movie as the most instantly recognizable and iconic superhero music ever. So it makes sense that Elfman would have been asked to score the theme for The Flash in 1990, in the wake of Batman's game-changing success. 

And you know what? The 1990 Flash theme is still amazing, heroic, and inspiring. These days, TV theme music is, for the most part, a thing of the past. But listening to this tune will make you long for the days of an amazing opening credits sequence. Oh, and The Flash's music during the actual episodes was composed by the late Shirley Walker. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Elfman and Walker were the same duo who would unite again to tackle musical duties on 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, where Elfman again provided the main theme and Walker scored the episodes.



Dr. Tina McGee

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Scientist Tina McGee was introduced in the comics during the late ‘80s as a romantic interest, and then later platonic friend, to the third Flash, Wally West. A brilliant research scientist, it was Tina who helped Wally in his early days of taking over for (then deceased) Barry Allen. She eventually became the head of STAR Labs in the comics. 

Although primarily associated with Wally West in the comics, on the TV show, she was the person who helped Barry Allen figure out his powers, and even provided him with his costume. Actress Amanda Pays played Tina McGee on the original Flash series, and was the series co-lead. Although she later portrayed a different version of the same character in the 2014 series, the original is still the Tina McGee you'd want at your side fighting crime.



Red Flash Vs. Blue Flash

The Flash having a rival speedster to fight against is a concept going back to the 1940s, when Jack Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, battled another super-fast metahuman named Rival. It continued with Barry Allen going head to head with the Reverse-Flash in the Silver Age. Reverse-Flash was also put to good use in the 2014 TV show.

The 1990 Flash TV series had their own version of an evil speedster, with Barry Allen's clone duplicate Pollux introduced in the episode "Twin Streaks". Barry's rival wore a blue costume that was otherwise identical to that of The Flash, but with a chest insignia featuring a winged man holding a torch instead of a lightning bolt. This clone Flash only lasted one episode, but it set the precedent for a speedster vs. speedster conflict in a live-action setting. And it's possible that Barry's clad-in-blue identical twin was an inspiration for his identical twin in the comics, named, interestingly enough, Cobalt Blue.



Mark Hamill As The Trickster

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A couple of years before he portrayed the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, original Star Wars trilogy actor Mark Hammil brought another insane, clownish DC Comics villain to life by appearing on The Flash as the Trickster. Bringing all the psychotic glee to the character that he would later bring to the Clown Prince of Crime, Hammil’s unhinged performance made for the best baddie the series ever had. Hammil’s version of Trickster was so popular in fact, he was the only bad guy from the comics used twice during the series run. Hamill would reprise the role, although a different universe’s version, on the 2014 Flash show.


Using Comic Book Talent On A Comic Book Show

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Back in the '80s, writer-artist Howard Chaykin made a name for himself on the comic book scene with legendary runs on titles like American Flagg! and the original Star Wars comic. He even drew DC Comics' first ever limited series, The World of Krypton. When the producers of the Flash TV show knew they needed someone familiar with comic book style storytelling, it was Chaykin they hired to write nine episodes of the show, giving him his big break in Hollywood. 


Chaykin -- along with his writing partner, fellow comic scribe John Francis Moore -- is credited with writing the episodes involving Mark Hamill's Trickster, easily the most "comic booky" episodes of the whole series. Just being smart enough to utilize comic-book talent -- on a comic-book-related TV series decades before most shows and movies ever attempted such a thing -- automatically gets the original Flash series serious points for being ahead of the curve.