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Every superhero has an origin story. So does every superhero's superfan. Here's mine.

A Martinez with then LA City Council member Mike Bonin. The Morning Edition host occasionally brings his super fandom to field interviews and office visits.
A Martinez
A Martinez with then LA City Council member Mike Bonin. The Morning Edition host occasionally brings his super fandom to field interviews and office visits.

I really, really like The Flash - The Scarlet Speedster.

Scarlet because the suit's core color is red, and speedster because that's the superpower, speed.

There have been many iterations of The Flash. A Martinez's is the Silver Age version, with Barry Allen.
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Wikipedia
There have been many iterations of The Flash. A Martinez's is the Silver Age version, with Barry Allen.

There have been many incarnations of the DC Comics character The Flash, and different eras. Mine is Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash - the first one to wear a cowl and a small yellow lightning bolt framed in a white circle on his chest.

He's a forensic scientist who, ironically, is habitually late for things because he just... moves... so... slowly.

One night when he's in his lab, a bolt of lightning blasts through a window, hits a case of chemicals and drenches Barry, who's then knocked out.

When he wakes up, he's got super speed and through his journey he learns he also has super healing, can pass through solid objects by vibrating and run to the past and the future.

Barry Allen becomes The Flash when lightning strikes chemicals in his lab. A Martinez felt like that bolt of lightning hit him when his uncle showed him The Flash comic books the first time.
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Barry Allen becomes The Flash when lightning strikes chemicals in his lab. A Martinez felt like that bolt of lightning hit him when his uncle showed him The Flash comic books the first time.

I was introduced to The Flash when I was 9 years old

A skinny, scrawny and short kid, I tried to be a goofball to hide how extremely under-confident I was about everything, except when playing Nerf football with other kids in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown.

A Martinez growing up in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles
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A Martinez
A Martinez growing up in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles

Think of playing flag football with no flags to grab so we tackled each other on asphalt. If you were as small as I was, you had to be fast or you'd break some bones.

Luckily, I was fast.

I tried to emulate the style and speed of my favorite NFL player, John Jefferson, a wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers.

San Diego Chargers' John Jefferson reaches out for a pass  in San Diego on Sunday, Jan. 11, 1981.
Anonymous / AP
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AP
San Diego Chargers' John Jefferson reaches out for a pass in San Diego on Sunday, Jan. 11, 1981.

Being fast also helped save me when I wasn't playing football because when you're the skinniest, scrawniest and shortest of all the kids at Cahuenga Street Elementary school, a day hardly goes by when your presence isn't requested after school by some of the beefy, brawny, bigger kids.

They'd want to find out how many quarters I was willing to involuntarily share or give me a beating. Sometimes the beating was coming no matter what. So, instead of punching back, I always made the decision to run, and I usually got away. If cornered, I'd push the bully and THEN run away.

It wasn't very tough, heroic or "manly." It wasn't what you'd see muscular Christopher Reeve as Superman or beefy Lou Ferigno as the Incredible Hulk do.

But it worked.

Then, one day, my uncle brought home comic books he'd found somewhere and said: "You know this guy, The Flash? He has a lightning bolt like that football player you like."

I was smitten. It felt like that bolt of lightning had hit me and, like Barry Allen, I was set onto a journey of discovery. I started devouring as many Flash comics as I could.

The Flash had arguably the most relatable super power: speed. Almost everyone has run at least once in their life or tried to run fast. When someone needs help they don't say "come as strong as you can." They say "come as fast as you can."

From there my love of The Flash started to grow

Through the 1980s, I'd read comics all the while hoping that someday The Flash would become a TV show or movie. CBS took a run at it, but it only lasted one season. The CW then took a crack and itsseries went nine seasons.

When I was hired in 2012 to host a show for 89.3 KPCC, an NPR affiliate in Los Angeles, I got my first work desk. But I didn't have anything to put on it because I'd spent most of my radio career in stadium press boxes. So, I bought this Flash statue at a nearby comic book store:

When A Martinez's new work desk looked barren, he picked up this statue of The Flash at a comic book store.
A Martinez / A Martinez
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A Martinez
When A Martinez's new work desk looked barren, he picked up this statue of The Flash at a comic book store.

Around this time I started reading about a Flash movie that was finally in the works, part of a universe involving Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman — the Justice League.

News that The Flash would be racing across movie screens was sweet music to my ears. By then, I'd developed a deep obsession with speedsters of all kinds. Roadrunner, Sonic the Hedgehog, really, anything or anyone that runs fast. That obsession went from that one statue on my desk to this:

A Martinez's office puts his obsession with speedsters, including The Flash, on display.
A Martinez / A Martinez
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A Martinez
A Martinez's office puts his obsession with speedsters, including The Flash, on display.

But it was another movie, Marvel Comics X-Men: Days of Future Past, with Evan Peters as Quicksilver, that showed me how superspeed could play out on the big screen. He got his own scene in a kitchen.

Wow. That scene was everything.

Peters, with just the right amount of wise-cracking, quirky vulnerability, embodied the anti-alpha male ethos that speedsters bring to the testerone-packed world of superheroes.

Which brings me back to The Flash. Ezra Miller made two appearances as The Flash in 2016, but their big shot was in 2017's "Justice League."

That movie came with the speed but there was also one scene in particular that almost made me cry.

The Flash, alongside Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg, were getting ready to take on supervillain Steppenwolf for the first time. Unlike his battle-hardened colleagues, The Flash was not afraid to say he was afraid.

"I've never done battle. I've just pushed some people and run away."

My life came full circle. It's totally something I would have said out loud, too. Here was a superhero who seemingly forgets that he's there to be THE superhero and save the day. He hesitates because his humanity takes over.

It was perfect.

And it made me really excited for the character's future, which brings us to his first standalone film titled, appropriately enough, "The Flash." It premiered in L.A. on June 12 and was released nationwide on June 16.

When I saw The Flash my expectations were high but it was what I DID NOT expect that lit me up like that first lightning bolt

Early in the film, The Flash thinks back to his mom, who was murdered in his childhood home. She was speaking to young Barry Allen with an accent.

My neck and head snapped from from left to right as I tried to bend my ears closer to the screen to confirm what I was hearing. Nowhere in The Flash's story does Nora Allen have an accent. I scanned my memories as fast as I could to try to figure if I had ever missed that detail.

Then, Nora put a song on and started to sing along...in SPANISH!

Dang... The Flash has Latin American ancestry

I confirmed in an interview that the director, Andy Muschietti, and his sister, producer Barbara Muschietti, deliberately added that bit of background. They're from Argentina.

I'd been waiting 45 years to see superspeed on a movie screen to feel like I had something to identify with... but in the end it was the sound of my first language that ran me back in time to my childhood.

It fed a part of my life that I didn't know was hungry. And the superspeed scenes were cool too.

Lisa Lambert edited the digital story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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