Back in 2005 or so, when I actually cared enough about DC to pay attention to them, it occurred to me that there was an interesting vacancy created by the departure of Wally West as the Flash and the arrival of Bart Allen. Specifically, it meant that the identity of Impulse was just floating around loose, looking for a legacy hero to step into the role. So I came up with some ideas that I thought would make for a good ‘Impulse’ series, one I hoped to someday submit, should I get the time, energy and confidence to do so. Obviously, that was back in 2005, and at this point there’ve been so many cast changes in the Flash family’s story, including one complete reboot, that the idea is pretty much moot. Nonetheless, I still have some fondness for the idea, so I thought I’d share it here: My plans for the all-new, all-different Impulse!
In this case, “all-different” definitely describes the character. Her name is Hannah Hunter (I’m sticking with “is” here, because “would have been” is such an awkward bit of sentence construction), and she’s a teenage high school student; both her parents are devoted to their careers, leaving her as pretty much a latchkey kid. There are pretty much two ways you can go when your parents barely pay any attention to you, and Hannah went the second direction; she’s hyper-responsible, almost an adult in miniature. She cooks her own meals, does her own laundry, and basically has a house to herself with parents she only occasionally sees. (The fact that she doesn’t use this house for wild, frequent parties tells you what the other direction was, the one she didn’t go.)
As can happen with children like this, she gets along much better with adults than other teenagers her own age; it doesn’t help that she’s somewhat bookish and has never had much luck trying out for sports teams. She almost made it onto the varsity softball team due to her pitching skills, but they had no designated hitter rule and she was too slow on the base paths. She tried out for the basketball team, but despite being a great shooter, she’s too slow on the fast-break. In short, she’s not unathletic, she just has lousy foot-speed. She idolizes the Flashes because they can do the one thing she desperately wants to: Run.
As a result of the above, she spends the after-school hours at the Flash Museum, doing her homework and chatting with the staff (who, as with many adults, admire precocious and mature teenagers.) She knows every exhibit inside and out (at one point in the development of the idea, she idolized Barry best of all because he was also a police scientist. When they reconcealed his identity, she idolized him as a person without even knowing he’s the Flash because she wants to get into forensics someday and admires his work. Yes, she is a teenager geeky enough and focused enough to know about prominent forensics experts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know who Justin Bieber is.)
She gets her powers when the Flash Museum gets attacked by Rogues’ Gallery members who want to make a statement about their feelings towards their arch-nemesis…the Flash shows up to foil them, there’s a fight, innocent bystanders get endangered, and Hannah winds up taking an inadvertent spin on the Flash’s Time Treadmill. She winds up back in the 30s, with all the powers of the Silver Age Flash…
…except one. She can’t think at superhuman speeds. Without the ability to process information and perceive time the way the Flashes do, her super-speed is utterly useless to her; the second she tries to run, she’s impacting into a solid object before she knows it’s even there. (Luckily, she has Wally’s super-fast healing. Even so, she spends time in the hospital in the 30s, as well.) As a result, she’s forced to use her speed-powers creatively, adding and subtracting speed from objects around her instead of using it just to speed herself up. (That’s why she calls herself Impulse–because momentum is mass times velocity and impulse is the physics term for an object’s change in momentum. Have I mentioned geeky?)
Her first story arc, where she learns to use her powers, involves her “bouncing” through time on her way back to the Flash Museum in the present. She meets the Golden Age Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and comes back to the present day with a reasonable amount of skill at fighting and so forth (so as to gloss over some of the learning curve of being a superhero. Karate Kid teaches her judo, because using someone’s own leverage against them is a good fighting style for a scrawny teenager, and because throws and flips become extra-nasty when you can pump an extra 500 miles per hour of velocity into someone on their way out.) She helps the Flash defeat the Rogues’ Gallery, and becomes a crime-fighter in Central City when not attending classes.
I thought it had some potential; since she doesn’t have “run really fast” to fall back on, the character has to use her super-powers creatively to defeat bad guys. The high school setting is always fun for a comic book hero, and let’s face it, comics fans dig geeky teenage girls with weird senses of humor. But of course, at this point I’m not even sure whether there ever was an Impulse, let alone whether another one would be welcomed by comics fans. But I’m sure the current direction of DC makes perfect sense to someone.