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When I first started these pieces, when I first went to Devin with the idea, never in a million years did I think I would be writing about the Turtle. Equal parts dumb and cool, Turtle is… well, mostly he’s lame.
The first Turtle, known simply as The Turtle, showed up to be a pain in the butt to the first Flash, Jay Garrick. The power of Turtle? He was slow. He was so slow, Flash couldn’t catch him. Not kidding. Flash was finally able to stop Turtle when he stopped running and just walked next to the guy.
I suppose you could read a deeper meaning into the story that if we spend our time running around, we miss things. Maybe that was what writer Gardner Fox was thinking. Whatever the case, the Turtle never really caught on with fans, and after a few appearances, he was all but forgotten.
Still, comics never throw out a concept, so Turtle would show up again to bug Barry Allen. This time, Turtle was even goofier looking, an overweight, balding man in a sweatshirt with a turtle shell look to it. He started off using the same schtick as his predecessor; but in time the second Turtle, who called himself Turtle Man, started inventing stuff to slow down everything around him. Clearly, this is what they were pulling from for The Flash's latest episode. While he never reached the heights of characters like Captain Cold or even Pied Piper, he did get a story in the now out of print Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told, so bully for him!
It took Bill Messner-Loebs to finally make Turtle into an interesting character, a character that would actually have a long lasting effect on the comics. Wally West, as we discussed in the last chapter, had just regained his powers after the Invasion! story. He kinda destroyed a section of New York and wasn’t welcomed back, so Wally moved to Keystone City, home of the first Flash. With Central City, home of the second Flash, right across the bridge, it felt like the Scarlet Speedster was finally home. Wally was welcomed to the Twin Cities with open arms by all the residents… well, most of the residents.
Unbeknownst to pretty much anyone, over the course of some fifty years, the original Turtle was quietly building a secret city underneath Keystone while at the same time taking control of all organized crime in the Twin Cities. As we would come to learn, the original Turtle always had a superpower - a very long life, much like a turtle.
With a Flash moving in, his plans were sure to be discovered, so Turtle sprang into action. Well, maybe not sprang, but you get the idea. First, he tried to get Wally to not move to Keystone, then when that didn’t work, he tried to get Wally to leave Keystone. When that didn’t work, Turtle went full out and kidnaped Wally, trapping him in a stasis beam. I think I mentioned this previously, but if not - some of my favorite Flash stories are the ones where Flash is not in them. Bill Messner-Loebs had created such interesting secondary characters that I didn’t mind going through multiple issues without a superhero fight, or even a superhero in sight. I loved just following these characters - Connie, Chunk, Mason, Piper… all of them. So a story where Flash is captured and we follow his friends, along with Elongated Man, as they try to find him is right up my alley.
Sure enough, they find Wally in Turtle’s underground city, and they save him. We learn that the two Turtles have teamed up, with the original Turtle using Turtle Man’s tech to help build his city and capture Wally. During the fight, a section of Turtle City collapses, disfiguring the original Turtle. The baddies go off to jail, and while they showed up again, they never made for another interesting story.
Turtle City would, on the other hand, keep showing up in Flash comics. When we next saw it, Pied Piper had turned Turtle City into a safe place for the homeless people of the Twin Cities. After Wally inherited a fortune from an old baddie, the Icicle, Piper takes him to Turtle City to suggest he use the money to help these people. Wally does - he starts a charity called The Barry Allen Foundation.
The homeless would leave Turtle City, and the Combine, a high tech “super crime” mafia would move in. These guys would be an on again off again problem for Wally for a few years while Mark Waid was writing the book. After the Combine was defeated, Turtle City became the black market location for Keystone/Central. As is the fashion with Flash, he tended to leave the area to the Rogues and other random baddies, as long as they didn’t cause any problems.
In the comics, the Turtle is not a very interesting character. He hasn’t shown up in the rebooted DC Comics as far as I know, maybe he’s in the background of a shot of a bunch of bad guys somewhere. He sucks. Turtle is a suck character.
Which makes it all the more surprising that they used him in The Flash. They used him about as well as you can, I guess - he really isn’t the drive of the episode so much as a macguffin character to just fill in the need for a baddie. You can feel that everyone in the writers room knew what had to happen in the episode, but they couldn’t figure out who the baddie should be. Someone threw out Turtle and everyone else, wanting to go home, said “sure”.
When you consider what he can do in the episode, the name “Turtle” doesn’t make sense. He isn’t slow, he slows things down around him. In his last appearance, the original Turtle did gain the ability to steal speed and froze everyone in Keystone, so I guess they were going off that idea. Still, as a character starting off with that power, I don’t know why Cisco would name him Turtle.
His new creepy origin with his (dead?) wife in a case is another sign, to me, that the writers were just looking for anyone they could use that comes from Flash mythology but isn’t a character that anyone will be looking to use again. This was more of a Mister Freeze kind of thing than something any Flash baddie does. Who knows, maybe I’m crazy and maybe people will love Aaron Douglas’ take on Turtle and he’ll show up again, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.