One of the biggest challenges a screenwriter faces when adapting a storyline or characters is choosing what to use, what to leave out and what it needs to work that is not in the source material. The choices that are made are based on a variety of factors: time, production budget, popularity, quality, talent, etc. The instances where adding and taking away from the source material work for the good of a character are few and far between; but then there is Arrow season 5’s Prometheus and the curious case of Zoom, the main villain of season 2 of The Flash.
By no means am I trashing The Flash‘s sophomore season, since most fans would agree that season 3 has been the weakest overall with season 1 retaining the top spot. Though we were treated by a great performance by Teddy Sears and frightening voice-overs by Tony Todd (who voiced Zoom); the choices made when bringing this villain to life resulted in a unique creation for show, instead of a faithful adaptation. In this issue, we will look at Zoom’s presence in The Flash comics and discuss how The CW created a fascinating new character that shared very little with his counterpart in the books.
Beware of spoilers from Season 2 of The Flash and from The Flash: Secret Files & Origins, as well as The Flash Issues #192-200 (2002-2003).
The Dichotomy of Zoom
Throughout The Flash‘s comic book history, we have seen our fair share of speedster villains. The golden age Flash, Jay Garrick, had The Rival. The silver age, Barry Allen, had The Reverse-Flash a.k.a Professor Zoom. The post-Crisis Flash was graduated Kid-Flash, Wally West, and he raced against Zoom. Three different eras, three very different heroes and three unique villains that confronted them.
– Now, who is Zoom?
Introduced in The Flash: Secret Files & Origins #3 (11/2011), Hunter Zolomon was a profiler for the Keystone City Police Department. Prior to his position at Keystone City, he worked side-by-side with his wife in the FBI and was considerd an expert in criminology and psychology. After an operation that culminated with the death of his father-in-law goes south, he is fired from the Bureau and divorced by his wife. While in Keystone City, Zolomon befriends Wally West/The Flash and together they solve number of cases involving meta-humans. Though he respected The Flash, Zolomon lived filled with resentment due to his past failures and him being confined to a desk and cane due to a knee injury that incurred during that failed FBI op. To make matters worse, during an incident perpetrated by Gorilla Grodd in Iron Heights Penitentiary; Zolomon was severely injured by the villain and was left completely paralyzed from the waist down.
With Grodd‘s attack leaving him filled with desperation and despair, Hunter begs The Flash for help. He asks Wally to use the Cosmic Treadmill (The Flash comics’ Delorean) in the Flash Museum to travel back in time in order to intervene and prevent all the tragedies that he has suffered throughout his life. Knowing how delicate Time is and hoping to protect his friendship with Hunter, The Flash tells his friend that this is something he cannot and won’t do. With his friend’s “unwillingness” to help clear him, Hunter Zolomon takes matters into his own hands. He goes to the Flash Museum and attempts to use the Cosmic Treadmill himself which results in an explosion that completely engulfs Zolomon and leaves him forever changed.
-From A Student of Tragedy to Teacher
When Hunter Zolomon wakes up in a hospital bed after the accident, his body his completely healed from all its injuries and paralysis. but that is not all. He notices that everything around him has stopped or is moving slower than he is. But is he moving at superspeed? Not exactly. He is moving within time. In other words, Zolomon has acquired the ability to manipulate his relationship with the flow of time which, in turn, makes it seem like he’s moving at incredible speeds. In my understanding, another to understand his ability is that as time flows he can choose were to be within that moment in time. But the changes that have occurred to his physical have brought with them a twisted sense of clarity. No longer feeling anger or resentment towards The Flash, Zolomon comes to the conclusion that the reason Wally West was unable to relate to him and help him was because of Wally‘s inexperience with tragedy. Burdened with the ability and the intellect necessary to teach The Flash how to be a better hero through lessons in tragedy; Hunter Zolomon becomes Wally West/The Flash’s greatest adversary, Zoom.
-Why the decision to create an original version of Zoom for the CW was the correct one
Those that have enjoyed The Flash series on The CW, know the Big Bad of season 2 as Zoom; but will find it hard to truly reconcile the comic book and on-screen versions with each other. they share the same name and very similar childhood origin story: both of them witness their father murder their mother and that experience scars them for life and they are both called Hunter Zolomon/Zoom. The reason for this difference lies in the hero that they face. The Zoom of the comcis faces against the Wally West/The Flash and The CW’s version of the Scarlet Speedster is Barry Allen. Two very different heroes required to very different villains.
While in the comics, Hunter’s relationship with Wally develops throughout their work together catching rogues; the writers for The Flash TV show chose to use Zolomon as a mirror image of Barry by exploiting how their childhood trauma is similar. While Barry was surrounded by people that loved him through hardship and trauma; Hunter faced life alone and spiralled into darkness. In the show, Hunter Zolomon becomes a convicted serial killer whose appetite for destruction and power grows ever more once he acquires Speed Force abilities. I truly enjoyed how the show used Zoom to explore elements of horror and fear; which were made that much better Tony Todd (Candyman) lending his voice for the villain. Though some could say that the murder of Henry Allen at the hand of Zoom is a nod to the lessons in tragedy that the villain is known for in the comics, it is but simple nod nonetheless. With the differences between them found even in the way their powers work and how they operate; it is very hard to deny the fact that The CW‘s Zoom is not a faithful adaptation; but more of an original creation.
Zoom is just one of the many characters that the writers for The Flash show have brought to life in a way that is unique in their relationship to our hero and to the series itself. This villain is just one of those that has been through a huge transformation in order to make them effective within the story that the writers wanted to tell. I would attribute part of these changes and/or differences to the fact that a great deal of the most beloved characters or villains that we have enjoyed in the show were introduced during the Wally West/The Flash era of the comics. With Barry Allen (whom is my favorite Flash) being the main version of The Flash in the show; the interactions and relationship between the hero and the villains have to be conditioned to that character and world. Personally, I believe that the show has done an excellent job in fusing the best of Allen and West era and have provided fans with awesome stories and villains gallore.
Hunter Zolomon/Zoom is the perfect example of a character that succeeds while straying from the source material instead of embracing it. What the The Flash writers did goes to show you that adaptations are not always about fidelity; but about functionality, imagination and execution.
I salute and thank The CW for a great villain in Zoom!
What do you think about the TV version of Zoom? Would you have preferred a version that was closer to the source material? Which version do you like better? Are you excited for his return in this series 100th episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @LexanAlvarado
And as always, I’ll see you at the finish line,
The Scarlet Fan