Spoilers for Flashpoint, Crisis on Infinite Earths, CW’s The Flash, Batman v. Superman
“He lives between the ticks of a second. He is The Flash!” – Kingdom Come
A madman goes on a shooting spree. He sees a child that is too scared to run and starts shooting. Before the shot can be fired, a red blur disarms the gunman. In an instant the blur restrains the shooter and drags him to the cops. By the time anyone has realized what happened, The Flash is already running to the next disaster.
The Flash has one helluva resume. He discovered the multiverse, is a founder of the Justice League, and has even saved all of reality. So who is this guy? How did he get so fast? And just how fast can he go? Let’s find out.
The Fastest Man Alive: Flash’s Origin
“The Flash isn’t just me. It isn’t about Wally West. Or even Barry Allen or Jay Garrick anymore. It is a symbol. An image for Keystone that helps these people fight to be something better. I’m proud to be a part of this. And I always have been.” – The Secret of Barry Allen
There have been a few Flashes. We will focus on Barry Allen, the most famous Flash.
Barry Allen debuted in Showcase #4 in 1956. He was a replacement for the first Flash, who had a long running series in the 1940’s.
Barry was a fairly normal kid until his mother was murdered. He became a CSI*, hoping that he would someday find his mother’s killer. While working overtime one night, he was struck by lightning and knocked into a shelf of chemicals. While trying to get help, he realized he was moving at superhuman speed.
Barry realized he could use his speed to help people he couldn’t save as a CSI. He designed an outfit that could survive the intense speed and became Central City’s hero, The Flash.
Crisis on Infinite Earths: Death of the Flash
“There’s hope… There is always hope… Time to save the world! Time… Back in time… Do what you have to… We must save the world… We must save the world.” -Barry Allen’s last words
Flash had a long career fighting every crackpot, supervillain, and psychic gorilla that dared attack Central City. During the invasion of Starro the Conquerer, he fought alongside Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. They decided they worked well together and decided to formalize their group as the Justice League of America.
During a charity event, Flash used his powers to vibrate at super speed. This accidentally transported him to a parallel Earth. He soon encountered Jay Garrick, the Flash from the 1940’s and realized that instead of just one universe there were many; a Multiverse**. Barry soon found a way home and the two decided to keep in touch.
In 1985, Flash was kidnapped by a malevolent being called the Anti-Monitor, who was trying to destroy the Multiverse so it could create an antimatter universe. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Point is, it was trying to destroy the multiverse. Flash managed to escape and sacrificed his life to destroy an antimatter cannon that would have destroyed the multiverse.
Return, Rebirth, Reboot: Flash’s Modern Stories
“What did I do? Oh, Barry. My idol. My Inspiration. That’s the beauty of all this madness. I didn’t do anything. Not a thing. You see, it turns out… You’re the villain today.” – Eobard Thawne, Flashpoint
While most superheroes come back to life soon after their deaths, Barry stayed dead for a staggering 23 years. During the miniseries “Final Crisis”, the current Flash and Jay Garrick accidentally opened a portal. They found Barry running from the Black Racer***, and helped him escape death.
Like Captain America in the Avengers movies, Barry found himself in a world that had long since moved past him. He felt alone even though he appreciated the joy his friends and family expressed at having him back. Reaching the breaking point, he used his speed to travel back in time and save his mother. He returned to the present, only to find Aquaman and Wonder Woman waging a war against each other that threatened to destroy Earth.
He became convinced that an old enemy, the Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh and Matt Letscher in The Flash) had somehow caused the war. When Barry finally found Reverse-Flash, he learned that he had caused a “time-boom” by running into the past, altering history just enough to cause the war. The world is destroyed by an Atlantean weapon of mass destruction, but Flash is able to save Earth with the aid of a mysterious woman named Pandora.
The Speed Force: Flash’s Powers and Personality
Superman: “I’ve raced you before, Barry. I even won some of those races.”
Flash: “Those were for charity, Clark.” – The Flash: Rebirth
The Flash has super speed that puts everyone else to shame. He heals incredibly fast, can create whirlwinds by rotating his arms, steal kinetic energy, and even travel through time when running fast enough. Flash can move so fast that the world seems to be standing still. Flash also has complete control of his molecular structure, allowing him to phase through objects and travel to parallel Earths.
Flash’s powers come from the Speed Force, a dimension of kinetic energy that empowers all speedsters in the DC universe. The Speed Force protects Flash from the harmful effects of his super speed and slows his aging. By tapping into the Speed Force, Flash is able to use his ultimate weapon, the Infinite Mass Punch****. Flash is able to surpass the speed of light, even outrunning the Big Bang at one point.
Barry Allen is a nice guy with a short attention span. While he tends to just rush into danger, he’s a brilliant CSI.
The Actors Who Played the Flash
Flash’s TV debut was in The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure , where he was voiced by Cliff Owens. Flash appeared in Batman: The Brave and The Bold voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame. He was voiced by Jason Spisak in Young Justice .
In 1990, a live-action Flash TV show was made, starring John Wesley Shipp as the Flash. Flash also appeared in Smallville where he was played by Kyle Gallner. Barry Allen appeared on Arrow to set up a spinoff, The Flash . He is played by Grant Gustin. As a homage to the 90’s Flash show, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry’s father and Jay Garrick. Mark Hamill also reprises his role as The Trickster.
Flash’s movie debut was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice , where he showed up in security footage and somehow time traveled into Batman’s nightmare. Wait, what? He was played by Erza Millar.
Didya Get All That?
Flash is stupidly fast.
* Crime Scene Investigator
** Variations of a universe. Picture a world where the Beatles never formed, the Nazis won WWII, or cats are the dominant life form, to name a few.
*** The Apokoliptian personification of death.
**** By accelerating to just under light speed, Flash is able to hit someone with relativistic force. He once used this technique to send an evil speedster from Mt. Rushmore to Australlia at escape velocity.