The Justice League are a pretty well turned out bunch. Nobody rocks primary colors like Superman, Batman has the whole dark and mysterious thing down, Wonder Woman’s always dressed to kill in those knee-high boots, even The Martian Manhunter manages to look good in an outfit consisting mainly of blue underpants. There is, however, one character who’s sleek, classy look has endured since the Silver Age. We’re talking, of course, about The Scarlet Speedster. The Flash shows us how a simple motif can go a long, long way and though he’s been through many visual reinterpretations in various media, he remains one of DC’s most recognizable icons.
Though there have been many Flashes throughout the decades; principally Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West and Bart Allen, all have stood out from their competitors on the comic book racks due to their sleek, elegant design. Heck, even the strange ‘amalgam’ Flash of Kingdom Come managed to look awesome despite being an indefinable red blur that appeared to be nude apart from the famous Golden Age silver helmet. Since The Flash is a character virtually synonymous with time travel, let’s journey through the ages to rank some of the fastest man alive’s most iconic looks across various media.
15. JAY GARRICK
The Golden Age Flash has all of the attributes of a classic comic book costume. The bold primary colors are reminiscent of Superman yet the lightning bolt icon that emblazons his torso is an even stronger visual than The Man of Steel’s ‘S’ shield. The ensemble is topped with the winged helmet sported by Hermes (or, if you prefer, his Roman counterpart Mercury), a judicious choice given the clear lineage between the pantheon of superheroes and the pantheon of the ancient Pre-Christian Gods. But… it’s still just blue jeans and a red top.
Garrick’s ensemble speaks more to the influence of the pulp heroes of the ’30s and ’40s than the superhero movement in comics. Oh, and for those who wonder why Jay never worse a mask, it’s because he preferred to conceal his identity by vibrating his face at super-speed. Sounds exhausting!
14. INJUSTICE 2 COSTUME
One of Injustice 2‘s greatest strengths is the customization that it offers, allowing characters to bedeck their favorite DC characters in costume variations knowingly plucked from comic book stories from the characters’ rich publication histories. With this in mind, it makes sense for the default costumes to be somewhat lacking. There’s nothing offensive about this version of the costume.
In fact, the omission of bulky armor is a welcome design choice, but there are some arbitrary embellishments that are somewhat questionable. The metallic gold trim mostly looks great but the detail on the mask makes it look like Flash has quizzically raised eyebrows. The texturing on the arms and legs looks nice but begs the question of why its limited specifically to those areas. Likewise the ‘wings’ on the ankles are a nice nod to Hermes / Mercury but it’d be really embarrassing if they got caught on anything.
13. THE CW COSTUME
While Grant Gustin’s affable performance as a bookish and earnest Barry Allen lends charm and sparkle to every episode of the show, the costume has just never been quite right. Thankfully each season has built upon it in some way bringing it closer to the comic book version, but the version used in series one made some curious missteps. Chief among them was the wrongheaded substitution of white for crimson in the logo’s background.
The contrast between the red white and gold is part of what makes the comic book logo such a triumph of graphic design. That said, the helmet is excellent. It looks like it could credibly conceal Barry’s identity without smothering Gustin’s performance though replacing the ‘ear’ wings with repetitions of the logo is a deviation that most of us could do without.
12. EARTH 2 JASON GARRICK
While the original Flash’s costume was heavily influenced by the pulps, this New 52 era variant wears a broader range of influences on its bevelled sleeve. Taking the simplicity of the Golden Age design and extrapolating it into a more science fiction influenced aesthetic will either be an act of serendipity or sacrilege, depending on your preferences. Those wedded to the timelessness of Garrick’s original may resent the unnecessary embellishments and Ant-Man-esque rendering of the helmet.
Moreover, the fact that this version of Garrick was gifted his powers by an Old God may lead many to pine for something more classic. Nonetheless, the costume is sleek and seamless and looks capable of maintaining its integrity at incredible speeds. Even the ubiquitous piping that’s present on most New 52 costumes works here, though why he appears to have Superman logos on his shoulders is anyone’s guess.
11. DCEU COSTUME
Some fans love it, some fans hate it…but we’d expect no less of the DCEU. Whether Flash’s suit in the upcoming Justice League aligns with your personal preference it’s nonetheless an interesting piece of production design. It’s a suit that tells a story, with tiny scratches on the armor plates and visible rivets that suggest it may be something that Barry Allen built himself. He’s clearly a smart guy and a tech junkie as we see from his apartment so its not outside the realms of possibility.
Its as sleek as an armor plated suit can get giving it an almost exoskeletal appearance, while the distended helmet gives it an aerodynamic feel like those worn by sledders, cyclists and speed skaters. Visually, it all makes sense…well, almost everything. Why a forensic scientist would opt for fingerless gloves is anyone’s guess.
10. BLUE LANTERN
During the war with the Black Lantern Corps, Barry Allen was chosen to bear a Blue Power Ring and become a Blue Lantern. Fueled by the emotion of hope, the Blue Lantern Corps deputized The Flash in hopes of helping them stop Nekron and his zombified legion of the dead. We couldn’t think of anyone more worthy of representing hope on the emotional spectrum than the always positive Barry, and dare we say he looks quite stunning in blue.
Still looking like The Flash we all know and love, this blue and black outfit still crackles with lightning as Barry takes off running. The reason why this suit is slotted in the place it is, is because we’re traditionalists and as cool as it is to see The Flash with a power ring, no matter what the color, we miss the old red and yellow that we know and love.
9. JOHN FOX
When the “guru of speed” Savitar reared his ugly head during the “Dead Heat” storyline, Wally West seemed to have finally met his match when it comes to speed. A man obsessed with learning all he can about The Speed Force, and taking total control of it, he used the Force in ways never seen before. Eventually, Wally literally ran him into the light, both disappeared with Wally hoping his love with Linda would bring him back. It didn’t go down that smoothly.
John Fox, The Flash of the 27th century, ended up being pulled into the present and falling for Linda. Just like the Blue Lantern suit, this one loses major points for the color, but also for being the embodiment of what we all thought would be cool in the future, what with his floating symbol, thick gauntlets and weird triangles. The ’90s were not kind.
8. ELSEWORLD’S FINEST
While this costume is best known as a DLC variant in Injustice: Gods Among Us, it began its life in the 1998 Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl one-shot which recast Flash as a member of the Justice Society. While the video game version added variation in texture and detail not present in the comic, the design is an intriguing blend of the familiar and the strange.
The domed helmet, bulky gauntlets, white eyes and overall metallic sheen give Flash an otherworldly presence that’s sleek yet almost menacing, like an Italian sports car with an over-caffeinated driver. The logo is small and neat, but also slightly distorted and ovoid in a way that’s reminiscent of the Tim Drake Robin logo from the same era. The comic itself may not have been much to write home about but this cool design resonated with a lot of people.
7. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE ANIMATED SERIES
The Flash made his DC Animated Universe debut in the Superman episode “Speed Demons” and went on to become a mainstay in the subsequent Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. As with all DCAU shows the artists and animators opted for simplicity of design so that they could animate the characters quickly and efficiently so that they wouldn’t have to worry about how the characters’ range of movement would affect the minute details of the costumes.
As such Flash’s design is simple yet effective. The white eye slits allow for a greater range of expression which is particularly useful in comedic scenes (this version of Wally was always the League’s class clown). The ‘ear wings’ logo and lightning details are sleek and elegant, and the character is given a lean, distinctive silhouette that looks great alongside his bulkier alumni like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern.
6. JESSE QUICK
When the cult known as Kobra was descending upon Keystone and ready to cut it off from the world, the then-Flash Wally West was trying to train Impulse to become the next bearer of the lightning. Not being the brightest of The Flashes, he thought it was a good idea to use speedster Jesse Quick as a pawn to get Impulse to be serious about the gig and gave her the mantle of The Flash.
Using Wally’s tighter and shiner look, her sleeveless body suit was contrasted with a bright blue jacket to give Jesse a very distinct look. Add a mask with the top cut off and a pair of sweet looking googles (most likely to keep bugs from smashing into her eyes at top speed), and Jesse Quick looks like a true Flashionista in this suit. Too bad she was only “the fastest woman alive” for a minute.
5. WALLY WEST REBIRTH
When Barry Allen decided to go back in time and trigger the infamous “Flashpoint” event, the DC Universe that fans have known and loved was completely flipped on its head. One of the key characters missing after the mess Barry created was Wally West. Haphazardly replaced by a completely different Wally, the original seemingly never existed in this timeline, but thanks to Rebirth he’s back and looking sleeker than ever.
In a look that’s very reminiscent of his time as Kid Flash, except in a more traditional red and not yellow, his trademark red hair is once again unleashed and blows lusciously in the wind as he reaches top speed. This shiny outfit seems to bring all of Wally’s legacy as a Flash character together to create one of Rebirth’s most inspired looks.
We take The Flash’s look for granted now, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider why the suit has remained virtually unchanged since its debut in 1956 while Batman, Wonder Woman, various Green Lanterns and even Superman have gone through numerous face lifts every few decades. If Jay Garrick’s costume was a nod to the pulp heroes of yore, Barry’s costume (designed by Carmine Infantino) embraced the science fiction craze of the ’50s.
The welcoming tone of scarlet, combined with the antenna style ‘ear wings’ and yellow accents gave the character an elegant, welcoming yet slightly mysterious aesthetic that perfectly encapsulated the optimism and trepidation of the Atomic Age. The sprawling lightning bolt that Jay wore on his torso was replaced by the neater Flash logo we know today, which remains one of the DC Universe’s most beautiful and elegant designs.
3. THE 1990 TV SHOW COSTUME
Bob Ringwood’s costume design for 1989’s Batman redefined the superhero costume for an entire generation of moviegoers. Unflattering spandex was out, and armor of sculpted musculature was in. When The Flash TV show began production that year, they faced the difficult challenge of creating a suit that conformed to the visual language established in Burton’s film while allowing an actor to move in a manner befitting The Scarlet Speedster.
Even though the suit, designed by the legendary Stan Winston, was an absolute nightmare for actor John Wesley Shipp to wear (he had to be glued into it, and caustic acetone had to be used to get him out), it looked awesome on screen. Well, for the most part anyway. The suits deteriorated throughout shooting which is why it looks a little threadbare in some scenes. Despite the logistical shortcomings it remains the most comic accurate Flash costume on screen.
2. THE NEW 52
Sure, it’s not universally beloved, but the New 52 Flash costume designed by Jim Lee got the balance between capturing the iconography of the character and offering a new take. It worked in all the ways that his redesign for the rebooted Superman did not. While the suit was detailed, nothing about it was extraneous or distracting. While many illustrators drew the suit, it always looked best in the hands of Francis Manupaul whose style lent the stories a romanticism befitting The Flash.
The lightning detail throughout the suit was slender and unobtrusive but glowed yellow when Barry was using his powers which lent an added dynamism to the action sequences, as did the raised logo which had a beveled, metallic edge. Plus, the way that it leaped from the ring and assembled itself around Barry added a cool dynamic to that age-old trope.
1. WALLY WEST FLASH COSTUME
Barry’s Silver Age costume remains the most iconic, but Wally’s variant first seen in 1991’s Flash #50 somehow managed to improve on perfection. Since comics of the ’90s were characterized by big guns, outlandishly huge muscles and darkness for darkness’ sake, it’s a blessing that Wally’s costume managed to avoid the tropes of that era. Anyone who’s read The Dark Knight Strikes Again knows what a bullet we dodged by avoiding a black Flash costume.
While the red was a shade darker than in Barry’s ensemble and the eyes were replaced with white slits like Batman, Flash’s redesign walked the line between mystique and menace. The lightning detail on the belt line was more angular (possibly to match the design in the TV show) and the costume had a metallic sheen that re-enforced the sports car parallels.
Do you think we missed an iconic Flash look? Let us know in the comments section.
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