The Fastest Man Alive, the Flash is one of DC Comics’ premiere superheroes. With a history spanning the annals of comic books for well over half a century, the Flash’s importance cannot be stressed enough. Having become even a larger pop culture icon, thanks in part to The Flash TV show over on the CW, Barry Allen, who was technically the second Flash, ushered in the Silver Age of comic books. Without DC Comics taking a bold move with Barry Allen, much like the TV networks did, it’s possible comic books might not be with us today.
Thankfully, Barry was a resounding success, and ever since his first appearance in Showcase #4 back in 1956, superheroes have never been more popular. However, the Flash’s history is long and convoluted, starting with Jay Garrick, the original Flash, and expanding on to Barry Allen, and then eventually Wally West and Bart Allen. Each Flash has cemented their place in history, but with all the time traveling, paradoxes, and reboots they’ve experienced, or even caused, it can be a challenging to feat to keep track of all their exploits. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 things even hardcore fans of the Flash likely don’t know.
15 IF THE SHOW FAILED HE WOULD'VE JOINED ARROW
When Barry Allen was introduced in a two-part episode of Arrow, DC’s TV universe suddenly opened beyond what anyone was expecting. There were now endless possibilities! The initial plan was to bring Barry back later that same season as the Flash for a back door pilot leading to him starring in his own series. Those plans fell through however, and the powers-that-be decided the character would instead receive an actual pilot episode.
The network was very confident about the chances of The Flash's success. After all, the inclusion of Barry on Arrow was well-received. Yet giving the Flash his own show was a risky move, but even if the pilot didn’t do well, that wouldn't have been the last viewers would have seen of the character. According to those involved with both shows, the Scarlet Speedster would have been on Arrow as a recurring character.
14 HE HAS AN EVIL BROTHER
Evil family members are not terribly uncommon in comic books. While evil parents seem to take the lead in terms of the sheer number, there are some siblings who won’t be making anybody’s Christmas list. Introducing Barry Allen’s evil brother Malcolm Thawne. A one point Barry learned that he had a secret brother and a drunk doctor screwed up the delivery of a child from the wealthy Thawne family. This led to the doctor switching the baby he'd accidentally killed with one of the twins Nora Allen had birthed in order to save his reputation.
Years later, Malcolm Thawne learned his true parentage and didn’t take it well. He became the supervillain Cobalt Blue and made it his mission to not only rob his brother of his powers, but also wipe out his descendants for good measure. In turn, this generated a centuries-long feud between the two families.
13 HE'S KILLED
The Flash isn’t known for getting his hands particularly dirty, so whenever he’s committed murder has blown people’s minds. After the Reverse-Flash killed Iris West, Barry was horrified, but flash forward and Barry has found someone new, Fiona Webb. The two are about to get married, when again the Reverse-Flash interferes, set on killing Barry’s soon-to-be wife. However, this time around Barry isn’t having any of it. In a fit of rage, he accidentally snaps Thawne’s neck.
In The Flash Annual #3, the future Flash is killing villains. Before time-traveling to the past, he stops in Gorilla Grodd’s lair and blows up his foe’s head. After Barry returned from the future, following his murder of Grodd, his next step is to eliminate his past self. In The Flash #35, before the older Barry can kill his younger self, a future Wally West shows up, but future Barry kills Wally.
12 PSYCHICS CAN'T READ HIS MIND
The Flash is unquestionably one of DC’s most powerful superheroes. If he, and his comics’ writers, put their mind to it, there’s little he can’t do. Yet speed-related abilities and time travel aren’t the Flash’s only abilities; he has a particularly nifty defensive one. You see, not only can the Flash’s body move quickly, but his mind can too and this helps him figure out the best plan of attack as he charges into a fight.
This also provides the Scarlet Speedster with protection against psychic attacks. One of The Flash's foes is Gorilla Grodd, a hyper-intelligent gorilla with mind control powers. To the superpowered ape’s chagrin, he can't take over Barry Allen as his mind simply moves too fast to be read or controlled. This provides the Flash a terrific advantage that many of his fellow superheroes do not share.
11 HE'S FASTER THAN SUPERMAN
Even though the Flash boasts the title The Fastest Man Alive, one of the biggest points of contention between DC Comics’ fans is whether the Scarlet Speedster is actually faster than Superman or vice versa. DC Comics started the debate years ago, having the two heroes constantly finding themselves racing each other. Alas, these races were usually cut short thanks to some pesky supervillain and we never received a clear answer about who was faster for the longest while.
In Geoff Johns’ The Flash: Rebirth, readers got an answer at last. There’s a plethora of comic book shenanigans transpiring during the story, but what matters here is that Superman is chasing Barry and they seem completely even. Superman says he’s won a couple of their previous races so there’s no point running. Barry replies by admitting their races were for charity and immediately zooms on beyond the Man of Steel.
10 MARVEL PAID TRIBUTE TO THE FLASH
Barry Allen is a legendary hero and one of the highest regarded in all of comic books. In issue #8 of Crisis on Infinite Earths the Flash kicks the bucket, sacrificing himself to save all of reality. His death was so impactful, that it wasn’t just DC who mourned the loss, but Marvel Comics too. After Barry Allen’s death Marvel Comics created the character "Buried Alien" as a way to pay tribute to the fallen DC hero.
Buried Allen donned the iconic colors, suffered amnesia, and somehow remembered running into this new universe, i.e. the Marvel Universe, from another universe *ahem* the DC Universe. He named himself Fastforward and was called “The Fastest Man in the Universe”, except in this case it was the Marvel Universe, rather than the other way around.
9 HE WAS THE LIGHTNING BOLT THAT TURNED HIM INTO THE FLASH
To no one’s surprise, The Flash comics are chock full of time travel and paradoxes. It comes with the territory. To those who don’t know, Barry Allen received his powers from getting struck by lightning at the same time a bunch of chemicals fell on him. Turns out, there were greater powers at play than everyone originally thought.
In The Flash: Rebirth, the story revolves around Barry Allen and his return, following the events in Final Crisis. During the story, the Reverse-Flash has come back once again to seek revenge on Barry. Barry chases after the Reverse-Flash, who’s gone back in time to kill Iris. Barry pushes himself hard enough to break the time-barrier and becomes the lightning bolt that originally gave him his powers.
8 HIS DAD WAS THE ORIGINAL FLASH
If you’ve watched The Flash over on the CW, then odds are you felt like you inexplicably recognized a certain somebody. This is on account of several reasons, the first being there was a previous Flash TV show back in the early ‘90s, and it starred none other than John Wesley Shipp as the Flash.
These days, he’s appeared as both Barry Allen’s father and the Golden Age speedster Jay Garrick. That wasn’t the only way the new show paid homage to its predecessor. They also got Star Wars actor Mark Hamill to reprise his role as the villainous Trickster. While it’s clearly a different version of the same character, previews for the episode used footage and images of him from the '90s series, which is pretty cool.
7 HE'S MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU THINK
To the uninitiated, it’s easy to think the Flash only runs fast, but he can do much more. One of the most powerful superheroes ever, the Flash’s abilities to run millions of time faster than the speed of light, time travel, and even create alternate timelines makes him practically a god. Luckily, at least for the most part, the Flash often resists the temptation to warp the universe to whim…except for that whole "Flashpoint" affair where he created another universe!
The Flash has accelerated healing, is capable of quantum tunneling through objects, and packs the infinite mass punch, where he accelerates to the speed of light and hits someone with the mass of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs; he can hit someone with that level of strength once or a literally one billion times in a second. No one can see him or touch him if he moves fast enough.
6 HE GAVE GREEN ARROW A TOUR OF THE AFTERLIFE
Before the DC event "Final Night", Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, died. Hal Jordan, right before he dies by reigniting the sun and saving the world, uses his immense power to resurrect Oliver’s physical body. The Green Arrow story arc "Quiver" takes place shortly thereafter. In it, the newly resurrected Green Arrow is back and trying to find his place in the world.
Of course, leave it to Batman to realize something’s off. Batman and others perform a type of séance, sending Ollie’s to the afterlife where he meets Hal Jordan, now the Spectre. Hal says that he resurrected Oliver’s body, but not his memories. From there, Ollie takes a tour of Heaven and is greeted by Barry Allen. Barry then gives Oliver a brief tour of Heaven before reuniting Green Arrow with his spirit.
5 HE USHERED IN THE SILVER AGE
Without Barry Allen the world of comics would be a drastically different arena. Before he became the Flash, Jay Garrick was the Flash during the Golden Age of comics, which refers to the first incarnations of characters such as Batman, the Flash, Superman, etc. After the '40s however, interest in comic books and superheroes was on the decline; so DC tried one last push.
And so The Silver Age marked DC’s first effort to modernize its heroes, by effectively rebooting their universe for the first time. It started with Barry Allen’s Flash. He was the first hero to get revamped in a dramatic fashion and Barry’s introduction was so successful that it led to the modernization of other heroes, which in turn cemented DC’s foothold.
4 ANDY MIENTUS AUDITIONED TO PLAY THE FLASH
The Flash is currently four seasons in and it’s crystal clear the show isn’t going away anytime soon. Grant Gustin, who plays Barry Allen and the Flash has done a pretty great job at capturing the essence of the character. After all the episodes he’s been in, it’s somewhat difficult to imagine anyone but him in the role. Though like any TV show or movie, there were obviously tons of people who auditioned for the part.
Most notably, one such actor who auditioned was Andy Mientus. Even though he didn’t receive the role, he did appear several more times as the character Pied Piper. All things considered, while Gustin has certainly made the role his own, The Flash would’ve felt quite different had Mientus donned the red tights instead.
3 HE NAMED HIMSELF AFTER HIS FAVORITE SUPERHERO
One of the biggest struggles all superheroes must face is not fighting criminals, but choosing an awesome codename. When Barry Allen first acquired speed powers in Showcase #4, he knew he needed to do good with his abilities. However, he wasn’t sure what to call himself. That’s when Barry got inspiration from his favorite superhero.
Ever the lovable nerd, Barry decided to name himself after the original Flash. He got the idea from a Flash comic book chronicling the adventures of Jay Garrick. As it turned out, Jay Garrick, the first Flash, lived on Earth-2 in a completely separate universe. It would take a number of years for the respective Earths to crossover, but once they did, the event forever changed comics as it introduced the concept of the multiverse.
2 HE'S TOO FAST FOR DEATH
The Flash is impossibly fast. How fast, you ask? Well, he’s fast enough to outrun death. While that might not make a lick of sense, welcome to the wonderful world of comics. Anyway, since the Flash can’t be captured by death, death has seemingly created a hellish death-entity to do the job. The Black Flash is a speedster who is the embodiment of death itself.
Though originally thought of as a myth among living speedsters, the Black Flash would appear to speedsters right before they died. Flashes like Barry Allen, Johnny Quick, and even Bart Allen, all had visions of the Black Flash moments before their death and/or death-like experiences. Interestingly, Max Mercury is the only speedster to elude the Black Flash on more than one occasion.
1 HE WAS MASHED-UP WITH GHOST RIDER
In one of the few crossovers between Marvel and DC Comics, the two powerhouses did the unthinkable. They decided that after their characters were through punching each other, to then literally mash them up into different heroes during their line of "Amaglam" comics. Superman was mashed-up with Captain America, Spider-Man with Superboy, and the Flash merged with Ghost Rider to transform into Speed Demon.
There were actually three versions of this creation and they all failed miserably. After all, what do you expect when the name you give your Barry Allen/Johnny Blaze hybrid is Blaze Allen? The whole thing was a PR stunt since both companies were struggling in terms of sales, and while the mini-series DC vs. Marvel was successful, it’s spin-off Amalgam and everything it brought with it was not.
Which of these facts did you not know? Let us know in the comments!