The Fastest Man Alive, The Flash is one of DC Comics’ premiere superheroes. Known for his incredible speed, one of the defining aspects of the character’s history is time travel. There are few heroes who’ve time travelled more than The Flash, and there are fewer heroes still that have messed with the timEstream so much they’ve created whole other universes.
While multiple time travel theories exist, one of the preeminent theories found in nearly every superhero and sci-fi show and movie states THAT an individual shouldn’t interfere with the timeline. It’s because any action you do, anything at all, can have disastrous effects and forever change history or create paradoxes in ways you never imagined. It’s probably one of the ways the Reverse-Flash keeps returning, despite dying over and over again.
For all the good The Flash has done throughout his superhero career, and while some of his time travel misadventures have worked out, THe Flash, whether it be Barry Allen or Wally West, have used the timestream as their personal plaything. They’ve jumped to and fro in time like it’s no big deal, changing whatever they want, whenever they want.
Here at CBR we’re going to look at 15 times the Flash time-travelled, sometimes creating paradoxes and wrecking the universe, while at other times saving the day.
15 MENACE OF THE REVERSE-FLASH
Arguably one of the Flash’s greatest antagonists, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, first debuted in The Flash #139. Of course he might not have become the Reverse-Flash if not for various time travel hijinks. When D. Walter Blake decides to send a time capsule in to the future, The Flash volunteers one of his uniforms to be sent. Yet the good doctor accidentally sent a bomb to the future too, forcing The Flash to run to the future to avoid catastrophe.
When the time capsule landed, Eobard Thawne was at the scene and he snagged The Flash’s costume, becoming obsessed with the hero. With the help of wacky super science, Eobard replicates The Flash’s powers and becomes the Reverse-Flash. After finding his way to the future, The Flash battles Eobard and, yes, he does save everyone from the bomb.
14 THE MIGHTIEST PUNCH OF ALL TIME
After the accidental creation of the Reverse-Flash, the criminal would go on to create absolute havoc on the timestream throughout his villainous career. In The Flash #153, Thawne escapes the authorities and goes on a rampage. Travelling back to the present day, the Reverse-Flash tries to controls the minds of everyone in the city, thanks to a device he created. Of course Flash intervenes and the two do battle.
After a lengthy fight, The Flash hits him so hard the Reverse-Flash is literally punched through time to the future, where he belongs. What kind of carnage something like that should actually cause to the timestream would probably be mind-blowing.
Following the Reverse-Flash’s defeat, The Flash beats Mr. Element, who had been brainwashed into teaming up with the evil Speedster, and takes him to the future to fix his memory.
13 CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
The Flash’s voyages through the timestream aren’t always voluntary. Case in point: Crisis On Infinite Earths. Appearing like a phantom during various moments and then disappearing just as quickly, Barry Allen seems to be jumping into existence at random points, conveying a vague warning.
The foreboding event that will transpire hasn’t happened yet. However, in issue #8 of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the future and present finally clash. The Anti-Monitor, who’s completing a weapon that will destroy the Multiverse, is holding The Flash captive. Breaking out, The Flash proceeds to try and destroy said doomsday device. Running around the machine, against the flow of the antimatter and forcing its energy back into the device, he feels the timestream around him. As the Monitor opens a temporal portal, The Flash runs so fast he goes back through time, to the moments we saw him earlier, before dying and saving the universe.
12 FINAL CRISIS
In DC’s Final Crisis, the New God Orion has been killed and Darkseid is attacking Earth, bringing the Anti-Life Equation with him. Throughout the pandemonium, Wally West, The Flash at the time, travels back in time to catch the bullet that killed Orion. However, he leaps into a horrible future, but is saved by the return of Barry Allen. They then run back in time, chased all the while by the Black Racer, in order to stop the bullet.
The two Flashes get back to Blüdhaven, with the Black Racer hot on their heels. As the heroes reach super-luminal velocity, time warps around the Flashes, and a temporal eddy is created, into which Darkseid fires the bullet, sending it back in time to kill Orion. Firing his patented Omega Beams at the Speedsters, the heroes lead the beams and the Black Racer at Darkseid, finishing the job.
In the relatively recent Justice League issues #20 and #21, the Justice League find themselves caught in a time loop, thanks in part to The Flash. Barry is the only team member who seems aware of the events transpiring, desperate to save the day, as Jessica Cruz keeps dying every time the loop ends. Repeatedly, Barry runs back in time, changing the timeline, but not enough to see any actual results. Every time the time loop ends, he tries different strategies until finally he’s able to successfully enlist the help of Batman.
This time around, instead of trying to fix the problem alone, The Flash is aided by his teammates. Together, they manufacture a time loop of their own so they prevent the destruction brought on by a man who has yet to become a super villain.
10 CHAIN LIGHTNING
The Flash #145-#150 kicked off a little story arc in which, once again, The Flash time travels. In the present, The Flash (Wally West) captures Cobalt Blue, who is also the long-lost twin brother of Barry Allen and has vowed to destroy the future legacy of the Speed Force. Wally and his speedster friends travel through time to find each future Flash they can, trying to warn them.
Bumping around from the 25th century to the 30th century and back and again repeatedly, the timeline acts as The Flash’s sandbox. Eventually the final battle must be had. Cobalt Blue kills Barry Allen from a different point in Wally’s timeline and desperately, Wally tries to fill his mentor's place in the Crisis, but because of differences in their powers he fails. So he runs back in time, saves Barry Allen, beats Cobalt Blue and merges with the Speed Force!
9 RACE AGAINST TIME
In The Flash storyline Race Against Time by Mark Waid, starting in issue #113, The Flash has just beaten the evil speedster Savitar. However, the victory comes at a cost for Wally West as he finds himself lost in time and trapped in the 64th century. While there, Wally encounters a series of nightmares, all the while struggling to find his way home. Usually whenever he’s been cast away in time, Wally, or most Flashes for that matter, have an anchor to pull them back. With Wally, Linda Park is his anchor, but a new speedster named Johnny Thunder is trying to sever the chord by stealing Wally’s girlfriend.
Of course, Johnny Thunder’s plan does not work and Wally is able to return to his time and save the day in classic Flash fashion.
In The Flash #23 and #24 of the New 52, Barry Allen faces off against the insane and incredibly powerful Daniel West. A speedster like The Flash, even taking the name of the Reverse Flash, Daniel is Iris’s brother, but shares none of his sister’s affection for The Flash.
In their penultimate battle, The Flash seems to have control of the fight, until Dr. Elias, who also has a mad on for Flash, briefly disrupts the fight, causing a series of events that lead to Iris critically injured. Angered, The Flash charges Reverse Flash, but has his energy siphoned off him in his recklessness, propelling them to the past, where Daniel kills his own father.
The Flash is able to reabsorb the stolen power and then jettison them back to the present, where Barry channels his powers, allowing the Speed Force to undo the damage done to the timestream.
In The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns, the story revolves around Barry Allen and his return, following the events in Final Crisis. There’s an absurd amount of comic book shenanigans that transpire throughout The Flash: Rebirth, but the short version is that Eobard Thawne, otherwise known as the Reverse-Flash, has come back yet again to seek revenge on Barry. By accessing the power of a negative Speed Force, Zoom has poisoned the Speed Force, the dimension where all speedsters get their powers.
Barry and Wally chase after the Reverse-Flash, who’s gone back in time to kill Iris. Barry pushes himself hard enough to break the time-barrier; as a result, Barry becomes the lightning bolt that originally gave him his powers. Barry and Wally continue their chase until eventually they successfully capture and stop the Reverse-Flash before the timeline can be further messed with.
In The Flash Annual #3 from the New 52, The Flash from several years in the future has decided to time travel back to the present. In the future, this version of Barry Allen has become absolutely ruthless, more than willing to kill any villain he comes across.
When he returns to the present, following his brutal murder of Gorilla Grodd, his goal is to kill certain criminals to prevent specific tragedies from happening. Of course, in order to fulfill his plans, he has to remove the current Barry Allen from the timeline so he can take his place and do what he feels needs to be done. In a climactic battle, the two Flashes fight and the Present-Day Barry gets sent hurtling through time, while Future Barry remains in place to complete his dastardly work.
In The Flash #284, The Scarlet Speedster falls for a trap constructed by his arch-enemy Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. Rigging the Cosmic Treadmill to explode the moment Flash touches it, it does explode and the Reverse-Flash believes his enemy to be dead. With The Flash out of the way, Professor Zoom becomes bored and restless. With nothing else to do, he re-films a bunch of records from the future that he originally destroyed to prevent Flash from gaining any advantage should he travel to the future to read up on Reverse Flash. While doing so, The Flash appears on screen, goading the Reverse-Flash, explaining how he didn’t die in the explosion; right before the treadmill detonated, he sent his molecules ahead into the future. Barry then returns to fight Zoom, but the two end up battling in a Time-Tripper sphere and are sent bouncing through time.
4 THE CONQUERORS OF TIME
Featuring the first appearance of the Cosmic Treadmill, The Flash #125 was quick to introduce the concept of time travel to the comics. In the issue, atomic energy ceases to exist around the world. Wally meets with Barry, and using the Cosmic Treadmill, Barry discovers that in the future, aliens known as the Dorkis have nearly wiped out humanity. While he takes on the aliens in the future, Barry sends Wally to travel to the past to find the Dorkis hive, which holds a device that renders all of humanity’s atomic weapons in the present inert, and destroy it.
Despite fighting prehistoric creatures and aliens, Kid Flash and The Flash succeed in their respective missions and bring back the usage of nuclear weapons to mankind.
3 ROGUE WAR
In Geoff Johns’ The Flash, issues #220-#225, the Rogues go to war with one another. One faction, led by Heatwave, was government mandated to bring in Captain Cold and his team. Their battle wrecking the city, Wally intervenes; he’s interrupted by the return of Hunter Solomon (the new Zoom) and the original Reverse-Flash. The villains, having captured Jay Garrick, the original Flash, siphon his powers into a newly constructed Cosmic Treadmill and abduct Wally.
All three travel to the past; Zoom forces Wally to forever re-watch the moment when Zoom all but crippled Linda, his wife. Right before he snaps, Barry Allen appears, time travelling from an earlier point in the timestream. The two Scarlet Speedsters are able to team up and win the day, before travelling back to their own times, where it turns out the speedsters’ interference with time undid the damage done to Linda.
2 THE BUTTON
The most recent of all the Flash’s time travel adventures, this time the Scarlet Speedster teams up with Batman. The Caped Crusader is busy investigating the Comedian’s button he found in his cave during Rebirth, when Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, suddenly attacks him. Beaten half to death, Thawne is almost immediately whisked away by a bright light, then returned, seconds later, dead.
To find who killed the evil Speedster, The Flash and Batman hitch a ride on the Cosmic Treadmill and head back in time to stop Thawne before he can be killed. This being comics, things don’t go as planned; Barry and Bruce end up in the Flashpoint timeline briefly. Bruce is given a chance to reconnect with his father, but the heroes are forced to flee as the timeline crumbles. While they’re able to return to their own time, they fail in preventing the Reverse-Flash’s untimely demise.
Arguably the most infamous case of The Flash time travelling and wrecking the timeline as we know it, Flashpoint, the 5-issue series by Geoff Johns, helped set the stage for DC’s New 52 universe and beyond.
One night, when Barry Allen was feeling particularly lonely and really missing his dead mother, he decided to travel back in time and prevent her murder. Unfortunately, such a profound act has an exceptional cost. Ripples are sent across time as a consequences of his actions, resulting in a twisted world where half the planet has been obliterated by a war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman and the superheroes Barry once knew are nearly unrecognizable.
In a final gambit to right his wrongs, Barry goes back forward in time, pulling together three separate timelines in order to fix the Flashpoint universe he created. In so doing, the New 52 is born.
Which of The Flash's time adventures do you like best? Let us know in the comments!