In Superman: Up in the Sky #4, Superman and the Flash raced each other to see who was really DC's Fastest Man Alive in a story by Tom King and Andy Kubert. This is hardly the first time the two DC speedsters have raced, and both have won the race at least once or twice. While that comic adds its own wrinkles to the oft-repeated story, it's still not quiet the best version of that race ever to be told.
Even though it's over 20 years old, the best race between the Flash and Superman is still from Superman: The Animated Series.
The Season 2 episode "Speed Demons" introduces the Flash for the first time ever in the DC Animated Universe that began with the iconic Batman: The Animated Series. While Flash would go on to be a series regular when the world's greatest heroes united in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, his depiction in "Speed Demons" offers a tight, efficient introduction to who he is, what he can do and what he's all about.
The episode begins with crowds cheering Superman on as he does stretches to prepare for a race. Jimmy Olsen expresses his skepticism that anybody could beat his pal Superman at anything, but savvy reporter Lois Lane has heard the reputation surrounding Superman's competition. Immediately after the exchange, Flash rushes into the scene and apologizes for his tardiness -- he only woke up 2 minutes ago.
From the moment they meet, Flash and Superman's character differences are made clear. Flash is cocky and flippant, while Superman is good-natured and stoic. When Flash offers a high five to Superman he pulls a classic "too slow" move by pulling his hand out of the way when Superman accepts. The race begins soon after and what follows is a breathtaking montage befitting the title of "The Best Superman/Flash Race Ever."
The two heroes cross American highways, open prairies, and even run across the ocean itself. Superman falls a few paces behind as he appreciates the majesty of a whale breaching the water, but catches up soon after. The scene hits all of the highlights that a Superman/Flash race should, and puts it all in motion in a way fans never had the opportunity to see before.
Once the race is going the plot itself gets running, and the heroes temporarily arrest their race to focus on arresting the Weather Wizard instead. What really integrates the main conflict of the plot into the story so well is not the villain himself, however, but the way Flash and Superman's characters are developed by dealing with him. At the first sign of crisis Superman alerts Flash to a sinking ship in danger, and though Flash brushes it off as a fib meant to distract him from the races he immediately joins Superman's side once he sees the threat is real.
From that point on, the race itself couldn't be further from the two heroes' concerns as their priority becomes saving lives and stopping the bad guy. This is one of the elements that works most about this story, especially when compared to other depictions. The race itself is of no paramount importance, and neither hero is petty enough to be overly concerned with it. Despite their differences or Flash's teases and jabs, at the end of the day both heroes are just good guys trying to do the right thing.
Flash proves just as proficient as Superman when it comes to super heroics. However flippant he may have been about the race, he makes sure to whirlwind away excess oil Superman didn't catch when the two attend to a ruptured tanker. Later, when they're frozen solid by the Weather Wizard's trap, he escapes capture as easily as Superman does. Especially given that the episode is Flash's introduction, it does a marvelous job of efficiently fleshing him out and making him feel like an experienced hand at crime-fighting, further expanding the still-growing DCAU from where it was.
Naturally, the race itself does not get entirely lost in the plot either. Once the Weather Wizard is safely behind bars, the two heroes mention offhandedly that they never did finish their race. It's Superman that pulls the "too slow" high five move on Flash then, and Flash takes the race seriously as he readies in a starting position for the two to finally find out who the Fastest Man Alive is. They take off and become two blurs, one red and one blue, their colors intertwining as they whiz off into the distance.
However, we never find out who wins. The most crucial detail about this take on the race, one which depictions most often get wrong, is that "Speed Demons" pulls a Rocky III and leaves the winner ambiguous. The ending demonstrates the exemplary understanding of the characters and the set piece itself the rest of the episode got pitch perfect up until that point: It's never really about the destination, it's the journey. These are two great characters, it's fun to see them interact, and "Speed Demons" gives any other depiction of a race between them a run for their money.