To the uninitiated, just being able to run fast — really, really fast — doesn’t seem like much of a super power. The Flash has friends who can fly, shoot lasers from their eyes, freeze stuff with their breath and read minds. Compared to these super powers, running fast seems pretty lame, at first glance.
However, The Flash’s power is being fast, not just running fast, which means so much more. Being as fast as he is gives him the ability to do all sorts of things, physically and mentally, that takes his status as a superhero to a whole other level. When The Flash gets creative, there’s nothing that can stop him. He literally saves everyone in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
What can The Flash do with all that speed? Here are 15 things you never knew The Flash could do.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for both “The Flash” comic books and the CW series.
15. RESIST TELEPATHY
We’ve touched on The Flash’s super-powered mental skills that come with being a Speedster. Not only can The Flash speed read, and retain the information, but also he can use his vast mental abilities to fight off telepathy and mind control. The Speed Force affects his mind so that his thoughts move too rapidly for someone with telepathic powers to lock onto them. Although Martian Manhunter, a very powerful telepath, can get a vague sense of Barry’s thoughts, he cannot read them like he can the other members of the JLA.
Barry’s ability to throw off mind control helps win the day in “Blackest Night” Vol. 1 #2 by Geoff Johns, with art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira and Alex Sinclair. Trouble arrives in Gotham City when the Black Lantern starts converting superheroes into villains. Barry and Hal Jordan end up fighting Black Lantern J’onn J’onzz, who works his mental mojo on them. But he gets frustrated when he realizes his telepathy won’t work on The Flash.
14. SPEED READING
Even without powers, Barry Allen is a very intelligent forensic scientist. He’s proven to be a valuable asset to the police force, as well as his friends in the Justice League, when it comes to thinking through a problem. By using the Speed Force, he can increase his knowledge exponentially, even if it’s only for a temporary period of time. The Flash is able to read immense amounts of information and store it in his short-term memory in order to solve a problem or catch a bad guy. His synapses fire at an incredible speed, allowing him to store a ton of facts in mere seconds.
In “The Flash” Vol. 3 #2, written by Geoff Johns with art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, The Flash uses speed reading to save dozens of people. When an apartment building is hit by a shockwave, Barry races to the library where he quickly reads several books on architecture. He returns to the building, reconstructs it as it’s falling, and saves the tenants inside. With his spare time, he even saves a little girl’s doll.
13. CLIMB WALLS
How does one defy gravity if one is not Superman? Physics tells us that if an object can go fast enough, and build up enough momentum, it can use that force to break the grip of gravity and shoot upward. The Flash can easily get enough momentum going to race up and down buildings, as well as towers and falling debris. The Flash has defied gravity to climb walls in order to save people, or just to race ahead of one of his best buddies.
When The Flash raced Superman, in one of many such races, in “Flash: Rebirth” Vol. 1 #3, written by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver and Brian Miller, he showed his friend Clark Kent what he could really do. At one point during their race, the two superheroes ran straight up the side of a building. Although Superman thought he could convince Barry to slow down and stay, The Flash told Supes he had been holding back in the past, then left left him in the dust.
12. RUN ON WATER
One of the reasons The Flash deserves to be worshiped by his adoring fans is because his speed allows him to run on water. A normal human being would have to run almost 99 feet per second in order to keep from sinking. That’s three times as fast as the current fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt. The Flash, of course, can blow past that speed with ease, which allows him to zip across the waves like he’s running on pavement.
In “The Flash” #123, written by Gardner Fox with art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, when Barry Allen first meets Jay Garrick, Barry finds himself dashing across water to chase down his prey, The Shade. He hops into a boat and leads Barry onto the water, where he uses his wand to squirt darkness and oil across the waves. As The Flash slows up, he begins to sink into the sea. Of course, The Flash recovers, and together with Jay Garrick, they catch all the bad guys.
11. CREATE A TORNADO
A tornado is created when two masses of air, one humid and one dry, collide. Then, a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed creates a twirling tornado, rising up from the ground. The Flash has used his own tornadoes to great effect when it comes to dealing with all sorts of criminals and meta humans. On “The Flash” TV series, in the very first episode, Barry defeats Clyde Mardon, the Weather Wizard, by creating a tornado that spins in the opposite direction of the storm Mardon was controlling.
The Flash was using self-made tornadoes as far back as 1956, in “Showcase #4,” written by Robert Kanigher and John Broome, with art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert. Barry comes across Mazdan, a criminal from the future who escapes his time capsule prison. Mazdan shoots rings of fire at The Flash that are hot enough to burn blue-white. The Flash quickly diffuses the heat by creating a tornado.
10. HEAL QUICKLY
The Flash’s metabolism runs at a super speed, just like the rest of him. As we were told in “The Fastest Man Alive” episode of “The Flash,” Barry’s body requires thousands of calories a day just to maintain his health. Along with a speedy metabolism, The Flash has the ability to heal at a much faster rate than a normal human being can. Because of his amazing healing ability, he can take punches and body slams from Central City’s worst, as well as withstand sound waves and absorb a burst of energy that would normally kill someone.
When Deathstroke dealt Wally West a mighty blow in “Deathstroke the Terminator” #13, by Marv Wolfman with art by Mike Zeck, Steve Erwin and Tom McCraw, The Flash literally bounced back in just seconds. The Flash was lucky Deathstroke was aiming for him, rather than the cops or civilians nearby. Slade Wilson was a great tactician, and tripped up The Flash, but Wally healed quickly enough to continue the fight.
9. CREATE A VACUUM
Just like The Flash can create an abundance of wind when he creates a tornado, he can also suck the oxygen out of an area. He doesn’t do it with his lungs, of course, but by running in circles fast enough that a vacuum is created in the center of the circle. Creating a vacuum is an effective way of dealing with a variety of dangerous situations. The Flash can put out fires, as well as suffocate his enemies, at least until they behave.
In The New 52’s “Flash” Vol. 4 #11, written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, with art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, Brian Buccellato and Ian Herring, Captain Cold is having an identity crisis, while Heat Wave’s abilities have become organic in nature. The two of them go head to head in the bar where Barry is working undercover. Barry decides to let the air out of their argument by creating a vacuum and depriving them of oxygen. They fall unconscious and are taken away by the police.
8. BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER
Chuck Yeager was the first person ever to travel faster than the speed of sound. To break the sound barrier, his plane had to fly at supersonic speed, or approximately 761 miles per hour. Barry and Cisco had a lot of fun training Barry to run faster than the speed of sound in the CW series’ episode “The Flash is Born.”
The Flash has left a sonic boom in his wake many, many times in comic books. One memorable incident occurred in “The New Frontier” Vol. 1 #2, by Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart, where we revisit Barry Allen’s origin story, after which he has to race to save Iris from Captain Cold. Iris is in Las Vegas, covering a boxing match (Ted Grant vs. Cassius Clay). As she’s talking to Barry on the telephone, Captain Cold bursts in and freezes her hand to the phone. As Barry speeds to the city to save her, he breaks through the sound barrier and leaves a sonic boom behind him.
7. DELIVER A PUNCH AS POWERFUL OF SUPERMAN’S
A superhero doesn’t have to be the Man of Steel to pack a powerful punch. An object increases its force as it accelerates, which is why a car crash at 25 mph is preferable to one at 55 mph. Speaking of car crashes, getting hit by The Flash would probably hurt just as bad, which is why he’s been able to bring the pain on several occasions. Both Gorilla Grodd and the White Martians, who are sizeable foes, have been on the wrong end of The Flash’s fist.
In “Justice League of America” Vol. 1 #3, written by Grant Morrison with art by Howard Porter and John Dell, The Flash uses his might to take down one of his most famous enemies, the White Martian ZüM. Because Wally West is a conduit of the Speed Force, he’s able to tap into it to retrieve an infinite mass to put behind his punch. This translates to him knocking ZüM clear across the country.
6. TRAVEL AT LIGHT SPEED
Superman may be faster than a speeding bullet, but The Flash is faster than everything, including light. Being able to travel faster than the speed of light boosts the rest of The Flash’s amazing abilities. The more The Flash hones his running skills, the more he can tap into the Speed Force in order to achieve light speed. In addition to giving an extra pow to his punches, light speed can get him anywhere in the world he needs to go in order to save someone, with plenty of time to spare. Not even Superman can boast that.
When the Mirror Master traps The Flash’s girlfriend, Linda Park, in “Flash” Vol. 2 #133, by Mark Millar and Grant Morrison, with Paul Ryan and John Nyberg, Wally has only 15 minutes to save her from aging backward into nothingness. Luckily, he is plenty fast enough not only to save her, but also to destroy Mirror Master’s gun, rebuild it, and squeeze in not one, but two trips to Singapore.
5. THROW ELECTRICITY
Throwing lightning isn’t something that every Flash can do. In just the past couple of decades, DC has upped The Flash’s game considerably. Historically, The Flash didn’t have the ability to wind up like a generator and shoot lightning bolts, like Barry has been able to do on the CW’s “The Flash.” However, the “Rebirth” storyline saw some of The Flash’s abilities get upgraded when a storm turned several Central City citizens into Speedsters, including Wally West.
In “Flash” #5, “Lightning Strikes Twice,” written by Joshua Williamson with art by Felix Watanabe, Wally is discovering just what he can do as a Speedster. While he and Meena Dhawan, another Speedster who only recently acquired powers thanks to a Speed Force storm, are training together, he decides he can trust her and shows her some of his more surprising skills. If he focuses as he draws from the Speed Force, he is able to shoot lightning from his hands. Meena is suitably impressed!
4. CLONE HIMSELF
A team of superheroes is always better at keeping evil at bay than a lone do-gooder who happens to have powers. But when the Justice League or Teen Titans aren’t around to offer their assistance, it helps to be able to be in more than one place at a time. Luckily, for The Flash, he runs so fast that he can create the illusion of there being multiples of himself. Or, if he slips and out of the timestream at the right moment, he can create actual copies of himself instead of just a trick of the light.
Speedster Bart Allen, as Impulse, successfully creates duplicates of himself in “Impulse” Vol. 1 #77, by Todd Dezago, with art by Carlo Barberi, Juan Vlasco and Tom McCraw. He and the other Young Justice superheroes travel to Apokokips, where Steel has been taken prisoner. Bart splits himself in two, sending one of his halves back in time to find out where the Black Racer took Steel, only to discover Steel is with Darkseid. Sadly, the duplicate Bart is so intent on telling the others what he has seen, that he doesn’t dodge or phase through the fireballs raining down on them. Impulse then watches his other self die.
3. PHASE THROUGH OBJECTS
The Flash may be a solid human being who can’t walk through walls, but he can use his super speed to pass through objects, or vice versa. When The Flash vibrates quickly enough, he vibrates on a molecular level, which allows him to phase through solid objects. He can focus the vibrations on his whole body or on just his hand, for example. He can also transfer his vibrations to other objects, which allow them to phase through people or other obstacles.
Barry saved dozens of people by transferring his phasing ability to an entire airplane. In “Superboy” Vol. 6 #16, written by Tom DeFalco, with art by Iban Coello, Amilcar Pinna, Rob Lean, Richard Horie and Tanya Horie, The Flash uses his phasing ability a couple of times. First, he vibrates his way through a wall to get to Supergirl. Then, as a commercial jet full of passengers is crashing, he phases it through a bridge, avoiding a crash and saving everyone on board.
2. TRAVEL TO OTHER DIMENSIONS
The Flash can use his speed to leave our planet. The idea of parallel Earths was first introduced in 1953 in “Wonder Woman” #59, which was written by Robert Kanigher, with art by H.G. Peter. Then, we saw Earth-2 in 1961 in “Flash” #123, by Gardner Fox and Joe Giella. The Flash is able to run fast enough to break through dimensional barriers and travel through the multiverse. On the CW’s “The Flash,” we’ve enjoyed no less than three different Harrison Wells from three different Earths, each with a different personality.
Before The Flash was able to travel to other dimensions all by himself at will, he used a Cosmic Treadmill. In “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Vol. 1 #9, Marv Wolfman, with art by George Pérez, Jerry Ordway and Carl Gafford, Jay Garrick and Kid Flash work together to rebuild Barry’s Cosmic Treadmill, in order to build up enough speed to break through the barrier between the Earths that are on a collision course.
1. TRAVEL THROUGH TIME
Just like The Flash can travel to other dimensions, he can also travel through time. By building up enough speed, The Flash can pierce the time barrier and travel either to the past or to the future. As we mentioned above, The Flash can travel a short distance into the past to create duplicates of himself. However, traveling even further into the past is tricky business, because if the past is changed too much, horrible things can happen in the new timeline that’s created.
Having the ability to time travel means that The Flash is possibly the most powerful, and most important, superhero in the DCU. In “Flashpoint,” by Geoff Johns, with art by Andy Kubert and Sandra Hope, Barry completely changes reality by running back in time to save his mother from being killed. He wakes up to find that he has no powers in the present of this altered timeline and that the world is nothing like he remembers. The new timeline is called “Flashpoint,” and it’s the kick-off for The New 52 and, indirectly, the current “Rebirth” continuity in the DCU. A superhero doesn’t get much more powerful than that.
Which of The Flash’s powers surprised you the most? Tell us in the comments!
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