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Who is Zoom? A History of "The Flash's" New Major Villain

SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains potential spoilers for upcoming episodes of "The Flash."

"The Flash" opened its second season on The CW earlier this month with a bang, swiftly introducing not only a new hero in Jay Garrick, but a new über-villain in the enigmatic and deadly Zoom. Subsequent speculation has run rampant over who this new evil speedster might be, and while you can often turn to the comics for hints as to what may be coming up on the show, Zoom quickly took a sharp turn away from his source material, leaving fans of both the show and comics -- along with Barry Allen and Team Flash -- with a new, dangerous mystery to solve.

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Sporting a costume unlike one we've seen before and an apparent Earth-2 origin, this Zoom appears to be very different from the master villain who bedeviled the Scarlet Speedster in the pages of DC Comics. Despite these differences, the character is still inspired by its comic book counterpart, and the show has proven time and again that no matter how the characters are adapted from comics to live action, the underlying basis for each one is rooted in the original incarnation. With that in mind, we've combed through the villain's comic book history in hopes of uncovering some insight into the identity of this new Zoom.

The Not So Good Professor

When Eobard Thawne first appeared in the pages of The Flash #139 (September 1963), the yellow clad speedster from the future's full code name was Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. After Thawne's death at the hands of Barry Allen, however, the evil of Professor Zoom was just an unpleasant memory in the DCU. Of course, the question must be asked: is there a Reverse Flash/ Zoom connection on "The Flash?" Thawne's Reverse Flash was the key villain of Season 1, and the show's producers and writers insist they're forging new ground with Zoom, but that doesn't mean Earth-2's Harrison Wells isn't somehow tied to the existence of TV's Zoom.

The Flash Legacy

In the comics, Wally West was Barry Allen's sidekick, Kid Flash. West fought side by side with Barry Allen for many years, until Barry was killed during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths," a landmark comic book event that has been alluded to a number of times on the TV series. Following "Crisis," Wally took on the mantle of the Flash and filled the role proudly for many years.

It's worth noting for those not familiar with the comics that TV's Barry Allen borrows a great deal of character DNA from West -- from the STAR Labs connection, to the youthful bent and playfulness of the character, TV's Flash feels like an amalgamation of the classic Barry Allen and the his successor, Wally West.

A Tragic New Friend

The comic book Zoom, Hunter Zolomon, was a profiler that joined the Keystone City PD in the pages of "The Flash: Secret Files & Origins" #3 (November 2001), and was created by "Flash" executive producer/DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins. Zolomon had a tragic past, like a dark reflection of Barry Allen's own heartbreaking childhood tragedies. Barry's father was falsely arrested for the murder of his wife, and in an eerily similar scenario, Zolomon's father actually did murder his wife. This trauma caused the younger Zolomon to dedicate his life to understanding the criminal mind, not unlike Barry's law enforcement career.

A major difference between Barry and the Hunter Zolomon was the fact that Zolomon had a severely damaged knee, which had been injured while working a case. After Zolomon's father-in-law was murdered, an event Zolomon's inaction was directly responsible for, Zolomon's wife left him. This, combined with his leg injury, led to a growing resentment in the heart of a brilliant and otherwise dedicated cop.

Grodd

Could Grodd have something to do with Zoom's secret origin? That was certainly the case in the comic. In "Flash" #193 (2002), Johns and Kolins not only reimagined the simian supervillain for a new generation, the creative team also planted the seeds that would lead to Zolomon's transformation into one of the greatest Flash foes of all time. In the issue, a savage and megalomaniacal Grodd broke out of Iron Heights prison. In the ensuing chaos, Grodd assaulted Hunter Zolomon, paralyzing the already physically impaired cop from the waist down.

A physically and mentally broken Zolomon begged Wally West to use the Cosmic Treadmill (an iconic device that allows speedsters to travel through time or between dimensions) to go back to the past and change the timeline so Grodd's escape never took place. West, fearing the consequences of meddling with the time stream, refused. This rejection was the final straw for Zolomon. In an attempt to use the Treadmill himself, the device exploded, bathing Zolomon in chronal energies. However, rather than making Zolomon a speedster, he instead found himself with the power to detach himself from the time stream.

A Rogue is Born

With his new powers, Zolomon turned his attention to the Flash. Just like Wally took up the mantle of the Flash as tribute to Barry Allen, Zolomon looked to Allen's greatest enemy, Professor Zoom, for inspiration, taking on the name "Zoom." In the new villain's mind, West refused to help him because the hero had never suffered a real tragedy. He believed Barry Allen had been so dedicated to justice and fairness because of the loss of his mother, so the new, twisted Zoom decided to force Wally to endure a tragedy of his own: the death of his wife, Linda Park, who was pregnant with twins. Zoom confronted Linda and, using his tremendous powers, snapped his fingers in her face, creating a shockwave that caused her to miscarry her unborn children.

With a simple snap of his fingers, Zoom was forever solidified as one of the most vicious and dangerous villains in "Flash" history. If this new Zoom is even half as calculated and cruel as the comic version, literally no member of Team Flash is safe.

Rise of a Hero

Devastated, West found himself doing precisely what he had refused to do to help Zolomon in the first place: traveling back in time to prevent Zoom form hurting Linda. Beyond that, West used Zoom's time energy against the villain, shunting Zoom of into an anomaly, or a time black hole, where Zolomon was forced to relive his darkest moments over and over again -- until, as any good villain must, he escaped and returned for his revenge.

Rogue War

Zoom's most epic confrontation with the Flash took place during the "Rogue War," an event that involved just about every speedster in the DC Universe, hero and villain alike. Following Zoom's escape from his chronal prison, his first mission was to try and take down Captain Cold, because he felt Wally had been softened by his not-quite-friendship with the longtime Rogue. (See? The parallels with the television series pop up in some interesting and unexpected places.)

Ultimately, Wally was able to save his friends from Zolomon's constant attempts at murder, but when it appeared Zoom's defeat was at hand, Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, arrived on the Cosmic Treadmill. Now, it was Wally against two men named Zoom! All seemed hopeless, until a past version of Barry Allen miraculously showed up and took down Professor Zoom. With Barry's coaching, Wally then defeated Zolomon, saving Linda and their unborn twins.

Wally has yet to appear on "The Flash" -- though Keiynan Lonsdale has been cast in the role -- but there's no reason to assume some version of this story couldn't play out this season with different players cast in the main roles. As we noted earlier, Grant Gustin's Barry Allen shares much in common with comic's Wally West, so slotting Barry into Wally's story is a pretty easy shift. While we've met Linda Park on TV, it's possible a version of her story couldn't be told with a non-pregnant Iris in her place, or even Patty Spivot.

The Future

While we don't yet know television-Zoom's true identity, the fact that we haven't been shown his alter-ego means that it may very well deviate from the Hunter Zolomon story. We already saw the time-twisting demise of Tom Cavanagh's Eobard Thawne, but then again, we've also just met the Harrison Wells of Earth-2, who is certainly as much of a contender to the role of Zoom as anyone.

The bottom line is, at this point, all we know is that Zoom is evil, and he's voiced by actor Tony Todd. He feasts on the power of speedsters, can travel across dimensions seemingly at will, and has murderous intentions for Barry Allen. Much like Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells in Season 1, Zoom's true identity remains a mystery for now -- and isn't that really what makes things fun?

"The Flash" airs Tuesdays at 8 PM ET on the CW.

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