The Flash’s popularity as a character has grown exponentially over the past few years with the ever popular CW TV series of the same name, and his appearance in the Justice League movie. In December, the CW announced a crossover event within their DC Universe called Elseworlds (presumably playing off the ‘What If‘ premise of the comics). Since the Flash is such a huge character in the comics, and being a legacy hero whose name has been passed on from person to person. Lets take a look at the confusing and strange history of those who have donned the Scarlet Speeder’s apparel in the comics and those who could make (or have already made) an appearance in the show.
Jay Garrick grew up in the early 1900s, and was mesmerized by comics and pulp magazines of the era. When he went to college in Keystone City Double he was majoring in chemistry and physics. One day in the science lab, Jay knocked over a tube of hard water and he inhaled the fumes, which knocked him out. There he sat in the science lab inhaling hard water vapors. Then, for reasons unknown to man, he woke up with the ability to run at super speeds and named himself The Flash. He became a member of the Justice Society of America (the Justice League of the 1940s), and inspired others by his heroics in World War II. One day, three of Jay Garrick’s villains, the Fiddler, the Thinker, and the Shade built a resonator which suspended Keystone City and its inhabitants in a different plane of existence. As far as the world knew, Keystone City disappeared or never existed. All they had to remember Jay Garrick by was the comic books written of his heroic adventures as The Flash.
Perhaps the most well known Flash is Barry Allen. Growing up he read the comics books of Jay Garrick’s adventures as The Flash and acted them out with his friends. When he was still young his mother was murdered and his father was convicted of the crime. From that point he wanted to become a forensic scientist and clear his father’s name. So he moved to Central City and started working for the police. One day while in his crime lab, a bolt of lightning struck through the window, hitting Barry and shattering the test tubes on his shelf, dousing him in chemicals. When he awoke from his coma he could run faster than any man, had quicker healing abilities, and a more rapid thought process. He gained access to the “Speed Force”, an extra-dimensional plane of energy. With these powers, he decided to take the name of his comic book hero The Flash and fight crime. Barry would free Jay Garrick and the citizens of Keystone City, leaving Jay Garrick to retire and the city saved. Barry Allen is one of the founding members of the Justice League and the fastest being in the DC Universe (which is arguably rivaled by The Reverse Flash, his nemesis). He’s got a heart of gold and continually shapes and saves the universe.
Wally West was The Flash’s biggest fan. He started a fan club dedicated to The Flash at his school, much to the disappointment of his parents, and always imagined meeting his hero. Because of his parents lack of faith in him, Wally went to live in Central City for the summer with his aunt Iris, who he considered his best friend. Iris was dating Barry Allen, who told Wally that he could introduce him to The Flash. So in Barry’s lab The Flash showed up to see Wally. Wally asked The Flash how he got his powers, so The Flash arranged all the chemicals in the same order as before on his shelf. Wally hoped that a similar accident could happen to him, but The Flash told him it was a billion-to-one chance that lightning would strike again. Sure enough, lightning struck giving Wally the same powers as The Flash. Barry told Wally not to tell Iris of the incident, and taught Wally everything he knew. Wally became Kid Flash, helped Barry fight crime and, along with Robin and Wonder Girl, founded the Teen Titans. Barry would later retire to the 30th century with Iris to live in peace, and let Wally take over the mantle. In Crisis On Infinite Earths, Barry Allen came out of retirement and ran to save the world from the Anti-Monitor, disappearing into the Speed Force. Wally became the permanent Flash on the Justice League.
During Barry Allen’s time in the 30th century with Iris, she gave birth to twins named Don and Dawn Allen. After Barry and Iris returned to their own time, Don Allen married Meloni Thawn, a decedent of Eobard Thawn, the Reverse Flash. They had hoped to end the rivalry between the two families. When Reverse Flash saw this he sought to destroy their union and killed Don and Dawn Allen. Don’s son, Bart Allen, inherited his grandfather’s super speed and grew at an accelerated rate. Iris West rescued Bart from the future and brought him to her own time where he was mentored under Wally West, who taught him to control his speed. He took the name Impulse but later became the Kid Flash to Wally West. Sadly, he met a tragic end when he faced off against the Rogues who built a device to steal the Speed Force. Like most comic book heroes however, he returned from the grave around the same time that Barry Allen reemerged from the Speed Force and continued to fight crime as a speedster at the side of Barry and Wally.
Bar Torr was also born in the 30th Century. He was born under oppression and his parents were killed by the tyrannical regime known as the Functionary. Bar became a smuggler, and on one of his raids he found he had regenerative healing and super speed after a crash in a spaceship. He didn’t know how or why he had these powers. With the help of his newfound powers, he left his sister in the care of nuns at a monastery and started a rebellion. He led his people with ferocity, yet in a dire battle he saw his sister wounded on the battlefield. After being left with the nuns she joined the Functionary to survive. In his guilt and grief for harming his sister, he turned himself in. The rebellion now wanted Bar Torr dead, so The Functionary wiped his mind and dropped him off at an orphanage in the 21st Century. Bar was given the name of Bart Allen. He thought himself related to Barry Allen and sought him out to become the New 52‘s Kid Flash and join the Teen Titans in the process. Later in a fight with Johnny Quick and the Crime Syndicate, the Teen Titans were thrown back to the 30th century where the gang learned of Bar’s past and his memories. The Titans went back to the 21st century leaving Bar Torr where he belonged in the 30th century.
In the comic The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry Allen ran back in time to save his mother. When he returned, his timeline had been altered dramatically to the point of it being unrecognizable. Barry and Thomas Wayne worked together to defeat the Reverse Flash who had kept Barry trapped in this universe, and have Barry run back in time again to stop himself. In doing so the entire DC Universe was reset. 10 years of continuity had seemingly been erased from the DC Universe. Because of this and other reasons, characters like Jay Garrick, Wally West and Bart Allen all of the sudden never existed, they floated around lost in the Speed Force. There was only Barry Allen at the beginning of this new time in the DC Universe.
During the events of DC Rebirth, Wally West made an emergence from the Speed Force. Summoning all his might he breached into the real world a few times. Once appearing to his former wife, Linda Park. If he could grasp onto a real connection, somebody who would remember him, he could return. Linda however, did not remember him due to the missing 10 years. His last attempt was to find Barry Allen. Upon finding him, Barry too did not remember at first. He did eventually and just barely was able to pull Wally back into the real world. Wally found the old Teen Titans, now know as the Titans and began fighting crime again with them. Jay Garrick would make a similar attempt to find Barry Allen in the comic The Button. Barry Allen and Batman would come face to face with Jay who told Barry that somebody had erased 10 years, some powerful entity. Jay was swallowed up by a blue light and never seen again leaving the mystery of who this mysterious being could be.
Wallace R. West
Capping off the Flash Fam is another Wally West. While the older original Kid Flash was swimming in the Speed Force and forgotten in time, his estranged cousin of the same name went to live with Iris West in a similar fashion to the original Wally West. His father was a criminal, and Wally had become a delinquent. During a Speed Force storm in Central City, many were given the power of speed, Wally West included among them. Barry Allen set out to train this new league of speedsters, yet their powers were all sacrificed in order to save the city, all except for Barry’s and Wally’s. Wally joined The Flash who revealed that he was Barry Allen, and became the newest and current Kid Flash. He later met his cousin Wally and then joined the Teen Titans where he now fights crime as the latest of the greatest speedsters in history.
- Justice Society Of America (2014)
- A Day In The Life of Flash
- The Flashpoint Paradox
- The Flash: Rebirth
- Crisis On Infinite Earths #8
- The Return of Barry Allen
- Terminal Velocity
- Titans #1 The Return of Wally West
- The Flash #91
- Young Justice (2011)
- Teen Titans (2011)
- Teen Titans (2016)
- The Flash Vol 1 (2016)