Ever wondered what all those geeks in the corner were talking about? Never Fear! The Bluffers Guide is here to help. This time: The Flash!
Aaa-aaaaah!!! He’ll save every one of us!
I think that was strange even for you.
You’re not talking about Flash Gordon?
Does he have a red suit?
Not traditionally, no. You mean The Flash then?.
I think that’s what I said.
Right. Sorry. So that joke makes no sense to you?
Not so much. I was going to ask you about the guy in the Red Suit from the TV show that has been picking up so many good reviews.
With you. The Flash, who is (mostly) Barry Allen.
That’s him. Wait, “mostly”?
Well Barry is probably the longest running Flash, but certainly not the only one. Or even the first. He is, however, the one that seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment.
So who is the first Flash? Is that Barry’s Dad?
Only in the sense that the actor on the TV show – John Wesley Shipp – who plays Barry’s Dad actually played The Flash on the short-lived 1990 TV show.
Indeed. But no, the first Flash was a chap called Jay Garrick, who appeared in 1940. Created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, he had a shiny tin hat and a red jersey, and got his powers by exposure to “Heavy Water”, whilst on a cigarette break down at the lab.
Wouldn’t get that today.
Things were different back than, I guess.
I guess so. Garrick was The Flash through the second world war and slightly beyond, but as superhero comics fell out of favour he fell into obscurity and the line ended in 1948. It wasn’t until 1956 that Barry Allen debuted as The Flash under Robert Kangier and John Broome.
And this is Barry from the TV show.
Yep. In an interesting early touch of meta-fiction, one of the young Barry’s inspirations is reading the comic book adventures of Jay Garrick, whom DC continuity went on to establish living on “Earth-2” along with all the other Golden Age heroes.
I guess that’s another story?
That’s a lot of other stories. For now, don’t worry about it. Barry is The Flash all the way until his death in 1985, saving the universe at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Along the way he manages to establish most of the important Flash mythology – his villain roster, his connection to the “Speed Force” and the “Cosmic Treadmill”…
The Cosmic what?
Treadmill. Which he runs on to travel in time.
Of course he does.
It’s The Flash! He solves everything by running very fast. But yes, Time Travel is an integral part of the Flash mythology, which is the TV show has already alluded to it.
But you said Barry died?
Yes, and interesting enough it was pretty permanent. Crisis on Infinite Earths was a grand cross-over event designed to streamline the increasingly messed up DC continuity (including Earth-2!) and clean it all up by collapsing the universe(s) together into something more coherent.
Did it work?
Sort of. But that’s another story. But one of the big casualties was Barry, who killed himself saving the entire universe, and he was replaced as the Flash by Wally West, formerly Kid Flash.
A boy sidekick.
No hero is complete without one! Wally was created way back in 1959, and got a trademark Yellow Suit in 1963.
A Yellow Suit?! But that means….
Not that one. Try to keep up. Wally was Kid Flash for a long time, but was also the Flash for a pretty long time too, as DC resisted the temptation to bring Barry back from the dead well into the 2000’s. In fact, there is a whole generation for whom Wally is The Flash, and Barry a legacy character, not least after his long-running appearing in the DC Animated Universe. Here, Wally is the group’s warm-hearted everyman, setting The Flash out as a character who is not going to be overly saddled with the sort of grim overtones that settled over so many titles in the 1990s.
But in the end, they couldn’t resist, and had to bring back Barry Allen?
Well yes, because Comic Books. In the last 2000’s and in the build-up to the New 52 relaunch in 2013, Barry turned out only to be mostly dead, and so was restored to continuity. After another huge universe reboot in Infinite Crisis, Barry is once again the Flash.
And Wally is Kid Flash?
Actually, Wally was written out altogether, which seems harsh for a character with a fifty year history and who had carried the title for nearly half that. Some stories have introduced a new Wally, sharing the name but little else, but as it stands that character is long gone.
So Barry is the man, right?
Very much so. The new TV show has been a hit for the network and already renewed for another series, and brought the character to a whole new audience. He’ll also appear in DC/Warner’s plans for a cinematic universe, although exactly when is still open. But regardless, The Flash’s profile has never been higher.
And he’s not called Gordon.
GS Blogger: Matt Farr