You enjoyed “The Flash” this season, can’t wait for the second season to premiere, and have been following my reviews here at Biff Bam Pop!, but how well do you know the Flash from the comics? Comics can jump the shark and get out of control sometimes far worse that television shows, and the Flash is no exception. Meet me after the jump for my top ten most outrageous Flash facts. It gets wild, and weird, you’ve been warned.
When the Barry Allen first appeared in the 1950s, comics were struggling to be good after a close call with Congress and the mad psychiatrist Fredric Wertham tried to shut them down for supposedly promoting juvenile delinquency among other horrors. So as a stop gate to that kind of reputation, comics tried to do their small part to educate. In the Flash comics of the Silver Age, caption boxes with pointer fingers contained ‘Flash Facts,’ which were mini-science lessons about what was going on the story – like for instance, how the Flash could run on clouds or vibrate his molecules through walls.
10. Abra Kadabra
Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash from the 25th century is not the Flash’s only enemy from the future. There’s also Abra Kadabra, the aptly and ironically named magician from the 64th century. Of course, he’s not really a magician, or even named Abra Kadabra. Citizen Abra came from a time where science is so advanced that to someone in our time it would seem like magic, so wanting to become a stage magician, and being catastrophically obsessed with approving applause – he came to the 20th century.
Of course, with his ‘magic’ making things it so easy, he was quickly corrupted to become a super-villain in our time, and so crossing paths with the Flash. In their battles, Abra most notably turned our hero into a living puppet, and made him believe that his career as the Flash was just a fantasy as he lay in a hospital bed crippled by the accident that supposedly gave him super speed. Later he interfered with the Flash’s trial for the murder of Thawne, and was disfigured by an explosion, making him even more deranged. He remains one of the Flash’s more dangerous foes.
9. Gorilla City
We got to see Super Gorilla Grodd toward the end of the first season, and seeing how he escaped at the end, I’m sure he will be back next season. In the television series, Grodd is a gorilla who was affected by the particle accelerator as well as being experimented on before that by the government – both resulting in his advanced strength, size, intelligence, and telepathic and telekinetic powers. In the comics, things are a little different, Grodd is just one of a race of super intelligent apes that live in a hidden city in Africa.
Grodd is the black sheep, the evil rebel son of a society of gorillas who were affected by the radiation of a crashed alien ship. These gorillas became super-intelligent and telepathic, and built themselves a city of advanced technology, hidden from the civilization of man. Led by their king Solovar, and later his son, Gorilla City has become less isolationist, even joining the United Nations. Believe it or not.
8. The Dude
We’ve talked about Flash’s Rogues Gallery before, but did you know that the Flash is not only their enemy and prime target, but also a member? At one point, the Flash knew that the villains were getting together for a convention, and to find out what they were up to, he concocted a new identity, that of a new Rogue using a variety of weapons and gimmicks derived from turn of the century old timey stuff. He called himself The Dude, and no, not Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski.
This knock-off of a barbershop quartet wannabe not only claimed to have fought the Flash, but to have also defeated him. The Dude even engaged the hero in combat at the villain convention personally, using speed so fast he could be in two places at once, similar to what Harrison Wells did the first time Team Flash met the Reverse-Flash. The Dude successfully infiltrated the Rogues, and also apprehended all the convention attendees as the Flash in the probably best forgotten tale in Flash #231.
7. The Secret Origin of Iris West
You think you know everything there is to know about Iris West, don’t you? On the show, she grew up in the same house with adoring Barry and her dad is Detective Joe West. The comics are a bit different. The caucasian Iris West-Allen was born in the early 30th century on an Earth divided into East and West and was in a state of civil war. The analogy was extended farther by an android Abraham Lincoln who tried to negotiate a peace between East and West. It gets crazier as he was assassinated by an android John Wilkes Booth. Did I mention that Central City in the future is all inside one gigantic building?
After Iris was murdered by the Reverse-Flash, she was revived in the 30th century by her parents, and later Barry joined her there, and for a time, they lived happily ever after. They had twins, which run in the family (more on that later) and a grandchild who would become Impulse, a young speedster who would be sent back to the 20th century for Wally West, who then the Flash, to train. It was from this time that Barry Allen returned to his own time to sacrifice himself to save the universe in the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
6. Comic Book Continuity
Barry Allen is a big comic book nerd. I think they may have even touched on this fact in the television series. We know he’s a bit of a geek, but he’s also into the comics. In the comics, his favorite superhero is Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, and yeah, when Barry gains super speed, that’s why and who he names himself after – his hero from the comics, the Flash.
What’s really weird is that later Barry actually meets Jay Garrick on the parallel world called Earth-Two. There he learns that the adventures he read about in the comics actually happened to Jay, and that it was theorized that the writer of those stories tuned in psychically in his dreams to the real life adventures of the Flash and made comics of them. It gets weirder. Barry later discovered Earth-Prime, where both Barry and Jay were comic book characters.
So Barry is on Earth-One, Jay is on Earth-Two, there’s an Earth-Three with an evil version of the Flash, and even an Earth-X where Germany won World War II, but then there’s Earth-Prime… that’s where we live. That’s where comic book writers psychically tune in to those other parallel Earths and publish those adventures as if they’re fictional comic book superheroes. Have a headache yet? I don’t, I think the multiverse is fun.
One time the Flash was stranded on Earth-Prime and had to build a makeshift Cosmic Treadmill to return home, which he did, leaving that device in editor Julie Schwartz’ office at DC Comics. A few years later, two writers accidentally activated the Treadmill and journeyed to both Earths-One and -Two, causing all sorts of trouble with what was on those worlds, the power to alter reality. I wonder if DC still has that Treadmill?
4. The Origin of Kid Flash
Coincidence is a fickle and strange creature, not only that, sometimes lightning does strikes twice. Case in point, Wally West was Iris West’s young nephew, and he hero-worshipped the Flash. On a visit to Central City, Barry promises to introduce Wally to the Flash, which he does at Barry’s lab. While standing in front of a chemical cabinet just like the one the night he became the Flash, the hero tells Wally how he got his powers. Just then, a lightning bolt smashes through the window and bathes Wally in electrified chemicals. Guess he gains super speed?
One in a gazillion chance, right? Right. Still, that’s what happened. You could get away with that kind of stuff back then. Readers were easy and we didn’t mind, besides, now we had Kid Flash. Wally fought crime with his Uncle Barry for years before eventually becoming the first sidekick to take on the mantle of his mentor. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally West became the new Flash. Rumors persist that we will see Wally in the second season.
3. The Lightning Bolt
I’ve mentioned the Crisis on Infinite Earths many times before. It was a crisis event of multiversal proportions, with the Anti-Monitor, a cosmic villain from the anti-matter universe of Qward seeking to destroy all other universes. It was the first of the major crossover events that took place over the entire title line of a comics company. Characters died, were born, and entire universes were wiped out. It was the first, and it was a big deal, and among the heroes who died in the conflict were Supergirl, and the Flash.
The Flash ran faster than he had ever run before to destroy a machine the Anti-Monitor devised to destroy the final few universes left. Our hero succeeded but in the process he crossed the barrier from matter to energy, transforming into living lightning, and traveling backward through time to become the very same lightning bolt that strikes the chemical cabinet and gives Barry Allen his super powers.
2. Cobalt Blue
Take a deep breath, because this one is going to get wacky. Barry Allen is a twin. And his twin brother was switched at birth and given to a family named Thawne, whose child born at the same time had died. Yes, the very same Thawne lineage that eventually births Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash. The child, named Malcolm Thawne, was raised by a family of con artists and criminals who also possessed a power called the blue fire.
When Malcolm learned who he really was, he became obsessed with Barry Allen, spying on him from afar, eventually becoming a janitor at the police station where Barry worked, and witnessing the accident that gave him super speed. Jealous, he became the villain Cobalt Blue, and endeavored to steal the Flash’s speed. The rivalry between the Thawnes and the Allens lasts until the 30th century when one of Barry and Iris’ children marry a Thawne.
Back in the day, all of the big DC superheroes had their own pests from the Fifth Dimension, impish creatures of untold arcane power who dedicated themselves to the hero worship or mischief of their chosen targets. The most famous of these was Mr. Mxyzptlk who pestered Superman every ninety days, and then there was Bat-Mite who worshipped Batman and tried to help him as much as possible, the results ending in disaster more often than not. Aquaman had Quisp (no, not the cereal or its mascot namesake) and Wonder Woman had Leprechauns, and the Flash, well, he had Mopee.
Mopee looked as if he was a middle aged Harry Potter who never grew up, bald patch, wonky glasses, a wizard complex, and one very specific claim to fame. Mopee said he was responsible for the creation of the Flash. Eleven years after Barry Allen was imbued with super speed by chemicals electrified by a lightning strike, Mopee returned to Earth to remove those powers. A loophole insisted that Flash couldn’t keep the speed given when Mopee sent that lightning bolt. Thankfully, Flash got to keep his speed and Mopee has vanished into obscurity.
Yeah, the comics are really good, but the comics are, at times, absolutely insane too. What are your favorite outrageous Flash Facts? And do you want to see any make the jump to television?