The Flash (Part 3

)
By Eric S Brown
In Showcase # 4, the Flash returned to DC Comics. The character was rebooted entirely for this 1956 re-launch. Jay Garrick was replaced by Barry Allen, and gone were the winged helmet, lack of a mask, and the casual attire Garrick wore. In its place, Barry donned the full body red speed suit which is still worn by the Flash and instantly recognizable to readers today. Writers Robert Kanigher and John Broome, along with the famous penciler Carmine Infantino, also re-imagined the hero’s origin and upgraded his powers with their new take on the series. Barry Allen started out as an average man working as a police scientist in Central City, One night, while working late, he was struck by lightning and bathed in a wide array of chemicals from a shelf his lab which toppled onto to him. He awoke to find himself capable of obtaining superhuman speed and had the heightened reflexes to survive traveling at them. At first he was described as being able to move at the speed of thought but as the series progressed, he became able to move much, much faster. By issue # 150, Barry was moving at over ten times the speed of light. According to Einstein, the speed of light can’t be broken. However, Barry’s powers came from an energy field called “Speed Force”, which allows Barry to thumb his nose as Einstein and reach speeds that are almost unimaginable, even for the world of comics. Breaking the light barrier was a common occurrence for Barry and he could break the time barrier as well. Even that wasn’t enough. The Flash’s powers kept growing. Barry’s creators gave him complete control over every molecule composing his body, and he exhibited abilities beyond those of any speedster who wore the mantle of the Flash after his “death” in the mid-1980s. He could vibrate his very atoms to the point where he could not only move through solid matter but also shift himself to other times and dimensions at will when his powers were at their peak. The Flash and his powers weren’t the only things changed in this new take on the character: his foes changed as well. Gangs and mobsters weren’t Barry’s primary enemies, as they had been Jay Garrick’s. Barry fought super villains just like Batman and Superman. A huge, extensive gallery of these enemies where created during Barry’s run as the Flash, including the likes of Abra Kadabra, Gorilla Grodd, The Turtle, Captain Boomerang, and the infamous Captain Cold. These villains were capable of giving a Barry a real fight, and were often highly developed and popular characters themselves. Abra Kadabra, for example, was a man from the future who used technology so advanced that it appeared as if it were magic. The Turtle fed on speed and was able to drain the Flash of his powers for a limited time. Gorilla Grodd was not only an intelligent, and highly evolved, super strong gorilla but also a powerful telepath. Leading the pack, Captain Cold was the best developed and most popular rogue to face off against the Flash. He started life as normal crook imprisoned by the Flash who swore vengeance. When he got of out of jail, he stole cutting edge “cyclotron” based technology and created his cold gun. His gun did far more than just create ice. It also created inertial fields of low molecular motion that slowed the Flash down. Leonard Snart (aka Captain Cold) was driven by three things: a desire for money, a lust for women, and a need to “show up” Barry Allen. Snart’s past was a tragic one. He came from an abusive, poverty stricken family, and this led to his rather gray take on the world and its morals. Leonard is

personally neither purely good or evil. Indeed, he has even teamed up with the Flash in times of great need. When he took over leadership of the Flash’s Rogue Gallery in Central City, he fined the other rogues by docking their cuts for the use of senseless violence, and laid down a no drug policy among them that he strictly enforced. He is the most popular, and best known, of Flash’s rogues today and I personally believe the character has been given such depth that he could support his own ongoing title. With titles like Salvation Run and Rogues’ Revenge, it’s already been shown that readers will buy a book centered on the Rogues with the Cold leading them even if the Flash never appears in the book. In addition to super villains, Barry’s run as the Scarlet Speedster introduced a few foes tired directly to the Flash family and Mythos itself such as Eobard Thawne, better known as Professor Zoom (aka The Reverse Flash). Zoom made his first appearance in issue # 139 and continued to plague Barry Allen as his most powerful nemesis, until his death many years later in issue # 323. Barry Allen’s time as the Flash was filled with tragedy as well as triumphs. Barry’s romantic life a mess. He and Iris West struggled with an on and off again relationship, never fully working out their differences to make it work. Barry was depicted as having feelings for many women during his “off” times with Iris including fellow super heroes such as Black Canary and Zatanna. When Barry and Iris finally did work things out, and were in the process of getting married, Zoom arrived and murdered Iris, sending Barry plunging into despair. Years later, when Barry was finally ready to give marriage a second shot with the latest woman in his life, Zoom showed up again and attempted to murder the bride. This time however, it was Zoom bit the dust at Barry’s hands. Justified or not, the murder of Zoom destroyed The Flash’s reputation as a hero, and he was arrested to stand trial for his crime of passion. ,The series ended with Barry being acquitted for his crimes and discovering that Iris West was still alive. Apparently, she too had been from the future and her spirit had returned there to a new body upon her “death”. Barry sought her out and they were married. He gave up his life as a hero and retired to the future with her but their happiness was short lived. DC’s epic Crisis on Infinite Earths was kicking off, and the event’s main villain-- a god like being called the Anti-monitor -- takes Barry down in the future and kidnaps him. Being one of the few, if not the only, DC hero capable of moving from Earth to Earth across the DC multi-verse at will, the Flash was simply too dangerous to the Anti-monitor to be left at large. There is no happy ending for Barry Allen. Instead he died while saving the DC universe from total destruction. After his death in 1986, Wally West (known then as Kid Flash) took up the mantle of the Flash and began a series of his own with a new issue # 1 in 1987. As of now, it has been revealed through the events of Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis that Barry Allen didn’t die in the normal sense but rather merged with the Speed Force itself. His ability to move through time and dimensions allowed him to take a “break” in his famous “death run” from Crisis on Infinite Earths before his actual death occurs. He will be returning to DC Comics this April in a mini-series entitled Flash: Rebirth which will establish him once more as DC’s main Flash. Barry will likely be more determined than ever to try to help people with his speed before he is forced to return to his “death run” and die, this time for good. Death remains in Barry Allen’s future, and one that cannot be averted at least if DC intends to keep its history intact, but at least for the time being he is back to

protect not only Central City but the world. How the other heroes and villains of the DCU will react to Barry’s return will certainly be interesting to watch and there is the potential present for Flash fans to see some of the best speedster stories written in years.

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