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10 Lightning-Fast Facts About The Flash

by Christopher Jenkins
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The Flash is so fast that it seems like he’s everywhere at once, from DC Comics to the CW drama to the upcoming Justice League movie. With so much Flash in so many places, there are many facts about this scarlet speedster that viewers may be unaware of.

Featured photo credit: DC Comics

10There’s More Than One Flash

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Photo credit: DC Comics

Due to the article in front of his name—the Flash—it’s easy for casual fans to forget about just how many scarlet speedsters there have been. Not counting the usual comics chicanery of alternate dimensions and non-canonical Elseworlds stories, there have been four characters to go by the name. The original was Jay Garrick, a college student who inhaled gases from hard water experiments and became a living embodiment of the speed god Mercury.

Five years later, DC Comics introduced the arguably more iconic Flash, Barry Allen. Barry ditched the helmeted look of Garrick for the more familiar full body suit after lightning struck some chemicals that he was working on during his career as a police scientist. The third Flash, Wally West, was originally introduced as Allen’s sidekick, which seemed like a natural solution after West also encountered lightning and chemicals, resulting in super speed. After Barry died trying to save the universe, Wally became the full-time Flash until the introduction of Bart Allen—Barry’s grandson, who inexplicably hails from the 30th century.

After his tenure as a hero named Impulse and then a sidekick stint as Kid Flash, Bart became the Flash. Overall, Barry has been the most iconic, and he served as the Flash after DC reset their continuity with their New 52 brand of comics. Barry is also the speedster currently gracing the CW’s The Flash TV series.

9He’s Faster Than Superman

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Photo credit: DC Comics

If there’s one things comics nerds love to engage in, it’s debates about who would beat whom in hypothetical contests. A classic topic of debate is whether the Flash could be faster than Superman, who is known for being faster than a speeding bullet and, if the movie plot calls for it, can even fly fast enough to turn back time. Over the years, DC’s writers teased such fans, setting up races for the characters that were ultimately called off or ignored so they could team up to defeat some foes. However, numerous issues and retcons later, there is a definite answer: Flash is faster.

Whether it was wily Jay Garrick stealing kinetic energy from Superman to squeak into first place or a revived Barry outright smoking Superman in a new race, Flash was the clear victor. This shouldn’t be surprising, though—while Superman is enhanced by the yellow Sun, he still has to obey basic physics, including friction. The Flash is powered by the nigh-magical Speed Force, which allows him to tap into speed that others simply cannot. This, of course, makes “fastest man alive” more than just a cool title.

8He Changed All Of Reality

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Photo credit: DC Comics

It’s true: Flash is responsible for the reality-altering that resulted in the New 52 universe of DC comics. Of course, the true culprits are the DC editors who decided to try to lure young readers to their brand, but it was Flash that served as the in-story mechanism for doing so. How? After Barry finds out that his mother was actually killed by his nemesis, the unfortunately named Reverse-Flash, he decides to use his speed powers to go back in time and try to stop the villain. Unfortunately, this ends up sending that wacky Speed Force through reality like a bullet, changing it forever—or at least until the next editorial change.

This resulted in a kind of Twilight Zone version of the DC comics universe, as readers were invited to “imagine a world” where Superman is hooking up with Wonder Woman instead of Lois Lane and years of continuity baggage is simply shaken loose to make way for new stories. However, every reader who longs for the good old days of DC comics can blame the Flash for the state of the universe.

7He Was The First Silver Age Remake

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Photo credit: DC Comics

DC Comics has been around a long time, so fans have developed ways of referring to different “ages” of the comics. The Golden Age refers to the first incarnations of characters such as Batman, the Flash, and Green Lantern, with the latter two appearing quite differently than they eventually would in their more famous appearances. The Silver Age marked DC’s first effort to modernize its heroes, and it started with Barry Allen’s Flash.

The popularity of the revamped hero led to the modernization of other heroes, leading to DC’s Silver Age of comics. While it may be difficult to imagine in a world that has a seemingly infinite supply of comic book shows, movies, and games, Barry Allen did something amazing in 1956: He made superheroes cool with the public again. This was necessary because, even in 1956, Batman and Superman had been punching people for nearly two decades. Thanks to the Flash, however, superheroes have continued to flourish for over half a century.

6It’s Tough To Read His Mind

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Photo credit: DC Comics

Of all of the side effects of the Flash’s powers, one of the most interesting is that it’s difficult to read or take control of his mind. While that may not seem that useful, it’s worth pointing out that Flash regularly fights an intelligent gorilla that tries to take over everyone’s brains. On top of that, he works alongside the telepathic Martian Manhunter. Imagine a coworker who can read your every thought, and you can see why Flash’s ability is surprisingly handy.

The way it works is surprisingly simple: Being able to run at the speed of light would be pretty useless if Flash’s thoughts were as slow as the average person’s. Instead, he thinks just as fast as he runs, making it difficult for even the most trained mind-readers to read his thoughts. It’s not foolproof—telepaths like Martian Manhunter can still get vague impressions from his brain, and his powers don’t protect against psychic blasts that simply try to hurt the mind instead of read or control it. However, being difficult to manipulate is another advantage the scarlet speedster has over the likes of Superman.

5He Has The Nicest Villains

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Photo credit: DC Comics

While many heroes have colorful villains, the nemeses of the Flash—collectively known as the Rogues—are often compared to Batman’s assortment of crazy foes due to their colorful clothes, patterns, and personalities. However, there is one major distinction between the Rogues and almost every other supervillain group: a moral code. Primarily created and enforced by Rogue ringleader Captain Cold, the rules include avoiding harming children and women, abstaining from cruelty, not battling teammates, and, most interestingly, not killing cops or superheroes.

While the latter may seem surprising, Captain Cold felt it was simply practical: The quickest way to get the attention of a local superhero is to kill someone, particularly a police officer. And the quickest way to bring down the entire Justice League on your head is to kill a superhero. Therefore, the Rogues try to avoid fatal violence, although this occasionally backfires when they overestimate their foe. This happened when they attacked Bart Allen in full force, unaware that his powers had been stolen. The attack that would have been a simple diversion for a fully powered Flash ended up killing him.

4He Has A Time-Traveling Treadmill

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Photo credit: DC Comics

When it comes to wacky superhero gadgets, most people think of Superman or Batman before they think of the Flash. After all, Superman has the rad arctic Fortress of Solitude, complete with Phantom Zone Projector. Batman, of course, has an entire belt of weird toys and more vehicles than you can shake a cape at. However, the Flash has them beat with his possession of arguably the weirdest bit of tech: a treadmill that allows him to travel through time.

After the first time he was hurled through time, scientist Barry Allen decided that he should be able to control his trips through time. The solution? A treadmill powered by cosmic rays. The treadmill was useful to both Barry Allen and Wally West, but it occasionally caused difficulties when evil speedsters such as the Reverse-Flash used their own powers to abuse it. Eventually, however, it became a moot invention when Wally West realized that he could do what Barry could not: travel precisely through time using only his own powers.

3He Can Punch At The Speed Of Light

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Photo credit: DC Comics

When it comes to super strength, the Flash is, once again, not the first hero most think of. He’s not regularly lifting cars like Marvel’s Spider-Man or deflecting bullets from his eyes like Superman. However, creative use of Flash’s speed results in the most powerful punch of all: the infinite mass punch. This is the creative name for Flash’s ability to hit someone with many times the force of the explosion caused by the Chicxulub meteor, also known as the meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

If the sheer power of that punch isn’t enough proof of Flash’s pugilistic prowess, he can also punch someone up to one billion times per second. To put that into context, the Flash is able to smack someone with far beyond the impact necessary to end all life on Earth, and if that first punch somehow isn’t enough, he can hit someone 999,999,999 more times before a second has passed. It’s enough to make “faster than a speeding bullet” look like a leisurely stroll.

2He’s Hard To Shoot

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Photo credit: DC Comics

At first glance, the Flash has a rather large and glaring weakness: Without the armor of Batman or the innate toughness of Superman, it seems like all it would take is one lucky bullet to take him down. Fortunately, Flash has a few tricks up his sleeve for such situations. The fan favorite is to simply vibrate so fast that the bullet passes through him. Combined with his superhuman reaction speed, Flash can typically begin this vibration as soon as he feels a bullet hitting him, meaning that even when someone gets the drop on the Flash, it’s difficult to take him out.

Finally, even when a villain does fully shoot Flash—like when Prometheus claimed that bombs would destroy the Justice League headquarters if Flash used his powers, and then proceeded to shoot the speedster—his speed suit absorbs most of the impact, letting him effectively shrug off a shot that would kill a non-powered person.

1His Entire Life Has Been Ruined By His Nemesis

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Photo credit: DC Comics

One frustrating aspect of watching shows or reading comics where villains time travel is the typically limited scope of what they do. Why not use your powers, viewers ask, to just directly kill your nemesis when he was a kid? When it comes to Professor Zoom, also known as The Reverse-Flash, the answer is simple: He wanted to replace Barry Allen instead of kill him.

Hailing from the 24th century, Zoom already knew Barry’s secret identity and used his own super speed to make Flash’s life miserable. Specifically, he did everything from pushing a childhood Barry down the stairs and letting the child’s dog die to killing young Barry’s mother and framing Barry’s father for the murder. He also killed Barry’s wife, Iris, and threatened to kill Barry’s second fiance, Fiona Webb. If all that wasn’t enough, Zoom once claimed that he was the direct cause of every bad thing to happen in Barry’s life. Compared to the occasional killer clown, Flash illustrates that Batman has it pretty easy in the archenemy department.

fact checked by Jamie Frater