Fast = speed. Lots of speed = lots of fast.
Mankind has a very basic reason to go fast… it’s exhilarating! DC Comics caught the wave early and began delivering exactly what the public wanted to see — people who could move faster than they could blink. And with that was born a wave of superheroes traditionally known as “speedsters.” Here, we look at some of the best of that bunch.
Jesse Quick is one of only a handful of female super-speeders and easily the most capable. Daughter of Johnny Chambers, they both access their speed through recitation of the mathematical formula “3X2(9YZ)4A.” During a battle against Zoom (Wally West’s own personal Reverse-Flash) who manipulated the flow of time around himself to run at speeds approaching light, Jesse funneled her connection to the Speed Force into Wally in order to give him enough speed to combat the villain on an equal field. As an after-effect, she was striped of her memory — and by default the mathematical mantra — and her connection to the Speed Force. During the The Flash:Rebirth series, she regained her speed abilities and helped the other members of the Flash family defeat Professor Zoom.
Although she was often sidelined in the Flash legacy, she played a vital role in the DC Universe, managing the financial side of the JSA and her own company between bouts of heroics. As well as being a member of the JSA, Jessie also served with the New Titans and alongside the many speedsters who form the Flash legacy. She is the only speedster to show a flight ability.
4: Wally West
Originally Kid Flash, Wally West was the sidekick and protégé of Barry Allen, and a founding member of the Teen Titans. But his tenure as Kid Flash was short-lived when he contracted a mysterious disease that forced his body to rapidly age whenever he used his speed powers. It was only during the Crisis on Infinite Earths that he was cured by a blast of anti-matter energy. Although he was the third Flash, his speed was originally limited to just beneath the speed of sound and he was forced to consume vast amounts of food to maintain his energy levels. These restrictions were lifted during his confrontation with Professor Zoom and the introduction of the Speed Force to his life.
Wally has gone through more character development than most of the other contributors to the Flash legacy. Originally down on his luck, West won the lottery and became something of a playboy until his fortune was unwisely spent by both himself and his mother. He matured from his womanizing ways when he met Linda Park, his future wife and mother of his two children.
3: Max Mercury
Dubbed “The Zen Master of Speed,” Max Mercury is the oldest living speedster still around. Originally from the 1830s Old West, Max was blessed by a dying shaman and gained super-speed. Almost uniquely, Max attempted to find and understand the source of his and the various Flash’s abilities: the Speed Force. Slower than other speedsters, he’s more acrobatic, has a more subtle connection to the Speed Force that allows him to “hear” the vibrations of various objects, and he can even sense changes within the Speed Force itself. Max has mentored both Wally West and Bart Allen (far more frequently). Teaching West and the other speedsters about the Speed Force, he managed to help Wally remove a mental block that prevented him from reaching speeds equal to Professor Zoom and, subsequently, Barry Allen.
Although born in the 1830s, Max has been launched through time in his frequent attempts to enter the Speed Force. The first time he jumped, he described it as: “Looking into the eyes of God. Then I blinked.” The Speed Force flung him off into the timestream, emerging decades ahead. He would frequently try to join the Speed Force again, but was only accepted by it during his dying days. That is, until Professor Zoom began corrupting the Speed Force and Barry Allen rescued him from the Reverse-Flash’s “Negative Speed Force.”
The original Flash was the brain-child of writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, appearing as the main feature in Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940) and his own comic All-Flash the following year. Jay Garrick was a college student involved in experiments using hard water (later referred to as heavy water) in 1940. During a cigarette break, he accidentally inhaled large amounts of the gases and was subsequently transported to a hospital. Upon his release, he discovered that he became endowed with the ability to move at super-speeds. Following a brief career as a college star in American football, Garrick created a costume from a red shirt sporting a lightning bolt and his father’s helmet from WWI, stylised with wings in a reference to the Roman god of speed, Mercury. Sadly, with the dwindling popularity in superheroes post-WWII, Flash Comics was cancelled in 1949 with issue #104 — the first appearance of the super-speeder Rival, which set the trend of each Flash eventually being paired with their own “Reverse.”
Not to be kept down, the Golden Age Flash was later revived in the modern era and continued to serve the greater good with the newly risen JSA, going on to help both Wally West and Bart Allen in learning to use their speed abilities.
1: Barry Allen
For many, Barry Allen is the iconic Flash. He is possibly the most heroic of all the speedsters, giving his life in order to destroy an anti-matter canon in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following his demise, he even made several return visits to earlier times in an effort to assist the next generation of heroes he left behind. Fast enough to outrun the Black Flash, the death that comes for all speedsters, Barry is capable of reaching speeds enough to break the time barrier and can also vibrate every molecule in his body. Not only does he have the greatest connection to the Speed Force, he is actually the source of the trans-dimensional energy and generates more power with each step that he takes.
Barry is so admired for his charm and graces that nearly all other speedsters are eventually compared to him; he even manages to crack the usually indomitable frontier presented by Batman to the extent that the Dark Knight once stated, “Barry is the kind of man that I would’ve hoped to become if my parents hadn’t been murdered.”
The focus of the 2014 Flash TV series, this version of Barry is played by Grant Gustin.
The grandson of Barry Allen, Bart was originally thoughtless in his actions and went by the codename “Impulse.” Eventually joining up with the Teen Titans, he was shot in the knee by a possessed Deathstroke and forced to spend time recuperating. Realising he needed to start thinking first, Bart became Kid Flash and spent his recovery reading every book in the San Francisco Public Library. Unlike other speedsters, whatever Bart read during super-speeds stayed remembered. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Bart was left to fill the Flash legacy.
Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Wally and Linda were sent to an alternate dimension reachable only by speedsters. Sharing a connection to the Speed Force, their two twins had rapidly accelerated aging and reached the physical ages of eight and 10 respectively after only a few months of growth. Rather than normal speed abilities, Jai was able to hyper-metabolise to gain super-strength and Iris was able to phase through objects. In their final appearances, Professor Zoom was disrupting the Speed Force and causing them intense pain due to their shared connection. Iris took her brother’s connection into herself to spare him the torture and later became the second Impulse.
There have been many Speedsters to oppose the Flash Legacy, but none more dangerous than Professor Zoom. An insane genius from the 25th century, Eobard Thawne made it his life’s work to destroy Barry Allen and prove himself the better of the two. In his long list of crimes, Professor Zoom has killed Iris West and Johnny Chambers, and sought to divert history from its natural path dozens of times. Each attempt has been met, and bested by, the Flash.