The fastest man alive is arguably DC’s most relatable superhero.
Flash: A Brief Overview
Flash, often called ‘The fastest man alive’ is a type of DC Comics superhero called a ‘Speedster’.
Speedsters are able to access the Speed Force, which means that they can move faster than anything else in the universe (apart from the Speed Force itself).
Flash is what’s known as a ‘legacy hero’. This means that, similar to Green Lantern or Batman, the role has been filled by other people.
The most well-known version of Flash is the second one, Barry Allen, a police scientist who lives in Central City.
Barry Allen was a young child whose favourite comicbook superhero was Flash, a Speedster named Jay Garrick.
As he grew older, he’d often wish for Garrick’s powers, due to having incredibly poor time management skills and constantly being late for social appointments – including dates.
In his mid-20s, Allen was a forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department. One stormy night, while working late in the lab, Allen was struck by lighnting. This knocked him into a shelf of unsecured chemicals, which poured over his body as he lay on the ground, unconscious. After regaining consciousness, Barry soon found that he could run (and move) very fast, faster than any one else on Earth.
Naming himself after his childhood hero, Flash decided to use his new powers to fight crime. However, even with his newfound abilities, he’d still find himself late more often than not.
It’d be easy to simply state that Flash has the power of super-speed and leave it at that.
However, he uses his super-speed in imaginative ways, which means that he has access to other powers, such as being able to use his speed to manipulate air pressure in order to create cyclones, or being able to funnel the Speed Force into electrical arcs thereby creating lightning.
He’s also completely immune to telepathy and mind control, as long as he’s actively fighting against it – the speed of his thoughts can make it impossible for others to manipulate his mind.
He can also use his powers to time travel, but he chooses not to (more on this below, in the Common Themes section).
To test the limits of his speed, Flash once had a foot race with Superman – and won! This means he truly is ‘the fastest man alive’.
Unlike many other superheroes (such as Batman), Flash doesn’t need any themed gadgets.
In fact, the only real gear that Flash uses is his Flash suit and his Flash ring. The suit is designed to withstand the heat generated by his high-speed antics, and is usually kept in a ring, compressed until he needs it.
Flash is a core member of the Justice League, which means that he can count them among his allies.
He also has many Speedster allies, and often operates with a Speedster sidekick named Kid Flash (Wally West).
Flash: Rogues Gallery
Somewhat aptly, Flash has a literal rogues gallery: His most common foes are a team of criminals which call themselves The Rogues.
The Rogues are usually led by Captain Cold, and the core members are Heat Wave, Mirror Master, Trickster, Captain Boomerang, Pied Piper, Top, and Weather Wizard.
All of The Rogues have appeared in the CW’s Arrowverse TV series ‘The Flash’, although never as a full team.
Another enemy that Flash commonly faces is Gorilla Grodd, a telepathic and ultra-intelligent ape.
There’s also a whole host of Speedster villains for him to face off against, such as the many Reverse-Flashes and Professor Zooms.
Flash: Common Themes
Given his job as a forensic scientist, Barry’s stories often have a scientific bent to them.
For example, Flash has used Einstein’s theory of special relativity to travel back in time. According to the theory (most commonly shown as the formula E=mc2), mass and energy are basically the same thing and can therefore be changed into each other.
Simply put, Flash is able to run fast enough that he becomes pure energy, at which point time completely stops. If he runs even faster (which is only possible because of his link to the Speed Force) then he can travel backwards in time.
He once did this in order to save his mother from dying, which created the dystopian Flashpoint universe. Although he didn’t want to, he had to allow his mother to die in order to reset the universe back to normal.
As you can see, the importance of family is also an important theme in Flash stories, as well as the idea of taking personal responsibility for your actions.
Barry Allen, unlike many other superheroes, is very relatable due to his family/responsibility themes. While these thematic elements are clearly similar to Marvel’s Spider-Man, Barry is an adult when he gets his powers, so he also deals with issues commonly dealt with by other adults.
Personality-wise, Flash and Spider-Man share a particular trait: Both of them use humour to deal with their nerves, which makes some of their allies take them less seriously than they otherwise would.
Flash: Cultural Impact
Flash’s existence (as a character) is a lot more important than is immediately obvious.
The ‘90s live-action TV show helped popularize DC Comics at the time, bringing superheroes to the mainstream. While there were live-action Superman shows on TV as well, The Flash series was arguably more popular among non-comic fans, due to its comedy-drama vibe.
This dynamic would be repeated again decades later when Flash appeared in CW’s Arrowverse. While many people had seen and enjoyed Arrow, The Flash’s casual charm would soon win more non-comic book fans over.
Although Flash can outrun anything (apart from the Speed Force, obiviously), he doesn’t appear to be running out of steam anytime soon. His general cheeriness and smart-mouthed-yet-wholesome nature will only create more and more fans as time goes on.