Where it all started - Flash Comics #1
Heroes live! Heroes die! And the universes are never the same! But, as
Stephen King reminds us, “Sometimes they come back.” So, we plunge once
again through the rabbit-hole of Replacement Heroism. Today’s featured
player . . . The Flash!
Granted, there have been many Flashes, and
there will be many more in the future. We’re going to focus on the
immediate portion of the legacy, one of the few heroic dynasties where
replacement has fairly natural and ongoing since the beginning of the
Silver Age. In the spirit of the Flash, it’s a quick overview! Of course, this is also in the spirit of Flash Rebirth #1, hitting comic shops this Wednesday from DC Comics.
Flash I: The original Flash is, of course, Jay Garrick. His first tin-hat-wearin’ appearance came in the cleverly titled Flash Comics
#1 in 1940. The man that began the race quickly became a member of the
Justice Society of America (an office he holds to this day). The series
was cancelled in 1949 as the popularity of the first wave of superheroes
began to wane.
Barry Allen takes the job in Showcase #4
Flash II: With Showcase #4 in 1956, the Silver Age
kicked off with the debut of Barry Allen, the new Flash. Unrelated to
the original in all ways but name, Barry was a police scientist that
received his powers when a bolt of lightning struck a chemical rack;
the electrified contents covered Barry, who, instead of receiving third
degree burns, got super-powers. The new Flash clicked with readers, but
some loyal fans wondered what happened to the “old” Flash. Eventually,
it was established (in a more complicated fashion than I’ll employ
here), that the adventures of the “old” Flash took place on Earth-2,
while the new Flash was on Earth-1. The characters could travel between
the alternate Earths by vibrating at a specific frequency, and
eventually, means were employed to allow whole teams of heroes to
travel between Earths.
Wally West gets a series with Flash #1
Flash III: Wally West became Kid Flash when he experienced an
accident similar to that of his uncle-by-marriage, Barry Allen. For
many years, Wally adventured alongside his mentor and his own group of
friends, the Teen Titans. After experiencing a disease that began to
shorten his life each time he used his powers, Wally “retired” from
heroics. During the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally
put his costume back on to aid the heroes and search for his missing
mentor. Wally discovered that Barry gave his life to save the surviving
universes. During the final stages of the last confrontation with the
Anti-Monitor, a blast of energy sent Wally’s disease reeling into
remission. In Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, Wally resolved to
carry on in Barry’s stead as the new Flash. Wally held the spot for
many years, joining Justice League Europe, the later JLA, the re-formed
Titans, and the present Justice League of America. Due to various
circumstances, Wally has abdicated, or nearly abdicated, his role for
short times. Therefore, it’s sensible to take a bit of a break here to
cover some of those.
Flash III.V: During the events that would make up the “Terminal
Velocity” arc, Wally found himself trying to goad Bart Allen aka
Impulse (Wally’s young cousin from the future) toward being a better
hero. When he feared that he would vanish into the Speed Force from
pushing himself too far, Wally decided to shove Bart forward by doing
something unexpected: naming a different successor. Her name? Jesse
You see, Jesse was the daughter of two Golden Age heroes: Johnny Quick
and Liberty Belle. They were members of the All-Star Squadron, and
later joined the early ‘90s iteration of the JSA. Their daughter became
a member as well. Wally announced to his fellow speedsters that Jesse
was his choice to be the new Flash in a gambit to get Bart to step up.
It was an admittedly dirty trick which soured the friendship of Wally
and Jesse for some time. Still, Jesse (prone to losing her powers due
to various outside forces) would go on to join the Titans after Wally
recommended her. After another bout of power loss, Jesse became the new
Liberty Belle, and presently serves on the JSA with her husband, Rick
Tyler, Hourman II.
John Fox: A 27th century scientist that gained super-speed after
time travel, John Fox replaced the time-lost Wally West for a short
while. Eventually, John Fox chose to live in the year 85,265 as a
member of Justice Legion A (the team at the center of the 1,000,000 crossover).
Walter West - the Dark Flash
Walter West: After the lengthy battle with Cobalt Blue, Wally
West disappeared a new “Dark Flash” appeared. This turned out to be
Walter West, an older, scarred Wally from an alternate timeline wherein
he never saved Linda Park, the love of his life, from Kobra at the
close of “Terminal Velocity”. Walter’s presence began to destabilize
the timeline, even after Wally’s return. Walter eventually split this
Wally Redux: Wally, Linda, and their infant twins disappeared again, this time during the Infinite Crisis.
They returned to the present due to the efforts of one version of the
Legion of Super-Heroes. It was then that Wally learned the sad truth
about what happened in his absence.
Bart Allen, all grown up
Flash IV: During the events of Infinite Crisis, Bart
Allen (Impulse, the second Kid Flash) found himself in an alternate
Keystone City with past speedsters that had battled Superboy-Prime.
When Prime escaped, Bart, now four years older and more experienced,
returned to face him. After a brief period of malaise, Bart became The
Flash. Unfortunately, Bart died at the hands of the Rogues due the
machinations of his dark “twin”, Inertia. HOWEVER, Bart recently
returned, back to his Kid Flash form, in Legion of Three Worlds#3. It turns out that the remaining lightning rod (like the one the
Legion used to return Wally and his family) held the young Bart; as of
this writing, Bart was just unleashed to battle a very startled
It’s All on the Wheel . . .: Recently, Earth’s heroes faced a Final Crisis.
At the outset, Barry Allen returned. As time essentially went loopy and
the nature of reality was bent, Barry remained after things normalized.
Now that Bart’s back, it appears that all four Flashes will be “alive”
simultaneously. We can be fairly certain that the notion of the mantle
will be addressed in the forthcoming Flash: Rebirth.
So what about you? What other famous replacement Flash stories did you
enjoy? Do we count Barry getting a new face at one point a replacement?
Certainly, we should doff our caps to The Return of Barry Allen,
a big twist tour de force in which the original “return of Barry” was
revealed to be a ruse by the Reverse-Flash. Lady Flash anyone? What
others do you recall? And, of course, which Flash is your favorite?