Where it all started - Flash Comics #1Heroes 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 #1Flash 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.
Jesse QuickFlash 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 Quick. 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 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 FlashWalter 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 reality.
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 upFlash 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 Superboy-Prime. 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?Related: Replacement Heroes: Spider-Man Replacement Heroes: Thor Replacement Heroes: Superman