Pre-Crisis: Your original Flash was Jay Garrick, who debuted in “Flash Comics” #1 in 1940. He got super-speed thanks to hard water fumes (just go with it) and adopted the look of Mercury (winged hat). Flash became a member of the Justice Society at their founding, and, along with girlfriend/later-wife Joan, was present during the battle with Ian Karkull that gave most of the JSA and their wives energy that prevented them from aging at a normal rate.
You can blame Jay, in part, for the DC multiverse, if you like. I explained that all back in 2005, which you can still read by climbing on our cosmic treadmill here. As you now understand, when the Silver Age began, Jay and the other original heroes became the denizens of Earth-2, and would frequently visit the heroes of the then-current DCU, Earth 1. Earth 1’s Flash was, of course . . .
Barry Allen: Barry Allen became The Flash of Earth-1 in “Showcase” #4 (1956) when a lightning bolt struck the rack of chemicals that he was standing next to, bathing the police chemist in speed (actually, the likelihood that speed is on a police evidence shelf is fairly high). Barry made his mark as the hero of Central City, and was a founder of the Justice League of America. Barry later married his girlfriend, Iris West. Iris had a nephew named . . .
Wally West: Wally happened along in “The Flash” #110 in 1959. On a visit to Barry’s lab, Wally experienced the same exact accident as Barry, and the young man gained super-speed powers of his own. It’s been suggested that the lightning bolt that caused Wally’s accident was actually Barry traveling back in time after the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. As it was, Wally became Kid Flash. He adventured for years, helping found the Teen Titans, until afflicted with a disorder that was slowly killing him when he used his powers. Then came . . .
Crisis on Infinite Earths: After a lengthy trial fueled in part by the machinations of Kadabra, Barry and Iris retired to the 30th Century, from whence Iris had actually originally come. The couple had twin children, Don and Dawn. When the red skies and crazy weather of Crisis began, Barry went into action. Pulled through time, Barry became the prisoner of the Anti-Monitor. He eventually broke free and destroyed the villain’s anti-matter cannon at the cost of his own life. At his death, Barry’s image travelled back through time, allowing him to be seen briefly by others, like Wally. Wally went along with the heroes that went to confront the Anti-Monitor for a final battle. During the conflict, Wally was hit with a blast of energy that cured his disease. At the close of the Crisis, Wally became the new Flash.
The Tornado Twins: Don and Dawn became super-heroes in the future. Due to the vagaries of various retcons, the manner of their deaths has changed over time. However, two things held true: they always died as heroes, and they helped bring on the next generation. Dawn and husband Jeven Ognats had a daughter, Jenni, and Don and wife Meloni Thawne had a son, Bart.
Jenni Joins the Legion: Jenni grows up to become XS, the super-speedy member of the Post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes. She bowed in “Legionnaires” #0 in 1994. Jenni travelled through time with the Legion, met Bart, and was very active as a hero until being consigned to continuity limbo with the rest of her Legion. Jenni and her Legion appeared in “Infinite Crisis” in 2006, and later again in “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds”. At the close of that series, XS and her teammate Gates decided to stick around with sorta-original-post-Infinite-Crisis/Lightning-Saga Legion. She remains great friends with her cousin . . .
Bart Allen: Born in the future and raised in Virtual Reality, Bart Allen suffered from rapid aging. Appearing as a young teen (though being only truly two years old) in the present just before Zero Hour, Bart was cured with the aid of his cousin, once removed: The Flash, Wally West. Bart adopted the name Impulse. Bart teamed up with Wally and a number of other speedsters to defend human freedom against Kobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world (wait a second . . . nevermind). At any rate, Wally briefly tricked Bart into believing that he’d be passed over for the role of Flash, forcing the young hothead to step up his game. Bart would eventually join the Titans, then Young Justice, then the Teen Titans under the name of Kid Flash. However, immediately after the defeat of Kobra, Bart lived under the tutelage of . . .
Max Mercury: The “Zen Master of the Speed Force”, Max revealed that all of the speedsters were connected to a larger energy field that powered their super-speed. A member of the Freedom Fighters and the All-Star Squadron in the ‘40s, Max had frequently hopped through time after running at dangerously high speeds. To fight Kobra, Max teamed up with Wally, Bart, Jay and . . .
The Quicks: Johnny Chambers, aka Johnny Quick co-founded the All-Star Squadron in the early days of World War 2. His teammate, Liberty Belle, later became his wife. Their daughter, Jesse, developed speed powers like her old man; both invoked their speed by the recitation of a mantra/formula that allowed them to tap the Speed Force. As a young student, she ended up accompanying the recently-returned-from-limbo JSA on adventures. During the Kobra battle, Wally suggested that Jesse should be the new Flash in case anything happened to him; this ruse was meant to inspire Bart, but it fairly pissed off Jesse when it was revealed. Jesse later joined the Titans as Jesse Quick, but in recent years adopted the identity of the second Liberty Belle. A member of the JSA, Jesse is married to another legacy hero, Rick Tyler, Hourman II. Though Johnny would later die fighting Savitar, all of the surviving heroes would take part in . . .
Infinite Crisis: Just prior to this universal emergency, Wally West’s wife, Linda, gave birth to twins, Iris and Jai. As the Infinite Crisis ramped up, Wally joined the JSA and Titans to battle the Superboy of Earth-Prime. Jay, Wally and Bart attempted to run the Superboy at such a rate that he could be absorbed into the Speed Force. Jay had to fall out, Wally disappeared along with Linda and the twins, and Bart ended up entering the force along with Superboy, thanks to the aid of Barry, Johnny and Max, the trio of which had already, ahem, merged with the force. Later on, when Superboy-Prime returned in a murderous rage, he was pursued by . . .
Bart, All Grown Up: Bart emerged as a new, grown up Flash, and participated in the battle against Prime and the Society’s villain army. For a time, he became the new Flash, until he was killed by members of the Rogues. During the “Lightning Saga”, members of the sorta-original Legion of Super-Heroes acted in a manner that freed Wally, Linda, and their now pre-adolescent twins from elsewhere. Brainiac 5 also displayed a special lightning rod that was used during “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 World” to unleash a rescued, though de-aged to teen years, Bart. Bart, alongside with his reborn friend Superboy (Kon-El), helped Superman and multiple Legions defeat Superboy-Prime. Bart returned to the present, where he and Superboy rejoined the Teen Titans. As for Wally and his twins, they’d become . . .
The All-New Flash Family: Wally began adventuring alongside his kids. Iris was a speedster, and Jai had powers that allowed him to change his mass. During the so-called “Final Crisis," Barry Allen escaped his fate and joined Wally in a literal race against death. After the multiverse had been saved, Barry, Wally and their friends battled their arch-enemy, Zoom. At this point, Jai lost his powers and Iris took over the name Impulse. During the “Blackest Night," all of the active speedsters joined the fight against the Black Lanterns. Barry is currently the main active Flash, leaving many to ask . . .
Where’s Wally?: Seriously. Where the hell is Wally? Anyone? Though the above brings us up to speed (heh heh), there are still many other Flashes to consider in mainstream DC continuity. The legacy of the Flash goes into the future and may include . . .
John Fox: A Flash of the 27th Century, John Fox got his super-speed during time travel. Fox (named after a certain Gardner) stood in for a time-lost Wally at one point, and later joined Justice Legion A in the far future (that JLA being the JLA of the “1,000,000” event). Though fairly well-known, Fox is preceded in time by several other Flashes, including . . .
Sela Allen: The 23rd century Flash, Sela comes from the Allen line. Her powers and appearance suggest that she is like a living version of the Speed Force. That, however, doesn’t prevent there from being a . . .
Blaine Allen: The Flash of the 28th century, Blaine lives with his son, Jace on planet Petrus. Like Sela, they were attacked by Cobalt Blue (the mysterious unrevealed evil twin of Barry Allen!; yep, that’s right) in his bid to destroy the Flash legacy. Cobalt Blue gave Jace a virus, leading Blaine to inadvertently sacrifice himself by taking his son into the Speed Force. The Speed Force cures Jace, but absorbs Blaine. Jace then becomes the next Flash. It’s not like it stops there. There are plenty of . . .
Future Flashes!: There’s Thondor Allen, the giant-sized Jupiter colonist speedster. There’s Agent Flashling, who looks like he may come from the 5th Dimension (the place, not the vocal group). There’s that Flash from the “Animal Man” mini-series from last year. And that isn’t all! There’s still . . .
Other Flashes: Probably the most famous “other” Flash is Walter West, the so-called “Dark Flash” introduced in “Flash” #152. He was an alternate timeline Wally that never saved Linda from Kobra. You could probably count Mas y Menos if we knew anything about them; the twins that first appeared in the “Teen Titans” cartoon slipped into the DCU around “52”, and got their clocks cleaned at the opening of “Final Crisis” haven’t, to my knowledge, appeared again. Unfortunately, along with the Flash legacy of heroism, we also have . . .
A Legacy of Flash Villains: Apart from Cobalt Blue, there’s the tiny fact that Meloni Thawne, mother of Bart, is descended from both Blue and Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. It bears mention that she’s also the mother of Captain Boomerang II, making her the (don’t say it!) flashpoint (ugh) of legacy intersections. As if the Thawne side wasn’t enough trouble, Meloni’s dad created a clone of Bart named Inertia; the little darling becomes Kid Zoom, but is later killed by The Rogues to make amends for the fact that they were duped into killing adult Bart.
In addition to the Allen and Thawne offshoots, a number of second generation villains or successors have been inspired by the Rogues, including the current Trickster and Mirror Master. A number of villains have taken on the identity of Chillblaine, only to be defeated by the Flash or eventually killed by the original master of that technology, Captain Cold.
Well, there you go . . . a quick look at the Flash legacy. Granted, we moved fast, so maybe we missed something along the way. We’ll leave you with this thought: Life moves pretty fast, so if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might . . . wait a minute . . . where the hell is Wally anyway?UPDATE: Check out our preview of the December 2010 Solicitations, and scroll down to the Flash! WALLY! No tease for next week's cause it HAS TO BE A SURPRISE!