The Flash shows off his super speed. Artists:  Jackson Guice and Larry Mahlstedt.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: John Broome (writer) and Carmine Infantino (artist)
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When DC Comics brought back its old 1940s character, The Flash, the revival was so well received it touched off a whole new efflorescence of the …

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superhero genre, setting a trend in American comic books that persists even today. The Flash became one of DC's best-selling 1960s comics, and was turned into a merchandising icon as well.

By the mid-1980s, he'd long run out of steam as a comic book character — in fact, the title was canceled in 1985 — but as a merchandising icon, he still had plenty of steam left. The best idea for keeping the franchise alive seems to have been to launch a third Flash, who looked just like the second but didn't carry any of his baggage.

Fortunately, they had the makings of one waiting in the wings. Kid Flash, the super-speedy teenage nephew of the second Flash's girlfriend, had been created back in 1960 by writer John Broome (Atomic Knights, Phantom Stranger) and artist Carmine Infantino (Adam Strange, Knights of the Galaxy). They killed off the '60s Flash in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (November, 1985), had Kid Flash (now grown) respond four issues later by renaming himself and adopting a duplicate of the dead one's costume, promoted the new Flash by putting him on the guest star circuit, and once they'd built a following for him (and, not incidentally, allowed a little time for the memory of the old one's final days to fade), starred him in his own comic. While they were at it, they rolled back the odometer so it wouldn't reek of "old" by starting out with a high issue number. Flash #1 (in which the hero, after 27 years as a teenager, celebrated his 20th birthday) was dated June, 1987.

This Flash was less powerful than the ones who had gone before. Whereas earlier Flashes could run at multi-light speed, this one could barely even approach the speed of sound. If he kept up this relatively moderate super speed too long, he could wear himself out, a problem the others had scarcely known. Also, he had to conform to the scientific principle of conservation of energy, to which the others had appeared immune, by consuming immense quantities of food to supply the calories he burned up by running at hundreds of miles per hour. (He hadn't had these limitations as Kid Flash. His acquisition of them was attributed to an illness he'd had shortly before reinventing himself as The Flash, which had brought on a temporary retirement from superheroing.)

The Flash joined a succession of superhero groups, starting with The Teen Titans, which he'd been a member of while the old Flash was still alive. Next was a European offshoot of the old Justice League of America, which he shared with Animal Man, Captain Atom, Power Girl and a few others. Currently, he's in a revival of the JLA itself, launched in 1997 mostly to bring together the group's charter members (such as Batman and The Martian Manhunter) and their successors (such as Green Lantern and The Flash himself).

A variety of creative personnel worked on him, but the one who had the strongest influence on his development was probably writer Mark Waid (Captain America, Kingdom Come), who scripted a lengthy run during the 1990s. Waid got The Flash involved with other DC-owned super-speedsters, such as Johnny Quick and a 1940s Quality Comics character originally called Quicksilver (changed to "Max Mercury" because Marvel Comics had since trademarked a character by that name). Waid also invented a few speed demons of his own, such as Impulse (who later started calling himself Kid Flash just like Wally had years before). All, it turns out, derive their abilities from the mysterious Speed Force, which powers up all things super-speedy.

This version of The Flash is still zipping along, but if he ever falters, DC will no doubt dump him, in favor of a fourth Flash, in a heartbeat.


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Text ©2005-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.