Today’s guest post is by Adam Komar.
Speedsters make me nervous, because if you play them accurately, they’re impossible to beat… The moment someone sees him coming, it’s too late. You shout, “It’s the Flash!” and you haven’t even got “It’s” out before you’re done… I could deal with Impulse because he was easily distracted. — Peter David
This quote and the mentality behind always is why speedsters are written the way they are. In case you’re not aware of how speedsters are written, I’ll sum it up in one word: Poorly. You can argue that point, but I’ll have to throw a slew of campy villains at you that the Flash has faced off against over the years and the ridiculous scenarios he’s been in to deal with them.
I’m not saying the quote is entirely wrong. There is a degree of difficulty in dealing with someone who can run from the horizon to you before you can blink. But impossible? Impossible is a word used by people who lack the creativity to resolve their issues. That may sound harsh, but it’s true.
Before you can combat a speedster, you have to know everything he or she can do. This varies slightly from speedster to speedster. Your speedsters with extreme power levels like those found in the DC Universe, most of which are connected to the extra-dimensional entity called the Speed Force that grants them their power. These speedsters can have any combination of the following: Superhuman speed, superhuman endurance, decelerated aging, phasing through solid objects, accelerated perception, supercharged brain activity, sharing speed, stealing speed, accelerated healing, vibrational vision, time travel, dimensional travel, limited flight, creating solid constructs using the Speed Force, self-sustenance, creating various forms of vortices and a Speed Force aura that protects them from the effects of moving at superhuman speeds.
A lot of that makes sense, but some of it is a stretch. Marvel doesn’t go quite as far with their speedsters. Quicksilver is the most prominent speedster in the Marvel universe so I’ll use him as an example. He has superhuman speed, superhuman endurance, accelerated perception, supercharged brain activity and a mutated physiology that enables him to withstand the effects of superhuman speed.
No matter how far a writer does or doesn’t take the creative liberties with a speedster’s abilities, they’ll always just be someone who does everything faster than everyone else. When someone is faster than you, you either have to match the person’s speed or slow the person down. That’s why the greatest success against the Flash has been a speedster. Zoom has repeatedly given the Flash a run for his money. Sure, the Flash has the Rogues to deal with, but that always came off as more of a game they play than an actual challenge. They rarely propose a possibility of loss for the Flash. Zoom has not only proposed the possibliity, but succeeded in making it happen.
To me, another speedster is the easy and obvious solution to dealing with a speedster. You put the hero and the villain on an equal playing field then find out which one knows how to use their abilities the best.
There’s another option that I don’t recall ever seeing before [Editor’s note: this is similar to the Turtle’s most recent appearance in Flash #213]. A character that can slow down the flow of time for everyone but him or herself can also prove a tough opponent for a speedster. To a normal person, he would be perceived as a speedster. Where as a normal person would perceive the character as moving really fast, the character would perceive everyone else as moving excruciatingly slow. If a speedster were to enter the area affected by the time-slowing character, assuming the slowing of time is in proportion to the speedster’s speed, then the speedster would appear to be moving at the same speed as a normal person. The two characters would then have to fight it out using their similar, but ultimately different, powers and abilities.
But opposing powers aren’t the only way to deal with a speedster. Every speedster has certain characteristics that just come with being a speedster. Quicksilver, for example, is extraordinarily impatient. Put him in a situation where he has to wait and you’ll get him so worked up that he’ll make a mistake. His temper is and always has been his greatest weakness. It’s gotten him into a lot of trouble he wouldn’t have otherwise gotten into had he been tolerant and patient.
The Flash over-analyzes every situation he gets into so simplicity is his weakness. Even better is vague simplicity. The expression, “The devil is in the details” comes to mind. The Flash will get caught up in the details of whatever the villain has done, come to the wrong conclusion and the villain will have set him up to destroy himself.
Bart Allen, who has been Impulse, Kid Flash and the Flash, is known for being impulsive, hence his first moniker. He makes decisions without thinking, presumably because he’s so confident in his abilities that he believes he can do what he wants to do before something bad can happen. Overconfidence is another easy weakness for a villain to manipulate.
These are just quick thoughts I’m putting out there in hopes that writers will delve into them further and apply them to a quality story about a speedster. I love speedsters and that’s why I’ve had such a big issue with how they’ve been written for so long. I’m challenging writers, both professional and amateur, to really think outside the box when writing about a speedster, come up with some new ideas and run with them… Pun intended.