Roy was born with complete colour blindness, and saw the world in shades of grey. He was quite a talented young artist, but his inability to see colour meant that his work was often garish and ugly, something for which he was mocked. His father — who happened to be a brilliant optometrist — spent his life trying to find a cure for his son, but failed. However, on his deathbed he gave Roy some special goggles he’d recently invented. The goggles didn’t give Roy colour vision, but he discovered they had all sorts of fantastic abilities, which he then used to become an art-thieving criminal.
More after the jump.
His goggles could shoot a variety of coloured light beams, which had quite a few different effects. He could:
*manipulate peoples emotions, to make them feel whatever emotion he chose. Sometimes he used this by inducing anger in a crowd and setting the mob against a hero, or rendering people too frightened to fight him.
*ride around on a beam of solid light.
*shoot lasers which packed a surprising punch.
*induce nausea, exhaustion, or blindness in others.
*create a prison made of solid light.
*heat up objects until they exploded.
*drain the colour out of people or objects.
He also used his father’s research on colour to mix paints which rendered him temporarily invisible, enabling him to escape prison.
At one point, he built a device which drained the colour from its surroundings (rendering the city literally black and white for a period), and transferred it into himself. This charged up his body with power, and for a time gave him the colour vision he’d always sought. He also temporarily gained inborn light powers which allowed him to implode people and objects, plus the ability to infuse people with kinetic energy which would ultimately cause them to explode. Fortunately he used these powers on the Flash, whose control over his own molecules allowed him to counteract these effects. The Flash was able to defeat him, and these added abilities seem to have faded over time. However, he was seemingly able to see some colours afterwards, although they were often wrong. He thought the Flash and Santa Claus wore blue, for example.
Over time, he became more like a traditional criminal or supervillain in the sense that he stole money and enjoyed fighting the Flash. Bitterness drove most of his actions: frustration over his inability to see colour, anger at the world for bullying him, and resentment towards the Flash for beating him up and sending him to prison (he expressed a particular frustration at the prison system and the treatment of ex-cons). He’d also been angered by the artworld success of a former friend who’d stolen most of his ideas. So it isn’t quite accurate to say he became a criminal because he was colour blind as is commonly claimed, although that was obviously an element of his motivation. He also had self-confidence issues, as was seen in the famous “I believe in me!” story, which featured a motivational speaker goading him to do bigger things.
He arguably isn’t a Rogue, even though he worked with them on one occasion, attended at least one of their social gatherings, and referred to himself as a Rogue. But he was definitely one of their associates, and is certainly a Flash villain. The Trickster described him as being part of “Flash’s Rogues Gallery” and Captain Cold called him a “Rogue villain”, which is close enough.
Ultimately, Roy is beloved because he was a somewhat goofy and fun character who could have been surprisingly dangerous if he’d been smarter and crueler. But he was never particularly vicious, and thus he’s one of the more lovable and popular Flash villains.