Category Archives: Flash History

A Brief History of the West Family

The West family has been a key part of the Flash supporting cast since the 1950s (and in fact one West was the main character of the series from 1987-2006), but they’ve changed a lot in that time.

1950s

Reporter Iris West is introduced, dating Barry Allen. Little is said about her family.

1960s

Wally West, Iris’ nephew, first shows up visiting his aunt in Central City. He meets Barry Allen (as the Flash), is struck by lightning and chemicals in a freak repeat of the original accident, and becomes Kid Flash. Wally’s parents appear in his solo stories when he goes home to Blue Valley.

Strangely, I can’t find any instance of Iris and her brother interacting on-page anywhere. Not even in the later Wally stories of the 1990s or 2000s.

Iris’ father Ira West is a college professor, brilliant but absent-minded. We never see or hear about his wife until much later.

1970s

Iris is revealed to be adopted. Born to Eric and Fran Russell in the distant future, she was sent back in time to save her from a terrible war. A flashback shows Ira and Nadine West as they discover the time capsule.

1980s

With Wally West as the main Flash, his parents get more attention — and names: Rudolph and Mary West. Rudolph is revealed to be a sleeper agent for the Manhunters, and the illusion of an idyllic family life is shattered.

Wally’s aunt Charlotte and his uncle Edgar Rhodes are mentioned, but I’m not sure they ever show up, and it takes a while before anyone cements which side of the family they’re on.

1990s

“Born to Run” retcons Wally’s childhood into a dysfunctional one more in line with the way things turned out once his father’s true colors were revealed. Iris, rather than just being Wally’s aunt, is now the only member of his family who really understands him.

The future heroes the Tornado Twins, Don & Dawn Allen, are revealed to be Barry and Iris’ children. Don’s son Bart Allen travels back in time with his grandmother Iris to the present day.

2000s

Wally West and Linda Park marry and have twins, whom they name Iris West II and Jai.

2010s: New 52

DC restarts their entire line, establishing new versions of some characters and younger versions of others.

As with the Silver Age, we begin with Iris West. After a while we meet her younger brother Daniel, who becomes the Reverse-Flash and tries to use his power to go back in time and kill their abusive father William (who turns out to be worse than Rudy ever was in the pre-Flashpoint universe). Their mother isn’t named. All we know is that she died giving birth to Daniel.

Later we find out about her older brother Rudy, who skipped out on his wife and their son Wally some time ago. Wally’s mother disappears (presumed dead) when Central City is taken over by Grodd and the Crime Syndicate, and Iris, who barely knows him, takes him in as the only family he has left.

TV Show (2014 on)

Iris grew up with her father, police detective Joe West, and believed her mother died when she was young. When she was around 11 years old, her friend Barry Allen lost his parents, and Joe took him in.

Francine West hadn’t died, but ran away after checking into rehab. Unable to find her, Joe decided it would be kinder to tell his daughter that she had died rather than abandoned her.

Years later, Francine reached out to the family she left behind in Central City…and Iris learned about her long-lost brother. At the end of the fall finale, we left off with the first meeting of Wally West and his sister Iris and father Joe.

When Barry Met Wally

Wally West is set to appear on the Flash TV Show in this week’s fall finale, so now is the perfect time to look back at how the first meeting of Barry Allen and Wally West has been portrayed over the years.

Silver Age: Flash #110 (1960)

flash-110-when-barry-met-wally-1The cover features the Weather Wizard in his first appearance, while a backup story introduces Kid Flash. Iris West’s nephew Wally — a huge fan of the Flash — comes to visit her in Central City, and she arranges a surprise: Her friend Barry Allen knows the Flash, and he just might be able to introduce him!

It’s a DC comic from the early 1960s, so Wally is basically the 1950s media ideal of a ten-year-old: Well-mannered and wide-eyed, saying “Gosh!” and “Jumping Jets!” and otherwise waiting for his elders to speak. Continue reading

A Brief History of Jesse Quick

Justice League of America #46 variant cover by Francis Manapul featuring Jesse Quick/Liberty BelleJesse Quick first appeared in a 1992 revival of the Justice Society of America. It only lasted a year or so, but it introduced Jesse Chambers, a college student who inherited powers from her superhero parents: Johnny Quick, a speedster who used the spoken formula “3X2(9YZ)4A” to unlock his power, and the super-strong Liberty Belle.

Her parents had split up over super-heroics — her mother wanted nothing more to do with them, but her father wouldn’t give it up — and Jesse found the idea fascinating enough to write a dissertation on the subject. It was inevitable that she’d be called into action alongside her father.

Jesse Quick got on well with Flash Wally West at first, but they had a falling out over his keeping secrets. As she became more active as a hero, they continued to be allies, but it would be hard to call them friends.

A workaholic, Jesse took over her father’s business after his death.  She and her mother eventually reconciled, and she even took on the Liberty Belle identity for a while when she lost her speed. She met Rick Tyler (Hourman) through the new Justice Society of America, and they married.

Jesse has not yet appeared in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe, though she did appear as the Flash in the Ame-Comi Girls universe.

All-Star Squadron #65 Justice Society of America #8 (Liberty Belle II)

Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle

Johnny Quick was created in 1941 in response to the Flash’s success. Jay Garrick was owned by All-American Comics at the time, published through DC, and DC wanted a speedster their owned outright.  Debuting in More Fun Comics, Johnny Chambers’ gimmick was the spoken formula which unlocked his super-speed.

World War II heroine Liberty Belle debuted in 1942. She was an American athlete who escaped occupied France by swimming the English Channel and used her new fame to support the war effort and fight Nazi saboteurs on the home front.

Both characters vanished in the late 1940s, and neither was revamped when DC began rebooting their old characters in the 1950s and 1960s.  They eventually came back in the 1980s series All-Star Squadron, which followed the adventures of DC’s WW2 heroes and established a romance between the two of them. These stories initially took place on Earth-Two, but when DC combined their multiverse into a single continuity in 1986, they were re-set in the new, combined history.

Side Note: The Crime Syndicate

DC kept the “Johnny Quick” name alive in the 1960s by using the name for the Earth-3 evil version of the Flash. The Crime Syndicate of America has featured a Johnny Quick in all of its incarnations since then, including the animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and the New 52/Forever Evil version.

Covers via the Grand Comics Database.

Classic Cover: Flash of Two Worlds

Flash #123

The classic Flash #123 brought Golden-Age Flash Jay Garrick back from obscurity and established the DC multiverse, setting in motion JLA/JSA team-ups, villains of Earth-3, Crisis on Infinite Earths and more. It’s fitting that the story lends its title to tonight’s episode of the Flash TV Show, which properly introduces Jay Garrick and the multiverse to TV audiences.

Carmine Infantino’s cover has been referenced many times over the years, by professionals and fans alike — including the TV show’s posters! It’s popular enough that I once toyed with the idea of running a weekly “Flash of Two Worlds” homage feature on the blog, but never quite got started. Still, you can see a small selection by looking at our posts tagged Flash of Two Worlds.

A Brief History of Zoom and the Reverse Flash

The main villain for Season Two of the Flash TV show is Zoom … but who is Zoom, and how does he differ from the Reverse Flash?

As with Reverse Flash, they appear to be taking inspiration from a couple of sources in the comics, though Zoom’s true identity on the show is being kept mysterious for now. I’m including a few other villainous speedsters whose stories or designs may be relevant.

Reverse Flash a.k.a. Professor Zoom a.k.a. Eobard Thawne (1963)

Flash #139This 25th-century criminal reverse-engineered Barry Allen’s powers from one of his costumes, beginning a centuries-spanning rivalry as the two speedsters traveled through time to battle each other over and over. Thawne developed an unhealthy oobsession with taking over Barry’s life, particularly with his wife Iris.

Thawne eventually killed Iris, and years later tried to kill Barry’s new bride Fiona — but Barry killed him while protecting her. This led to a lengthly trial for the Flash, which ended just before Barry’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Blackest Night crisis brought Thawne back from the dead, and he proceeded to start running back in time to mess with Barry’s life earlier and earlier, culminating in Barry’s mother and framing his father for the murder. [Full bio]

Savitar (1995)

SavitarA cold war test pilot whose plane was hit by lightning. On gaining super-speed, he became obsessed with the speed force, learning more than anyone else about its secrets. A battle knocked him forward in time several decades, during which his followers became a powerful cult.

Savitar’s greatest desire was to become one with the speed force, and to do it he meant to block — or eliminate — all other speedsters. It took a full coalition led by Wally West and featuring every other speedster hero active at the time to take him down. [Full bio]

Black Flash (1998)

The Black FlashUpdate: As Lee H. points out in the comments, it looks like the show has drawn visual inspiration from the personification of Death as it comes for speedsters. The Black Flash is a force of nature, pursuing speedsters whose time has come and ushering them across the threshold to death.

It was later shown in Flash: Rebirth that an actual person could become the Black Flash, more like the New Gods’ concept of the Black Racer: An ordinary person takes on the role, whether they like it or not, and they have a job to do. This happened to Barry Allen briefly in Flash: Rebirth, and in an interesting bit of timing is happening again in Darkseid War right now. [Full bio]

Zoom a.k.a. Hunter Zolomon (2003)

ZoomA criminal profiler with the Keystone City police who became friends with Wally West during his time as the Flash. An attack by Grodd left him unable to walk, and he tried desperately to convince his friend to travel back into the past and fix his mistakes. When Wally refused, Zolomon tried to activate the cosmic treadmill himself.

The accident gave him time-based powers that simulate super-speed. He became obsessed with making the Flash a “better” hero…by making him experience more personal tragedy, so that he would be more willing to risk altering reality for others. [Full bio]

New 52 Reverse-Flash a.k.a. Daniel West (2013)

Flash #23.2 - Reverse Flash #1The younger brother of Iris West, a juvenile delinquent who got out of jail around the time a disaster hit Central City and linked him to the speed force. He gained the ability to travel back in time for short hops, and went around killing others who had gained the same connection in order to use that power to go even further back in time — to kill his own abusive father.

New 52 Future Flash a.k.a. Barry Allen (2014)

Flash Annual 3Two decades from now, an older and angrier Barry Allen would discover that the speed force had been damaged by the Reverse Flash’s time travelling, and he started heading backward in time to seal the breach when it was still small enough to repair. On the way he killed a few villains and stopped a few disasters, until he came face to face with his past self.

Note the dark blue costume with glowing trim…

New 52 Professor Zoom a.k.a. Eobard Thawne

Flash Annual 4We don’t know his background yet, but we do know he really hates Barry Allen, and he’s traveled throughout history collecting people who have gained various powers from the speed force and convinced them that the Flash is a monster disguised as a hero, someone who needs to be stopped.

Notes

There you have it! Zoom, Professor Zoom, and the Reverse-Flashes, plus two speedsters who (judging by previews) may have inspired the TV show’s take.

You can read about some of the Flashes’ other opposite numbers in our Guide to Rogues and Reverse Flashes.

(Incidentally: In the process of re-reading the New 52 stories, I was reminded how much I love Francis Manapul’s and Brian Buccellato’s art and layouts.)

A Brief History of Jay Garrick, the Original Flash

Jay Garrick, the Flash of an alternate reality, debuts in the second season of the Flash TV show. He may be coming to the CW second, but he’s actually the first scarlet speedster to wear the lightning in DC’s earliest comic books.

Golden Age

Flash Comics #1Way back in 1940, Jay Garrick [character bio] made his debut in the iconic Mercury-style winged helmet. Back then “Flash Comics” was an anthology book, and he traded off the cover spot with Hawkman each month. But the Flash was popular enough he soon got his own series, appropriately called “All-Flash.”

Jay Garrick was a scientist working in the private sector, not rich but well enough off as time went on that he could move within society circles. He told his college girlfriend Joan Williams about his secret right away, and she quickly became his lifelong confidante. She was less likely to get into trouble and need saving than she was to find people who needed help and point them toward the Flash.

In the 1940s he mostly fought gangsters and corrupt businessmen in Keystone City. It was several years before the Thinker appeared, and back then he was simply a criminal mastermind. Super-villains didn’t really start to show up in their modern form until the end of the decade, and even then they still had henchmen as often as powers. The stories ranged from serious crime tales to out-and-out slapstick comedy, especially when a trio of Three Stooges lookalikes joined the supporting cast. It wouldn’t be remotely out of place for the Flash to pelt a criminal with rotten tomatoes or tie him to a lamppost in his underwear.

Superheroes fell out of favor toward the end of the decade, and the Flash faded from view. DC went for an experimental reboot in 1956, introducing police scientist Barry Allen. Jay Garrick might have been forgotten, except…

Silver Age Multiverse

Flash #123: Flash of Two WorldsIn 1961’s Flash #123’s “Flash of Two Worlds” introduced DC’s version of the multiverse. DC’s current stories were said to take place on Earth-One, and the older stories were said to take place on Earth-Two. Barry Allen crossed over, met Jay Garrick, and teamed up for what became a regular tradition.

Over the next few decades, Jay Garrick was a regular guest star in The Flash. Sometimes he’d visit Barry on Earth-One. Sometimes Barry and Wally would visit Earth-Two.

And something unusual happened: Because Earth-Two wasn’t DC Comics’ main setting, they allowed time to pass. Jay Garrick and Joan Williams married. Other heroes from the Justice Society had children, and those children grew up to become super-heroes themselves.

Elder Generation

JSA #78In 1985, DC Comics rebooted again, combining characters from various timelines into a single history. Because Jay Garrick, Barry Allen and Wally West were distinct characters, they all got to be part of the new history instead of being collapsed into a single younger character. Other heroes’ pasts were rewritten and combined. The Flashes were simply placed on opposite sides of a river instead of in alternate realities.

DC quickly shuffled the Justice Society offstage after Crisis on Infinite Earths, but after a few years they brought them back… and the original heroes of the DCU became mentors to a new generation. Jay Garrick, once a brash youngster who wisecracked at costumed crooks while throwing pies at them, grew into an elder statesman, training younger superheroes.

New 52 / Society

Earth 2 #2 - Final CoverEverything changed in 2011 when DC rebooted once again in the wake of Flashpoint. Jay Garrick and Barry Allen no longer share a planet. Jay once again lives on Earth-2, and we’re reading the adventures of a much younger hero on a world recovering from a devastating interstellar war.

Smallville: Clark looks at the Flash's helmet

Media

Teddy Sears is the first actor to portray Jay Garrick in live action, but this isn’t the first time the character has appeared on TV. He’s shown up on the cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and he was name-checked (along with a cameo of his helmet) when Smallville revealed a secret history of super-heroes. When Smallville continued as a comic book, they tracked Jay down to help Impulse (Bart Allen), and he came out of retirement to teach a new generation of heroes in Smallville: Titans.

It seems he just can’t get away from the mentoring gig!

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