This month marks the 80th birthday of DC comics character, The Flash. Starting with Jay Garrick, we’ve seen numerous characters take the alias of The Flash over the years, giving us eight decades of great stories to read. As The Flash is one of my favourite comic book characters I thought I’d celebrate the 80th anniversary of Jay Garrick’s debut by ranking the four most famous/popular iterations of the superhero.
4. Bart Allen
Originally from the 30th century, Bart Allen was sent back to the modern day with the hope his cousin, Wally West, would be able to help cure him of the hyper-accelerated metabolism he was suffering from. After Wally succeeded in shocking his metabolism back to normal, Bart decided to stick around and became Wally’s teenage side kick, Kid Flash. When Wally died during Infinite Crisis, Bart took on the role of The Flash becoming the fourth person to do so. His career as The Flash was extremely short lived with Bart spending most of his comic book run as Kid Flash and Impulse regularly teaming up with the Teen Titans.
3. Jay Garrick
The very first version of the speedster, Jay Garrick debuted all the way back in January 1940 when a teenage Garrick inhaled heavy water vapours, giving him his super speed. Sporting a different costume to the rest of The Flash alumni, Jay Garrick wore a red shirt with a lightning bolt emblazoned across it and a stylized metal helmet with wings, paying tribute to the Roman God, Mercury. Jay’s time as the main version of The Flash lasted eight years before declining popularity led to the characters ongoing comic series being cancelled. The next time we saw The Flash, Barry Allen had taken on the role and going forward Jay was relegated to a supporting role mostly, although his role in the Justice Society of America has given me some of my favourite moments of his. The live action portrayal of the character by John Wesley Shipp has brought the characters back into the mainstream limelight and with Doomsday Clock’s finale bring the Justice Society of America back into the main DC continuity, here’s to hoping for more of Jay Garrick going forward.
2. Wally West
Growing up watching the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, Wally West was the first version of The Flash I ever experienced. Like his uncle, Barry Allen, Wally gained his super speed when he was hit by a bolt of lightning. Wally has spent the majority of his comic book run as Barry Allen’s sidekick, Kid Flash, but with Barry’s apparent death during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, Wally stepped up and took on The Flash mantle and held the role for over 23 years until Barry’s return. After Barry Allen went back in time to save his mother during Flashpoint, Wally West’s existence was erased from DC comics with no mention or appearance of the character until the DC Rebirth one shot kicked off the new Rebirth event where his absence was blamed on Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan. Now back in the main DC continuity, Wally was also established as the fastest Flash alive, when he beat Barry Allen in Flash Wars. Currently leading his own solo book, Flash Forward, it appears Wally could be making his way back to the forefront of DC comics after years of being underutilised which I, for one, couldn’t be happier about!
1. Barry Allen
Without a doubt the most famous version of The Flash, Barry Allen has held the mantle of The Flash, on and off, for the longer than any of his fellow speedsters. If you mentioned The Flash to just about anyone, the first person they would think of would most likely be Barry Allen. Struck by lightning while in his lab, Barry debuted in 1956 and ushered in the silver age of comics with him. Barry’s time as The Flash has given us some of the superhero’s and DC’s biggest storylines including Final Crisis, Blackest Night and The Flash’s biggest storyline of all time, Flashpoint. With Grant Gustin’s portrayal in The CW’s The Flash and Ezra Miller’s appearances in the DCEU, with the character’s first ever solo movie hitting screens in 2022, both revolving around the Barry Allen version of the character, it’s hard to argue he is the definitive version of the character.
Well, there’s my rankings of the four different versions we’ve seen of The Flash. Feel free to let me know who your favourite version of The Flash is in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed reading this little piece on one of my favourite superheroes of all time!