Friday, January 8, 2010

The Fastest Man Alive

Magnet # 137:  Flash Charging

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

DC's Flash made his first appearance in January of 1940, so this marks his 70th anniversary.  Unlike nearly all of DC's most popular characters, the mantle of the Flash has been passed down through the years from one man to another.  The first Flash, also known as the Golden Age Flash and appeared in Flash Comics #1 was Jay Garrick, a college student who gained superhuman speed after accidentally breathing hard water vapors in a laboratory. This marked the first time a superhero had powers of superhuman speed.  He was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, which also first appeared in 1940.  He was very popular through much of the 40's, but by the end of the decade, superheroes were bringing in less money, and the series was cancelled in 1949.

For awhile, the Flash was completely gone from the comics.  But in 1956, after acquiring the rights to the character, DC released their own version in Showcase #4.  This second Scarlet Speedster was Barry Allen, an ironically slow-paced police scientist who gained his powers of super speed when lightning stuck a shelf of chemicals in his laboratory, which completely engulfed him.  He named himself after his own hero, the first Flash, and became protector of Central City, and he was a founding member of the Justice League of America, which featured DC's most popular superheroes, like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Although Barry Allen was well-liked by fans, his fictional life began to fall apart when one of his enemies killed his much-loved wife, Iris.  He later finds a way to be reunited with her in the future, but during the DC miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, Allen is brought back to this era, where he heroically dies saving the world.  He remained dead for over twenty years, almost a comic record, until DC inevitably revived him in 2008.

The third version of the Flash, which appears on this magnet, is that of Wally West.  Before assuming the mantle, he had appeared for many years as Kid Flash, a younger version of the Scarlet Speedster.  West was Barry Allen's nephew by marriage, and when visiting his uncle's laboratory, the same lightning bolt accident occurred once again, giving him powers of super speed.  I have to admit, The New Teen Titans, a book in which Kid Flash appeared, is one of my favorite comic series, so I'm the most familiar with this particular Flash.  To me, he was one of the more relateable characters in the book, as he wasn't a half or full orphan like the other members and didn't have a horribly traumatic childhood.  After his uncle's death, West decided to step up as the new Flash in 1986.  Since then, he has had a great deal of adventures, and married his own love, Linda.  For a time, he and his family disappeared, and Bart Allen, Barry's grandson from the future and the current Kid Flash, filled in as the Flash.  But when he died, Wally West returned and continues to be the Flash.

Although the Flash has been popular for a long time, other DC characters, like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, continue to overshadow him.  In 1990, the Barry Allen version of the Flash even got his own live-action television series, but it only lasted one season.  Perhaps another chance will come for the Scarlet Speedster to appear on the small - or big- screen, like a possible Justice League of America movie, which comic fans have wanted for years.  In the comics, both Barry Allen and Wally West are appearing as the Flash, and perhaps the resurrected Bart Allen will once again.  One thing's for sure - the fastest man in comics will keep going, and never slow down.

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