Part One
Marvelous, Fantastic Heroes

The Flash II

Fast Living-the true story of Barry Allen, the second Flash

by David Kennedy

According to the comics, the origin of the second Flash is simple. Barry Allen, a police scientist is working late at the lab when lightning strikes a rack of chemicals in front of him. The electrified chemicals spill on him, giving him superspeed. Being a lifelong fan of the original Flash, he creates a costume and...

Wait up. A fan of the Flash just happens to be in a similar accident, granting identical powers? It's not very likely. In fact the "accidental" nature of the event was created by the comics to be more dramatic.

Barry Allen was a fan of the original Flash and his decision to become the new Flash was a deliberate one. He'd made it in college, when his interest in the WWII hero, combined with his poor timekeeping, had earned the somewhat nerdy young man the epithet of "Slowest Man Alive". Although his main motive was a belief that the world needed heroes, he also had a sneaking feeling that being a superhero would make him more confident, less clumsy, more popular. Cooler, in other words. However, he was unable to act on his dream until his third year at the Central City Police Department [1].

Calling in just about every favour he had, he gained Gibberne's original Accelerator formula but not the details of the retardant that had made it safer for Garrick. Attempts to contact Garrick had met with replies of the "You young fool! You don't know what you're doing!" variety [2], so Allen, with the help of his fiance's father, the physicist Ira West [3] and his assistant Tina McGee, devised a variant of the formula himself, which, he felt, would reduce the negative effects of the drug, but not the speed. In this he was, at least partly, successful [4]. And in 1955, adopting a variant of Garrick's costume, with a cowl instead of a helmet, he began fighting crime in Central City as the Flash. Before long he was, somewhat to his own embarrassment, a bit of a celebrity, due to a series of articles by his photo-journalist Iris West [5] his fiance, and a feature in DC Comics "Showcase" based on them. Allen, although "square", was a likeable man, and the Flash was seen as a reliable, affable, non-showy hero. Although there was no JLA, he got on well with the other superheroes he met, and none of them objected to the comics portraying him as chairman.

On the subject of his relations with other heroes: He did race Superman once, for charity. They'd pre-arranged it to be a tie, however, and it was never established which of them was faster. While Superman saw a lot of himself in the serious, responsible Flash, the heroes Allen got on best with were his exact opposite, Plastic Man's publicity-hound son, Ralph "World Famous Elongated Man" Dibney, and the radical second Green Arrow, a.k.a Roy Harper [6]. In the comics both the Flash and Arrow were portrayed as having a strong friendship with the entirely fictitious Green Lantern Hal Jordan, representing the conservative counterpart to the liberal Green Arrow and the freewheeling counterpart to the staid Flash.

Before long however, the Rogues arrived. The reason for this was never given in the comics. The Flash had attracted the attention of the immortal Kane, or, as DC referred to him, Vandal Savage [7]. Savage, as I will continue to call him, was, under various identities, and by differing methods, trying to find or recreate the Super-Soldier formula, or something similar [8]. He deduced that this Flash must have a successful Accelerator, with no, or few, side effects, and contacted a group of "operatives", outfitting them with advanced weaponry, and ordering them to capture the Flash, alive if possible. He called them the Agent of Cold, the Agent of Heat, the Agent of Storms, the Agent of Sound and the Agent of Illusion. However they quickly adopted the nicknames given to them by the Central City Picture News: Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Pied Piper and Mirror Master. The cheesy identities suited their motivation perfectly; increasing their perception as harmless, gimmicky bank robbers, "light on the homicidal tendencies" as Iris West would put it. Other criminals who joined the so-called "rogues gallery" included the Trickster, the Australian national Boomerang and a renegade Mangani called Grodd.

The Trickster was a conman and petty thief descended from Jesse James. Apart from exaggerating the "Airwalker Boots" (they just let him drop safely, not fly) the comics depiction is pretty accurate.

The Boomerang was more of a hitman than a bank robber, as portrayed, although he wasn't above robbery if he wasn't getting any contracts. He tangled with the Hulk and the Spider as well as the Flash, leading to one of those silly disputes between DC and Marvel. Rather than admit that villains could not be expected to only battle heroes with a contract from one company, and should be considered in the public domain, they agreed that Marvel would have the Boomerang ID and the hitman aspects, also adding Trickster-style "bootjets" and DC would have the bank robber, altering his name to Captain Boomerang. He did use "gimmicked" boomerangs, although not to the extent portrayed in the comics, and ended up cutting a deal (with CIALD?) to join the utterly deniable Black-Ops organisation nicknamed "Suicide Squad".

Grodd originally came to Central City to steal a certain African gem from Central City museum, which, he believed, would enable him to dominate the minds of other Mangani. Once defeated he became obsessed with the Flash, as well as conquering his fellow Mangani. The portrayal of "superscientific Gorilla City" is largely a creation of writer John Broome's fondness for science fiction concepts.

While these "rogues" were (save Boomerang and Grodd) less direct danger than ordinary criminals, their special weapons made Allen feel he needed some non-lethal gadgets that would work with his speed. With the help of Professor West and industrialist Theodore Kord, he designed a gun that fired a blast of pressurised air, and a strobe that flashed red and yellow, disorientating criminals (especially when used with superspeed) [9]. With these gadgets, and his superspeed, Allen was able to defeat the Rogues time and time again, without any idea what they were really after.

Thus Allen's superhero career continued until 1963. And then, everything changed.

On November 22nd 1963, the Flash had been persuaded to make a public appearance in Houston, Texas when he heard a news report on the radio announcing the assassination of Kennedy. Allen drove himself to the limit in an attempt to get to Dallas in time to do something- anything!- but it was too late. He collapsed, exhausted, halfway along

Upon arriving home, he discovered he had aged ten years.

It was his failure, as much as the discovery that use of his increased his metabolism, just as it had Garrick's, that led to the Flash deciding to retire [10]. Other factors included his marriage (he had been married to Iris for two years, and Ira had just confirmed it was safe and possible for Barry to have kids), and the fact the truth behind the Rogues had come out. Pied Piper and Heat Wave had both reformed, and their testimony convinced Allen that an absence of the Flash would result in an absence of the Rogues. What he didn't realise is the lengths that Savage would go to flush him out.

The next year past quietly. Barry and Iris had twins [11], and Barry stuck to fighting crime in a forensics lab. The Flash had gone. Then a new threat emerged.

In 1965 a drug called Velocity 9 appeared on the streets of Central City. It was, in fact, Gibberne's Accelerator, altered by Savage to be deadly and addictive. Allen was forced to become Flash again to control the addicts and stop the pushers [12].

As any cop can tell you, this is a lot harder than catching bank robbers. It is no surprise that Allen began getting careless. At one point he was captured by Savage who, if it hadn't been for the betrayal of one of his scientists, would have gained the tissue sample he'd been after all this time. Eventually one of Savage's agents saw an exhausted Flash changing into Allen.

Savage had changed his plans. A tissue sample from Allen's dead body, although not as useful, could still yield valuable information. And the man was simply too dangerous. He found a scientist called Eobard Thawne "Speed" McGee with a grudge against the Flash, gave him V9 and a costume, and sent his Anti-Flash to destroy Barry Allen [13].

McGee headed straight for the Allen's house. Catching Barry unawares, he could have killed him there and then. However he decided to torture Allen first. Possibly out of a belief that Allen had "taken Tina away" he decided to take Iris from Allen. He failed to consider that Allen's reflexes were as fast as his own, and catching him by surprise was his only hope. A microsecond later Iris West-Allen was dead, and so was the Anti-Flash.

Allen went to trial, his identity now public knowledge, and was found to have acted in self defence. He swore never to use his speed powers again, and once more, retired [14]. He continued working for Central City Police Force. He was however, a depressed and somewhat grim figure. He was now 39 but looked about 60. The children were left in the care of a relative, Briony Powell. Over the next couple of years he came out of this funk, and began to continue with his life, never tempted to use his superspeed again. He took the twins back and became an excellent single father. He even dated Tina McGee a couple of times, although the history of their former partners was too awkward for that to really work. However, McGee did manage to regulate his metabolism, as long as he made no effort to use superspeed again.

Then, in 1970, Velocity 9 started appearing on the streets again. Closely followed by Velocity-10, an even more dangerous variant. It seemed the pushers were giving it away. Hyper-accelerated kids were dying on the streets and Allen became obsessed, working day and night in the lab to find a clue. After a few weeks he received the following message:




And a map of Central City, with a ring around a warehouse the police suspected of being a V-10 "kitchen".

Allen took the kids to Briony Powers', kissed them and disappeared [15].

News footage from later that day shows a red and yellow blur (even in slow motion) rushing into the warehouse, and then... Maybe the warehouse got struck by lightning. Maybe it blew up, in an incredibly pure release of energy. All that's visible on the tape, all that was visible at the time, is... a flash.


[1] I have followed DC Comics lead and used "Central City" in this article. In fact, Allen was based in Kansas City. At the time, DC fictionalised all it's place-names, partly because it was tradition, starting with New York getting divided into Gotham and Metropolis, and partly because it distinguished them from Marvel.

[2] Much to Allen's disappointment, he and Garrick never actually met. All stories featuring team-ups between them or, worse, the "Justice Society" and "Justice League" are entirely fictional.

[3] Ira West came from a family with a strong scientific background, and was the perfect choice for Allen to consult on the Accelerator. Not only could he look at the concept of superspeed from a physics standpoint, he also had an interest in cutting-edge anatomy and medicine: a field he might have entered, were it not for the horrific example of his Uncle Herbert.

[4] You might ask why such a "straight arrow" never publicised the formula. Even before he learnt that "Vandal Savage" was interested in it, he felt (and Professor West agreed) it was dangerous knowledge. During his research he'd heard rumours of a military laboratory on the Mexican border which, shortly before Garrick's debut, had experimented with Accelerator on a lab mouse, "Subject Gorgonzola", which had subsequently escaped. He himself had taken a risk by testing the formula on his pet turtle, Fastback, which he immediately was forced to destroy. Allen felt strongly that the formula should not fall into the hands of the unscrupulous, but even more so that it shouldn't fall into the hands of the careless.

[5] Contrary to the comics Iris was told Barry's secret very early on (after all, her father helped recreate the formula). Her nephew, Wally, was not Kid Flash (Allen was far too responsible to give Accelerator to a kid), but was very excited by the notion and kept writing to DC Comics with suggestions for his character. It was his idea that "if Robin agrees" there  could be "a sort of Junior JLA". As a result of this, West was invited to DC Comics, and actually met Bruce Wayne Jr. (then Robin) and Roy Harper, the former Speedy and current Green Arrow. He then had the idea to actually set up as the Titans for public appearances. Harper loved the idea (it was rumored that Harper was having financial troubles and thought there might be money involved) ; Wayne reluctantly went along with it. West asked Hippolyta Trevor if she'd be interested in joining as "Wonder Girl", but she declined, so he hired an actress called Donna Troy. An actor was also hired to play the part of Speedy since it was deemed Harper was too old. Allen's attitude to this varied from amusement to concern, as he stressed to the overconfident West that  pretending to be a superhero was even more dangerous than being one. Unfortunately, despite being kidnapped by his uncle's enemies several times while in costume, Wally believed himself to be indestructible. Nonetheless, the Titans were the closest any superhero team ever came to actually existing.

[6] In the comics Green Arrow, like Batman is unaging. In fact, industrialist Oliver Queen had retired his heroic identity and was replaced by the first Speedy at around the same time, as Dick Grayson became Batman. Harper was the GA with the "cooler" costume, the beard and the attitude. It became something of scandal when it was revealed that Roy was  the product of a teenage liason that Oliver Queen refused to discuss.. Roy Harper later became a drug user, but kicked the habit and, on Bruce Wayne's suggestion joined CIALD, under the code name Arsenal, as part of his rehabilitation programme.

[7] It is not clear if Kane actually did call himself Vandal Savage at this point, or if this was simply a DC Comics supplied pseudonym. In any case, Kane's full connection with Flash would not be revealed until the Eighties, and it's possible that even then DC never knew who "Savage" really was.

[8] How involved Kane was in "legitimate" super-soldier research (see Brad Mengel's Super-Soldiers) may never be known. However, this is the reason for his (as Savage) becoming a "super-villain", as a way of drawing super-powered heroes out. This was, of course, before Kane's "official" 20th century career, which started in the Seventies.

[9] It was these gadgets that led to stories of the Flash creating tornadoes by whirling his arms, or creating after-images by travelling "faster than light". Duplicates of the gadgets were given to Wally for protection (although Allen couldn't help feeling he was just encouraging the boy) and a variant of the strobe was later utilised by Kord in his adventuring career as the Blue Beetle.

[10] For obvious reasons, an account of these events was never published by DC. However in 2000 they published "Flashpoint", an alternate universe story, speculating on what would have happened had Barry been successful. In this he retires anyway, although for very different reasons. Also notice Savage's presence and motivations.

[11] Don and Dawn Allen did not inherit their father's speed (they didn't grow up in the 30th century either). However Don's son, James Bartholomew Allen-Powell, did suffer from accelerated ageing. While the comic book character of Impulse may have been loosely inspired by Jack-Bart Allen, the Robin Williams movie "Jack" is a more accurate account of his condition.

[12] The comics eventually told this story in 1988, substituting Wally West, as the third Flash, and altering much of the actual events. It's possible some of the story was inspired by Kane's later forays into the drug trade.

[13] Who was Eobard McGee, and why did he hate the Flash? The origins of "Professor Zoom", the main character based on the Anti-Flash, are garbled to say the least, whilst the later Jerry McGee "Speed Demon's origin is more straightforward, but less likely, bearing in mind we're talking about Barry Allen, not Wally West. However the kernel of both stories is the same. A fan of the Flash is consumed with resentment, gains superspeed, and goes mad.

The key point is which Flash McGee was a fan of. Like Allen, he was a fan of the original Flash. Like Allen, he sought the Accelerator to emulate his hero. Unlike Allen, he failed. Every time he saw the new Flash he thought, "It should have been me." Savage was able to play on this, expertly manipulating McGee's emotions, and showing him that his estranged wife, Tina McGee, had helped Allen in his research. By the time "Speed" McGee became the Anti-Flash he was convinced that Allen had stolen the life he should have had.

A quick side note: Evidence suggests that Barry Allen was one of twins, but fraternal not identical. Dr Tina McGee once commented that Allen reminded her of her husband. Further investigation into the theory that "Speed" McGee was the long-lost Malcolm Allen is required.

[14] When the comics finally got round to telling this story they stretched it out beyond belief, with all kinds of gimmicks and ploys. Since it is essentially the end of Allen's career, this is hardly surprising.

[15] Following the disappearance/death of Barry Allen DC Comics continued printing fictitious and older stories before, in consultation with Wally West and the twins, finally printing the stories that led to his death. It was West's suggestion, when told about the plans for the CRISIS, that "Uncle Barry" should be shown as sacrificing his life to save, not just Central City, but the universe. The twins agreed, although they were a bit less sure about West's "Kid Flash" character succeeding him.



"The Flash", ongoing series; various

"The Life Story of the Flash"; Iris Allen, with Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn

"Flashpoint" #1-3; Pat McGreal and Norm Breyfogle

"Marvelous, Fantastic Adventures in the Wold Newton Universe"; Dennis Power

Flash" Those Who Ride the Lighning, Kelson Vibber, 2002



Black Panther
Captain America
The Flash
The Flash II
The Four
The Five
The Green Arrow
The Hulk
Iron Man
Wonder Woman

Search the Wold Newton Universe


All rights reserved. The design of this page is ©  2001 by Dennis E. Power.
The text of this page is ©  2001 by by David Kennedy.
No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted
 without prior written permission and consent of the author.