Flash (Barry Allen) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Flash is no stranger to comics fans, and has been a staple of the medium long before his re-introduction signaled the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics in 1962. With a catchy name, a simple costume, and ability to run at super speeds, this “fastest man alive” has been capturing the imaginations of fans for a long time now. The Flash even had a short-lived TV show in the 80’s and is now poised to have another TV show coming up, already in the works for the CW.
Who is the Flash?
The Flash has had many incarnations, but the most popular and most well known is Barry Allen. Barry is a police forensic investigator. He works in a crime lab. One day, he was working on a case when lightning crashed into his lab, knocking over hyper-charged chemicals onto him. Ever after, he has had the power to run nearly as fast as he wants to and has devoted his life to doing good.
Is this character heroic? Resolutely. Barry always does the right thing. He is yet another example of the superhero who has all of the power to save others, but simply can’t seem to salvage his own social life or prevent disaster in his own sphere. Yet he never stops and always searches for ways to help those who can’t help themselves. (1 point)
Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Well, I am really struggling to find what I want to say here. In one sense, since he works for the police department, he literally “represents” the powers. Yet, he is constantly subversive to those in power at his precinct. He also has shown that in those cased where the powers turn “evil,” he resists them with all his might. Yet, it can’t be denied that he has an overly optimistic view of the world, and that can lead him, right or wrong, to give the benefit of the doubt to others, even the powers. I’ll throw Flash a bone, but I can’t give a full point. (.33 1/3 points)
Does this character kill? No. In fact, he goes out his way NOT to. He is another one of those heroes that simply refuses to accept that killing someone is the only possible way to achieve a good. The Flash, probably more than any other hero, is committed to applying creativity to every problem and is always successful, or at least is willing to accept the consequences of not killing. And there have been consequences. (1 point)
Does this character have a spirituality? Flash really came into his own during that era where religion wasn’t talked about so much. So, he really hasn’t gotten into his own religious preferences much. While he is a consummate scientist, this does not automatically indicate that he is a strict materialist or agnostic. In fact, the evidence is scarce, but does indicate that Barry is, or was at least raised in, a Christian home, and holds at least a cultural grasp on those values. He has been seen in various incarnations getting married in Christian churches and throughout the years has never disparaged religion of any type. But, there is something else to consider. Flash’s powers have their source in what is called the Speed Force. The Speed Force has acted in the Flash’s comics as a sort of higher power/afterlife/universal truth for the Flash to philosophize against, and so surprisingly, the Flash’s comics are filled with a lot of spiritual questions and dialogue, but in the context of this supernatural phenomenon particular to the Flash. So yeah, I think that qualifies.
Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Absolutely. One of the Flash’s greatest strengths is that his stories are often easy for writers to pen. That is not to say that lazy writers can’t tell bad stories about Flash. Trust me, they can. But it is to say that his powerset, his relationship with his city and its people, and his rogues gallery are all top notch. (1 point)
Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes. The Flash has always had a number of others that have shared the spotlight with him. his oft-sidekick Kid Flash is as much the hero of the book as Flash has been, his on/off romance with Iris West allows her to be her own woman as well as a love interest (point of note: Flash is currently dating Patty Spivot, a well-formed character who he works with). His rogues gallery, once again, is among the best in comics, probably only behind Batman and Spiderman, and they are all FULLY fleshed out characters in their own right, thanks to brilliant writers over the years. It isn’t just the writers, though. Flash’s penchant for hope and optimism allow these characters room to grow, as we will see below. (1 point)
Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? Yep. Just ask Sheldon Cooper. (1 bonus points)
Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Yes. Yes. This is the thing I like most about Flash. I cannot think of another hero that goes so far out of their way not only to stop villains, not only to not kill them, but also to make every effort to try to redeem them. The Flash is always trying to humanize his rogues gallery, trying to see things from their perspective. He not only tries to help stop them from their crimes, but also tries to help them become better people. He knows them on a personal level. While Spider-Man might be funny as he beats down his foes, Flash is sympathetic, and has even been shown to visit his villains in jail, even reforming them on occasion to become good guys (Pied Piper). This is true gospel stuff, folks. The Flash cares about all things, and hopes for all good things. (1 Point)
Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? The Flash’s powers make his stories amazing with potential. He can run so fast that he breaks the speed of light, making time-travel stories possible, if not always common. He often plays with physics and (Flash fact:) we often learn something about the world when he uses his powers in a specific way. Like I said above, even mediocre writers should be able to mine good stories out of his powers. (1 point)
Verdict: 7.33 1/3 out of 8 points
Tune in next time for a discussion of Animal Man…