SHOWCASE PRESENTS: The Flash Doesn’t Run Really Fast

Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect  the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.

If you ever asked me who the most overpowered character in the DCU is, I would probably say Batman. But, in the unlikely scenario that I didn’t then go off on a rant about his ridiculous “plot armor” and, instead, I made a top five list of some kind, then the Flash would win the silver medal. It’s not the most prestigious medal, but he’ll certainly get the last laugh when the werewolves come around.

Now maybe you’re thinking “but doesn’t he just run really fast?” And you’re kind of right. I mean, he does sort of run really fast. In some instances, faster than the speed of light. So fast even that he can occasionally run through time or break through dimensional barriers.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think the Flash runs very fast at all.

JLA #89 (2003)
This is pretty much the central point of my argument so you may want to click on it.

This is the panel that led to my theory that the Flash doesn’t actually run really, really fast. He has the ability to stop time. We already know that he has the capability to travel through time if he goes too fast. The issue is that if you go faster than the speed of light you’d effectively be blind. Therefore, in order to accomplish a feat like this, you’d need to warp time around you.

In essence, the Speed Force is the wrong name. It’s really, for lack of a better phrase, the Time Force. Or, rather, the Reality Force since I also believe he has the capacity to warp space around him as well.

It’s easier to think of the Flash like Neo from the Matrix. He can bend the laws of physics. Because he has, mentally, transcended the rest of humanity.

There’s a theory — I think maybe it was Einstein’s theory or possibly something I made up after watching Powder too many times — there’s this theory that says that the next “evolutionary” step for humanity is to become beings of pure energy, transcending our physical bodies. Of course, scientists aren’t the only ones to come up with this idea. It’s been a central tenet of various religions (mostly Eastern) like Hinduism (reincarnation until transcendence to the divine oversoul/oneness with God) and Buddhism (same general idea) for thousands of years. It’s the same reason why Superman turning into a blue bug-zapper in the 90s, thematically, made sense (even if the execution was god awful — Morrison actually handled it much better in both All-Star and DC One Million).

But back to Barry.

Yes, specifically Barry. I know that was a panel about Wally. But it all comes back to Barry.

Barry Allen is, according to Geoff Johns, the source of the Speed Force on our plane. He essentially gives all the other speedsters their powers. Why does this make sense? The first Flash, Jay Garrick, just ran really, really fast (not to mention the fact that his powers are tied to a metagene and he would still have his abilities whether or not he could tap into the Speed Force). It was Barry who first ran fast enough to break through the barriers of time/between dimensions.

Behold! The God of Speed!

Now, imagine running that fast. You can run all the way around the world in a matter of seconds. At least it seems like a matter of seconds to the people around you. To you, the runner, it seems like time is moving normally. You perceive everything around you. You’d have to if you wanted to not obliterate everything in your path.

So, time moves normally for you but not for everyone else. You live in a world of mute, deaf idiots. Their brains move too slow. All the things you’ve done while they’ve just been frozen in time… Barry has essentially lived for thousands of years in the span of 5 or so “real time” years. Much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, he has probably gone crazy at least a few times. But, again, much like the big BM, he found enlightenment along the way.

In that enlightenment, he was able to become one with the Speed Force, spreading himself throughout time and space, becoming a living god, bestowing blessings and boons upon his disciples (which is how Wally is able to pull this crap). He is the Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. Beyond humanity, above it and throughout it. Flash and substance.

Becoming one with the Universe is, admittedly, kind of gross-looking process.

According to Flash: Rebirth, Barry was actually the lightning bolt that gave him his powers. This is important because, without that little bit of information, this whole theory gets drowned out by a massive paradox (“Barry cannot transcend consciousness without the abilities that would allow him to transcend consciousness”). Thus Barry created a time loop, a self-fulfilling prophecy in which he was granted abilities by his future self which allowed him to become that future self. All the other speedsters— or, at the very least, Wally — then go through that same process of gaining abilities which allow them to become a part of the Speed Force.

Barry Allen has altered reality and created new worlds in his wake. He has outrun death itself. He has saved all of creation.

And you thought Superman was overpowered.

  • Don’t forget that early on in the Manapul/Buccellato run, Barry was going so fast that he was pulling objects from different times and having them deposited in random places, as Dr. Elias discovered. Too bad that wasn’t really developed at all…

  • Ben, as I recall, that was followed up on in the issue introducing Turbine: It turned out that wasn’t Barry’s fault at all, but a side effect of Turbine’s attempts to escape the speed force.