Did the Silver Age hero recently return? Take a look at what you need to know about this long-dead super-speedster

June 25, 2008
By Andy Serwin

The Silver Age Flash, aka Barry Allen, recently raced his way back into the hearts and minds of comic fans everywhere with his alleged return in the pages of DC Universe #0. But despite the fact that some hardcore fanboys have been clamoring for this JLA co-founder's return since his death in 1985-1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, some questions still remain, such as: Is this really Barry Allen? Why is he such a beloved member of the DCU pantheon? And for the generation of fans who've only known Wally West as the Scarlet Speedster, just who is Barry Allen? Let's assemble at the starting line, shall we?

Barry Allen worked as a Central City Police Department forensic scientist when a lightning bolt struck some chemicals during a thunderstorm one night, dousing him in the mixture and granting the noted slowpoke the ability of super-speed. Inspired by his comic book hero Jay Garrick (the Flash of Earth-2), he adopted the same name and began fighting crime in Central City as the Scarlet Speedster in Showcase #4 (1956).

Barry Allen met and fell in love with reporter Iris West, who was secretly sent to the present by her parents from the 30th century. Allen eventually revealed his secret identity to West (after exposing it to her accidentally in his sleep), and the two were later married. But tragically, one of Allen's enemies, Professor Zoom, became obsessed with West and murdered her in cold blood.

Barry Allen would go on to invent a gizmo called the cosmic treadmill, which allowed him to time travel. During one of his trial runs (Flash #123), Allen broke the barrier between alternate Earths and met his hero, Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-2. That initial meeting eventually led to all the Golden Age heroes being brought back into play—and set up the events that would lead to all of DC's continuity conundrums for the next few decades (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, etc.).

ENERGIZER BARRY (He just keeps going and going…)
Even though Barry Allen technically "died" during the first Crisis, because of the wacky nature of time travel, he made several notable appearances in the comics after his "demise." He returned to fight the future speedster Cobalt Blue in the "Chain Lightning" arc of Flash #145-#150; he showed up twice to help his nephew Wally West (the current Flash) during Geoff Johns' run on the Flash title; and aided the entire DCU against Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis.

Allen met and became engaged to another woman, but when Zoom threatened her life, Allen wound up accidentally murdering Zoom and stood trial for his killing. But unbeknownst to the Flash, Iris West's spirit was transported back to the 30th century at the exact moment of her death. When Allen was eventually acquitted of the killing, he retired with her to the future where they sired two children, Don and Dawn (aka the Tornado Twins).

Allen and West's happiness was short-lived, though. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Anti-Monitor imprisoned the Flash in his anti-matter universe because he was the one superhuman who could traverse time and dimensions unaided. Allen eventually broke free, and using his super-speed, destroyed the Anti-Monitor's super-weapon that would have obliterated the main DC Universe. But Allen "died" in the heroic attempt, running so fast that he disintegrated; it was later revealed that he actually ran so fast, he went back in time and became the lightning bolt that originally transformed Barry Allen into the Flash! Talk about synergy!

The unnamed narrator of DCU Universe #0 appears to be none other than Barry Allen, which is strongly hinted at by the last page reveal of a giant lightning bolt set against a scarlet sky and the title "Let There Be Lightning." Though we haven't seen him in full figure (yet), subsequent issues of Final Crisis are expected to explore what's happening with the hero that some fans regard as the greatest Flash in the history of DC Comics. "That's the point of comics—they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations," Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison told the New York Daily News in a story about Allen's return.

"We can do anything with them, and we can make them come back and make them defy death. And that's why people read comics, to get away from the way life works, which is quite cruel and unheroic and ends in death."

"Without Barry Allen, we'd still be reading comic books about cowboys," echoes DCU Universe #0 co-writer Johns, referring to Allen being the first Silver Age superhero. "When the greatest evil comes back to the DC Universe, the greatest hero needed to return."

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