Golden Age (1940-1952)
"The Rival Flash!" (Flash Comics vol. 1 #104, 1949)
Introduced in 1940's Flash Comics #1, Jay Garrick’s best story in the Golden Age of comics also happened to be his last solo story. Setting a precedent for what would eventually become something of a tradition in the Flash mythos, in this story Jay meets an evil version of himself with all the same abilities, who calls himself “the Rival.” Managing to depower the Flash, the Rival begins a crime spree in Keystone City. Eventually, Jay re-creates the accident that gave him his powers and defeats Rival, only to discover that he was an old college professor of his who wished to re-create the powers of the Flash and use them for personal gain.
Silver Age (1956-1970)
"Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt!" (Showcase #4, 1956)
In his first story, Barry Allen is struck by lightning and given amazing speed powers. Remembering that he’d read about the adventures of the previous Flash in a comic book, he's inspired to become the new Scarlet Speedster. His first adventure was against the super-slow Turtle Man. His second story (also in SHOWCASE #4), featured a criminal from the future named Mazdan. Neither of these villains would become mainstay members of The Flash’s Rogues, but Barry Allen was here for the long haul.
“The Flash of Two Worlds” (The Flash vol. 1 #123, 1961)
One of the most important elements of the DC Universe was introduced in the pages of THE FLASH. In 1961, Barry Allen was the first DC Super Hero to discover the existence of the Multiverse, an endless realm of parallel universes, each with its own Earth. Barry lived on Earth-One. He discovered that the original Flash, Jay Garrick, whom he had believed was only a comic book character, actually lived on the parallel world of Earth-Two.
After accidentally vibrating into Earth-Two, Barry approached Jay Garrick and explained to him that he was from another nearly identical Earth. Together, they took down the villainous Thinker, and Barry convinced Jay to come out of retirement and become the Flash once more. The two Flashes quickly become friends and shared many adventures together across the Multiverse. Not long after meeting Jay and seeing how he was capable of being happily married, Barry revealed his secret identity to his girlfriend Iris West, and the pair got married themselves. For a while, they were among the few happily married couples in the DC Super Hero community. But, sadly, it was not to last.
Bronze Age (1970-1985)
"The Trial of The Flash" (The Flash vol. 1 #323 350, 1983-1985)
After many years of threatening The Flash and his loved ones, the Reverse-Flash murdered Iris West-Allen in cold blood. A grieving Barry attempted to move on with his life, eventually finding new love with a woman named Fiona Webb. But when the couple was about to wed, Reverse-Flash attempted to murder Fiona as well. Eventually, Barry broke his own personal code and snapped the Reverse-Flash’s neck, killing him before he could kill his new bride. This led to the Flash being placed on trial for second-degree murder. The trial took many twists and turns over the two years it played out. Even Kid Flash had to testify against his beloved mentor; and the Flash’s nemesis Abra Kadabra got involved by magically tampering with the jury. Ultimately, however, Barry Allen was exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.
Afterward, the Flash discovered that his first wife, Iris, was still alive, her essence having been transported to the 30th century upon her death and given life in a new body. Barry and Iris left their own time behind and decided to live out the rest of their lives in the future…until a crisis in his own time forced him to come home one last time.
“A Flash of the Lightning” (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, 1985)
The Crisis on Infinite Earths had been raging for months, with the evil Anti-Monitor destroying universe after universe, leaving only a handful left. The Anti-Monitor had hoped to ensure victory with an antimatter cannon he had created, but Barry Allen decided to stop him, even if meant ending his own life. Running so fast he literally saw his life flash before his eyes, Barry was able to stop the Anti-Monitor’s plans and buy time for his friends, the heroes of Earth. Barry was converted into pure energy. His noble sacrifice would be honored when his nephew Wally would take up the name and costume of the Flash himself.
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986-2005)
“The Return of Barry Allen” (The Flash vol. 2 #74-79, 1993)
When Barry Allen died, his role and costume were assumed by his nephew Wally West, the third hero to use the name of the Flash. Although barely more than a kid at the time, Wally knew he had a lot to live up to by stepping into his uncle’s yellow boots. Many of Wally’s earliest solo adventures as the Flash saw him growing into the job and maturing over time. In those early years, Wally was very much a womanizer, going from girlfriend to girlfriend until he met reporter Linda Park. The two quickly fell in love, and soon after Wally moved to Keystone City, the former home of the original The Flash, Jay Garrick.
Wally’s world was shaken when his uncle Barry suddenly returned from the dead. Although he was at first thrilled to see his uncle alive again, Wally was puzzled by Barry's new attitude. At one point, Barry left Wally to die after a battle. A heartbroken Wally gave up on his own career as the Flash, feeling he was no longer needed. Not long after, Wally learned that “Barry” was actually Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. Returning to the Flash persona, which Wally now realized was legitimately his, he defeated Zoom and sent him back to his own time period. Wally was more confident than ever in being the The Flash.
“Terminal Velocity” (The Flash vol. 2 #0, 95-100, 1994)
After several years as The Flash, Wally West proved to be one of the most important speedsters of all when he discovered the existence of the Speed Force, the energy from which all speedsters derived their powers. When Wally was sucked into the Speed Force itself, his love for his girlfriend, Linda Park, became his anchor to reality, allowing him to become the first speedster ever to return from that mysterious energy source. Not long after, Wally and Linda were married.
Wally also began training his nephew from the future, Bart Allen, who became known as Impulse, and later, the second Kid Flash. In Keystone City, Wally not only came into conflict with his uncle’s original Rogues, but also gained a menagerie of villains all his own, including Tar Pit, Hunter Zolomon and the Black Flash. Linda eventually gave birth to twins, Jai and Iris West.
“Rogue War” (The Flash vol. 2 #220-225, 2004)
After the events of the 2004 limited series IDENTITY CRISIS, three separate groups of The Flash Rogues found themselves pitted against each another over the revelation that the late Flash Barry Allen had used the sorceress Zatanna’s powers to mentally rehabilitate one of the Rogues; who subsequently used mind control to in turn rehabilitate other Rogues.
Now these villains, many of whom had become occasional allies of Wally West, began to wonder who had been brainwashed into being a good guy, and who had reformed via their own free will. At the same time, Wally’s enemy Zoom returned and allied himself with the Reverse-Flash, resulting in one of the most perilous chapters in Wally West’s career as the Flash.
Post Infinite Crisis (2006-2011)
The Vanishing and Return of Wally West (Infinite Crisis #1-7, Justice League of America vol. 2 #8-10, Justice Society of America vol. 3 #5-6, 2005-2007)
During the events of 2005's INFINITE CRISIS, Wally sacrificed himself for the good of the universe, as his uncle Barry had done during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Along with several other speedsters, Wally subdued the villainous Superboy Prime, who had attempted to alter the Multiverse. Wally dragged him into the Speed Force hoping to imprison him within it. Linda and their infant children joined him there. Though the other speedsters returned to Earth, Wally and his family appeared lost forever. For a brief time, Wally's nephew Bart became the fourth Flash.
This did not last long, however, as Wally and his family returned to Earth thanks to the efforts of the Legion of Super-Heroes from the far future, aided by the Justice League and Justice Society. Wally saw his children's ages accelerated in the Speed Force. Upon returning to Earth, they were the physical equivalent of preteens and had speed-related abilities all their own. Wally resumed his career as the Flash, rejoining the Justice League and the Titans. The biggest surprise of his life would happen soon after, as Barry Allen would return from the dead. This time for real.
A Hero Returns (The Flash: Rebirth #1-6, 2008-2009)
After several years away, Barry Allen returned from the Speed Force to a changed world, one where his heroic sacrifice to save the universe was now the stuff of legend. But though Barry’s death had signaled the beginning of the end of the original Crisis, his return heralded the start of the Final Crisis, an epic battle against the forces of Darkseid. Barry was instrumental in this battle, and once the Earth was saved, the world was overjoyed to learn of his return. Barry even returned to his old job as a CSI, and explained his “death” was a cover and that he had been placed into witness protection.
After the events of FINAL CRISIS, after over two decades away, Barry Allen returned to a much-changed DC universe. In THE FLASH: REBIRTH, Barry learns that his archenemy, the Reverse-Flash, was responsible for murdering his mother as a child as punishment for the conflicts the two would have in the future. It was also in REBIRTH that Barry made a startling revelation—not only could he tap into the Speed Force, but he was the person who created it in the first place.
The Butterfly Effect (Flashpoint #1-6, 2011)
In the universe Barry Allen returned to, his personal history was somewhat different. His mother, Nora, had now been murdered when he was a young boy, with his father, Henry Allen, was falsely accused of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. This was said to have prompted Barry to become a crime scene investigator, hoping the knowledge he acquired would help him discover his mother’s true killer and free his father. Eventually, it was revealed that Barry’s archnemesis, the Reverse-Flash, was responsible for Nora's death. He'd gone back in time and murdered Nora Allen in an effort to ruin Barry’s life. Upon learning who was responsible for his mother’s murder, Barry caused his greatest failure—Flashpoint.
Barry traveled into the past in order to prevent the murder of his mother. This caused a butterfly effect, in which one change in the timeline cascaded into several; in this case, all negative. Barry woke up in a dystopian world without his super-speed. Realizing he’d made a massive mistake, he set about getting his powers back as well as restoring the past. Barry’s actions in what became known as the Flashpoint reality resulted in the creation of the New 52 DC Universe.
The New 52 (2011 – 2016)
"Mob Rule" (The Flash vol. 5 #1-7, 2011-2012)
In the New 52 reality, Barry Allen was once more a young CSI. Not only had he never died saving the universe, he'd never married Iris West. Single again, Barry formed a new relationship with police officer Patty Spivot as a new threat, Mob Rule, began creating chaos in Allen’s hometown of Central City. Barry did his best to stop the enemy while coming to grips with the shocking revelation of who and what Mob Rule was: a group comprised of dozens of duplicates of an old friend of Barry Allen's named Manuel Lago.
“Lightning Strikes Twice” (The Flash vol. 6 #1-8, 2016)
One Super Hero whose existence had been completely erased by the effects of Flashpoint was the third Flash, Wally West. Although another teenager named Wallace West appeared, and also acquired powers and the name Kid Flash, they were not the same person, but cousins. The original, older Wally was, in truth, trapped in the Speed Force yet again. Like a phantom, he was able to observe the Earth and his friends who lived there, but was unable to interact with them.
In one last effort to avoid oblivion, Wally reached out to his uncle Barry, who suddenly remembered him and pulled Wally back to reality, freeing him from the Speed Force. Wally explained to Barry that when he returned to the present from Flashpoint, some outside force had seized the opportunity to change reality to their liking, removing nearly ten years from everyone’s timeline. Overjoyed to be back, both Barry Allen and Wally West go by the name the Flash now, defending the Earth as the fastest men alive.
Other speedsters soon joined them, as a Speed Force storm began granting several Central City citizens super-speed.