Jay Garrick’s dark reflection was Dr. Edward Clariss, the man called Rival whose strange, erratic speedster powers later left him without a physical body. But Clariss only battled Jay once before later disappearing entirely. The first true evil speedster to grace the DC Universe came in the form of Barry Allen’s own dark rival.
Eobard Thawne was born in the 25th century and obsessed with the past, particularly the career of Barry Allen. Knowing that Barry Allen died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths (also known as the First Crisis), Thawne decided to go back in time to just after this death and take the hero’s place. He had his face altered and duplicated the hero’s powers before journeying into the past. But Thawne arrived months later than he should have, when there was already a third Flash, and he then discovered that he was destined to become Barry Allen’s greatest enemy during a later time travel journey. When he returned to the 25th century, the trip burnt out his powers and left him with no memory of the adventure.
But Thawne’s obsession with Barry Allen continued and he became curator of the Flash Museum, known as “Professor Zoom” to his colleagues for his work in Speed Force research. Later finding a spare Flash costume in a time capsule, Thawne extracted residual Speed Force energy in the suit. He first attempted to become the new Flash of the 25th century but then his true colors came through (see what I did there?) and he altered his identity, becoming the Reverse-Flash (for the first time, as far as he knew). He was a terror to the 25th century and made repeated trips to the past to kill and/or replace Barry Allen.
Thawne’s crimes were so great that he engendered hatred in Barry unlike any other. One day, when Thawne threatened the woman he loved, Barry Allen acted on instinct and grabbed the Reverse-Flash in a super-speed headlock. But he moved so quickly, Barry accidentally snapped Thawne’s neck in the process, killing the man. It seemed that the Reverse-Flash had finally been defeated and months later Barry died as well, during the First Crisis.
Other renegade speedsters showed up now and then. Speed Demon. Savitar. More prominent was a profiler named Hunter Zolomon who became obsessed with fixing his life, leading him to being bombarded by strange temporal energies that turned him into a new kind of speedster. Calling himself simply “Zoom,” he became obsessed with putting the new Flash, Wally West, through horrible tragedy, believing this would make him a better hero in the end. He even recruited the dark twin of Impulse, a twisted boy named Inertia, to help him later on.
Eobard Thawne was resurrected soon after the rebirth of Barry Allen and the villain increased his power by becoming the bearer of the Negative Speed Force, a corruption of energy absorbed from Barry’s own Speed Force. With this power, Thawne can actually change history, something the Flashes have never been able to do, and he has re-dedicated himself to destroying Barry’s life while improving his own.
Well, I think that brings us up to speed. Now let’s jump into things!
INTRODUCING THE RIVAL
Jay Garrick was the Flash during the Golden Age of comics, acting both on his own in Keystone City and alongside his friends in the Justice Society of America. In 1949, Flash Comics #104 introduced the first true super-speed villain. Edward Clariss was a professor at Midwestern University when Jay had been a student there and he’d been nearby when Jay’s lab accident made him a speedster. Years later, after Jay had become a successful chemist and research scientist, Dr. Clariss became the head of the Garrick Research Foundation. By this time, he’d figured out how to duplicate the Flash’s powers on a temporary basis and used the process on himself, becoming a criminal.
Jay referred to Clariss as his “Rival” and the criminal thought it fitting to dress in a costume identical to the Flash, but with much darker colors. Whereas Jay disguised his face as a blur by vibrating his muscles at high speed, Clariss simply wore a mask, likely because vibrating his features would not have disguised his face from an enemy whose speed would allow him to see more than a blur.
It’s not a bad look, but maybe it could take things a little further. The featureless mask could be nice if we gave it blank eye-lenses or goggles, making it a true disguise that gives no hint of the man’s emotions beneath. Maybe lose the helmet as well or alter it so that it has a visor covering Clariss’s face. And maybe change the lightning bolt, having it come down from the neck instead of up from the waist.
Decades after his first and only appearance in comics, Edward Clariss appeared again. This time there was no mask, which makes sense since his identity was known to Jay at this point in time. He basically now just looks like Jay with the color washed out and this is even less imaginative than the previous look. By this point, Barry Allen had met the Reverse-Flash and Jay had even fought a robot calling itself the Golden Age Reverse-Flash (we’ll show him in a bit), so I would’ve liked maybe a design closer to those styles.
Rival’s powers turned him into a being of energy, his physical body devoured by the Speed Force. In this form, he basically looked like a version of Jay Garrick that was made out of evil, electrified cotton candy. If he’s made of energy now, then I would imagine his form can shift to whatever he imagines and man, I must conclude once more that Edward has no imagination. It’s still just “I’m not quite Jay.”
THE EVIL JAY GARRICKS
Years after the first Reverse-Flash had warred with Barry Allen and both had died, Jay Garrick fought this strangely dressed automaton in Flash vol. 2 #134. The robot had been built by a couple of convicted criminals and it called itself the Golden Age Reverse-Flash. Jay was able to defeat the replicant-wannabe and it was never seen again, which is a bit of a shame because it’s a fun idea. Since Jay doesn’t have a lot of other personal enemies still running around, it’d be nice to see a version of this android pop up again.
Another version of an evil Jay Garrick appeared during the story “Chain Lightning” when the criminal Cobalt Blue, a magical villain with his own legacy of evil that stretched across the generations. Corrupted by the bad guy’s mystical cobalt blue gem, Jay Garrick became a twisted version of himself and got this new look as a result. It’s a pretty fun twist on Jay. We can still see that it’s him, but that something’s gone horribly wrong. And look at that, evil-version-of-Jay works just as well without a helmet. If Clariss or the Golden Age Reverse-Flash come back, they should take notes from this look.
EOBARD THAWNE – A FLASH OF MANY NAMES
Eobard Thawne first appeared in Flash #139 (1963). First of all, this guy has too many names. Thawne. Reverse-Flash. Most ridiculous of all, Professor Zoom. Jay Garrick’s evil double was called “Rival” and the simplicity of that title was rather cool. Superman’s twisted double was originally called Phantom Superman but then DC smartened up and rebooted the character as Bizarro.
During his time writing the Flash comics, Mark Waid referred to Thawne as the “Renegade Flash” a couple of times. That just sounds better than Reverse-Flash. And know what sounds even better? If we’d just called him Renegade. “Rival and Renegade, the evil speedsters.” That would’ve worked. It also would’ve been some fun word play during stories where we saw that Flash’s other villains, collectively known as the Rogues, would sometimes fight this twisted speedster. “This issue: The Rogues VS. The Renegade!” That’s just fun.
Whereas Barry is a compassionate man who actually fights crime in both his civilian identity and his superhero guise, Thawne really is the opposite, a vicious sociopath who was considered an enemy even by the Flash’s rogues gallery. Thawne also was quite imaginative in how he could use his powers in corrupt ways. Barry Allen could vibrate his molecules at such a frequency that he could pass through solid matter. Thawne would vibrate his hands in the same manner, phase them through a person’s head or chest, and then regain just enough tangibility so that the victim would die screaming, their heart or brain now scrambled and destroyed.
So the costume is a pretty obvious display that this guy has Barry’s abilities and is just as intelligent (they’re both scientists), but that he is his opposite in nature. It’s an idea that’s worked in comics before, such as with Bizarro who often wears a mirror image of Superman’s S-shield. In fact, if this costume has a failing, it’s not reverse enough. A true reversal would be if the lightning bolts were all facing a different direction.
But these details don’t keep the suit from being effective in telling you just what Thawne’s all about. Seeing him and Barry fight makes a great contrast of color. And in our society, yellow sometimes means “bright” and “sunny,” but it can also mean “fear” and someone who acts cowardly. Thawne is, in the end, a coward. He doesn’t have the guts to be his own person or to deal with the problems that come up in his life so he has dedicated himself to stealing the life of one of history’s great heroes and to altering the past. He would rather have life pre-arranged to be easy than to deal with things through determination, growth and evolving maturity.
THE EVIL JOHNNY QUICK
A story came out where the Justice League of America learned that there existed a parallel world where many heroes and villains served in reverse roles. Instead of the JLA, this Earth had the Crime Syndicate. And instead of the Flash, they had a villain named Johnny Quick (not to be confused with the 1940s hero of the same name).
This is a pretty boring costume. It’s like a Halloween shop did an unauthorized copy of the Flash. The Flash has a pretty simple costume, yes, but there’s still some sense of design to it. I could maybe accept this if the lightning bolts were different and if he didn’t have that strange pointy-cowl.
In Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s graphic novel JLA: Earth 2, the idea of the evil Justice League was rebooted. This version of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika lived on the Earth that inhabits an anti-matter universe. In the DC Universe, Wally West was the protege of Barry Allen and his successor as the Flash. In this world, the CSA member Johnny Quick got his powers by repeated injections of “Speed Juice,” a drug derived from the blood of the previous Johnny Quick.
This design is noticeably better than the previous one. Separating the lightning bolts on the suit is a nice, small improvement, as is making the gloves red with the suit. His outfit is very streamlined, which makes the helmet a funky, interesting contrast. It’s big and clunky, but I kind of dig the helmet. I like to think that this drug-addicted version of Johnny Quick occasionally crashes to the ground when his powers fade from his system and that the helmet is to protect him from this inevitability. Just a thought.
After the crossover Infinite Crisis, many new parallel worlds were born. One that was designated Earth-3 had a villainous version of the Justice Society of America, the mainstream DCU’s very first superhero team. This “Crime Society” had its own version of Johnny Quick and hey, now we’re talking. This is a pretty cool costume. It’s got a nice design, a cowl that’s very different from any of the Flashes, and red and orange rather than red and yellow makes him stand apart nicely.
In the DC animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, the Crime Syndicate was given another costume overhaul and Johnny Quick wound up with this look. And hey, this is also pretty cool, actually. I mean, it’s basically a yellow jumpsuit, but I dig the mask and the red hair (which Wally West also has). I also like that the Q on his chest resembles the Flash’s symbol but with the lightning bolt just shoved down. Not sure about the red areas of his shoulders, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
FLASH IN THE PAN VILLAINS
When he became the third Flash, Wally West encountered a couple of evil folk gifted with super-speed. Almost none lasted longer than one adventure.
Jerry McGee experimented on duplicating the Flash’s speed. After experimenting on himself, McGee got enough power to surpass the speed of sound, but also went nuts in the process, becoming a crazed, violent paranoid nicknamed “Speed Demon” or “Speed McGee,” depending on whom you ask. He got better, though. And thank God, because this outfit is not great. Purple and yellow is already a dangerous combo, but there’s nothing to this design. It’s just a jumpsuit with a weird cowl.
Blue Trinity was a group of Russian agents who were experimented on to get super-speed and wound up nutty in the process. Their costumes are pretty boring. Really, they’re just generic jumpsuits with a star on them. One of them went on to become Lady Flash and then Lady Savitar. Speaking of whom…
Savitar was introduced in the story “Dead Heat” by Mark Waid. Believing his speed powers were given to him by a higher force, he named himself after the Hindu god of motion and led a cult of followers. These stylish robes definitely let you know this guy’s a religious nut.
Savitar’s armor is interesting. It offers some basic protection so he has the advantage when he fights other speeders. The helmet also recalls the Reverse-Flash mask with its colors, yet Savitar isn’t some alternate version of Thawne. He’s got his own style. And the lightning bolt scar across his chest that energizes when he runs is a very cool visual, a twisted version of the classic Flash chest symbol.
With such a twisted personality, I had hoped that Savitar would come back to the pages of Flash. But with his recent death, I’m afraid he’s one of those one-hit-wonder villains. Ah, well.
When a group of aliens called the Hyperclan showed up and claimed they could solve all of Earth’s problems, one of them seemed to be all about super-speed. He called himself Zum (pronounced “Zoom”) and had quite the head of hair.
Zoom’s costume is pretty simple. A black jumpsuit with some lightning bolts. But the Flash’s costume is simple too and it works okay. The white lightning also works nicely with his hair. It’s not as memorable as it could be, but Zum was never seen again after this story so it’s no big deal.
In the live-action Flash TV series, an episode called “Twin Streaks” had Barry Allen face a different kind of renegade Flash. A scientist took samples of the hero’s blood and created a fully grown clone that he named Pollux (after one of the Gemini twins). Since Pollux’s speed caused his body to overheat, he was given a special uniform to stabilize him, just as the TV version of Barry needed a special suit that could stand up to the friction of his velocity.
This is a strange take on things. You’d think they’d just go with the Reverse-Flash colors and instead we have blue and silver. But it’s important to note that Pollux himself was not evil, at least not intentionally. He wound up causing harm, but this was because he didn’t understand the world, having the maturity of a child. He was a different version of the Flash, not a dark opposite.
I still wonder if this design couldn’t have been improved somehow. The blue and silver make him appear as if he’s washed out or a creature of ice. And the logo on his chest is rather odd, explained as being the company logo of the lab where he was created. The figure actually recalls Jay Garrick to my mind, looking like an angelic mercury holding a lightning bolt. In any event, this was a strange take on the concept of a rival Flash.
THE BLACK FLASH
In a fairly weird story, we met the Black Flash. This was basically an aspect of death that appears to speedsters in certain times. The Black Flash came after Wally, but he was able to outrun it essentially and hurl out of space and time.
This look is pretty simple. Black costume with the Flash’s mask and a red version of his chest symbol and that’s it. No other design elements. It’s not bad, but I think a red lightning bolt would work better. I also wish this was called Dark Flash rather than Black Flash, which just sounds like a 1970s blacksploitation film to me.
Recently, Barry was tricked into thinking he was the new Black Flash. The truth was, he was being infected by the Negative Speed Force energy of Eobard Thawne. This is definitely a better take on the design. The red boots and white lightning trim work nicely on the black costume, especially with all the red lightning energy erupting around it. Interesting design.
During the crossover Blackest Night, Eobard Thawne’s remains were resurrected with a Black Lantern ring. The result was this super-speed, crazy zombie that considered itself the new Black Flash. This is the standard Black Lantern look, but with Thawne’s now-reversed lightning symbol, cowl and winged boots. Silver and black is definitely a good look for him and it makes the Black Flash look more ethereal than red and black did.
There was also a “Black Ops Flash” of sorts, but you have to check back on Part 1 to see what that suit was.
THE KID CALLED INERTIA
In 1999, Bart Allen AKA Impulse wound up fighting a dark twin of his own. Thaddeus Thawne was cloned from Bart Allen’s DNA by a descendant of Eobard Thawne. Whereas Bart’s growth was accelerated, leading to his impulsive behavior, Thaddeus’s development was slowed by many years to allow for more training and education by the time he was physically and mentally a teenager. He traveled from the future to the modern-day as “Inertia” to kill and replace Bart Allen. But he was defeated and then wasn’t seen again until about five years later.
Whereas Eobard Thawne reversed Barry’s color scheme, Inertia acts as a Reverse-Impulse by inverting the colors of Bart’s costume instead. Red becomes green, white becomes black. And he’s a blond rather than a brunette. This is definitely more creative than simply switching the colors would have been, which could have made Inertia seem like a Jr. version of Eobard Thawne. Now he stands in his own right, as Bart stands apart from Wally. Well done.
JUST CALL ME ZOOM
Hunter Zolomon came into Wally West’s life in 2001 as a profiler specializing in super-powered criminal studies. By 2003, he had suffered so many tragedies that he demanded Wally West use the Cosmic Treadmill (a time machine invented by Barry) to alter the past and improve his life. Wally said that not only did he have the right but the fact was his powers did not allow him to alter history. Zolomon believed that Wally couldn’t relate to people who were truly suffering because he had not suffered enough himself.
After attempting to use the Cosmic Treadmill on his own, Zolomon was altered by temporal energy and got very different speed powers. By folding himself through time, he was technically faster than Wally now. Convinced that Wally would become a better hero if he were forced to suffer more, Zolomon became “Zoom” and dedicated himself to bringing as much trauma into the hero’s life as he could.
This is a whole new twist on the Reverse-Flash and how his insane motivations work. Thawne looked intimidating when he sneered at you from behind that mask, but Zolomon’s mask immediately implies insanity with those strange eyes. His costume is based on Wally’s so the belt is different than Thawne’s. And he has made a mirror image of the symbol, a very effective touch indeed. This is a great look all around. Still not crazy about the name, but Zoom is at least better than “Professor Zoom.”
During the events of the story Final Crisis, Hunter Zolomon recruited Inertia to be his own protege, someone to help spread his work of terrorizing and traumatizing heroes so that they could emerge from the experiences as stronger people. Inertia was giving a Kid Flash costume and then Zolomon altered it, turning him into Kid Zoom. This is an interesting look. Reversing the classic Kid Flash colors keeps Inertia roughly in line with Bart’s development, since he had given up his Impulse identity and had become the new Kid Flash by this time. And since this design is different enough from Zoom’s, Thaddeus stands out in the same way that Wally did when he finally got his own distinctive look.
At the same time though, Inertia doesn’t take orders from anyone really and his other costume seemed more suited to his personality. Inverting the colors of his enemy rather than just reversing them gave a feeling that he was not just an opposite, he was twisted. This costume didn’t last too long anyway, since Thaddeus finally met his end while wearing it.
When Thawne returned to plague the reborn Barry Allen, he was wearing his traditional costume but had made the small alteration of flopping his chest symbol.
Again, I like this better than when it faced the same direction as Barry’s. I prefer Zolomon’s belt, but Thawne is Barry’s enemy, not Wally’s, and so it makes sense his outfit reflects Barry’s belt. It’s also nice to see that his Negative Speed Force energy creates an aura of red lightning around him most of the time now. Along with this, Thawne has taken to the habit of making after-images of himself, a side effect of his constantly vibrating and shifting at high speeds. Zolomon had a similar habit which also altered his voice.
It’s a nice effect and increases the idea that there’s just something wrong about him. We can accept white, yellowish and bluish lightning, but red? That’s just not natural.
Hey, we’re done! Hope you enjoyed this triple-feature. There was just so much to say about the Flash family, it seemed silly to wait a few months before we touched on them again. Now if only they’d get a live-action movie done already. Or better yet, a live-action series again! You could really make it last through many seasons if you take your time revealing all the aspects of the Flash legacy. Maybe one day it’ll happen. But enough dreaming. Until next time, folks, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.