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The Flash (Barry Allen) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Barry Allen is the second character to be known as the Flash. The character first appeared in Showcase #4 (October 1956), created by writer Robert Kanigher and penciler Carmine Infantino. His name combines talk show hosts Barry Gray and Steve Allen. Barry Allen is a reinvention of a previous character called The Flash that had appeared in 1940s comic books as the character Jay Garrick.
The Flash's power consists mainly of superhuman speed. Various other effects such as intangibility are also attributed to his ability to control the speed ofmolecular vibrations. The Flash wears a distinct red and gold costume treated to resist friction and wind resistance, traditionally storing the costume compressed inside a ring.
Barry's classic stories introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics, and this concept played a large part in DC's various continuity reboots over the years. The Flash has traditionally always had a significant role in DC's major company-wide reboot stories, and in 1985's crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry died saving the Multiverse, removing the character from the regular DC lineup for 23 years. His return to regular comics occurred subsequently in 2008 within the pages of Grant Morrison's Final Crisis crossover story and Geoff Johns' accompanying The Flash: Rebirth limited series. He has since played a pivotal role in the crossover stories Blackest Night (2009), Flashpoint (2011), Convergence (2015), and DC Rebirth (2016).
Allen has appeared in various adaptations in other media. John Wesley Shipp played the character in the 1990 CBS television series and Grant Gustincurrently plays him in the 2014 The CW television series. The character is played by Ezra Miller in the DC Extended Universe, beginning with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in 2016, followed by Justice League in 2017, and a standalone film in the future.
Barry Allen is a police scientist (his job title was changed to a forensic scientist in The Flash: Iron Heights one-shot) with a reputation for being very slow, and frequently late, which frustrates his fiancee, Iris West, as the result of his devotion to crime-solving. One night, as he is preparing to leave work, a lightning bolt shatters a case full of chemicals and spills all over Allen. As a result, Allen finds that he can run extremely fast and has matching reflexes. He dons a set of red tights sporting a lightning bolt (reminiscent of the original Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel), dubs himself the Flash (after his childhood comic book hero, Jay Garrick), and becomesCentral City's resident costumed crimefighter. Central City University professor Ira West (Iris' adoptive father) designed Allen's costume and the ring which stores it while Allen is in his civilian identity. The ring can eject the compressed clothing when Allen needs it and suck it back in with the aid of a special gas that shrinks the suit. In addition, Allen invented the cosmic treadmill, a device that allowed for precise time travel and was used in many stories. Allen was so well liked that nearly all speedsters that come after him are often compared to him. Batman once said "Barry is the kind of man that I would've hoped to become if my parents had not been murdered."
As presented in Justice League of America #9, when the Earth is infiltrated by alien warriors sent to conquer the planet, some of the world's greatest heroes join forces—Allen is one of them. While the superheroes individually defeat most of the invaders, they fall prey to a single alien and only by working together are they able to defeat the warrior. Afterwards the heroes decide to found the Justice League.
During the years, he is depicted as feeling attracted to Black Canary and Zatanna, but he never pursues a relationship because he feels his real love is Iris West. In one of the comics he marries Iris West. Allen also becomes good friends with Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), which would later be the subject of the limited series Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold.
In The Flash # 123—"Flash of Two Worlds"—Allen is transported to Earth-Two where he meets Jay Garrick, the original Flash in DC Continuity; it is revealed that Jay Garrick's adventures were captured in comic book form on Earth-One. This storyline initiated DC's multiverse and was continued in issues of Flash and in team-ups between the Justice League of America of Earth-One and the Justice Society of America of Earth-Two. In the classic story from Flash #179 – "The Flash – Fact or Fiction?" – Allen is thrown into the universe eventually called Earth Prime, a representation of "our" universe, where he seeks the aid of the Flash comic book's editor Julius Schwartz to build a cosmic treadmill so that he can return home. He also gains a sidekick and protégé in Iris' nephew, Wally West, who gains super-speed in an accident similar to that which gave Allen his powers.
In time, he married his girlfriend Iris, who learned of his double identity because Allen talked in his sleep. She kept this secret, and he eventually revealed his identity to her of his own free will. Iris was eventually revealed to have been sent as a child from the 30th century and adopted.
In the 1980s, Flash's life begins to collapse. Iris is murdered by Professor Zoom (a supervillain from the 25th century who had long loved her and been jealous of Allen), and when Allen prepares to marry another woman, Zoom tries the same trick again. Allen stops him, killing Zoom in the process by breaking his neck. Unfortunately, when Barry is unable to make an appearance at his own wedding, his fiancée eventually descends into madness.
Placed on trial for murder in connection with Zoom's death, Allen is found guilty by the jury. When he is told by a juror, who is being possessed by a mind from the future, that Reverse Flash (who Allen knows to be dead) brainwashed the jury into this verdict, Flash flees his trial. The Flash is then attacked by Reverse Flash, and realizes that the answers to this mystery, and restoring his good name, lie in the future, so the juror uses a time device to send them forward. They discover that Abra Kadabra was disguised as Reverse Flash to ruin the Flash's good name. Defeating Kadabra, he retreats to the future to be reunited with Iris, having learned that Iris' spirit was in fact drawn to the 30th century, and given a new body (and was in fact the mind inhabiting the juror). The final issue of The Flash ends with Flash and Iris kissing passionately and the caption "And they lived happily ever after... for a while". There are a few references in the final issue (The Flash #350) to the upcoming events, and Flash's impending death.
In the controversial storyline Identity Crisis (sets within the post-Zero Hour continuity), it is revealed that Barry voted to allow Zatanna to edit Doctor Light's mind with four of the members of the Justice League six months after Iris's death, essentially lobotomizing him. When Batman discovers what the League was doing, they have his memories edited as well despite the opposition from Green Arrow. Both Doctor Light and Batman would eventually recover from their respective mindwipe, leading Doctor Light to swear vengeance to all heroes and Batman's distrust towards his allies.
Following the trial, Allen retires and joins Iris in the 30th century. However, after only a few weeks of happiness, the Crisis on Infinite Earths intervenes, and Allen is captured by the Anti-Monitor and brought to 1985; according to the Anti-Monitor, the Flash was the only being capable of traveling to other universes at will, so the Anti-Monitor could not allow him to stay free. Allen escapes and foils the Anti-Monitor's plan to destroy the Earth with an anti-matter cannon, creating a speed vortex to draw the power in, but dies in the process as the power becomes too much for his body. It has been said that Allen travels back through time and becomes the very same lightning bolt that gives him his powers, but later it is also strongly implied that the soul of Barry resides in the Speed Force, the mystical source and Valhalla open to all dead speedsters, and from which the living ones draw their amazing powers. After Allen's death, Kid Flash Wally West, his nephew and sidekick, takes up the mantle of the Flash.
Marv Wolfman, scribe for the Crisis on Infinite Earths, has repeatedly stated (first hinted at in his introduction to the original Crisis collected edition hardcover), then fully explained on his website that he left a loophole in the script wherein the Barry Allen Flash could be reintroduced, without a retcon, into DC Universe continuity. This loophole would allow a writer to pull Barry out of his desperate run to annihilate the anti-matter cannon. However, Barry would know he must someday finish his death run, and would become more determined to use his speed to help others.
It should also be noted that the way Barry Allen seemed to have "died" in Crisis on Infinite Earths, was that he ran so fast that he was able to stop the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon from firing by catching the tachyon beam at the heart of the weapon. After this act, according to Secret Origins Annual #2 (1988), Barry Allen turns into a lightning bolt, goes back in time, becoming the lightning bolt that hit his lab, splashing his past-self with chemicals and transforming him into the Flash.
In Deadman: Dead Again, Barry is one of the heroes whose spirit Deadman helps to enter Heaven, and the Green Arrow storyline "Quiver" depicts Barry Allen in Heaven. His spirit, however, seems to still be alive within the Speed Force, along with Max Mercury and other speedsters.
Iris is pregnant, and she has two children who have super-speed powers, the Tornado Twins, who later meet the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the multiversal variant known as Earth-247, each of her children themselves have children with speed-based abilities. One, Jenni Ognats, grows up to become the Legionnaire XS, while the other, Bart Allen, is born with an accelerated metabolism that rapidly ages him, and is sent back to the 20th century where he is cured by Wally West. He remains there as the superhero Impulse under the tutelage of Max Mercury, and later becomes the second Kid Flash as a member of the Teen Titans. One year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Bart becomes the fourth Flash until he is abruptly killed by his clone Inertia and the Rogues. Wally then retook the identity of the Flash. Bart would later be resurrected as Kid Flash by the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st century to combat Superboy-Prime.
Barry Allen appears in issue 3 as the Flash in the JLA when the two realities start changing, along with Hal Jordan. When the two teams see their real futures, Barry witnesses his death during Crisis on Infinite Earths as the Grandmaster shows the heroes how reality should be, but nevertheless resolves to help restore the timeline as it is not his place to play God. He talks with Hal Jordan over the similarity of their situation, stating that dying could not be so bad so long as they have left a legacy for others (Wally West and Kyle Rayner, in their cases) to fight for what they believe. He helps the team get into Krona's base by using his running on a treadmill to pass the ship through the dimensional barrier. With the Wasp, he is ordered by Captain America to find ways through Krona's defences, and alerts the group to a probably lethal force field. During the final battle, Barry saves Hawkeye from being killed when the Absorbing Man breaks the ground beneath him, but both of them are blasted and apparently killed by Dreamslayer. At the end, it is revealed that Barry got the two of them out alive and at Captain America's suggestion they laid low and because of this, Hawkeye is able to destroy Krona's machine with a TNT arrow while Barry distracts him, then Barry takes the 12 items of power. As a result, reality is restored, Barry disappears and Wally returns.