Ironically, The Flash has taken quite a long time to get here. Starting out in the middle of WWII, the world’s fastest superhero has raced through multiple characters, countless comic book ages, several deaths and a handful of film and TV appearances over the last 70 years. Now primed for his own spotlight at the head of Andy Muschietti’s blockbuster super-ensemble film, in cinemas from June 14, The Flash is finally where he needs to be. So let’s find out how he got there…
The very first Flash was Jay Garrick, who made his debut in “Flash Comics” #1, January 1940 – a student who inhaled too much calcium water and gained the power of super speed. Briefly using his skills to just be really good at football, Garrick donned a winged metal helmet and founded the Justice Society Of America during World War II. Fast forward to 1956 and the character got a proper reboot in the form of Barry Allen – a forensic chemist who gets his own super speed skills after being struck by lightning in a chemistry lab.
A boy reads Flash Comics in 1949. CREDIT: Getty
Getting up to speed
Over the years, The Flash went through a lot. Other comics introduced his iconic red suit, his magic ring, a time travelling treadmill, cosmic energy field The Speed Force and the Justice League – the new super squad that assembles in the 1960s to fight Earth’s biggest intergalactic baddies. A multiverse crisis in the ‘80s saw him die, leaving his nephew Wally West to wear the suit instead, but a major resurrection in 2008 put Barry back where he belonged. The fastest man alive was finally ready to take on Hollywood…
The (very) small screen
Except it wasn’t that easy. The Flash actually made his TV debut as a cartoon – debuting as a segment of the 1967 series The Superman/Aquaman Hour Of Adventure. Barry stayed animated for the next few decades, and he didn’t get his own live-action show until 1990. The Flash (starring John Wesley Shipp) changed the tone and was cancelled after a year, and Barry stayed out in the cold again until he turned up as a teen in Smallville. The Flash’s big break still hadn’t arrived.
The much bigger small screen
The Flash’s first crack at his own show landed at the wrong time, but Green Arrow timed it perfectly. Debuting Arrow in 2012 (the year before Superman’s solo outing Man Of Steel), DC’s sharpshooter launched a new TV universe that went on to give five other supers their own successful shows. Top of the list, of course, was Barry Allen – whose appearance in Arrow’s second year developed into nine seasons of The Flash, starring Grant Gustin. Somehow though, more than 80 years after he first put on the suit, The Flash still didn’t have his own film.
Not that he didn’t try. A Flash film was in the works since the late ‘80s, but it never managed to get off the ground. During the noughties, The Flash almost happened a dozen times – but it wasn’t until Zack Synder’s mammoth 2016 movie Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice that audiences finally got the chance to see Barry Allen on the big screen. It was only a brief 42-second cameo, but we got to see all of Ezra Miller’s quirky energy – and the sequence set fans up nicely for Barry’s debut proper in Justice League a year later.
As great as The Flash was in Justice League, it wasn’t his film – cameoing and co-starring with a line-up of supers who all had their own stand-alone movies to brag about. A few more stalled starts later, director Andy Muschietti finally took The Flash into pre-production in 2020 after finishing up horror flicks It and It: Chapter Two.
Now it was time to turn the tables, with Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton both signing on to play alt-universe versions of Bruce Wayne in The Flash’s film. If you’re billed above Batman, you know you’ve made it.
Michael Keaton returns as Batman for ‘The Flash’. CREDIT: Warner Bros.
It wouldn’t be DC without a few superhero surprises, and The Flash doesn’t disappoint. As well as Affleck and Keaton, our hotfooted friend gets to kick bad guy butt alongside Supergirl, played by Sasha Calle in her DC debut. Together, they turn Miller’s solo blockbuster into a bit more of a team game. It took a while to get here, but the speediest superhero on the planet is only just getting started…
‘The Flash’ arrives in cinemas on June 14