In both his TV and comics incarnations, Barry Allen isn’t much of a brawler. You might not think that’s impressive, but for us science nerds growing up, he was our hero because he preferred to think his way to victory rather than punch his way there. To be fair, this was a very unrealistic life lesson; despite what the comics told us, for the entirety of our childhoods, fists beat brains every time. Still, we rarely felt like the Flash was lying to us, just that we could never be that clever.
In last night’s episode, the climactic fight was still applied science. The faster an object (or superhero) moves, the more momentum it acquires and thus the more energy it delivers when it hits. Given the limitations of TV-Flash’s powers, from a standing start, there’s no way his fists could accelerate quickly enough to deliver the same kind of blow that they could if they’d been building momentum for miles. Theoretically, they could do substantial damage if he were to throw mortal-man punches like a super-speed jackhammer, but again, that’s not really what the Flash does. The Flash uses his head (which, on TV, has an earpiece stuck into it over which Barry can get coached by his science-geek buddies, but let’s not split hairs).
Last night, the Flash finally got his official super-hero name, too, and I applaud the show’s writers for their backflip acrobatics in making the christening as organic and natural-sounding as possible. I think they stuck the landing.
Flash Facts (a.k.a. Easter Eggs):
Barry Allen wasn’t the first DC Comics character to carry the name “Flash.” When he first appeared in 1940, the original Flash was college student Jay Garrick, who gained super-speed powers in a chemical accident and who dressed in a lightning-emblazoned red jersey, blue pants, and a petasus, and if you contend that you knew that “petasus” is the official term for the wide-brimmed, winged helmet worn by the mythological Hermes, God of Speed, you’re lying, because even I just now had to look it up, and I’m not new at this. Garrick was retired by DC in 1951, his series cancelled; when it was revived and revamped five years later, only the name and powers remained, given to the Barry Allen we now know. In the comics, Barry eventually met his predecessor when he found him living on a parallel Earth; no clue if the TV show will ever follow that lead, but I have already been pleasantly surprised by equally unexpected developments, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
In addition to a landmark near-100-issue run on The Flash from 1992 to 2000, New York Times bestselling author Mark Waid has written a wider variety of well-known characters than any other American comics creator, from Superman to the Justice League to Spider-Man to Archie and hundreds of others. His award-winning graphic novel with artist Alex Ross, Kingdom Come, is one of the best-selling comics of all time. Currently, he writes Daredevil and S.H.I.E.L.D. for Marvel Comics and Empire and Insufferable for his own webcomics site, Thrillbent.