7. The Flash
When I was a kid, I read about two superheroes religiously, and The Flash was one of them. I wasn’t quite old enough to have read the Crisis On Infinite Earths story arc, so the Flash I knew was Wally West. Barry Allen’s Flash, who died during the Crisis, was revived for an ill-fated, live-action TV show sometime in the ’90’s, (and also for the Blackest Night story arc) but Wally was my guy. Similarly to Ant-Man, I think the fact that The Flash was one of the founding members of the Justice League gets overlooked by people who only have recent movies or some other pop-culture fame as references; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern wind up getting most of the credit.
In case the name doesn’t make it apparent, The Flash’s superpower is the ability to move very, very quickly. That’s a bit like saying that Vincent Van Goh was a “good” painter, and Peyton Manning is a “good” quarterback, but the words that describe just how fast The Flash can move are hard to come by. There’s been a lot of debate in the past over whether or not The Flash was faster than Superman, but I think that conversation is absurd. The Flash was a specialist; speed is what he did. I don’t know if this was the only instance because there was a big chunk of my life during which I lost touch with all my superhero friends, but I know there was an instance during the recent Blackest Night storyline in which The Flash actually went so fast that he took himself and (Hal Jordan’s) Green Lantern about two seconds into the future. You don’t argue with that, people. You don’t even try. For the record, I always thought that The Flash’s speed was one of the three coolest superpowers ever. Speed is the single handiest thing to have when you find yourself competing in a sport, or against criminals and super villains. Have you ever gotten irritated with Hollywood’s attempts to choreograph a gunfight? You know how the hero can be running for cover and five bad guys can be spraying his flight path with bullets from AK-47s but all you see is a bunch of sparks flashing around his feet as he makes it to safety? I mean, come on, Green Arrow isn’t that elusive, and everyone knows it. The Flash is one of the few superheroes who can save film makers from themselves in that respect. When five guys shoot at The Flash, air is pretty much the only thing they can hit. I know, it’s awesome.
However, as we’ve surely discovered by now, if you want to determine the heroism of a guy you have to look past the superpower, no matter how awesome it is. Wally West had a tendency to crack wise and act like an idiot, a character trait that thoroughly annoyed some of his more serious colleagues (Batman, John Stewart’s Green Lantern). As a matter of fact, some of his Justice League brothers and sisters even went so far as to openly doubt whether or not he could even handle the smallest measure of responsibility. But eventually everyone learned that buried beneath that skinny, chuckleheaded exterior was a lion of a man who would make the ultimate sacrifice without thinking twice about it. He was unfailingly amiable to everyone he knew, both as Wally West and The Flash, including the people who wanted nothing more than to see his head on a spike. Trying to compile a list of The Flash’s most heroic moments is like trying to compile a list of Pete Rose’s best hits–there are so many to choose from the task becomes overwhelming. There’s a hot pop-culture debate out there about which hero is the more legit between Batman and Superman. I personally think this question overlooks the fact that The Flash made a habit out of saving both their asses with regularity.
There is, however, something to be said for a hero’s villains, and I’m sorry to report that The Flash’s villains are lame, for the most part. I’ve learned that, at the end of the day, a hero is really only as good as the villains who help define him/her, and this is what puts The Flash, one of my all-time favorites, on the list way back at number 7. Guys like Abracadabra, Captain Cold, and Sergeant Boomerang (or whatever that guy’s name was) didn’t do much to give their nemesis any credibility in my opinion, as their names might suggest. I did think that Mirror Master was pretty cool, and a much better fit for the The Flash than the rest of them, but he’s not enough to make up for an otherwise completely bunk roster of bad guys.
Check back in later when we land on number 6!