The latest episode of The Flash featured a bonkers plan that involved time travel, changing history, asking a deranged serial killer for help, and Harry Potter references. And it still isn’t the wildest or strangest Flash story ever told, not by a country mile. In the comics and in old cartoons, the Flash has been (old) Jay Garrick, (blond) Barry Allen, (ginger) Wally West and a couple of others, but regardless of who’s been wearing the red-and-yellows, the Flash’s speed has been an excuse for writers to let their imaginations race into crazy places.
If you’re looking for the worst of the worst Flash stories, you’ve come to the right place… but weirdest doesn’t always mean worst, and crazy isn’t always crazy stupid. One or two of these are even among the best Flash stories ever told. And our first entry is somewhere in the middle. Here are the 12 Weirdest Flash Stories Of All Time.
12. The time Wally raced Sonic the Hedgehog
So it seems Wally had an imaginary friend as a child named Krakkl, who turned out to be a real alien energy being. A gang of intergalactic gamblers forced the two of them to race, one of those loser-gets-his-planet-exploded dealies like they pulled in DC vs. Marvel and JLA vs. Avengers and any other story where the goal is to just get the main characters competing as fast as possible.
Anyhoo, Krakkl was blueish and had a just-familiar-enough silhouette and personality that we all knew who Wally was really racing. Flash did also race the Road Runner once, but that didn’t involve everyone on Earth running to lend him speed. And it didn’t include a heartbreaking sacrifice. Let’s (sniff) just say Wally’s imaginary friend… will always be with him (bwaaahhhh)… (Flash vol. 2, #136-138, 1998).
11. The time Barry was a puppet
“I’ve got the strangest feeling I’m being turned into a puppet!” says Barry, on the cover, which is certainly more kid-friendly than “OH GOD WHY CAN’T I MOVE IT’S LIKE LIVING THROUGH RIGOR MORTIS AND MY PUBES HAVE TURNED INTO SPLINTERS.” Yes, Abra Kadabra, the villain from the future with technology that seems like magic, had weaponized a poster for his Flash-mocking puppet show to defeat the Flash… all because the Flash was so good at being heroic, attendance was dropping off for that puppet show.
Okay, Kadabra, real talk. We’re all for people chasing their show-business dreams, but if you have the power to turn people into literal puppets and you can’t find a way to pack the house that doesn’t involve kidnapping and torture, maybe you’re just not meant to direct (Flash vol. 1, #133, 1962).
10. The time Wally was Lex Luthor
2006’s “The Great Brain Robbery” is technically a Justice League Unlimited TV episode, but Wally totally stole the spotlight, with his mind trapped in one plot and his body running wild in the other. When the Justice League tried to determine the location of a huge gang of super-villains, things went awry and Flash and Luthor ended up switching bodies.
The characters didn’t switch voices either, so Michael Rosenbaum (who already played Lex on Smallville) got to render another version of Luthor, while Clancy Brown got a rare opportunity to do comedy as Flash and gave it everything he had.
This left Luthor-as-the-Flash in a battle of wits with the entire Justice League as he tries to escape their headquarters, and Wally (at his most immature) trying to pose as Luthor, just so the already near-mutinous cabal of villains doesn’t kill him on the spot. Bizarre, yes, but it’s amazing how well it works: This has some of the funniest sequences of anything DC Comics has animated.
9. The time Barry gaslit his own girlfriend with supervillain technology
Even by 1959, it was a “running gag” that Barry was always late, and his girlfriend Iris (very different from TV Iris) was fed up with it. After stopping the Mirror Master delayed him yet again, she broke up with him. Desperate, Barry realized the Mirror Master wasn’t going to use his own mirror gizmos in jail, so he used them to make Iris see his face in reflective surfaces all over town.
Not yet aware Barry was the Flash, Iris came to the natural conclusion: that he was really the Mirror Master… no, wait, sorry, she decided her own mind was playing tricks on her and she must be more in love with Barry than she thought. Just as Barry had planned. Instant karma: On his way to their make-up date, Barry slipped on a mirror and knocked himself out, which made him late again, so Iris re-dumped him (Flash vol. 1, #109).
8. The time Barry’s fiancee went crazy at the altar
Major comics characters rarely vanish from history so completely as Fiona Webb. Comic fans remember how Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash (a Barry lookalike, very unlike the TV Thawne) had killed Barry’s first wife, Iris (they’d worked things out when he told her about his night job). They know Barry killed Thawne just before Thawne could kill his second bride, whatsername… right, Fiona.
What they tend to forget is… pretty much anything about Fiona, but especially how she, unlike Iris, had never learned Barry’s secret identity. So she had no idea why her fiancé was missing, why the Flash was comforting her, why this guy in yellow was trying to kill her. Small wonder she ended up in a mental institution. Barry made some effort to help her, but never told her his secret, then got distracted by his murder trial. And then Iris turned up alive and he went to live with her in the future. Bye, Fiona! (Flash vol. 1, #323-340, 1983-1985)
7. The time Barry got his powers from an annoying magical “helper”
The Flash has several origin stories, usually boiling down to “lightning-electrified bath o’ chemicals.” But one fine day, the alien Mopee (rhymes with “dopey”) showed up claiming he had manipulated those chemicals to give Barry Allen his speed – but now he had to take back the speed because of alien law: Barry didn’t own the chemicals that had created him. So Barry had 24 hours to earn the money to buy those chemicals fair and square, or he’d lose his speed forever. But he did earn the money, so nothing of consequence happened, so… hooray! (Flash vol. 1, #167, 1967).
Nobody ever saw Mopee again, but a later Flash story mentioned “monoglycetic peptide enzyme,” or “mopee” for short, was a hallucinogen. That’s writer code for “we must have been on drugs when we came up with Mopee.”
6. The time Fidel Castro threw Wally a birthday party
When an alien invasion forces American and Cuban forces to work together, Wally ends up becoming a hero in Cuba just in time for his 21st birthday. Sensing a political opportunity, Castro throws him a garish party, with lots of people in costume as his or Barry’s friends and enemies. One of Wally’s real superhero friends, the Manhunter, is a lot more uneasy about getting into bed with Castro, even with aliens at the door. And then Wally’s recently widowed mother starts putting the moves on Castro.
Almost as strangely, the story (Flash vol. 2, #22; Manhunter #9, 1989) is much nicer to Castro than you’d expect, making him dignified and philosophical (or at least really good at making nice when he needs to make allies) and only brutal in response to direct threats. Hey, maybe there’s still time for Fidel to play himself in the Flash movie.
5. The time Wally destroyed Death itself who was also a Flash
No aspect of the Flash’s mythology was more mythological than the Black Flash, a speedster-specific incarnation of Death Itself that speedsters see in their final moments or even near-death experiences. When it seemed to decide Wally’s time had come, Wally and his speedster friends didn’t take it lying down. But it was Wally who defeated the Black Flash by racing it through time and space to the end of everything, where death would have no meaning… but, um, neither would life… anyway, somehow Wally survived.
The Black Flash also made another Flash fiancee, Linda Park, disappear, but Wally brought her back. Somehow. It happened. The underlying message seemed to be, “Heroes can do anything, as long as you don’t think about it too much” (Flash vol. 2, #139-141, 1998).
4. The first time Barry fought a color-blind colorist
There is actually a lot of competition for the weirdest color-themed villain the Flash has ever faced. That theme began with Roy G. Bivolo, AKA the Rainbow Raider, who even turned up on the TV series. But at least on TV, his power was fairly simple: he can make you angry just by making eye contact.
In the comics, this frustrated artist’s powers were basically “any rainbow-y thing we can think of,” including making a rainbow bridge to walk on, changing colors of random objects, and using color beams to change the emotions of whole crowds: red for angry, blue for grief, pink for embarrassment about being in this story, orange for Trumpism, whatever.
How he used those powers so skillfully and intuitively when he himself was color-blind is one of the mysteries of our age. And considering his debut (Flash vol. 1, #286) was published in 1980, when the rainbow was coming to symbolize other things, we’re surprised he didn’t just turn everybody gay.
3. The time Barry came back from the dead as his evil double
One of the weirdest Flash stories is also one of the best, probably because it embraces the craziness of Flash history at the same time it doubles down on the heart. When Barry Allen turned up alive, years after he’d died saving the universe, Wally was torn between overwhelming joy and a gut feeling this was just too good to be true.
Suspicions confirmed! Barry started acting worse and worse, breaking Wally’s heart until he realized this wasn’t “Barry” at all, but an earlier version of the time-traveling Thawne, who had only fooled them because he actually believed himself to be Barry. (Above, he finally realizes the truth.)
Despite Thawne’s evil, his attempt to impersonate Barry in the present accidentally did Wally a huge favor. Wally finally had a reason to shed the fear slowing him down, fear of replacing (and erasing) his old mentor: “I am afraid… of replacing Barry. But I’m more afraid of letting this bastard do it” (Flash vol. 2, #73-79, 1993).
2. The time Wally fought Barry’s actual evil twin who was Barry’s evil double’s ancestor
So it turns out that Eobard Thawne was descended from Malcolm Thawne, an actual identical twin of Barry Allen’s actually separated at birth and brought up by a gang of abusive criminals. Then he used a magic gem to try to steal the Flash’s powers, and named himself Cobalt Blue (because color, again!). And then he founded a thousand-year dynasty of Thawnes using power-stealing gems who had nothing better to do than stalk and try to kill the descendants of Flashes for a thousand years.
Mark Waid, who wrote both this and the previous entry, is one of the most successful and respected writers in comics, especially for his Flash run. But even he couldn’t make this backstory work (Flash vol. 2, #143-150, 1999). So, aspiring writers, learn from this example: if you wake up one morning and say “I bet I can use the world’s hoariest soap-opera cliche and still turn it into a great story!” you should probably go back to sleep for an hour instead.
1. The time Jay got his powers from ordinary steam
Much like Supergirl, the Flash has the weirdest part of his history right in his roots, his first appearance in Flash Comics #1. As a college student, Jay Garrick was an embarrassment on the football field but a promising chemist, specializing in “the gases emanating from hard water.”
Working late one night, Jay decides to smoke a cigarette in a room full of chemicals (wait, are we sure he was supposed to be the opposite of a dumb jock?) and then knocks some over. The fumes quickly overpower him and he wakes up super.
Just one problem: the chemicals that affected him were “the gas elements of hard water,” which is to say, the vapor with trace minerals that you immerse yourself in when you shower every morning. Have you developed super-speed powers? Fan your arms as quick as you can and see if the wind knocks any furniture over. We’ll wait. No? Well, we’re sorry, but not as sorry as any aspiring chemists this story inspired in 1940. (The story may have meant heavy water, which had been discovered just a few years earlier.)
The Flash TV show seems to be embracing a lot of its source material’s wackiness without turning too goofy for its own good, at least so far. On the show, Jay Garrick is still a chemist who worked with hard water, but got his powers another way. The Time Wraith that showed up in the latest episode looks a little like the Black Flash (as does Zoom, for that matter). Good stuff… but the blatant lying to girlfriends and fiancees, not so much. Let’s hope what happened to Patty Spivot is the only lesson TV Barry needs to learn in that department.
Race to tell us what we missed in the comments!