DC Comics definitely has the reputation of being the darker of the major comic book companies, Even its lighter characters don’t get out unscathed.
When you think about tragic comic book story lines, images of Bruce Wayne’s dead parents or Barbara Gordon getting shot might come to mind. What might not care images of the happy-go-lucky Barry Allen, AKA The Flash. But despite being one of DC’s lighter and more optimistic characters, Barry still has his fair share of tragic moments.
These are by no means the only bad things to happen to Barry Allen, but we have tried to select some of the standout worst things that have happened over his tenure as The Flash. If you’re a sucker for tragic superheroes we’ve also published a similar list for Barry’s CW teammate the Green Arrow. From alternate realities to dead loved ones, let’s have a look at the 15 Worst Things That Have Happened To Barry Allen.
15. His Mother Is Killed And His Father Is Framed
What is it with comic books and parents? Batman‘s were murdered, Superman‘s were destroyed, the Green Arrow’s were mauled to death by lions (that’s real, look it up), and now it seems we can add the Flash to the growing list of parentless superheroes.
When DC rewrote Barry’s origin story for their Rebirth relaunch they gave him the usual “tragic past” makeover. Now, instead of two loving parents by his side, Barry’s mother, Nora, is brutally murdered when he is a child. To make matters even worse, his father, Henry, is sent to jail for the crime, despite being innocent. His father tragically dies in jail before he can be exonerated and he never gets to see his son grow up to become the hero we all know and love.
It isn’t until later in life that Barry discovers it was his enemy Professor Zoom (also know as the Reverse-Flash) who murdered Nora and framed Henry to ruin Barry’s life. This event is the catalyst that gives Barry his drive for justice, leading to first become a forensic scientist for the police, and then eventually Central City’s resident hero, the Flash.
14. His Brother Becomes A Supervillain
While many people know Barry, few might know he’s not the only Allen child running around the DC Universe. It turns out, Barry actually has a secret twin brother, who he thought had died at birth. Unfortunately for Barry, when the two finally meet as adults, it’s far from a happy family reunion. The child, named Malcolm, had been been secretly given to a family of abusive con artists who had superpowers. Constantly taunted by his adoptive family for being inferior to them, Malcolm grew up bitter and angry.
When he finally tracks down his twin brother, Malcolm becomes envious of the life Barry had and eventually grew to hate him. He has his adoptive grandmother teach him how to use the family superpowers and eventually reinvents himself as the supervillain Cobalt Blue. He then vows to kill Barry and destroy everything he holds dear. You know, normal brotherly stuff.
13. He Was Psychologically Tortured
During A Crisis On Infinite Earths, Barry was held prisoner by the Anti-Monitor and mentally tortured by the villain Psycho-Pirate. Psycho-Pirate, who has the ability to control and manipulate other people’s emotions, tortures Barry for weeks, forcing him to relive his worst memories and re-experience the worst of his emotions over and over again.
We see the normally brave Barry cowering on the floor yelling “Don’t hurt me please!” while Psycho-Pirate projects his powers on to him. To top it all off, Barry is forced to sit and watch his friend, and fellow Justice League member, Red Tornado killed in front of his eyes. The physically and mentally drained Barry can only lie there while Psycho-Pirate threatens to make him feel so terrified he’ll want to kill himself. When he finally does break free, he is so overwhelmed by what he’s been through that he savagely beats Psycho-Pirate until the villain begs for mercy.
12. He Is Forced To Fight His Grandson
During the crossover event Blackest Night, a villain called Nekron reanimates dead DC characters with black power rings to form a zombie army of Black Lanterns. Bart Allen, Barry’s grandson from the future, had recently died and been resurrected. Since he’s still technically classified as dead, the black power ring takes hold of Bart and turns him into one of the undead.
Barry, who has temporarily become a Blue Lantern during the crisis, must face off against his own flesh and blood. Through his blue power ring, he discovers that Bart is still alive but will soon die if he’s not freed from the ring. While the two battle in an eerie graveyard, Bart’s resentment towards his distant grandfather comes to the surface as he cruelly taunts Barry.
Barry tries to remove the ring but is interrupted by the undead Reverse-Flash. Barry loses the chance to help his grandson and the undead Bart cheers on his grandfather’s death. Luckily, Barry is able to connect with the living Bart inside the Speedforce and the two share a heartbreaking reunion. Barry owns up to his neglect of Bart as he guides him through breaking free of the ring. Barry and Bart’s relationship has been at times strained, but this was definitely the hardest moment between the two speedsters.
11. He Became Trapped In An Alternate Reality
Waking up in a reality where his beloved mother is alive and well might sound great, but as Barry soon realizes, all is not well in this universe. When Barry gets trapped in the Flashpoint universe he is overjoyed that his mother is alive and his father was never framed for her murder. He finally has everything he’s ever wanted in life and his parents by his side. But he soon discovers it’s everything else that has gone wrong instead.
He finds out his friend and ally Bruce Wayne was murdered as a child instead of his parents, Superman doesn’t exist, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman have engulfed Europe in a devastating war that has caused mass death and destruction. Barry decides he must reset the timeline, even if that means once again losing his mother. That’s not an easy decision for poor Barry, but he ultimately chooses the heroic path and sacrifices his own happiness to put everything back to normal.
10. He Almost Burns To Death
During his time in the Flashpoint universe, Barry has none of his superpowers, so in order to get them back he teams up with Thomas Wayne, who is this reality’s version of Batman. The two men devise a way to get Barry’s powers back so he can run back in time and fix the timeline. They decide to recreate the accident that gave him his speed in the original timeline – they must cover him in chemicals and strike him with lightning.
While Thomas has his reservations, Barry charges ahead with the experiment until the plan goes terribly wrong. He is struck by the lightning, but instead of becoming superpowered, he almost fries to death in his chair. Thomas runs to Barry’s aid only to find him covered head to toe in third degree burns and close to death. Thomas bandages him up and cares for him as Barry screams in agony.
The panels are pretty gruesome to look at as Barry lies on a blood soaked gurney, with only his pained eyes visible through the bandages. Thankfully, Barry does eventually regain his powers, including accelerated healing, and slowly recovers from his injuries, but we’ll never be able to get those images out of our heads.
9. He Becomes The Fattest Man On Earth
Even though this storyline doesn’t contain anything quite so drastic as torture or death, it’s still pretty heavy (pun intended). This bizarre storyline from the 1960s involves Gorilla Grodd transferring his consciousness into human form and confronting the Flash. He hits Barry with a radiation gun that causes him to absorb excess water in his body. Barry then swells up like a ballon, growing to an alarming and abnormal weight.
Grodd also erases all of Barry’s memories and sells him to a greedy sideshow owner. The man puts Barry in his sideshow and charges people a fee to come see the Fattest Man Alive. Clueless and deeply depressed, Barry now sits in the sideshow, day after day, while all of Central City lines up to gawk, jeer, and laugh at him.
The saddest panel shows a dejected Barry lamenting that people are cruelly staring and laughing at him, while a small child yells about how fat his is. After being embarrassed and exploited at the sideshow, Barry does eventually get his memories, and his figure, back, but it’s still a pretty horrid storyline to read.
8. He Was Disfigured
During a fight with the lesser-known villain Big Sir, Barry suffers one of the biggest and most terrible physical injuries of his career. Big Sir, who has super strength, lands one powerhouse punch directly into Barry’s face, almost killing him. The Scarlet Speedster manages to survive the brutal attack but collapses in a nearby park. When two kids who were playing in the park find him passed out in the bushes, they roll him over and can’t resist peaking under his hood to see his face. They recoil in shock and horror. It isn’t until they run away screaming that we finally see what has scared them – Barry Allen’s ruined face.
His face is so badly bruised, broken, and damaged that he is unrecognizable. His teeth are cracked, his eyes are swollen shut, his nose is crushed, and his skull in nearly flattened. Weak and badly hurt, he barely makes it to Gorilla City, where he receives treatment from his friend Solovar, the leader of the super intelligent gorilla race. Barry is healed by his ape friends, but instead of reconstructing his original features, he has a new face constructed to help keep his identity a secret. Advanced reconstructive surgery from the future eventually helps him return to the face we’ve all come to know.
7. His Future Self Tries To Kill Him
In this storyline, Barry Allen faces his toughest foe yet – himself. No, this is not one of those stories about overcoming fears or mental obstacles. It’s literally Barry fighting another version of himself from the future. After a devastating accident makes everything go wrong in Barry’s life, we’re introduced to him 20 years in the future. Future Barry has become hardened and more than a little mentally unstable. We see him throw criminals off buildings and break their bones. He even leaves one villain to die after they fight. But worse of all is when he grabs the younger version of himself and tries to kill him.
Future Barry, who has discovered a rip in the Speedforce, is convinced that the only way to set everything right is to murder his younger self to repair the rip. He drags our Barry from his home and deposits him outside the city. Future Barry then proceeds to savagely beat him to death. The younger Barry doesn’t stand a chance against his more experienced counterpart, who has learnt martial arts from the best in the DC universe.
Just when the future Barry is about to break Barry’s neck, a future version of Wally West turns up to save him. With the rip in the Speedforce getting worse, Wally ends up sacrificing himself. Future Barry is left alone grappling with not just losing his nephew, but also what kind of man he’s become.
6. He Turned Into The Black Flash
When Barry is chasing down evil speedster Savitar, he reaches out to grab the villain and stop him in his tracks. To Barry’s shock, the second he touches the speedster, Savitar cries out in pain and crumbles into dust. It isn’t until another speedster is turned to dust at Barry’s touch that he realizes he is to blame for the deaths and something is terribly wrong with him.
He and Wally discover that he has turned into the Black Flash, a representation of death for anyone connected with the Speedforce. Once the Black Flash catches up with any speedster, they immediately die. He locks himself away from his speedster family and friends while everyone tries to come up with a plan to help him. As his mind and body are slowly taken over by the Black Flash entity, he knows he can only hold on for so long. He realizes that even his mere presence is a threat to every living speedster, family and friends included. Devastated by the knowledge, he decides the only way to save the people he loves is to run back into the Speedforce, where he had been previously trapped for years. Even after Superman tries to convince him to stop, Barry sacrifices himself to the unknown in order to protect everyone else.
5. His Nephew Dies
The catalyst that sets a future version of Barry down a destructive and dark path was one devastating event – the death of his beloved nephew Wally West. Wally, who is more like a son to Barry, is one of the cornerstones of the Flash universe, which makes this death all the more devastating.
Wally, along with his Aunt Iris, are driving to stop Iris’s brother Daniel from killing the Flash during a fight. On their way there, the car they are travelling in crashes and, since neither are wearing seatbelt, the results are disastrous. Wally is thrown from the car and killed instantly while Iris is left permanently paralyzed.
When Barry arrives on the scene he sees his wife Iris being taken away in an ambulance and finds Wally’s lifeless body lying on the road. Barry is traumatized by the loss of his nephew and blames himself for not stopping the accident from happening. This particular death sends him on a dark spiral of guilt and depression and he’s never the same again. Or at least not until the next continuity starts.
4. His Fiancee Suffers A Nervous Breakdown
While Barry and Iris are the primary couple from the comic books, Barry does have a few other love interests that appear. One prominent love interest in Fiona Webb, a woman he finds love with after Iris. Barry eventually asks Fiona to marry him, but when their special day finally rolls around it is crashed by a vengeful Professor Zoom.
Zoom is almost successful in murdering the future Mrs. Allen, but the Flash saves her just in time. When Barry, who is secretly fighting Zoom as the Flash, fails to show up at the alter Fiona believes he has abandoned her. The stress and horror of the day pushes her over the edge and she begins to have a breakdown. She is committed to hospital as her mental state rapidly deteriorates. Barry uses his speed to bypass hospital security to visit her, which only makes things worse when the staff suspects she is having delusions after his visit fails to show up on the security tape.
Her mental state only devolves from there and culminates in a complete mental breakdown. She repeatedly smashes a framed picture of Barry into her face and has to be carted off on a stretcher, while babbling about being fine. Once again, Zoom is successful in ruining any happiness in Barry’s life.
3. He Kills Someone
The life of a hero is never easy. They often have to walk a very thin line when fighting such evil villains. Characters like Batman live their life on this line, but Barry has always been more of a “black and white” good guy, which is why this entry hurts so much. Once again, Barry comes face to face with his arch enemy Professor Zoom, the man who is responsible for the deaths of people Barry has loved.
This time Zoom attacks Barry on the day of his wedding to Fiona. The two speed across the city, fighting each other fiercely. When Zoom sets his sights on Barry’s fiancee, Barry flies into a fit of rage grabbing Zoom by the neck. The sheer force snaps Zoom’s neck and kills him. Barry is wracked with guilt and the city soon turns against him, putting him on trial for the murder. His nephew and long time ally Wally reluctantly testifies against him, stating Barry could have done more to stop Zoom without killing him. After a long and draw out trial, the court eventually finds Barry guilty and he is forced to flee and seek refuge in a different time period.
2. His Wife Is Murdered
Lois and Clark. Green Arrow and Black Canary. Iris West and Barry Allen deserve their spot up there with the great DC power couples. They’ve been together since the first appearance of Barry Allen’s version of the Flash in 1956. Since then they’ve gotten married and lived happily ever after. Just kidding! This is DC comics after all.
While no one ever stays dead for very long in comic books, it was still a shocking blow when Barry’s beloved wife Iris was murdered. While attending a costume party dressed as Batgirl, Iris goes into the kitchen to get a drink. Zoom, who was waiting for her, takes this opportunity to ruin Barry once and for all by killing his wife. Using his speed powers, he vibrates his hand into her skull, then solidifies it, instantly killing her. Barry then finds her lifeless body and breaks down. The death of his long time love absolutely destroys Barry. Luckily, true love isn’t so easily killed, and thanks to some time travel and some weird reincarnation stuff, the two are eventually reunited in the future.
1. He Dies
In the crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths Barry suffers his worst tragedy – his own painful death. When the Anti-Monitor builds an anti-matter canon to destroy the various different earths, Barry sacrifices himself to stop it. He begins to run against the anti-matter in order to destroy the weapon. As he does, we see him slowly die before our eyes.
He tells himself to keep pushing through the intense pain, to keep running to save the people he loves. He says a pained goodbye to his friends and family, even though there is no one there to hear it. He becomes more and more terrified, and screams out for help as he feels himself slipping away.
Scared, in pain, and alone, he begins to disintegrate into nothingness, leaving us with one final message: “Do what you have to…we must save the world.” As he dies, his plan works and the anti-matter cannon is destroyed. Barry Allen dies how he lived, as a hero.
Watch the Season 3 premiere of The Flash on The CW on October 4th, 2016.