Every single episode of The CW’s The Flash opens with the exact same voiceover: “My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive.” As fans the world over roll their eyes, we are reminded of a statement that has been disproven on a regular basis, both on television (Barry has literally never been the fastest man alive on The Flash) and in the world of comic books.
A founding member of the Justice League, the second Flash, and source of the Speed Force, Barry Allen certainly does have some impressive credits to his name. Few speedsters have ever kept up with Barry on a consistent basis, but any instance where a character has reached his level is proof enough that the “fastest man alive” label may be somewhat premature.
Barry, despite traveling at the speed of light, has been surpassed by friends and defeated by foes far too often to claim any such title. We’ve found more than a few characters proven to be faster than Barry at one point or another. Let’s count down the 15 Speedsters Faster than Barry Allen.
Essentially the Grim Reaper of the Speed Force, the Black Flash appears only as a speedster dies. So much of the Black Flash still remains a mystery to this day, such as the purpose it serves and where it exactly it came from, but every speedster who's ever died has reported seeing the Black Flash moments before the event.
One thing that is clear is that the Black Flash is fast enough to travel in and out of the Speed Force, as well as time itself, of its own volition, while its endurance is infinite. After taking Linda Park into the Speed Force, the Black Flash chased the third, and fastest, Flash (Wally West) several million years into the future. The race only ended when Wally reached the literal end of time, where Death has no meaning.
Barry and Eobard Thawne have both taken on its mantle, while Hunter Zolomon was transformed into the Black Flash following his capture in The Flash’s second season finale.
A mad scientist and enemy of the Justice League, Dr. Ivo created the ultimate android weapon capable of defeating the whole team at once. Built with the ability to replicate the powers of the individual members of the JLA and copy them into its programming, Amazo outgrew his initial agenda of serving Dr. Ivo.
With the power of Superman, the tactical prowess of Batman, and the raw speed of the Flash, Amazo’s potential only increased as he became somewhat sentient. After copying Barry’s speed to his own database, he was not only as fast as the Flash, but actually able to outrun the Scarlet Speedster.
Amazo has been defeated only by Superman, who imprisoned him within the Fortress of Solitude, and Batman, who learned that the android did not possess the powers of Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The Flash has never challenged Amazo alone, which is just as well, as the android's combined power and speed make him a match for the entire JLA.
Though the question of the fastest Flash has always been left up for debate, it’s safe to assume that Bart was faster than his grandfather, at least for a very short time. During his reign as the fourth Flash, Bart was able to fully absorb the Speed Force, and ran at speeds far beyond Barry was capable of when he first took up the suit.
Unlike the other Flashes, Bart was born with super speed, and is blood-related to both Barry and Eobard Thawne, giving him comfortably more potential than his predecessors.
His tenuous relationship with the Speed Force (which causes Bart to age swiftly in both directions) means he has never shown the consistency of Barry or Wally, and he is left behind by the pair following Barry’s return from Crisis on Infinite Earths, but anyone who's held the Flash mantle has to have been the fastest man alive at some point. Why focus on the second or third fastest man alive?
The daughter of Wally West, Iris and her brother Jai were just three months old when their powers started to form. As a result, the twins began aging rapidly, and Iris lost control of her speed when kidnapped by Gorilla Grodd, transforming into a full adult.
Wally took his now-adult kids into the Speed Force to better understand their sudden growth, and both developed a bond with the Speed Force, mastering it completely – something Barry, despite creating the Speed Force, has never managed to do. But as Eobard Thawne disrupted the flow of time, the twins’ connection to the Speed Force caused them both crippling pain, and Iris transferred Jai’s powers onto herself, freeing him of the pain and essentially doubling her own powers.
Iris used her newfound abilities to become a superhero, taking the mantle of Impulse from Bart and more than living up to its name. She has arguably the greatest potential of any speedster in the Flash Family, and not only matches Barry in speed, but surpasses him in her understanding of the Speed Force.
The Rival has appeared briefly on The Flash TV show, where he was swiftly defeated by Barry Allen, but that's nowhere near the whole story. Traditionally an enemy of Jay Garrick, Edward Clariss became so obsessed with the Flash that he went about building a formula to recreate his powers. After being criticized and mocked for his experiments, Clariss, as Flash villains so often do, turned to a life of crime, rebranding himself as Jay’s Rival.
Through several battles with the Crimson Comet, repeat doses of his formula turned Clariss into one of the fastest villains Jay would ever face. In one particularly intense chase, Clariss ran so fast that he vanished into thin air, later reappearing as a being of pure speed energy - having trapped himself in the Speed Force as a result of surpassing the speed of light. Clariss returned as a member of the Injustice Society, using his new Speed Force powers to possess speedster Max Mercury.
Not to be confused with Black Flash, the Black Racer represents “death as inevitability”. The Black Racer is a New God within the DC universe, acting only as a necessary force of darkness and a way to transfer the New Gods to Hadis following their deaths. Though he is powerful enough to kill mortals with a single touch, the Racer rarely gets involved in anything outside of the Gods, but he and Barry have crossed paths on more than one occasion through their shared use of the Speed Force.
His cosmically-powered skis allow him to glide free of any friction, and he is more than a match for Barry across the board. When he and Barry merge to become Black Flash, the fusion is powerful enough to run straight through the abdomen of Darkseid. During Final Crisis, the Racer decides to take Darkseid to Hadis as a substitute for Barry, whom he had been chasing through time.
Iris’ younger brother, Danny, lashed out at his abusive father, leaving him permanently crippled and landing himself a five-year prison sentence. There he was courted by the Rogues, who continued to tempt him towards villainy even after his release.
While trying to escape the Rogues, Danny was hit a monorail car powered by a Speed Force battery. The speed he gained from the accident depends entirely on the charge in the battery, which wasn’t consistent enough to give Danny enough speed to travel back in time and save his relationship with Iris.
Danny took it upon himself to hunt down other speedsters and drain their powers. With their combined speed and a fully-charged battery, Danny beat Barry in a race to the past. Given that he wasn’t able to catch him, Barry is eventually forced to talk Danny into giving up his powers.
In the end, Danny was only a speedster for a very short time, and even then was dependent on the charge in a battery, but he did present a genuine threat to Barry at full speed.
Wally West’s greatest villain and arguably “faster” than any speedster, Hunter Zolomon is most commonly known as Zoom (though he has also gone by the Reverse-Flash). A former friend to Wally, Zolomon acquired his powers from a Cosmic Treadmill accident, and vowed to turn Wally into a better hero by making him suffer through tragedy.
Unlike his appearance on The Flash would have you believe, Zoom has no connection to the Speed Force; in fact, he has no speed powers at all, only the ability to alter time relative to himself. This power gives him the appearance of traveling at super speeds, though in reality, he is simply slowing everyone else down. Still, it’s a power that has allowed him to consistently outrun Wally, and just about any speedster who has ever had the misfortune to face him. His illegitimacy as a speedster is the reason Zoom is rarely considered the outright fastest supervillain in DC.
In general, comic books are always open to reaching through mythologies to find their heroes. Where Marvel has the Norse Gods, DC has the Olympians. With power beyond comprehension, the Olympians hail from the same region as Wonder Woman, and Hermes is the fastest of them all.
The Messenger of the Gods, Hermes, is the illegitimate son of Zeus. Though his power tends to rely on how many worshippers he has at any one time, the Gods of Ancient Greece are rarely without followers.
Hermes travels through dimensions at God-like speeds, while the added bonuses of flight and teleportation give him the edge over the Flash. His magic would also essentially nullify any of the Flash’s Speed Force attacks, as the Speed Force cannot hold that which it does not understand.
Interestingly enough, Wonder Woman’s own incredible speed is not far behind Barry Allen’s, and she possesses only a small percentage of Olympian speed as compared to Hermes.
Several future incarnations of Barry have existed through DC continuity, each of them faster than the last, but this entry refers to a specific version of Barry. Future Flash comes from a timeline in which Wally is killed by Reverse-Flash. Barry is sent into a bleak depression and, deciding that he has taken his duties as the Flash too lightly, he sets about killing all of his past enemies.
His travels through time eventually lead him to the current timeline, where he and Present Barry face off in a fairly one-sided affair. Present Barry even enlists Wally’s help, but the pair of speedsters are still no match for Future Flash. Intent on setting the future straight, Future Flash sends Barry into the Speed Force and takes up his mantle in the present day.
There’s a convincing theory regarding Future Flash currently circulating in reference to the TV show. Savitar, whose lightning is also blue/white, refers to himself regularly as “the future, Flash,” and many are arguing the legitimacy of the dividing comma, believing him to be the true Future Flash.
The central villain of The Flash’s third season, Savitar has outrun every speedster who's appeared in the Arrowverse up until now. He is a massive step up from Reverse-Flash and Zoom as Barry Allen’s big bad, and has made the likes of Barry, Wally, and Jay Garrick look positively slow. Comic book Savitar isn’t quite as overpowered, but we are looking at all incarnations of the various characters, so his time on The CW has to count for something.
Even in the comics, Savitar has an unprecedented knowledge of the Speed Force. Originally a Cold War fighter pilot, he was granted super speed when a bolt of lightning struck his jet. Savitar obsessed over his new powers, believing them to be a gift from the Gods, and set about becoming a God himself (he renamed himself after Savitr, the Hindu God of Motion).
His endless studying of the Speed Force gained him access to powers no other speedster has been able to master, such as instant healing, force field projection, and the ability to hand out speed as repayment to those who worship him.
Widely considered the fastest Flash, it actually took Wally a long time to live up to Barry’s legacy. While he was struggling to make the transition from Kid Flash to Flash after Barry’s death, it was actually Professor Zoom who uncovered Wally’s potential by suggesting that Thawne become the new Flash if Wally wasn’t ready to succeed his mentor.
During his tenure as the titular speedster, Wally learned to mainline his power directly from the Speed Force. He manufactured a suit out of pure Speed Force energy, and while Barry initially struggled to escape the Speed Force, Wally can enter and leave at his leisure. His complete connection with the Speed Force has allowed him to outrun just about anything, including instant teleportation and Death itself.
The CW’s incarnation of Wally is almost at Barry’s level, despite only recently becoming a speedster, while his time spent trapped inside the Speed Force will only improve his bond with the source of all speed.
Walter is the alternate universe equivalent of Wally West, so by logic, he has the potential to be every bit as fast. In fact, Walter’s life exactly mirrored Wally’s until Walter's Linda Park was murdered by Kobra, while Wally was able to save his wife. Walter took a turn for the worse, seeking guidance from Savitar and eventually surpassing the God of Motion, killing him in cold blood and becoming the Dark Flash.
With Wally’s speed and Savitar’s knowledge of the Speed Force, Walter defeated Wally West’s Flash in their first meeting, but when Wally returns disguised as Zoom, he had grown faster than his evil lookalike. The pair eventually settled their differences, and just as well, as Dark Flash had proved himself to be on par with Impulse, Jesse Quick, and Max Mercury all at once. You have to imagine that Barry on his own would struggle to bring him down, as it took peak Wally West to get the job done.
Still a reasonably new addition to the Flash lore, August Heart joined the CCPD in pursuit of revenge for his brother’s murder. When a Speed Force storm erupts over Central City, many of its citizens, including August, are imbued with super speed. August initially hides this information from Barry, as the pair work together to round up those affected by the storm, but Barry clocks on when the suspect in August’s brother’s murder is killed.
As it turns out, Godspeed’s connection to the Speed Force is so pure that he can both sense speed in others, and extract their powers, making his potential virtually limitless. He becomes consistently faster by stealing the powers of the speedsters he's supposedly protecting, and the gap between he and Barry rises with each time they clash. It takes Barry, Wally, and several of Barry’s speedster recruits to finally overpower him, but we certainly haven’t heard the last of Godspeed.
For every time Barry surpasses his greatest rival, an alternate timeline version of Eobard Thawne pops up to raise the stakes even higher. The pair, as remarked so often by Thawne himself, are destined to go back and forth for all of time; something Thawne first discovered in the 25th century, where he had grown up worshipping Barry Allen.
Having been told tales of Barry’s past heroics, Thawne was desperate to travel back through time and meet his idol. As he attempted to tap into the Speed Force, a future incarnation of Thawne appeared and killed all those who stood in his way. Thawne soon learned that he was meant for something else: to become the Flash’s arch nemesis.
Driven insane by this information, he developed his own Negative Speed Force, which steals the energy of Barry’s Speed Force, and allows him to stop time, delete others from existence, and travel through eras of his own free will. Though he and Barry are often considered equals, Thawne’s knowledge of the Speed Force and complete disregard for the consequences of his actions will always give him the edge.
The Flash returns at 8PM ET on Tuesday, March 21st, with its musical crossover episode, "Duet", only on The CW.