It's said you can measure a hero's greatness by the quality of his villains. By which standard the Flash is amazing.
One of the things that defined Barry Allen in the Silver Age (and the Bronze Age. And the New 52. And TV) was his colorful Rogues Gallery. Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Trickster; even one-shots like the Man-Missile were pretty cool. Never as lethal as the Joker or as powerful as Doomsday, the Rogues were smart, good-looking — they even had their own tailor — and the source of endless entertaining stories.
Inevitably some of those stories involved teaming up the villains with the hero. Sometimes it was out of necessity, sometimes a double-cross, sometimes the bad guys actually did a good thing.
Barry’s successor Wally West had his share of villains — Savitar, Kilg%re, Blacksmith — and his own share of team-ups with them, or with Barry’s Rogues. In several cases he went beyond just teaming up and made enemies into friends.
Here are 15 Times The Flash Had To Team Up With His Villains. While it’s mostly stories of Wally and Barry, other Flashes, such as Jay Garrick and Iris West are in here too. Read on to see what can force heroes and rogues to become allies.
15 Reverse Flash
In comics and on TV, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, has been one of Barry’s deadliest enemies. That just made it more fun for readers when circumstances forced Barry to ask Thawne’s help in Flash #225.
Things kick off when a giant synthetic horse from the 25th century goes on a rampage in Central City, sending Flash and Green Lantern’s powers haywire when they try to stop it. Traveling to the 25th century, the duo enlist Thawne’s helping stopping the creature, even though they suspect he’s responsible. In return for his help, Thawne demands Green Lantern steal a priceless sculpture for him.
Joining forces, Flash and Reverse-Flash stop the syntho-horse, but Thawns blurts out that he created it. That’s implausibly stupid, but it did let the writer wrap the story up before running out of pages.
14 Captain Cold and Golden Glider
As Captain Cold and the Golden Glider, Len Snart and his sister Lisa both fought Barry Allen for years. After Barry died in the mid-1980s, the fun went out of it. Battling new Flash Wally West just didn’t have the same zing.
Instead, the Snarts joined forces as Golden Snowball Recoveries, finding lost items and lost people. Looking for missing kids in the Southwest, they encountered a porcupine man who turned out to be a transformed Flash. Once that was sorted out, Wally helped Golden Snowball recover the kids.
Later, when the Golden Age villain Turtle captured Wally, the Snarts were among the super-friends who joined forces to rescue him. They never double-crossed Wally, but they did eventually return to crime for their main source of income.
13 Captain Boomerang
Boomerang-flinging Aussie “Digger” Harkness was the weakest of Flash’s foes next to the Top (more on him later), but in Flash #124 he did help Flash fight an inter-dimensional war. Of course, Digger started it.
The cause of the war was Boomerang’s new time-traveling boomerang, which could fly in and snatch up valuables while Boomerang had an airtight alibi. Unfortunately, other-dimensional ETs assumed the boomerang passing through their realm was some kind of drone weapon, and invaded Earth.
Boomerang joined Flash and Elongated Man in fighting against the alien contingent in Central City (though it’s hard to imagine Flash really needed his help). Then Digger pulled a double-cross, strapping Flash to a giant boomerang to hurl him into outer space. Elongated Man yanked Flash free but the heroes never learned Boomerang had actually triggered the war.
12 Pied Piper
Hartley Rathaway became the supervillain Pied Piper because he knew it would infuriate his aristocratic, wealthy parents. Like the Snarts, he lost interest in crime after Barry Allen’s death. Instead he turned into a social activist to atone for his crimes. When Wally ran into the Piper giving food to the homeless, he assumed the food was stolen. Nope — Hartley simply asked stores and restaurants for food they’d otherwise have thrown away.
Before long, Hartley and Wally were good friends. Hartley coming out to Wally threw the Flash a little, but he got past it. Hartley helped Flash on multiple adventures with his mastery of sound; Wally later repaid his friend by stopping the Top from framing Hartley for murder (see #7). It’s a shame that in the New 52 continuity their relationship never existed.
11 The Rogues
Normally when heroes and villains team up, it’s the bad guys who pull the double-cross. Flash #230 turned that on its head.
During one of the Rogue’s regular get-togethers, Mirror Master offered a valuable jewel he’d stolen and hidden to whoever proved the most badass Flash foe. Enter the Dude — back then the term still meant “fancy-dressed fop” more than “some guy” — who boasts he’s defeated Flash so often, the speedster had been ashamed to admit it.
The Rogues, of course, demand proof, so the Dude summons Flash and kick his butt. When Mirror Master turns over the gem, though, it turns out the Dude is really the Flash, using super-speed tricks to appear to be two people. Having recovered the stolen gem, Flash dragged the Rogues to jail.
10 Mirror Master
When a foolish prison warden let Sam Scudder have a shaving mirror in Flash #174, Mirror Master’s escape was a done deal. In the process he discovered a mirror universe where his counterpart was a hero, using a speed-neutralizing mirror to fight a criminal Flash. Scudder eagerly copied the mirror weapon but couldn't make it work.
Disgruntled, Mirror Master entered the mirror world and joined forces with the criminal Flash, freeing him from jail. The Flash didn’t know he’d been set up: all Scudder really wanted was to study the good Mirror Master in action so he could wield the mirror right.
Alt-Flash, however, didn’t know that. After swapping worlds with Barry Allen, he sought out Mirror Master to continue the team-up. Assuming he was “their” Flash, Mirror Master and the Rogues almost killed him before Barry returned to save him.
Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick never imagined becoming friends with his archfoe. But time has a way of changing people.
Clifford DeVoe was a Keystone City prosecutor until he switched sides to become a underworld consultant, the Thinker. He gave Jay a run for his money even before acquiring the Thinking Cap that gave him psionic ability.
As DeVoe grew older, though, he began to see things differently, reformed and settled down to a life of good works. He and Jay became friends. When DeVoe’s cancer became terminal, Jay proposed curing it with the Thinking Cap but DeVoe decided he’d sooner end things with dignity.
A scientist later used the Thinker’s brain waves as the model for an AI to run the Justice Society’s computers. That team-up was short-lived as this Thinker soon turned on Flash and the other JSAers.
In Flash #219, Central City locked up Sam “Mirror Master” Scudder and Roscoe “The Top” Dillon in an inescapable automated inescapable prison. When Scudder bet his cellmate a cool million he could escape, Dillon figured it was a sucker bet. It was - but it turned out Dillon was the sucker.
Scudder not only teleported out with a makeshift mirror, he tricked Flash into taking his place. Oh, and if Flash tried any super-speed tricks to get out, he’d set off a mirror-bomb that would blow him and the Top to kingdom come.
Dillon understandably wanted nothing more than to help Flash settle Mirror Master’s hash. By balancing his super-spinning against Flash’s vibrations, Flash was able to vibrate through the wall without detonating the bomb, then catch up with Mirror Master.
Chester Runk was a brilliant, obese, insecure nerd who, by virtue of a singularity inside his body, could suck anything into another dimension. That made a wonderful tool for dealing with people he disliked — a woman who turned down a date, his therapist, the Flash.
Wally, however, convinced Chunk to reform, and they became friends. Chunk became rich using his powers to dispose of toxic waste, construction debris, and other unwanted materials.
When Wally lost all his money, Chunk helped tide him over. When Abra Kadabra turned Chunk into a puppet, Wally saved him. In the battle with the Turtle’s men, Chunk helped out, along with Golden Snowball and the Pied Piper. He was such a reliable ally that when the villain Blacksmith plotted to take Wally down, she took Chunk out of action first.
6 Mr. Element
Unusually for a Silver Age villain, Al Desmond — AKA Mr. Element and Dr. Alchemy — saw the light and went straight. Eobard Thawne, however, needed Al’s chemical skills to enhance his Reverse-Flash speed. In Flash #147 and #153, he set out to make Desmond a villain again; Flash fought to help his friend stay good. Before succumbing to the dark side, Mr. Element saved Flash from Thawne’s deathtrap. Flash returned the favor by restoring Al to normal.
Years later, when a new criminal stole Al’s philosopher’s stone to become the new Dr. Alchemy, Al resumed his Mr. Element identity to help Flash against the new crook. It later turned out the new Alchemy was a physical manifestation of Desmond’s repressed evil side. Al Desmon is one of the few villains who can fight with and against Flash at the same time.
5 The Dead Rogues
Only in comics could dead supervillains rise from the grave to help Flash fight another dead supervillain.
By 1997's Flash #121, several of the original Rogues had died. The Top, however, returned to possess the body of Sen. Thomas O’Neil. A vicious homophobe, Dillon became the running mate of C. Jacob Cartwright, a right-wing, anti-gay presidential candidate. Dillon planned to use the late Rogues' weapons to assassinate Cartwright, making it look like Pied Piper was the killer. Dillon would become president on a sympathy vote and launch a national gay-bashing campaign.
Flash exposed the scheme and saved Cartwright, but the Top escaped. At which point, the other dead Rogues rose from the grave to confront the Top about stealing their weapons. By the time Wally caught up, his ghostly allies were gone, and the Top was completely insane.
4 Iris West/Fiddler II
Wally’s daughter Iris West had always dreamed of inheriting the Flash legacy. Although she got the speed, in the timeline of Kingdom Come, Wally was set on her slacker brother Barry becoming the new Flash. It was Iris, not Barry, who stepped up to the plate, but the most she could ever be, in Wally’s eyes, was Kid Flash.
In her only solo story to date, Iris discovered Iowa Bowin, the great-grandson of Jay Garrick’s Golden Age foe the Fiddler, wreaking havoc with sound. When she tracked Bowin down to his lair, instead of a clash of titans he offered an apology: his sonic stunt had just been to show off and he hadn’t meant to cause any damage.
After chatting about their legacy, the duo took off in the original Fiddler’s gimmicked car looking for adventure. It’s a shame we’ll never know if they found any.
After Wally assumed Barry’s mantle, one of his first new foes was the Kilg%re. An alien AI, Kilg%re wanted to kick humans out and use our tech for its new home. After Wally defeated it, the Kilg%re realized that even if Flash lost, Earth had an endless stream of other metahumans he’d have to fight.
Kilg%re's solution? Battle Wally and team up with him at the same time. First, Kilg%re possessed reporter Linda Park’s body in the guise of an ancient Irish spirit. Second, it staged a public clash of titans with Flash, ending with the spirit helping Wally apparently destroy Kilg%re. That left the alien entity free to live peacefully just below the surface of the Internet.
In return for Wally unwittingly teaming up with him, the Kilg%re restored Wally to life later, after Vandal Savage shot him dead.
As a foe of Green Lantern, then Barry Allen, Keith Kenyon had a typical criminal career: alchemist, costumed supervillain, Kingpin-knockoff mob boss. Wally was understandably skeptical when Kenyon reinvented himself as a leader of Keystone City’s unions. Even given an explanation — Kenyon was the college educated son of the union’s legendary leader, returning to his roots — Wally suspected a hidden agenda.
As with Piper’s food giveaway, Wally had completely misjudged Kenyon. When Kenyon’s ex-wife Blacksmith led the Rogues in an all-out attack on Central City, Wally was overwhelmed. Blacksmith had taken out Chunk and Flash’s other allies, Flash's defeat seemed certain, but Kenyon rallied Keystone’s workers to fight for their city. When the dust settled, Wally was happy to shake the former villain’s hand.
1 The New 52 Rogues
In the New 52, Barry Allen is once again the one and only Flash. The Rogues, though, are a little less villainous than in the Silver Age, almost - but not quite - antiheroes. They don’t kill, and they’re willing to defend Central City when needed. In Barry’s original series, he’d have written that off as the Rogues protecting their turf; in the New 52, the Rogues seem genuinely public spirited about it.
When Gorilla Grodd’s ape armies invade Central City, for instance, the Rogues backed Flash up in fighting them off. Later, when the Crime Syndicate of Earth Three took over the world, the Rogues were among the villains working against them, particularly when the Syndicate tried to destroy Central City.
After all that, Flash hoped his old foes might genuinely reform. But they’re crooks at heart, and crooks they choose to remain.
Can you think of other times The Flash teamed up with villains? Share them in the comments!