Barry Allen is arguably the most famous version of the speedy superhero but who is the original Flash Jay Garrick? While he may not be quite as big a name as Batman or Wonder Woman, The Flash remains one of DC's most popular heroes. A number of characters have held that mantle over the years too, including Barry Allen and Wally West.
The character found a whole new fanbase thanks to The Flash TV series from the 1990s, where John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen. Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) also guest starred on the show as villain The Trickster, a part he would later reprise on the CW Flash series that launched in 2014 and starred Grant Gustin as Allen. Ezra Miller most recently played the character in the DCEU Justice League movie.
Fans may not know the character first appeared in 1940 in Golden Age Flash Comics #1. The character was created due to the popularity of the Superman comics, with original Flash Jay Garrick being a college student who gained his abilities in a very unconventional way. Garrick is depicted as a talented athlete, but his attempts to woo a fellow student named Joan are foiled because she believes he doesn't apply himself.
Jay Garrick is later shown working in a lab with a professor on something dubbed hard water, but during a cigarette break, he accidentally knocks it over and inhales the vapors. These vapors bond with his genes and grant him superspeed abilities, which he first uses to help his football team so he can win Joan's affections. He soon donned a costume that consisted of a red shirt with a lightning bolt, in addition to a helmet with wings, and became known as The Flash.
The Flash quickly became a popular hero during the Golden Age of comics, and alongside characters like Green Lantern and Sandman, he helped form Justice League precursor the Justice Society of America. The popularity of superhero comics started to wane following the end of World War II, however, and Flash Comics came to an end in 1949.
Barry Allen would then become the Silver Age Flash when the character was revived in 1956. Allen was a scientist who was struck by lightning in a freak accident, granting him superpowers. In a meta touch, he named himself after reading a Golden Age Flash comic featuring Jay Garrick. The comics would later reveal both Garrick and Allen exist in parallel universes, with 1961 comic Flash Of Two Worlds featuring a crossover between the two. The comic provided the explanation that Flash writer Gardner Fox must have dreamed of Garrick's adventures in Allen's universe and wrote down his various adventures in a comic.
Garrick has appeared in many comic stories in the decades since and was recently played by John Wesley Shipp on the CW Flash series, where he acts as mentor to Barry Allen. While the character may have been succeeded by Barry Allen and Wally West, original The Flash Jay Garrick remains a vital part of DC history and a fan favorite to this day.