Country: United States of America
State: Kansas (originally Pennsylvania, occasionally Ohio*)
First Appearance: Flash Comics #1 (January 1940)
First Appearance in Silver Age: Flash v.1 #123 (September 1961)
First Appearance in Current Series: Flash v.2 #32 (November 1989)
See Also: Twin Cities, KCPD, Iron Heights, Central City
“Keystone City—the backbone of the Midwest. When the town was established in 1727*, horseshoeing was the major occupation. Times change. Iron and steel forging, automobiles, coal, machinery tools, all of them come from this city.... The blue-collar capital of the U.S.—and proud of it.... It’s a tough place, but a good place. With honest people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.” (Flash #170, 2001)
Geography and Business
Keystone City is located on the northeastern edge of Kansas, about 30–40 miles north of Kansas City, and across the Missouri River from Central City. (See note below on Keystone’s location.) In 1940 it became known as the home of the original Flash, Jay Garrick.
In the decades after the Flash’s retirement, much of Keystone’s business and industry moved across the river to Central City, a trend which hit its worst when three villains took the city out of phase with the rest of the world for years (see Flash of Two Worlds below). When the city was restored, it was hit hard by being years out of date, but it has since recovered, focusing primarily on heavy industry.
In the past few months, Keystone has experienced a massive unionization movement, spearheaded by Keith Kenyon, once the criminal Goldface. Nearly every industry in town has joined Union 242, despite the fact that few in law enforcement trust him.
Keystone has recently picked up an expansion hockey team, the Combines.
“Everyone in America connects this town with three things: Transportation. The Flash. And Rogues.” (Flash Secret Files #3, 2001)
With the Flash retired, the original Turtle began building an underground criminal empire. This empire reached its height a few years ago, when he recruited the second Turtle—a technological genius—and they came to control most of Keystone City’s underground (headquartered appropriately in an abandoned salt mine). This all ended when the third Flash, Wally West, moved to Keystone and the Turtle forced a confrontation, leading to his capture and the collapse of his organization.
The classic organized crime families regained some prominence, only to be threatened by competition from a new mob, the Combine, which was eventually exposed as a front for interstellar weapons dealers. Little has been heard from the mob since the Combine were driven off the planet.
Yet in all these years, Keystone, like its sister city, has been known for its rogues. With one of the major super-heroes resident in town, and a nearby prison (Iron Heights) with the reputation of Alcatraz, it seems odd that supervillains would return over and over again. The answer turned out to be the Network, a huge black market catering to the wants and needs of metahuman criminals, operating secretly beneath the city. Because it also brought money into the area during lean times, the higher-ups who knew of its existence turned a blind eye.
“Flash of Two Worlds,” originally presented in The Flash #123 (1961) and now available in The World’s Greatest Team-Up Stories and The Flash Archives Volume 3, was the first meeting of the pre-Crisis Earth-1 and Earth-2. In it, Barry Allen crossed over to Earth-2 and convinced Jay Garrick to come out of retirement to help solve a string of robberies carried out by the Thinker, Fiddler, and Shade.
Grant Morrison, in Secret Origins #50 (1990) updated the tale to fit with the post-Crisis placement of both cities on the same world by having the villains keep Keystone out of phase with the rest of the world for some significant amount of time. Morrison’s story implies that it was under 10 years (“There were a couple of orphans there that day who suddenly weren’t orphans anymore”), but Brian Augustyn’s “Riddle of the Retro Robberies” (Flash 80-page Giant #2, 1999) states that it was thirty, and Mark Waid’s The Life Story of the Flash refers to it as “decades.”
See entry on The Twin Cities for more background on Keystone’s wandering geography.
Mayfair Games’ The Atlas of the DC Universe (1990), written as a sourcebook for the DC Heroes role-playing game, has additional information about Keystone City which may or may not be accurate in the current version of the region’s history. I will, however, summarize it here.
According to this source, Keystone City was settled in 1806 following the Louisiana Purchase (which conflicts with the 1727 date quoted in Flash #170), then grew significantly during the post-Civil War settling rush as the city became a supply center. Later, the transcontinental railroad passed through both Keystone and its sister city, and Keystone added to its businesses stockyards and meat-packing.
Keystone was a major aircraft manufacturing center during World War II, which led to the city’s focus on heavy industry. The Old Stockyards, factories no longer, have been replaced with shopping malls and restaurants.
The Atlas of the DC Universe lists Keystone City’s population in 1990 as being 200,000.Text by Kelson Vibber. Do not copy without permission.
- View From Window: Flash (second series) #174 (July 2001) - Scott Kolins & Doug Hazlewood
- Area Map: The National Atlas of the United States of America (modified, of course)
- Thunderstorm: Flash (second series) #185 (June 2002) - Scott Kolins & Doug Hazlewood
- City Map: The Atlas of the DC Universe (1990), published by Mayfair Games
- Atlas of the DC Universe (1990)
- Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 (May 2010)
- Flash Comics (1940–1949)
- All-Flash Quarterly (1941–1948)
- Comic Cavalcade #1–29 (1942–1948)
- Flash (second series) #32 onward (1989–2008)
- Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1–6 (2006)
* Keystone City was originally located in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. When the Crisis placed it across the river from Central City, the two cities were placed in Kansas and Missouri, which I’ve used here, with Mayfair Games’ The Atlas of the DC Universe (1990) providing more detail. Recently the pre-Crisis location of Central City in Ohio has been used in a few places, but Flash #188 (2002) has definitively set Keystone and Central City in Kansas & Missouri. (The 1727 date makes Kansas less likely, but a Fanzing article has suggested it was founded as a French trading outpost.) See The Twin Cities for more information on this issue.
- Countdown #43: A Tale of Two Cities at Pulse