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[Superman vs. the Flash]

Races with Flash II: Barry Allen

[To contents] Superman’s Race with the Flash

[Issue cover]
Superman #199 (August 1967)
Jim Shooter[3]

When the Secretary-General of the United Nations approached Superman and the Flash with the idea of a benefit race, both agreed immediately. Money raised from sweepstakes would fund aid programs for underdeveloped nations. Unfortunately, organized crime syndicates wanted in on the action as well, betting enormous sums of money on the race.

Since ordinarily both participants would be able to circle the Earth too fast for anyone to even notice, a race course with obstacles was planned (and Superman forbidden to fly). For instance, while Flash could vibrate through the great pyramid of Cheops, Superman would be stuck running over it. In the Himalayas, Superman would be unaffected by the cold and thin air, while Flash’s endurance and speed were severely affected.

On the third and final lap of their race around the Earth, two crime syndicates with rival bids made their move. One, with large sums bet on Superman, captured the Flash with a pane of glass across the highway, replacing him with an impostor who would lose the race. The other, betting on the Flash, captured Superman with Kryptonite dust and the same aim in mind. The two impostors soon realized their opponents were trying to lose, and that they were both fake, just about the time the real racers freed themselves and caught up. The real Superman and Flash completed the race with a clear tie, ensuring that neither syndicate would be able to collect.

Note: the cover of Adventures of Superman #463, Superman’s first race against Wally West, is based on this cover.


[To contents] The Race to the End of the Universe

[Issue cover]
Flash #175 (December 1967)
Written by E. Nelson Bridwell

It began when the Flash and Superman each moved in on each other’s cases, drawn by the JLA signaler—which both denied having used. Once they realized someone else was using their frequency, they sped to the JLA headquarters to find not only the rest of the League, but two extra-terrestrial gamblers known as Rokk and Sorban, whom Superman and Batman had previously encountered.

The gamblers explained that they had bet on the earlier race for the U.N., but had been disappointed by the tie—and now demanded a rematch—with a little incentive. If Flash were to lose, Central City would be destroyed; if Superman lost, it would be Metropolis. They demonstrated their power by destroying a small asteroid.

This time, rather than racing around the Earth, they would race to the nearest edge of the Milky Way Galaxy and back—roughly 40,000 light years. Flash’s aura was charged with energy that would transmute interstellar dust into oxygen for him to breathe, and a path on which to run. With the rest of the JLA held captive in their own headquarters, Flash and Superman began the race.

As they encountered traps ranging from odd interstellar lifeforms to Kryptonite meteor showers and unfriendly planets, Superman made a startling discovery: Rokk and Sorban were still on their home planet, gambling on volcanic eruptions. Though it took a message from Green Lantern to convince the Flash, once they realized the race was a fraud they began working together to make it through the death-traps they continued to encounter. At the last, the false Rokk and Sorban were revealed to be none other than Abra Kadabra and the Reverse-Flash, using the race as a pretext to lead the Flash to his death. The question of who was faster remained unanswered, however; the finish appeared different from different angles (probably due to the relativistic speeds at which they must have been traveling—odd how a cheesy-sounding plot device can turn out to have a scientific explanation).


[To contents] Race to Save the Universe

[Issue cover]
World’s Finest #198–199 (November–December 1970)
Written by Denny O’Neill

When time distortions began swapping people between eras on Earth, Superman was summoned by the Guardians of the Universe (see Green Lantern). They told him that beings called Anachronids, who traveled faster than the speed of light, had entered nearby space, interfering with the flow of time. They had calculated that two human-sized individuals could travel opposite their path at similar speeds and counteract the disruptive effects. Thus they recruited Superman and the Flash, to whom they gave a medallion powered by the central Green Lantern battery that would provide air, a path to run on (once he dyed the yellow soles of his boots), and protection (including an endurance boost).

As they began their run around two galaxies, Flash suggested they make it a race—after all, they still hadn’t settled who was faster! At one point, they encountered part of the Anachronid swarm, which attacked, then dove into a nearby star, making it go supernova. The two of them escaped the explosion through a rift in space, and found themselves on the surface of a planet. The odd sun started to fluctuate between yellow and red, and several humans attacked Superman while he was powerless during its red stage. Left at the mercy of a nightmarish beast, he was only saved when Flash finally caught up to him. Realizing that the “sun” was actually light from the supernova pouring in through the same warp through which they had come!

Escaping through the warp back to their own dimension, they captured an Anachronid, only to discover it was a robot, and that it disintegrated at “normal” speeds. Shortly afterward, while approaching the Andromeda galaxy, they were captured by a swarm of Anachronids, awakening on the planet on the other side of the warp. There they were confronted by a quartet of Kryptonian criminals who had been sent into the phantom zone before Krypton’s destruction: Kru-El, Jax-Ur, General Zod, and Professor Vakox. They had been able to pass briefly into this dimension, then created the Anachronids to disrupt the time stream and allow them to escape the phantom zone entirely—regardless of the billions of lives it would cost.

As the criminals left to complete their work, the captive pair willed the Green Lantern medallion to cut Superman’s bonds. before they could do the same for the Flash, Zod interrupted, and a melee ensued during which Superman twisted his ankle and Flash’s legs were temporarily paralyzed by the edge of Zod’s ray gun. Intent on stopping the chaos being unleashed by the Anachronids, the two heroes crawled across the desert to the control center. After luring the two villains on watch to where they could knock them out, they made their way into the control center, where Flash pulled the power switch to an exhausted, “Guess what? I won!”

With the robots shut down and disintegrating at normal speeds, the time stream re-ordered itself, returning all displaced people and objects to their own eras. As the other world’s sun turned yellow again, a re-powered Superman took on the last of their captors and destroyed their equipment... conceding that “on this world,” the Flash was indeed the fastest man alive!

There’s a subplot in which Jimmy Olsen is bounced around to different eras, including ancient Rome and medieval Spain, in which in which he is nearly executed as a magician. The first issue also contains a (by today’s standards extremely sexist) backup story reprinting Johnny Quick’s competition with “Joanie Swift,” a typist who accidentally discovers his speed formula and wants to be his new partner.


[To contents] Chase to the End of Time

[Issue cover]
DC Comics Presents #1–2 (August–October 1978)
Written by Martin Pasko

While investigating a UFO, Superman and the Flash were captured by orbiting spaceships from two warring alien races. They had been at war or millions of years—so long, in fact, that the cause of the war had been forgotten in the distant past, when both races had been one. Representatives of one race, the Zelkot, had decided it was time for the war to end, and had dispatched an agent through time to prevent the original civil war. Only the Flash and Superman were capable of time travel that could stop him, and so the two ships banded together to kill them.

They escaped, defeating the commanders, only to have the crew threaten to destroy the Earth if the Flash did not work for them. Believing that their enemies, the Volkir, had planted obstacles in the way of their agent, they demanded that he follow and ensure he would succeed in his mission. By a quirk of the aliens’ technology, they could only travel forward in time, and were forced to make use of time’s circular nature; as a result, the Flash need only ensure that their agent would reach the end of time and pass through the curtain to the dawn of the universe.

Shortly after the Flash departed, the Volkir crew recruited Superman. Their ancestor race had travelled extensively, the waste from their organic technology seeding life on a thousand worlds (including Earth). During the war, however, the Zelkot had colonized Krypton, using their technology to delay its eventual explosion[1]. Not only had they seeded Krypton with life, but they had kept it intact long enough for native Kryptonian life—and Kal-El’s race—to develop. Thus Superman was given the charge of stopping the Flash and stopping the Zelkot’s mission.

What followed was a series of strange encounters; Flash was delayed by Professor Zoom in the 25th Century, Superman by a dimensional warp in the 27th and then by meeting his past self in the 30th[2]. Eventually they broke clear of the aliens’ monitors and were able to work together. They made sure the Zelkot’s agent reached the “cosmic curtain of time” and followed him through, then defeated him; after all, both Earth and Krypton had been seeded with life during the war. Traveling forward to their own era, they barged onto the orbiting spaceships, took out their weapons, and launched them to the end of the galaxy.



Races with Flash III: Wally West

[To contents] Speed Kills

[Issue cover]
The Adventures of Superman #463 (February 1990)
Written by Dan Jurgens

For the first time, Superman races Wally West! When Mr. Mxyzptlk, that zany (and extremely powerful) imp from the fifth dimension, caught the attention of the Flash and immediately came up with the idea of a race against Superman. He convinced Superman by telling him if he won, Mxyzptlk would return to his home dimension for ninety days. Flash, however, was not interested. Superman, wanting to get rid of his foe, plied reverse psychology, commenting that “what we really have here is a race between Superman and Kid Flash.” Naturally, Wally’s wounded ego came into play and he insisted upon racing.

Mxyzptlk provided a race track around the world—with a few surprises, such as waves passing through the track, the track running under water, giant Mxyzptlk golems, fake tunnels, water sprites—anything to make the race more “entertaining.” Even near the end, nearly dropping from exhaustion, Flash and Superman were tied, until they finally returned to the stadium where they began... and Flash won by inches. Mxyzptlk panicked, revealing that he had lied to Superman—he would leave only if Flash won, and since he had figured Superman was a sure bet...

Note: in this post-Crisis on Infinite Earths story, the two of them are only able to hit about four times the speed of sound. In the earlier races, both Superman and Barry could easily exceed the speed of light. In recent years, Wally has regained near-light speed, and Superman seems to be able to keep up with him. Apparently, Superman’s speed is defined to be just about as fast as the Flash.

Also, notice that the cover is an homage to the cover of Superman #199, the very first Superman/Flash race.


[To contents] Fast Friends

[Issue cover]
Flash (second series) #209 (June 2004)
Written by Geoff Johns

Wally West had forgotten, along with the rest of the world, that he was the Flash. When he finally regained his own memory and put on the red costume, he was summoned to the JLA Watchtower to explain why they could not remember his identity. Distraught at the news that his wife had left just hours before, annoyed at being yanked away from his life, and uncertain it was really worth reconnecting, he bolted.

What followed was less a race than a chase around the world, Flash searching for places Linda might have gone, and Superman pursuing his erstwhile ally. Finally returning to their Keystone City apartment, he realized she really was gone. He had won the race, but lost what he was looking for. In the end, he removed his mask, triggering Superman’s memories, and Wally West had his first man-to-man talk with Clark Kent.


Races with Flash I: Jay Garrick

[To contents] Speeding Bullets

[Issue cover]
DC First: Flash/Superman (July 2002)
Written by Geoff Johns

Superman had raced Barry Allen, he’d raced Wally West, but he’d never raced against the original Flash, Jay Garrick—until now! It all began with Abra Kadabra escaping from prison and heading for Metropolis. He found both Flashes there, in town on an errand, as well as the Man of Steel. Kadabra quickly placed Wally and several bystanders under an aging spell, along with planting a compulsion to run in the three heroes: Wally would lead, and the only way to stop the spell was for one of the others to beat him.

With Wally slowed, Jay and Superman were matched, and Jay played a desperate gamble, hoping he could work a trick Wally had used: stealing speed. With Superman’s speed added to his own, he caught up with Wally, and Kadabra was able to manipulate the energy to breach the timestream and return to his own era for resupply. There Superman discovered Kadara’s aging “spell” was actually nanites, found a way to counter them, and captured Kadabra, returning to their own time.

Other Races

[To contents] The Human Race

[Issue cover]
Flash (second series) #136–138 (April–June 1998)
Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar

While this is not a Superman/Flash race, it owes a lot to the earlier races, especially the second race.

Two cosmic gamblers followed a mysterious speedster’s arrival on Earth and his subsequent death from exhaustion. They stated that Earth would now participate in a cosmic race, represented by a champion. Losing the race or refusing to participate would mean the destruction of Earth. After discussing it with the JLA, the Flash agreed to run.

After meeting his opponent—oddly enough, his childhood “imaginary” friend, Krakkl from the radio world of Kwyzz—he learned that while the loser was killed along with his planet, the winner only survived to race again. The two of them began the four-dimensional race course with the first challenge: outrace the pull of a black hole. The two of them had to work together to make it through that one, ending up in the distant past of the planet Malthus.

Over the next ten days, they continued to race through time and space, stopping occasionally at designated spots for rest, Krakkl always ahead until at one rest stop he confided in Wally the reason he had prevailed against six opponents: by having the entire population of his world in constant motion, he was able to siphon their kinetic energy to keep himself going indefinitely. By telling him, he hoped Wally could figure out a way to save both their worlds.

At the next pit stop—after briefing the people back home—Wally offered a challenge to the gamblers: a new bet that he could reach home faster than their instantaneous travel. With Earth’s entire population running—and with Krakkl’s sacrifice of his own being and speed—Wally was able to follow the fourth-dimensional communications signal home before they arrived. With the added energy of Earth’s remaining speedsters (Superman included), he was able to tune enough radios to the necessary frequency to bring the entire population of Kwyzz to Earth before their own world was destroyed. And by winning his own bet, he was able to convince the gamblers to leave Earth alone.

[To contents] Coming Soon

Here are some more races between related characters or in alternate media. I plan to fill in details when I have time.

Superboy (Kon-El) vs. Impulse in Superboy and the Ravers #7 (March 1997). The Ravers wander into Santa Marta during the city’s Flash Festival. When the Flash is called away on Justice League business, the organizer convinces Superboy and Impulse to hold an impromptu race northward along the Pacific coast. Impulse is leading when they reach the ruins of Coast City and decide to stop.[6]

Superboy (Kon-El) vs. Flash III: Wally West in Adventures in the DC Universe #14, “Not Always to the Swift” (May, 1998).

Zoom II vs. Bizarro in Action Comics #831 (November 2005). Lex Luthor wants Bizarro to join the Society (as in Villains United), and Bizarro agrees on the condition that he and Zoom race. No one is quite sure who has to win in order for him to join.[6]

Animated Flash vs. Superman in the Superman episode, “Speed Demons” (1997). Superman and the Flash race for a charity event, but get sidetracked stopping the Weather Wizard.

Smallville’s Bart Allen vs. Clark Kent in the Smallville episode, “Run” (2004). While Bart manages to outrun Clark during the episode, by the end they decide to find out who really is fastest. Bart leaves Clark way behind.

Animated Kid Flash vs. Más y Menos in Teen Titans Go! #34, “The Great Race” (2006). Kid Flash races against Más and Menos for charity. In a tortoise-hare story, Kid Flash is faster, but keeps getting distracted. Mas and Menos ultimately win the race.

Tiny Titans Kid Flash vs. Supergirl in Tiny Titans #16 (July 2009).

Rearview Mirrors: Barry Allen vs. Superman in Flash: Rebirth #3 (2009).

To the Finish Line: Flash vs. Superman in DC Universe Halloween Special ’09 (2009).


Text by Kelson Vibber. Do not copy without permission.

Top of Page Cover Art

  • Superman vs. the Flash (April 2005) - Alex Ross
  • Superman #199 (August 1967) - Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson[5]
  • Flash #175 (December 1967) - Carmine Infantino[6]
  • World’s Finest #198–199 (November–December 1970) - Neal Adams[5]
  • DC Comics Presents #1–2 (August–October 1978) - Garcia Lopez and Dan Adkins
  • Adventures of Superman #463 (February 1990) - Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding
  • Flash (second series) #136–138 (April–June 1998) - Steve Lightle
  • DC First: Flash/Superman (July 2002) - Kevin Nowlan
  • Flash (second series) #209 (June 2004) - Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald

Notes

[1] In the new history that developed after Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986), Krypton’s destruction was a result of an environmental disaster caused by the Kryptonians, not previously existing pressures.

[2] Prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986), young Clark Kent had been a member of the Legion of Superheroes as Superboy. After Crisis, Clark’s history was revised so that his powers didn’t develop until his late teens. This meant he had never been Superboy and had not been a member of the Legion. Writers and editors on the Legion series tried to fill the resulting holes in Legion history for years, first with a Superboy from an artificial universe, then by substituting Valor (formerly Mon-el, later M’onel), until with Zero Hour (1994) they decided to just start over from the beginning.

[3] Special thanks to Wayne Lippa for sending the writer credit for Superman #199!

[4] Special thanks to Loki Carbis for telling me about the Superboy/Impulse and Bizarro/Zoom races!

[5] Special thanks to Doug “DN” for sending the artist info on Superman #199 and World’s Finest #198–199!

[6] Special thanks to Augie Stroshine for sending the cover artist on Flash #175!

The major races (i.e. not including “The Human Race” or “Fast Friends”) are reprinted in Superman vs. the Flash.

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