Midlife Crisis: The Flash Has Poor Traction (with facts)

Nick Peron
Comics DC
Comics DC Arrowverse

Your favourite superheroes are over 50 years old! Before they got dark and gritty, they did some goofy things. Welcome to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths where we look back at the less than illustrious adventures of some of the biggest heroes in comics. In this edition, we delve into some things about the Flash that have… poor traction!


The Flash is the fastest man alive for over 70 years. The new Flash television series is a hit and the Flash will be in the upcoming Justice League movie. Not bad for a senior citizen! Today we’re going to take a look back at the early stories of the Flash. Have these old Flash stories withstood the test of time, or have they been left eating dust? Let’s find out!

The Speed Force is in Flavour Country

The original Flash is a scientist named Jay Garrick experimenting with hard water. The original version of his origin story is by far one of the most hilarious ones I’ve ever read. In the middle of an experiment, Jay decided it was time to have a cigarette. That’s totally what people did in the 1940’s. Jay was clumsy enough to fall over his experiment and get it all over himself. His little trip into flavour country netting him with the super-speed that allowed him to become the Flash.

Still think smoking is cool?

I’m no science expert, but I know a thing or two about smoking cigarettes. Let me tell you, smoking does not give you super speed. If anything it’s more likely to turn you into Turtle Man than it would the Flash. As for the hard water “fumes” that he stumbles into…. That’s just water vapour.

This origin story has undergone some revisions although these days if anyone wants to know the origin of Jay Garrick just shout “SPEED FORCE!” and run away. That makes more sense than anything DC has officially stated. If you still think smoking is cool, just remember it leads to terrible origin stories.

That is Not How Science Works!

When they rebooted the Flash in the 1950’s, writer Robert Kanigher attempted to make the character fit the science fiction fads of the time. Everything sure sounded science-y, but when you try to make sense of it you realize it doesn’t.  This is most true when you try to make sense of how the Flash’s powers work.

First of all, running at the speed of light would turn his body into a pulp. In addition, to run that fast all the time, the Flash could never stop eating. Ever.

Preposterous! Everyone knows you only need to go 88 miles per hour.

The Flash regularly uses the power of vibration to get out of tight spots. He uses vibrations to shatter things, pass through solid objects and even travel to other dimensions. Without getting into quantum physics, you cannot vibrate a solid object fast enough that it will pass through another solid object. If anything, you vibrate something hard enough it heats up and turns into a gas. If real science was applied the Flash’s super power would be vibrating himself into a human fart.

So, again, if anyone else asks how the Flash’s powers work, just shout “SPEED FORCE!” and run away.

Breaking the Law with Broken Science

Also take a look at his rogues gallery, their powers don’t make sense either.

Leonard Snart/Captain Cold

Take Captain Cold for instance: He’s a criminal who ran a weapon through a cyclotron allowing it to create “ice mirages” to confound the Flash. We’re not talking “oasis in the distance” mirages, full on larger than life mirages.

Except…. That’s not how mirages work. A mirage is an optical phenomenon created when light rays are bent to create an illusion. It’s more common when colder air is over hot air, but the reverse is also true. However, it looks a little something like this:

Try to suspend your disbelief now, fanboy!

Captain Cold uses his cold gun to create actual images of polar bears, buzz saws, and strange merry-go-rounds to confuse the Flash. I think Captain Cold is confusing mirages with illusions. In which case, temperatures have nothing to do with illusions.

Sam Scudder/Mirror Master

The original Mirror Master discovered a means of creating mirrors that could capture images. When he was in prison he was forced to make mirrors and at one point he mixed the wrong chemicals in on mirror. When ordered to throw it out, he noticed it captured the image of the shop foreman. Since a mirror is basically polished metal set in glass, you’d have to be really bad at your job to screw that up.

Mirror Master never reflects on his failures.

During his first outing as the Mirror Master, Scudder was able to capture the image of a bank teller and create a duplicate of him to rob the bank. This backfired when the Flash noticed that the teller parted his hair differently and wore his wedding ring on his right hand.

First of all, who ever notices these kind of details about their bank teller? Secondly, having a wedding band on your right hand could mean many things. The teller could be European, in a same-sex relationship, or signifying they belong to nobody. That does not mean they are a mirror copy of someone else. Only a lunatic would think that.

Al Desmond/Mr. Element

Before he became Doctor Alchemy, Al Desmond got his start at Mister Element. He was a villain who implemented various elements in his crimes. He also liked to breathe pure oxygen, thus explaining the ridiculous looking mask. But there’s a problem with breathing pure oxygen: it will kill you.

You will suffer a process called polinary fibrosis if you do it long enough. Mister Element wouldn’t have gotten that far in his criminal career before he began suffering symptoms of oxygen toxicity. Which includes nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision among other things. He would have been throwing up in that oxygen mask before he completed his first heist.

Later, in the same story, our villain discovered a “new element” that he described as a “magnetic light”. Using this against the Flash caused the hero to shoot into the sky at escape velocity and into space. The Flash, unprotected from the void of space, managed to get back to Earth by sling-shotting himself around the moon.

First and foremost, light is not an element, it’s a form of energy. Also, just magnets cannot cancel out the effects of gravity.

Let’s also talk about how the Flash couldn’t have survived this entire experience, let alone return to Earth in mere moments. We’ll ignore the speed factors, because SPEED FORCE, however, there are other hazards. In order to reach escape velocity, one would have to travel roughly 7 miles per second. The moon is about 238855 miles away from the Earth. The Flash’s flight to and from the moon would have taken him over sixteen hours.

Scientists believe a human can survive in the vacuum of space for about 60 to 90 seconds before permanent damage is caused. If you were to believe that the Flash travelled that distance in about a minute, he’d be dead, or at least close to it, when he got back.

Citizen Abra/Abra Kadabra

The villain known as Abra Kadabra was actually a scientist from the 65th century who used advanced science to commit crimes in the present. In one story, he used this technology to turn the Flash into a living puppet made out of wood.

And I feel like you sound like an idiot.

Ignoring the fact that this idea is as stupid as it sounds, he would have killed the Flash instantly by turning him into solid wood. If you don’t follow me, try to remove all the fluid and organs from your body and replace it with wood. Take your time, we’ll all wait.

The Flash Gaslights his Girlfriend

In the early days of the Flash, he was in a romance with newswoman Iris West. In those days, the Flash kept his identity a secret by making sure that Barry Allen was always late. Apparently, if Allen was on time for anything people would suspect he was the Flash. No, Barry, I think people would suspect that you actually value their time.

Iris dumps him because she is sick of him being late all the time. Which seems like a reasonable reason to break up with someone. Iris is a professional who has very limited free time between chasing news stories.

It just so happened that the Flash had just busted the Mirror Master. So, being the responsible superhero that he is, he uses Mirror Master’s mirrors and his speed powers to make Iris see the image of Barry Allen everywhere she looked. This eventually leads Iris to believe she loves Barry more than she thought and the pair get together. I’m quite sure this is a textbook example of gaslighting someone.

Iris eventually learns the Flash’s double identity when she discovered that he talks in his sleep, after they got married. If you’re thinking “Poor Iris!”, I think she paid him back pretty good eventually. At one point she was seemingly killed by Doctor Zoom, the reverse Flash from the future. As it turns out, Iris is also a time traveller and was resurrected by her parents, and reunited with Flash. Hope you enjoyed all that unnecessary grief, you jerk!

Barry later died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, leaving Iris alone for a time. When Barry eventually came back from the dead, he handled being dead a lot worse than Iris did. During Flashpoint, he ultimately altered history where he and Iris never had a relationship. He got you good that time Iris!

The Flash has a flagrant disregard for the laws of science, he abuses his powers, and the love of his life deserves better. I rest my case.

Nick Peron
Stand-Up Comedian from Ottawa, Canada. Long time contributor at the Marvel Database Wiki. Banned in China.