The History of the Superman vs Flash races
I mentioned before that I had been digging through my comic book collection to find cool artwork and vintage ads to scan and put on my Flickr blog (if you aren’t checking my Flickr blog, I can only assume you hate things that are AWESOME). While going through my comics I came across my collection of Flash vs Superman races. The Flash is my favorite super hero and throughout the ’60s and ’70s DC Comics had Superman and Flash race several times. Being a Flash fan, I think it’s ABSURD to think that Superman is faster than Flash. All Flash does is run. That’s his power. On sheer raw speed, Flash should be faster. I mean, we all know who would win in a flying race. Or a strength competition. Am I right?
So, how did Flash fare in these races? Well, DC obviously wanted to protect their “golden boy”, so they had several ties, but at the end, there is a clear winner. Let’s go through the races and tally up the scores to see who is truly the fastest man alive. For this article I’ll be focusing on the Barry Allen Silver Age Flash, who died in 1985 during the Crisis on Inifinite Earths mini-series.
Superman #199 (1967) – The head to head races between the Silver Age Superman and The Flash began here. The two heroes are asked to race for charity. They both readily agree. As usually happens, crime syndicates bet huge sums of money on the outcome and look for ways to sabotage the one they don’t want to win. After several criminal schemes backfire, Supes and Flash finish in a clear tie so as no criminals can cash in. This, of course, leaves the reader with no sense of closure and shaking their fist in the air yelling, “Damn you, DC!!!”. The Flash is now 0-0-1.
Flash #175 (1967) – The next race happened a few months later. Flash and Superman arrive at JLA headquarters to find two aliens who have somehow managed to capture and subdue the rest of the JLA. The two alien gamblers are mad that the first race ended in a tie and want a rematch (you and me both, Mr Alien). This time, Supes and Flash must run to the edge of the Milky Way and back. If Superman loses, Metropolis will be destroyed. If The Flash loses, Central City will be destroyed. Why Superman and Flash don’t just pummel these guys at light speed is beyond me. So, they agree to the race and halfway through they realize the whole thing is a setup to kill The Flash and we get another disappointing “tie” ending (DC. F**k. You.). So at the end of this issue Flash is 0-0-2.
World’s Finest #198 – #199 (1970) – It would take three years to get another race. This one, however, is a bit zany. There are a race of robot beings called Anachronids that exist near the speed of light. They are causing disruptions in the time stream and people are being sent back and forth randomly in time. We get a bizarre subplot of Jimmy Olsen jumping through time and nearly getting killed in every time period. The Guardians of the Galaxy say that two individuals traveling at the speed of light in parallel to the Anachronids will nullify the chaos they are creating. Flash asks Superman if he wants to make it a race. They agree (of course). However, Flash and Supes are transported to some alternate dimension that randomly switches from red to yellow suns thereby turning Supes’ powers on and off. We also see General Zod and several other Kryptonian criminals escape from the Phantom Zone, Superman actually twists his ankle during one of his power losses and Flash has his legs paralyzed. It’s insane. Long story short, Supes and Flash crawl across a desert using only their arms and find the “power switch” to the entire Anachronid robot race. Flash gets there first, shuts it off thereby rendering the robots useless (not as useless as having a universal OFF switch for a race of robots, am I right?). Superman is forced to admit that Flash is the fastest man alive…on this world (whatever the hell that means, d-bag). So, thanks to Superman barely admitting he lost, Flash is now 1-0-2. But this race wasn’t really won by running, so I’m not sure that this really counts.
DC Comics Presents #1 – #2 (1978) – This story may be just as bizarre as the above World’s Finest story. Two alien nations are at war and have been at war so long that none of them remember why. Supes and Flash are recruited in some wacky travel through time mission to stop the war, but in doing so they realize that both Earth and Krypton (before Superman’s race could develop) would be destroyed if they finished the mission. They work together and wind up letting the aliens continue to fight until the end of time. The race is barely a part of this story, but Flash actually wins through some convoluted storytelling that makes little sense. Which, at this point, makes Flash 2-0-2. But these last two that Flash won were barely even races.
So, at this point, it was the end of the Silver Age Superman and Flash races. Like I said, Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) would die saving the Multiverse in the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in 1985. He was, however, brought back in 2009 in the title The Flash Rebirth, and after 20 years and returning from the dead, he was racing Superman again in issue #3.
The Flash Rebirth #3 (2009) – The Barry Allen Flash is brought back to life and it’s causing all sorts of havok within the Speed Force, possibly even causing the deaths of other speedsters. Barry, thinking he’s killing other speedsters tries to sacrifice himself to the Speed Force and Superman tries to catch him to get him to rethink this plan. While racing side by side, Clark (Superman) tells Barry (Flash) that he can’t outrun him because, as their earlier races have proven, he is just as fast as Barry. Barry turns to Superman and says that those other races were for charity and proceeds to kick it into another gear and leaves Superman in his dust. AWESOME. Finally, Barry gets an outright win in a foot race, so that makes it 3-0-2. The Flash is undefeated against Superman with 3 wins, no losses and 2 ties.
So, the answer to the question, who is faster, Flash or Superman, in the Silver Age, Flash is faster than Superman. But Superman has also raced other Flashes in more recent years.
Here are some bonus comic covers that also feature Superman, The Flash and racing.
Adventures of Superman #463 (1990) – As you can see, this particular cover is an homage to the first race in Superman #199. This is actually a much better story which involves Mr Mxyzptlk orchestrating the race between a powered down post-Crisis Superman and the Wally West Flash, who also isn’t as super fast as usual. Wally West actually beats Superman at the very end.
Action Comics #314 (1964) -Not a race, per se, but a very cool “alternate reality” story involving Superman becoming The Flash. The story says that Jor-El had chosen 6 alternate worlds in which to send baby Kal-El. This comic looks at the 6 alternate worlds and how it affects Superman’s powers. In each world he becomes a different super hero that is similar to other members of the Justice League. On one world he becomes like Batman, on another he becomes like Aquaman. And, as you can see on the cover, on another he becomes The Flash. Very cool story. Unfortunately they don’t tell you if there was a world that had Superman become Wonder Woman.
Superman #221 (2005) – Here’s somewhat of an “opposite day” version of the Superman-Flash race. Bizarro vs Zoom. For some reason Bizarro agrees to race Zoom in order to gain entrance into the Society of Super Villains. The race continues into Action Comics #831. Bizarro winds up winning and joining the Society. Cool idea, but I’m not sure what the point was having Bizarro race Zoom. They should have homaged one of the earlier race covers as, in this cover, they are inexplicably moving in different directions.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15 (2010) – This issue just came out and I stumbled across it while browsing the bookstore. I love this cover and its obvious but clever homage to the Superman-Flash races of the past. Very well done and the story is actually pretty good, too.