Greetings from the Odinson,
These debates have been going on since the beginning. Who is stronger – Hulk or Thing? Who is cooler – Batman or Wolverine? Who is a better shot – Green Arrow or Hawkeye? Marvel vs. DC! Comic book history is thriving with great rivalries. The Odinson began this series with Great Rivalries in Comics History: Hulk vs. Thing, but there is another question that has been debated by fanboys and girls for over fifty years now – Who is faster – the Man of Tomorrow or the Crimson Comet?
Great Rivalries in Comics History: Superman vs. the Flash
Sent to planet Earth from a far off doomed world and granted super human abilities beyond those of mortal men, Clark Kent is faster than a speeding Bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!
When police scientist Barry Allen was doused by a myriad of strange chemicals and simultaneously struck by lightning, this one-in-a-billion chance occurrence granted him super human speed. Now, he fights injustice as the masked hero known as the Flash – the Fastest Man Alive!
The Age of Super Heroes launched with Superman’s very first appearance in the pages of Action Comics #1. Less than two years later, the Mercury-inspired Jay Garrick burst onto the scene, snatching a bullet out of midair on the cover of Flash Comics #1. But it would be in the sci-fi inspired Silver Age when Barry Allen made his Flash debut in the pages of Showcase #4 that fans would really begin to speculate – who is faster, Superman or the Flash?
A decade later, after both the Man of Steel’s and the Scarlet Speedster’s high velocity feats of heroism had reached legendary status, the Original Universe featured the first of many races that would certainly fuel the fire of this debate.
Superman #199 (Aug. 1967) – This classic issue features the very first time Superman and the Flash took their marks and set out to prove once and for all just who was faster. And, it’s all rendered magnificently by the incomparable Carmine Infantino!
Flash #175 (Dec. 1967) – Fans did not have to wait long for the rematch, as the DCU’s two fastest heroes went at it again in this mind-blowing race to the edge of the universe where our heroes must try and survive deadly booby-traps laid in their wake by diabolical foes.
World’s Finest #198–199 (Nov.-Dec. 1970) – The next time these two very competitive speedsters would race they pushed their abilities further than possibly imagined as they accelerate faster than the speed of light! And the winner is…!
DC Comics Presents #1-2 (Aug.-Sep. 1978) – Once again the Man of Steel and the Crimson Comet reach new levels of speed as they race so fast they travel through time and space in pursuit of a troublesome alien whose capture could mean the death of one of our heroes!
Adventures of Superman #463 (Feb. 1990) – The next time these heroes would race would be in a Post-Crisis DCU. In this brave new world, neither competitor’s super powers are at the levels they once were. That doesn’t make this contest any less exciting, especially when that mischievous imp from the 5th Dimension, Mr. Mxyzptlk is involved. NOTE: At this time in DC History, the Flash is Wally West whose speed tops out at around the speed of sound and Superman’s powers were greatly diminished compared to his Golden and Silver Age counterpart. See Flash (2nd Series) and Man of Steel by John Byrne.
Flash #209 (Jun. 2004) – The Flash’s identity has become a closely guarded secret, even from his closest friends and allies. The World’s Greatest Heroes determine that they cannot allow such a wild card to roam free without finding out the truth. However, the only one fast enough to catch this mysterious Flash is Superman, or is he?
Bonus Round (Interesting Twists on a Classic Rivalry):
Superman: The Animated Series (Sep. 1997) – In Season 2: Episode 4 “Speed Demons” – for charity, Superman and the Flash decide to have a foot race around the world. The only problem is the menacing Weather Wizard unleashes devastating storms that wreak havoc on the globe and it’s up to our superfast heroes to stop him.
Flash #162 (Jul. 2000) – The Crimson Comet races against the DCU’s other superman – Captain Marvel! But, can even the fastest Man Alive outrun the Power of SHAZAM?!
DC First: Flash/Superman (Jul. 2002) – In this twist to this classic match-up, Superman and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, must race against the clock and each other in order to save the life of Wally West who finds himself under the thumb of the notorious Kadabra!
Smallville: Clark vs. Bart (Oct. 2004) – In Season 4: Episode 5 “Run” – a young Clark Kent whose super human powers are still in the development stages meets another teenager named Bart Allen whose super human speed matches his own. At the end of the episode, Clark and Bart decide to see who is faster and though Clark keeps stride for a bit, in the blink of an eye, Bart shows Superboy just who is the fastest teenager alive. At least for now.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One (2013) – In the middle of Superman’s coup, the Scarlet Speedster begins to have serious second thoughts about the Man of Steel’s New World Order. As the two engage in a moral debate their super speed is on display in a very different way as they play a game of chess at breakneck speed.
These are the tales that have shaped Superman vs. the Flash into one of the All-Time greatest comic book rivalries in history. Be on the lookout for future installments of Greatest Rivalries in Comic History including Hulk vs. Wolverine, Hulk vs. Thor, Punisher vs. Daredevil, Superman vs. Captain Marvel, and more!
As for who the Odinson thinks is faster? Well, Superman is the world’s greatest super hero with so many super powers. Much like the Hulk being the strongest one there is, being the fastest is sort of Flash’s thing. So, I give it to the Flash, after all he is the Fastest Man Alive, but just by a hair.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell