OK, I´ll just get right to it. Who the hell is faster? The Flash or Superman? No answer? One of the first comics I ever saw at a newstand (and I was just five or six years old) was a DC Limited Collector´s Edition I got my folks to get for me... On the cover? On the left, Batman, Robin and Green Lantern cheering for Superman. On the right? Aquaman, The Atom, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and Hawkman pulling for The Flash. It was mind-blowing! Was it true? Were the JLAers taking bets on one of their own? Was there no villain to fight this time? I only had my brother and neighbor to argue with at the time…wasn´t The Flash really the fastest man alive?...
Years later, it´s still not clear. Did it ever really matter? I mean, what battle scenario could have required the Justice League to know which one of them was really faster?...Maybe Batman needed to Fedex something real fast and wanted to keep it in his file? Maybe Green Arrow and Superman were scamming the group by letting the Flash win once in a while? However you look at it, it was kind of unfair! Faster than a speeding bullet, able to fly around the world, plus heat vision, x-ray vision, super-strength, and who knows what else they may come up with. The Flash? Just “The Fastest Man Alive”. And not even that is for sure. Thanks a lot, Kal-el!
It has been stated that Superman can go at least Mach 4, which is four times the speed of sound (2,953 miles/hour) Other writers have established that Flash can run faster than the speed of light (Is that 300,000,000 meters/second?) I think the real story here is how many times we all bought into this whole “Super-race” deal, like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the proverbial football…and every single time we were faced with some sort of horrible plot twist, cop-out or flimsy story.
This whole ordeal started in 1967: anyone who read Superman No. 199 could remember how both heroes were asked to race for charity. Along the way around the world, they are both attacked and sabotaged by different crime syndicates who had bet huge sums of money on one or the other. Just like in the classic cartoon “Wacky Raceland”, all villain´s schemes backfire, and eventually Clark & Barry forfeit the whole thing into a tie. Boo!!! No winners, no losers…Can you believe it?
Just a few months later, in Flash No. 175, two alien gamblers -still mad about the tie in the first race- kidnap the whole JLA and demand a rematch…to the edge of the Mikly Way and back. The winner gets to keep his hometown. This means Central City or Metropolis will be destroyed depending upon the outcome of this wacky race. Halfway through the race, they realize it was all rigged to kill Flash…so guess what? Another tie!!! Jesus, DC…thanks a lot!!!
It would take three years for “The Fastest Man Alive” to finally win this stupid race. If you were lucky enough to read “World´s Finest” Nos. 198 & 199 you would learn about the…Anachronids (Whattttt?) Of course we are talking of a race of robots causing disruptions in the time stream. The only way to nullify the chaos they are creating (and by the way avoiding Jimmy Olsen jumping through time)? Getting Barry and Kal-El to race yet once again in some alternate dimensión that randomly switches from yellow to red suns (Why?) After a senseless and endless venture through the Phantom Zone, in which Flash gets his legs paralyzed and Superman twists his ankle, both of them crawl across a desert only using their arms…The winner? Flash! Fastest man alive…but on that world, not this one. Not sure what that means, or if the race counts as a win since they were not running, but crawling. As a Detroit Lions fan, I have learned to accept…any win is a win.
There have been many more races, most of them rigged ties, the rest mostly won by The Flash (leave all the other powers to the son of Krypton) Look up “DC Comics Presents” Nos. 1 & 2 (1978) if you want to hear about the alien races who were at war for so many years they couldn´t even remember why they fighting…or just skip that whole deal, if you will. On the other hand, “The Flash: Rebirth” No. 3 (2009) redeems Barry. How could we forget him telling his all-time race rival that all the other races were for charity but it´s time to kick his ass. And he does! At the end of the day, maybe it´s better not to know. That way you keep fans arguing, debating and nay-saying for decades and decades. What better way to keep comic fans busy than an endless (and pointless) debate?