In first of Justice League’s two post-credits scenes, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and the resurrected Superman (Henry Cavill) take some time out of their busy lives (doesn’t Clark have articles deadlines?) to have a friendly race to the west coast. If Flash wins, Barry gets bragging rights. But if Superman wins, Barry buys everyone brunch, a punchline to a joke involving Batman from much earlier in the movie.
The whole scene pays homage to one of DC’s oldest, and friendliest, rivalries, as Superman and The Flash have been racing each other in comics for decades.
While that other post-credits scene is more important and crucial to the growing DC cinematic universe, Superman vs. The Flash is arguably the one that celebrates comic book history more. Below is a short history of Superman and the Flash’s biggest races.
The First Race (1967)
In Superman #199, the first sanctioned race between the Man of Steel and the Scarlet Speedster takes place as a U.N. charity fundraiser. While there’s interference from criminal American and European gambling networks, both Superman and The Flash prevail to continue and finish the race.
The cover to this comic, as illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, is one of the most iconic of all time. Unfortunately, the cover doesn’t live up to the story, as the race between Flash and Superman ends up in a tie. So much for that.
Later that same year in Flash #175, two aliens (who actually turned out to be the Reverse-Flash and Abra Kadabra in disguise) force the two superheroes into a rematch of galactic proportions. By threatening both of their cities, Central City and Metropolis, Superman and The Flash agree to race “just under 240,000 trillion miles,” starting from Earth to the edge of space and back again. Once again, the race ends in a tie.
Flash Beats Superman, Kind Of (1970)
Just as Batman had a rotating line of superheroes to team up with in Brave and the Bold, Denny O’Neill, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella tried to make World’s Finest a team-up book for Superman, and the two-part story “Race to Save the Universe” (issues #198 and #199) had Superman “team” with The Flash, in a third race to, well, save the universe.
In short, the timeline is messed up, and none other than Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen is enduring the brunt of the phenomenon as he’s thrown into ancient Rome. To fix things, the Guardians of Oa — the elders who govern the Green Lantern Corps — call upon Superman and The Flash to run in order to restore temporal balance. Or something. Look it’s not important.
What’s important is that Superman and The Flash end up as prisoners on a planet where both of their powers are compromised. This forces both Flash and Superman to actually crawl on their hands and knees to stop their captors and flip a switch to prevent the timeline from collapsing in itself. Believe it or not, the Flash wins this one.
Chase Across Time (1978)
Towards the ‘80s, Dan Jurgens revisited the rivalry in the pages of DC Comics Presents #1 and #2, in “Chase to the End of Time.” This time, instead of place and space, it’s time itself that Superman and the Flash run through.
In “Chase to the End of Time,” warring alien races have landed on Earth and sent operates back in time to cancel each other out and prevent their war from ever happening. But this act will mess up the rest of Earth too, so it’s up to Flash and Superman to run through time cleaning up the mess and stopping the aliens. Once again, there’s no winner.
The Wally West Years
In Crisis on Infinite Earths in the mid-‘80s, Barry Allen sacrificed himself, which left his protege Wally West to succeed him as The Flash. From then on until 2009, Wally West raced Superman several times, besting him in 1990’s “Speed Kills” (Adventures of Superman #463) and 2004’s “Fast Friends” (The Flash #209). Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, also raced Superman and beat him in 2002’s “Speeding Bullets” (DC First: Flash/Superman).
And then, Barry Allen returned.
Rebirth Run (2009)
Though Barry Allen made his return from the afterlife in Geoff Johns’s Flash: Rebirth, the Speed Force immediately went haywire. So in Flash: Rebirth #3, Barry again enters the Speed Force to sacrifice himself, but the Justice League thinks he’s nuts. He just got back!
So it’s up to Superman to catch up to him, in a “race” to save Barry Allen. The two have what may be the fastest intimate heart-to-heart conversation in the history of comics.
Superman Wins (2011)
In Superman #709, Sense8 co-creator J. Michael Straczynski teamed up with Chris Roberson, Eddy Barrows and Allan Goldman for a comic where Superman finally beat Flash in a race. When Flash is under Kyptonian mind-control and begins terraforming Metropolis into Krypton, Superman races to stop him, and pushes himself to the limit to finally beat the Scarlet Speedster.
Bonus: Flash vs. Supergirl (2016)
In 2016, TV’s live-action Supergirl, then airing on CBS, paid homage to this rivalry in a crossover episode with CW’s The Flash. Airing roughly the same week as the very dark Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the episode “World’s Finest” was hailed by critics in which the two charismatic leads, Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist, shined as their respective superheroes.
Justice League is in theaters now.
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