This week on CW’s The Flash, Griffin Grey debuted in a live-action portrayal by Haig Sutherland. Except, the character we met wasn’t really Griffin Grey. He’s vastly different on the TV screen than he was on the page, so we have to ask: did The Flash spoil a potentially amazing character?
Spoilers for “Back to Normal”: Griffin Grey dies when his power finally exhausts him. In the television show, Griffin was a teenager when the particle accelerator exploded and gave him super strength. A downside of this change was that his body aged rapidly anytime he exerted force. So now, in the show’s second season, it’s been two years, and Griffin Grey — a spry, 18-year-old high school senior — resembles an old man in his late 40s. And he dies, fighting the Flash, entirely because he aged himself too rapidly.
It’s a bummer end to such a young character, but as we said, it’s also not quite the Griffin Grey we know from the comics. First appearing in Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo’s Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1 in August 2006, Griffin Grey was Bart Allen’s (the second Kid Flash) roommate and coworker at an auto shop in Keystone. Griffin Grey was a smooth-talker who tried to get Bart to come along in his escapades. One day, a disgruntled employee at the shop sets off a bomb, and Griffin is caught in the explosion with — what else! — chemicals that alter his body. He’s only in the hospital for a day when he develops superpowers that aren’t just super strength. He can heal quickly, he can move faster, he can control green lightning and even fire. Immediately he sets out to become a famous superhero.
And he messes up. In his first outing as “Griffin” (clever name, dude) he nearly gets a kidnapped girl he tried to rescue killed, and none other than Jay Garrick scolds him for being an amateur. But it’s not long until Griffin saves the wealthy CEO of his company’s yacht party and is given a fat $100,000 reward. The Griffin is immediately Keystone’s hottest superhero.
But like the TV show, his body begins to age as he uses his powers. Bart Allen also debuts as the Flash, making Griffin jealous. To win the city back, Griffin stages a rescue, causing a bridge to collapse and going in to save the victims. But Bart arrives on the scene too, and Griffin later dies when his body ages too much after helping people.
In the TV show, Griffin also dies because he aged too quickly, but it’s a much smaller and less intimate story than in Bilson and DeMeo’s book. He also has a nifty, gray costume similar to the Marvel superhero Moon Knight, but on The Flash he was just … him.
Bilson and DeMeo’s book wasn’t a groundbreaking comic. It was good, but no Kingdom Come. Still, Griffin and Bart had a great story that really tested Bart just as he embarked on his superhero career. While Griffin is nowhere near as significant as Zoom or the Reverse-Flash, he would have sufficed in a longer, more engaging arc than a one-episode monster of the week.
The real story to Griffin was perverting duties for fame, and it would have fit The Flash pretty early this season when Central City showered Barry with praise and adoration in the first episode. Someone like Griffin would have really explored intriguing questions, like what if Barry were to “sell” The Flash? What if there was someone out there that didn’t want Flash’s speed, but to be better than the Flash himself? Do superheroes like Flash make cities less safe just by attracting weirdos and fame-seekers who want to one-up him?
For now, we won’t know. Zoom is too important.