Heroic Origins: The Flash (Jay Garrick)

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Jay Garrick, Image credit DC Comics

Name:Jay Garrick                   Alias:The Flash

Profession: Student               Powers: Super speed

Equipment/Weapons: Fists

First AppearanceFlash Comics #1

This month’s heroic origin story will look at the birth of the first ever Flash, Jay Garrick. While there have been numerous holders of the title ‘The Flash’, Jay was the first one introduced, by the then titled All-American Comics, and as such seemed the logical choice of the first Flash to look at the origins of.

Flash Comics
Flash Comics #1 cover, image credit Shaldon Moldoff

Jay first appeared in the pages of Flash Comics #1, in ‘Origin of the Flash’. Developed by Gardener Fox and Harry Lampert, the Flash was granted his superhuman speed and ultrafast reflexes due to a lab accident. However, unlike the story of later holders of the title of ‘Fastest Man Alive’, his powers were not imbued due to lightning. Jay Garrick’s powers were granted by him accidentally inhaling heavy water vapour, although initially referred to as hard water vapours, and this led to the activation of a latent metagene. This also enabled an ability for Jay to also think at a superfast rate.

Jay’s role as a superhero proved to be very popular initially, and he was shortly included in the line-up of the initial Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics #3, published later in the same year as his debut. This also saw him interact for the first time with a character that would go on to be a stalwart ally of the Flash, the original Green Lantern Alan Scott, founding the beginnings of a friendship that would also be followed by many of the subsequent heroes to go by both of these titles.

Jay Garrick
Jay Garrick on the cover of JSA #78, image credit Alex Ross

Jay’s initial costume design also served to serve some amount of providing a backstory and rounding out his character. As the Flash, he donned a red shirt from his football playing days, emblazoned with a lightning bolt, and also donned his father’s WWI helmet, which he added two small wings to, bearing a resemblance to the helmet depicted as belonging to the Roman God Mercury, who was endowed with similar powers of speed. This probably also was a mark to show part of the inspiration for the heroic character. Jay never wore a mask as part of his costume, as he instead hid his identity by vibrating his facial features, making it near impossible to recognise him or view his face in a photograph.

Unfortunately, the Flash’s popularity quickly declined, especially during the decline of superheroes in comics following WWII. His title series, All Flash, was cancelled after only 8 years, due to this decline, and this largely marked the end of his appearance as the Flash, as the title was later passed on to Barry Allen. Jay’s role as the Flash would later be designated as a hero present on Earth-Two, the parallel world to the DC continuity that has largely lasted until today. But that is a post for another time.

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