Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Flash Facts: The Early Days of Reverse-Flash

Reverse-Flash was one of Barry Allen's deadliest enemies, having all the same speed powers that the Flash did, but none of his morals or character, time-traveling back from the 25th Century to make things rough for the Flash.

A little different than the character that has appeared on the CW's Flash, so let's take a quick look at the comic history of the Reverse-Flash!

Menace Of The Reverse-Flash

In Flash #139 (September, 1963, by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella), we first meet Eobard Thawne, a resident of the 25th Century who finds Dr. Walter Drake's time capsule with a Flash uniform, and uses future science to give himself super-speed.  Flash arrives in the 25th Century (to save the future from a potential problem in the capsule), and defeats the criminal referred to as the Professor, then Professor Zoom, because Thawne only got the speed of the Flash, and not the aura that protected Barry from his speed, which the Reverse-Flash duplicated with chemicals.  Flash solved the problem, and destroys Professor Zoom's costume.

This tale has been reprinted a few times, like in Flash #205 (April-May, 1971), the Flash Archives #5 of 2009, and DC Comics Presents: The Flash of 2011.

Our Enemy, The Flash

With Flash #147 (September, 1964 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella), the Reverse-Flash returns, and turns reformed criminal Al Desmond back into his element changing identity of Mr. Element (a previous foe of the Flash, who also worked as Dr. Alchemy from Flash's earliest days in Showcase), to stabilize his own Element Z, and get his Reverse-Flash speed back.  This leads to another battle with the Flash, which Barry wins over Eobard, as well as being able to prove the innocence of Al Desmond as Al was only a pawn in Professor Zoom's hands.

This tale has been reprinted in Flash Archives #6 of 2012. 

The Mightiest Punch Of All Time

Flash #153 (June, 1965 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella) delivers another tale of the Reverse-Flash, with Thawne being released from prison in the 25th Century by cheating on a psychological exam.  Then, the Reverse-Flash tries again enlists the help of Mr. Element, but Al calls on the Flash for help.  Reverse-Flash makes his own cosmic treadmill to come back to the 20th Century, and gains the power of mental manipulation, which he uses to turn Central City against the Flash.  Flash eventually takes on Professor Zoom directly, finishing him off with quite a punch, as well as getting poor Al Desmond help for his criminal tendencies.

This tale was reprinted in Flash #196 (April-May, 1970).

One Bridegroom Too Many

With Flash #165 (November, 1966 by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella), Professor Zoom develops the habits he uses a lot more in the future.  The day before Barry marries Iris West, Thawne brings Barry to the 25th Century, and Reverse-Flash comes back, disguised as Barry to wed Iris!

Coming back in time to make Barry miserable and taking Barry's place are themes Thawne will revisit again and again.

This tale was reprinted in Flash #328 (December, 1983) and in Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told Tradepaperback of 2007.

The Race To The End Of The Universe

In Flash #175 (December, 1967 by E. Nelson Bridwell, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito), the Reverse-Flash works with another time travelling villain of the Flash, 64th Century Abra Kadabra, to manipulate the second Superman/Flash race, and cause problems for Barry Allen.  The two villains get defeated by Superman and the Flash, but still no winner in the race is decided...

..and won't be for a while.

More history on the Superman/Flash races is here, and you can find this tale reprinted in the Limited Collector's Edition C-48 of 1976 and in the Superman Vs. Flash Tradepaperback of 2005.

Time Times Three Equals -- ?

Flash #186 (March, 1969 by Mike Friedrich, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito) sees the revival of a Golden Age hero, Sargon the Sorcerer, whose Ruby of Life allows him to manipulate matter, but he comes back as a bad guy.  Sargon breaks the Reverse-Flash out of his 25th Century prison, planning to get Professor Zoom to teach him more time travel tricks, but Thawne only wants revenge on the Flash.  Professor Zoom battles Sargon, using his own magic against him and trapping the sorcerer in a nether dimension (which he tricks the Flash into freeing him from).  After their return, Flash battles the Reverse-Flash again, using the Ruby of Life to defeat him, but Sargon gets away.

This tale has yet to be reprinted, though this cover provides an eerie look into the future of the Flash.

Green Lantern Master Criminal of the 25th Century

Flash #225 (January-February, 1974 by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano) sees an odd event...

...with Flash teaming up with the Reverse-Flash against Flash's friend, Green Lantern?  This happens because Professor Zoom created a "syntho-steed" menace that he sent back to the 20th Century, and the two heroes had to go to 25th Century to get Professor Zoom's help in defeating it.

This tale has yet to be reprinted, but wouldn't it make a great addition to a collection of Flash/Green Lantern team-ups?

The Deadly Secret Of The Flash

Flash #233 (May, 1975 by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano) sees a bit of the ability to plan and think fast on his feet for the Reverse-Flash, who comes back in time to take Iris Allen as his, and ruin Barry Allen's life.  Thawne's original plan doesn't seem to be successful, but in this case he had a back-up plan, and it took a little time for it to manifest...

...but, as a time traveller, Professor Zoom would be okay with that!

This tale was collected in The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years in 2015, as it well defines the character of the Reverse-Flash!

The 1,000-Year Separation

What Professor Zoom set up in his last appearance comes home in Flash #237 (November, 1975 by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin).  Flash had spent the previous two issues looking for Iris Allen (who had disappeared in a battle with Vandal Savage), and the Golden Age Flash and Dr. Fate had been keeping Barry away from Iris, this all due to energy that the Reverse-Flash had put into Iris that would destroy the world if Barry saw Iris again, which Thawne would only remove if Iris wed him.  Iris was at her original birth time of the 30th Century (a long story, but Iris was also from the future), and Flash fought the Reverse-Flash there to save Iris, and bring her home.

This story has not been reprinted.

Super-Villain Team-Up

When next the Reverse-Flash appeared, it was as a part of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, working with villains like the Wizard, Blockbuster, the Floronic Man and Star Sapphire, all after the Wizard got rid of Grodd!  More on that team after introducing more of it's members, and you can also read more of Reverse-Flash's legacy here


  1. You might have purposely included The Flash # 175 in your list of Reverse-Flash appearances---out of spoiler concerns. But, actually, Professor Zoom did not appear in that story.

  2. Belay my last. (If there were a "delete" button, I would have pushed it.) I had a brain neuron misfire. Yes, Professor Zoom was, indeed, in that story, along with Abra Kadabra. It was the other villainous duo that actually weren't there.

    My apologies. You had it right---my brain let me down.