This article was previously published six years ago at the now-defunct Hero’s Collector website. With The Flash film debuting this week, I thought it was a great time to dust this off and republish it!
Originally publish February, 2017. Reprinted here with formatting and image edits.
Ten of the Best Flash Multiverse Stories
This week The Flash TV series kicked off a storyline featuring a return to Earth-2, one of the many Earths in the multiverse. While the infinite Earths concept may be relatively new to TV viewers, the idea has had a rich and storied history in DC Comics going back over fifty years. There have been many tales that have taken place or featured denizens from a myriad or alternate universes and there are some real gems featuring the, or “a”, Scarlet Speedster. Here are ten of my favorites (in no particular order):
1. “The Flash of Two Worlds!” – The Flash #123 (September, 1961)
The one that stared the whole thing. The original comic featuring college student Jay Garrick as the Flash had been cancelled in 1949, but the premise was revisited ten years later with the character now forensic scientist Barry Allen. When DC wanted to bring back Garrick it was explained that the original speedster, and fellow members of the Justice Society of America, existed on an Earth existing parallel to ours. This seemingly innocent conceit has informed not only the DC Comics Universe for the last 56 years, but also arguably every other comics multiverse. This is the template for them all.
2. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” – (1985)
And then, nearly twenty-five years later, it was all over. Having felt that all the alternate Earths featuring so many versions of the Flash and Superman and Batman, et al, had become needlessly complicated and confusing, it was decided to condense them all down to one, singular Earth. In the end, as far as all the multi-versioned characters were concerned, there could be only one. The Barry Allen version of the Flash met his end during the course of the twelve issue series and remained gone until the 2008 sequel.
3. Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths – (February, 1999)
This one issue tale revisited the dimension destroying crisis and featured the end of Earth-D. It is notable in that it features a version of the Justice League whose familiarly-named members encompass a more ethnically diverse background than those of their Earth-One counterparts. Earth-D’s Flash is Japanese and he and his compatriots prove their heroism by evacuating as many inhabitants from their Earth as possible before their entire universe is extinguished.
4. “Flashpoint” – (2011)
This one changed everything yet again. Two years after restoring the multiverse and returning some much-beloved characters, DC Comics threw everything into the blender again and rebooted their entire comics line. The catalyst for this universe(s)-shattering event was Barry Allen finally deciding to go back in time and save his mother. Much like the TV series, this simple act had huge ramifications in the present day. Barry was no longer the Flash and many other heroes no longer existed or were altered in major ways. Ultimately, Barry decides to take one for the team and undo what he has done, but things don’t go back quite to normal as all the heroes’ costumes got collars and the “New 52” was born.
5. “Crisis on Earth-Three!” – Justice League of America #29 (August, 1964)
Earth-Three is a bad place. No, really. Everyone who was a hero on the other Earths is a super-criminal here. The Flash is called Johnny Quick and is a nasty piece of work. This story expanded the multiverse even more, but in an unsavory direction. More recent depictions of Earth-Three’s Crime Syndicate of America have gone into even more detail as to just how bad these folks are. Stay away from Earth-Three, there be dragons.
6. “The Barry Allen Story” – The Flash Annual #7 (1994)
With the end of the multiverse, DC Comics created the Elseworlds brand to be able to tell tales of their heroes on alternate Earths and keep them separate from the established continuity. One of these Elseworlds featured here and tells a different version of the death of Barry Allen and its aftermath. It’s darker and more tragic than what actually happened, but turns out okay in the end.
7. “Invader From the Dark Dimension!” – The Flash #151 (March, 1965)
This one is on the list primarily because it features one of my favorite villains-turned-heroes, Shade. Additionally, I really like Shade’s idea to commit crimes on Earth-One in order to remain a seemingly law-abiding citizen back home on Earth-Two. Clever, really, until the Flashes of two worlds team up.
8. “The Flash – Fact or Fiction?” – The Flash #179 (May, 1968)
This story introduces yet another Earth to the DC Universe, but with a fun twist. Earth-Prime is meant to be our Earth, meaning there are no super-heroes except in the comics. The Flash enlists the aid of DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz in order to return home. It’s a great comic that any fan of the Flash would enjoy, but those of us of a particular age can’t help but get a little misty-eyed reading it.
9. Earth 2 (July, 2012 – May, 2015)
Following the universe-shifting events of Flashpoint, Earth-Two, or rather Earth 2, finally got the spotlight. Jay Garrick is once again a college student, albeit in the present day as opposed to World War II. Eventually this Earth, too, would meet its end…and then replaced…and then recreated. Look, it’s complicated. Just know that this Earth 2, or at least its denizens, are still going strong, including the Flash.
10. “Demon’s Night” – Speed Demon #1 (April, 1996)
In 1996 every comic fan’s dreams came true as Marvel and DC co-published a mini-series pitting their heroes against each other. During the series, the universes are merged into one, resulting in the Amalgam Universe. The two companies published several titles that melded one or more heroes and villains, one of which was a mash-up of Ghost Rider, the Flash and Etrigan the Demon. Yes, really. Think of a rhyming Spirit of Vengeance with access to the Speed Force and you sort of get the idea.