The Flash (Jay Garrick)

Created by Gardner Fox & Harry Lampert

NAME + ALIASES:
Jason Peter "Jay" Garrick

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Joan (wife), unnamed son (deceased), Major Williams (father-in-law, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice Society of America, All-Star Squadron, Justice League of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940)

History

The original Flash is one DC's most popular supporting characters. He has played an important role not only during the Golden Age, but in every incarnation of the Justice Society, and in serving as a mentor to multiple generations of new heroes.

Flash Comics #1 (1940); art by Harry Lampert.

 

Jay Garrick was born on 3 April 1918 (Flash v.2 #134) and grew up in the central United States. His story began in early 1939 while he was attending Midwestern University, Jay Garrick gained super-speed powers from exposure to "heavy water" fumes. After his graduation, he became an assistant professor at Coleman University. There he first stepped out as the Flash when he used his abilities to save his college sweetheart, Joan Williams, and her father from Sieur Satan and the Faultless Four as. Right away, he shared with Joan the secret of his dual identity. (Flash Comics #1, Secret Origins #9)

Flash Comics #1 was published in 1940, but after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC's Golden Age timeline shifted because other heroes were needed to fill the "inspirational void" left by the elimination of the Golden Age Superman and Batman. The modified dates of Jay's origin were contradictory. Secret Origins #9 (1986) was written to be the definitive post-Crisis version. It established that the accident took place in early 1939, and his heroic debut later that year. The origin story in Flash Comics #1 spans that time. Years later, timelines in Zero Hour #0 (1994) and Flash Secret Files #1 (1997), as well as references in Sandman Mystery Theater, asserted that he debuted even earlier, in 1938. Many of his early stories described the Flash as operating in New York City, but most modern accounts place him in Keystone City.

Blinky, Winky, and Noddy. From All-Flash #15 (); art by

Jay appeared never too concerned for his secret identity. When the Flash exonerated Joan Williams's father, Major Williams, of espionage charges, the Major also learned that the Flash was Jay Garrick. (#3) His feature co-starred the Three Dim-Wits They first appeared in All-Flash #5 (1942), as incompetent small-time criminals working for a crooked stable owner. After the Flash captured the stable owner, the three henchmen decided to move on to more benign pursuits. The trio wandered from job to job, usually getting into trouble or causing it, and the Flash would always get involved.[2]

The Flash was officially deputized by Keystone City's police commissioner. (All-Star Comics #1) and very soon afterwards, he became a charter member of the Justice Society of America. On 9 November 1940, at the behest of British Intelligence, President Roosevelt sendt the Flash, and Green Lantern on a mission to Scotland to investigate rumors of a planned Nazi invasion of Great Britain. The heroes were captured by Major Helmut Streicher and taken to Berlin, where Hitler nearly executed them with the Spear of Destiny. They were rescued by the arrival of Dr. Fate and Hourman. With the intervention of several more heroes, they barely escaped a catastrophe in Europe. At FDR's suggestion, they formed the Justice Society of America. At some time after this story, Hitler used the Spear to erect the "Sphere of Influence," which brought any metahuman under Hitler's mental control if they entered Axis territory. (DC Special #29, Secret Origins #31, All-Star Comics #3)

The Flash was a hit for National (DC), and he was awarded his own second quarterly title. After All-Flash Quarterly began in mid-1941, the Flash became ineligible for membership in the JSA. (Per DC's editors, heroes featured in two or more other comic books must be removed from All-Star Comics). For the Justice Society, this meant that Johnny Thunder joined as his replacement, and the Flash became an honorary member. (All-Star Comics #6) He returned again along with his friend Green Lantern to accompany the JSA 500 years into the future to help a group of time scientists develop an indestructible force field. (All-Star Comics #10)

He still appeared with the team occasionally as an honorary member, as when he was called upon to help raise $1,000,000 for war orphans. (#7) That same year, Jay participated in a case wherein he and the JSA gained a measure of supernatural youthfulness. The evil Ian Karkull had gathered a group of super-villains to help him assassinate eight future U.S. presidents. The JSA called upon its reserves to thwart him. When he was destroyed, Karkull released a burst of "temporal energy" that enhanced the longevity of everyone present (this also included Joan Williams!). (All-Star Squadron Annual #3)

 
The Thinker; All-Flash #12. The Fiddler; All Flash #32; art by Harry Lampert.
The Shade. From Flash Comics #33 (1942); art by Everett Hibbard.

Jay's most iconic villains also joined the JSA's rival team, the Injustice Society. The Fiddler first appeared in 1947 but later stories would place him as a much earlier wartime adversary. (All-Flash #32) The Thinker ??. (All-Flash #12) Years later, the Shade would fight for good, but in the 1940s, his darker natures won out and he clashed frequently with the Flash. (Flash v.1 #33) The Rag Doll would return repeatedly for decades, and spawn three children to carry on his twisted legacy. (Flash Comics #36) The Turtle was also the enemy of Jay's successors. (All-Flash #21)

Eventually, the Flash rejoined the JSA on a more regular basis, being brought back with Green Lantern to replacing the outgoing Spectre and Starman. (All-Star Comics #24) Their return to active membership was announced the next issue. (#25)

Both at home and in his adventuring career, success followed young Mr. Garrick. In October 1945, he the Flash was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his efforts during the war. (Flash v.2 Annual #3) And in early 1947, he became the first JSA member to wed, marrying Joan Williams. During their honeymoon in Las Vegas, the Justice Society paid an impromptu visit. Naturally, they also needed to put down shenanigans by the Fiddler, the Shade, and the Thinker. (Flash v.2 #161) (Before this story, Flash's wedding had been dated a bit later, in 1948 by Flash v.2 #134).

One of Jay's foes became the romantic interest for Alan Scott (Green Lantern). Rose Canton and her psychotic alternate personality, the Thorn, were unaware that they are the same person. (Flash #89) After he and Alan took her for treatment, Rose secretly bore Alan's twins). (Lois Lane #113) (This story was written for Flash Comics #107, but the series was canceled before the story was published. Two pages were later printed in Lois Lane #113 and two more pages appear in issue #6 of Alter Ego magazine.)

As paranoia grew in America about "subversive behavior," FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover attempted to convince the Flash to work with the agency against domestic Communism. That sounded well and good until the Flash discovered that the FBI considered his alter ego Jay Garrick and his good friend Elliott Shapiro to be potential subversives themselves. (Flash Special #1)

In the final Golden Age issue of Flash Comics, the Flash confronted his only arch speedster during the Golden Age. The Rival was one of Jay's teachers from Midwestern University, Dr. Edward Clariss. Clariss created a formula to temporarily duplicate the Flash's powers. (Flash #104, JSA #16) After the cancellation of Flash Comics, the hero continued to appear with the JSA in All-Star Comics. Their last case was to rescue four kidnapped detectives from the Key. (All-Star Comics #57) That story was the last Golden Age appearance of the Flash, but his DC Comics history extended a bit further before the character's return in 1961.

The Justice Society disbanded in 1951 following their appearance at a round of HUAC hearings. (Adventure #466, JSA #68) That same year, the Flash announced his retirement and left Keystone City in the hands of another costumed hero, the Spider. Eventually Jay's foe the Shade discovered that the Spider was a criminal and killed him before the Spider could murder Jay and Joan Garrick. Seeing that his retirement was premature, the Flash resumed his heroic career. (The Shade #3)

Silver Age

At this point it's worth reiterating the difference between pre- and post-Crisis DC continuity. Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jay's life continued normally on Earth Two, one of an infinite number of parallel Earths. After Crisis, there was only one universe, so the Flash's absence from the public stage was written as the result of a plot by his most persistent rogues…

The Flash had been active for another five years after the JSA disbanded, until the Fiddler, the Shade, and the Thinker actually managed to shift Keystone City into another dimension, creating a hypnotic illusion that prevented outsiders from noticing the city's absence. They placed Keystone's inhabitants (including the Flash) in suspended animation so that they could prey upon them at will. (Secret Origins #50)

The next time anybody heard from the original Flash, it was the surprise meeting between he and an all-new Flash, Barry Allen! In this momentous event, Jay Garrick became the first Golden Age hero hero to resurface in the the 1960s. In the story, Barry Allen accidentally transported himself to Earth Two and together the Flashes defeated the Fiddler, the Shade, and the Thinker. (This was also the first textual reference to "Earth One" and "Earth Two." (Flash #123) In the post-Crisis retelling, Allen pierced the barrier separating Keystone City from the outside world. (Secret Origins #50)

The cosmic counterparts hit it off and more team-ups followed. In their second meeting, the Flashes fought Allen's foes, Captain Cold and the Trickster. At this time, Jay told Barry about the Justice Society. (Flash #129) Soon after that, Barry actually met the JSA when the two of them rescued the Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Johnny Thunder from Vandal Savage. After this, the JSA came out of retirement. (Flash #137)

After this, team-ups between the Justice Society and Justice League became annual events, and the original Flash participated in almost all of those. In addition, he and Barry continued their trans-universal camaraderie, battling the Shade (Flash #151), Abra Kadabra (#170), and the Lord of Limbo. (#305)

Never one to bother hiding his real face in public, Jay officially outed himself as the Flash in an interview in We magazine. (DC Special Series #11, 1978)

Among his peers Jay Garrick was always the buoyant and steadfast one, yet the nature of fighting evil must eventually include difficult moral situations. Such was the case when the Rag Doll founded a cult and slayed the family of a famous actor. Starman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat and Dr. Mid-Nite hunted him down and the villain was apparently slain by Starman's cosmic rod. The next day, the JSAers removed Rag Doll's body from the morgue so that the cause of his death would not be publicly revealed. After this however, Rag Doll's followers rescued his body and nursed him to health. (Starman v.2 #9, 11, 67-68) Rag Doll reportedly had many children. Rag Doll II continued his father's cult. Rag Doll III was a complicated vigilante who bonded with the Secret Six. (Villains United #3) Their sister might have been the worst: ?? was a super-sadistic crime boss called ?? who fought both the Secret Six and the Birds of Prey. (Secret Six #??, Birds of Prey #??)

And during a Justice League team-up, Jay's body became the vessel of vengeance for an entity called the Spirit King. This wraith possessed the Flash's body and killed the JSA member Mr. Terrific. (Justice League of America #171-172) What's more, the Spirit King returned years later and nearly killed the second Mr. Terrific as well. (JSA #62)

The original Flash disappeared again for a time when the Justice Society entered another dimension in order to stave off an invasion. Joan Garrick received only an impersonal government telegram informing her that her husband was missing. She believed him to be dead. When the third Flash, Wally West, investigated Jay's disappearance, he learned the fate of the JSA from Green Lantern's children. Wally tried and failed to enter this Ragnarok dimension. (Flash Annual #3, 1989)

While he was gone, Joan was kidnapped by the Fiddler, who traveled back in time to seek revenge on the Flash in the 1940s. She was rescued by the new Hawkman and Hawkwoman of Thanagar, who followed her into the past. (Hawkworld Annual #1, 1990)

Leaving a Legacy

The JSA returned soon enough and true to form, he and Green Lantern decided to return to active duty. (Justice Society of America v.2 #1) The team's case load was sporadic, but the Flash could always be found among them. The days of regular JLA/JSA team-ups had subsided, but Jay was always on hand to help the Justice League with or without the Society. Several members aided the Justice League Europe against Sonar. (JLE #47-50) Following the death of Superman, Wonder Woman asked him to serve as their temporary field leader. (Justice League America #78-89)

Meanwhile, Jay became an integral part of the "Flash family" as a mentor to Wally West. He and another Golden Age speedster Johnny Quick also tracked down another hero of their kind, Max Mercury (aka Quicksilver). (Flash v.2 #76) When they battled Professor Zoom, Jay leg was broken. (Flash #78) That didn't stop him from pitching in against Kobra. (Flash #97-100)

In the cosmic event known as Zero Hour, fate awarded the Flash another measure of youthfulness. (Starman v.2 #20) His contemporaries were not so fortunate. Jay visited Johnny Thunder, whose Alzheimer's disease had become acute. Unbeknownst to Jay, Johnny inadvertently transferred his mystic Thunderbolt to a fountain pen, which he gave to Jay. (Flash #134) Later, Jay passed this pen onto young Jakeem Thunder, who continued Johnny's legacy. Jakeem joined the remaining JSA members in an old-style JLA team-up to stave off an imminent invasion from the 5th Dimension. (JLA #28-31)

Jay Garrick did not leave a blood legacy. He revealed only in his later days that he and Joan ??

At this point, the Justice Society was limited to those members lucky enough to benefit from supernaturally retarded aging. They came together at the funeral of the original Sandman, which was interrupted by a villainous attack. This set in motion the creation of an new Justice Society built with members who continued the legacies of the original group. The original Flash, Green Lantern (now "Sentinel") and Wildcat were joined by the children of their old friends. (JSA #1-2)

This team was hugely successful but for one such as Jay, who'd lived through a cycle of highs and lows, it looked like it might be time to finally call it quits. When the JSA headquarters was destroyed in a battle with the Gentleman Ghost, he considers disbanding the team. But his wife scolded him, saying that they were essential to the world. (JSA #87)

Indeed, the JSA enjoyed continued success after they rebuilt. One of their cases led him to his final station in life—public service. After the Justice Society saved the city of Monument Point, Jay refused to leave. (Justice Society of America #44-45) His generosity was not welcomed by all in Monument Point's ?? Hogan, who did everything he could to drive the heroes from the town. One of his plots resulted in the death of their mayor (#46) and in a bizarre twist, the City Council elected Jay as his replacement! His aide advised Jay to use his super-hero experience to deal with his mayoral duties—his strength was that he didn't care about reelection. (#49-51)

Back on Earth-2

One side note: Another result of the Infinite Crisis was the short-lived resurrection of a distinct Earth-2. This Earth bore a continuity that picked right up from the original Earth Two—as if the Crisis had not happened and things went on normally. (JSofA v.3 #11) The JSA and Infinity Inc. eventually merged to form Justice Society Infinity. The Flash had retired by this point. (JSofA Annual #1, JSofA #18-20)

The New 52

The Golden Age Flash last appeared in Justice Society of America v.3 #54. Following this, DC rebooted all of its mainstream continuity in late 2011. In the "New 52" universe, a young new Jay Garrick was created on Earth-2. Read about him here!

Earth-2, Version Two

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the original Earth Two was merged into all other surviving Earths. After the Infinite Crisis, the multiverse of the DC Universe was restored, there was again an Earth-2. Their history seemed to have unfolded as if the first Crisis had never happened (picking up approximately after Infinity, Inc. #24). On it, Infinity Inc. and the Justice Society merged to form Justice Society Infinity, and the Flash was a member. (JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom #1)

 

Notes

Geoff Johns Says: Along with Alan Scott, Jay is as important to the DC Universe as Superman in my eyes. He represents that tie to history and tradition and he fills a role no one else does. I think it’s important to have older mentors in a fictional universe who kick ass, just like Obi One and Gandalf. There was an editor at DC who no longer is there that said when we launched JSA back in ’99, “You should get rid of the ‘old guys’; they just make it lame.” I immediately thought, this guy doesn’t get it. The greatest thing about the DC Universe is the diversity in character types. From Adam Strange to Zatanna. From Krypto to Swamp Thing. Why have all the same type of characters? There are so many more stories to tell when you make the possibilities endless. (from Newsarama)

+ Powers

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • All-American Comics #74

» SERIES:

  • Flash Comics, 104 issues (Jan. 1940–Feb. 1949)
  • All-Flash, 32 issues (Summer 1941–Dec. 1947/Jan. 1948)
  • All-Star Comics #1-7, 10, 24-57 (Summer 1940–Feb./Mar. 1951)
  • Comic Cavalcade #1-29 (Winter 1942/43 – Oct./Nov. 1948)
  • JSA, 87 issues (1999-2006)
  • Justice Society of America v.3, current (2007–11)