THE FLASH: A Comics History of Sinister Speedsters

It’s a long-standing comic book trope. The iconic hero and their “dark doppelgänger” villain. Superman has Bizarro. Spider-Man has Venom. Green Lantern has Sinestro. The list goes on. But no character has more evil counterparts than the Flash. For as many Flashes as there have been thus far, there have also been one or more corresponding speedster villains for them to battle. Here are ten of the most iconic super-speed bad guys who have ever fought a Scarlet Speedster. And all of which helped to inspire the main villain in Andy Muschietti’s The Flash.

From (L) to (R); The Reverse Flash, the Black Flash, and Godspeed, all dark speedster rivals of the Flash.
DC Comics

The Rival (Edward Clariss) First Appearance – Flash Comics #104, 1949

The Rival, the first dark speedster, fights Jay Garrick, the original Flash.
DC Comics

Every Flash has an opposite number, even the original speedster, Jay Garrick. But his dark doppelgänger is not terribly memorable in look or in name. Dr. Edward Clariss was a professor at the same college Jay attended, and tried to replicate the accident that gave Jay his powers. But the scientific community dismissed his ideas, resulting in his being rejected by them and becoming a criminal. He temporarily gained speed and became a dark version of the Flash, before disappearing into the Speed Force. His first appearance was in the very last issue of Jay Garrick’s solo series in 1949. He wouldn’t return for another 50 years.

Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash (Eobard Thawne) First Appearance – The Flash #139, 1963

Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, ruining Barry Allen's life in Flashpoint.
DC Comics

He may not be the original evil speedster, but he set the template for the rest. No one villain has inflicted more damage on a Flash than this twisted madman from the 25th century. Growing up in the future, Eobard Thawne was the ultimate Barry Allen fanboy. He even got plastic surgery to make himself look like his idol. (Not at all creepy.) He recreated the accident that gave Barry his powers, traveling back in time to meet him.

The Reverse Flash returns in the Batman/Flash crossover The Button.
DC Comics

In the past, Thawne learned he was destined to become Flash’s greatest enemy, learning that Barry would one day murder him. This information drove him mad, and he became Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. Eventually, Thawne killed Barry’s wife Iris, and later went back in time and murdered Barry’s own mother. Despite having died more than once, the Reverse Flash continues to be a thorn in the side of every heroic speedster in the DC universe. But especially to Barry Allen.

Johnny Quick (Jonathan Allen) First Appearance – Justice League of America #29, 1964

Johnny Quick, the speedster of Earth-3's evil JLA, the Crime Syndicate.
DC Comics

At DC Comics there are two Johnny Quicks. We’re not talking about the good guy version here, father of Jesse Quick. We’re talking about the evil counterpart to the Flash from Earth-3. In the DC Multiverse, the first Johnny Quick was from Earth-3, and this Earth is the one where the Justice League is evil, and known as the Crime Syndicate of America. The helmet he wore controlled his super speed. After t he Crisis in Infinite Earths destroyed Earth-3, a new Crime Syndicate appeared, as part of the Anti-Matter universe. This version mainlined speed like drugs. Finally, Earth-3 returned, and so did Johnny Quick, now a convicted felon named Jonathan Allen who was struck by lightning, just like his Earth-0 counterpart Barry Allen.

Savitar, First Appearance – The Flash (Vol.2), December 1995

Savitar, the cult leader evil speedster who fought the Flash, Wally West.
DC Comics

This wicked speedster differed from the others because he was an actual cult leader. Introduced in Mark Waid’s ‘90s Flash run, Savitar was an unnamed former pilot, who gained super-speed when flying a hypersonic experimental plane and encountering the Speed Force. He believed his speed was God-given, and chose the name Savitar based on the Hindu god of motion. He eventually began a cult of worshippers, and became a primary adversary for Wally West’s Flash. Although defeated, he reappeared in recent years and framed Wally for manslaughter in the event Heroes in Crisis.

The Black Flash, First Appearance – The Flash (Vol.2) #140, 1998

DC Comics Speed Force version of Death, the Black Flash.
DC Comics

This speedster is less a person and more of a force of nature in humanoid form. The Black Flash is the representation of Death for anyone with a connection to the Speed Force. No one really knows where it came from, but the Flashes believed that because actual Death is too slow to ever catch a speedster, the Speed Force manifested a being who could catch up with them. Both the Barry Allen and Wally West versions are among the speedsters who have outrun the Black Flash, who appears to his victims like a zombie version of the Flash Barry Allen.

Dark Flash (Walter West) First Appearance – The Flash (Vol.2) #150, 1999

Walter West, the bitter, angry double of Flash Wally West.
DC Comics

An often-forgotten dark speedster, Walter West is a version of Wally West from an alternate timeline. This version of the Flash was less evil and more misguided. However, he did a lot of terrible things. Like Wally, he married reporter Linda Park. But criminals murdered his Linda, leaving him bitter and angry. He took justice into his own hands, and began a vigilante spree killing criminals of all sorts. He came to the main DC Earth, which was ten years behind his own timeline, and took Wally’s place for a time. We have to say, he had a pretty great costume, bad guy or not.

Inertia (Thaddeus Thawne) First Appearance – Impulse #51, 1999

Inertia, the evil clone of speedster Bart Allen, a.k.a. Impulse.
DC Comics

This is one evil speedster who is not talked about enough, but accomplished what most other evil speedsters only dreamed of doing —killing a Flash. He was actually a clone of former Impulse/Kid Flash/Flash Bart Allen, and thus, has all his speed abilities. They created him in the 30th century, and sent him back in time to kill his genetic donor. And the person who sent him? Earth President Thaddeus Thawne. Yes, of the Reverse Flash Thawne family, who know how to carry a family feud for centuries. Thaddeus Thawne Jr. was actually Inertia’s real name. He actually succeed in killing the Flash, and (for a time) Bart Allen was dead. The Flash’s Rogues, who had a grudging respect for their super-fast enemy, killed Inertia for his dark deed.            

Zoom (Hunter Zolomon) First Appearance – The Flash: Secret Files and Origins #3, 2001

Zoom, arguably Flash Wally West's biggest enemy, fighting his rival.
DC Comics

Although there were many years when the Eobard Thawne Reverse Flash was called Professor Zoom, the Zoom we’re talking about here is Hunter Zolomon. He was an FBI profiler, who injured himself seriously in an accident. Hoping to use Flash’s cosmic treadmill to heal himself, instead, he gave himself speed powers. He decided that he needed to become the Wally West Flash’s greatest villain, in order to make him a better hero. He took his name from Thawne, Barry Allen’s number-one baddie. Unlike most speedsters, Zoom makes time around him slow down relative to himself, thus giving the appearance of super speed.

Reverse Flash II (Daniel West) First Appearance – The Flash (Vol.4) #0, 2012

Daniel West, the second Reverse Flash, part of DC's New 52 timeline.
DC Comics

Every family has a black sheep, and the Wests are no different. They introduced Daniel West into the New 52 continuity at DC, the brother of Flash Barry Allen’s girlfriend, Iris West. Suffering trauma as a child from an abusive father, Daniel eventually turned to a life of crime. Because of an accident in Central City, he gained super speed. He discovered he could steal speed from other speedsters, and he hoped to use that extra power to go back in time and murder his abusive father, a reverse of Barry Allen’s quest to save his mother from death. He ultimately failed, and went to Iron Heights prison. His son Wallace West is the third Kid Flash.  

Godspeed (August Heart) First Appearance – The Flash (Vol. 5) #3, 2016

Godspeed, the latest dark speedster villain at DC comics.
DC Comics

One of the most recent sinister speedsters on this list, Godspeed has only been around since 2016. Godspeed was a serial killer who stole the Speed Force from others with similar powers, leaving them dead. He gained these abilities during a Speed Force storm, which hit Central City. This is the same storm that gave Flash Avery Ho her powers. Eventually, they revealed that Godspeed was Barry Allen’s friend, August Heart. He was a fellow police detective who took justice into his own hands and murdered his brother’s killer. But he had no problem killing others to make himself faster and more powerful in order to exact revenge.

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