A lot of you have probably seen Jay Garrick by now on The Flash, but some of you may still be unfamiliar with the original Flash. Here’s a primer on the Golden Age Flash as he appears in the comics!
College student and scientist Jay Garrick was experimenting with hard water, when an accident knocked him unconscious. (He knocked over his experiment during a smoke break. It was the 1940s, you guys. Later stories would change this to ‘heavy water vapors’, and removed the cigarette reference altogether.) Spending the whole night breathing in the fumes from his accident, Jay woke up in the hospital with super-speed. After a brief attempt to bank on his speed as a football star, Jay eventually decided to become a superhero and do good, donning his father’s World War I helmet, and becoming the first to be known as “The Flash”.
Originally based in New York City, and then moving to the fictional Keystone City, the Flash became a founding member of the Justice Society of America, even befriending the Green Lantern of his time, Alan Scott; a trend that would follow into modern stories.
Jay proved to be a fairly popular character, but after World War II, superhero comics soon declined and Jay disappeared along with other Golden Age superheroes in comic books.
Fast forward to 1956, and DC Comics decided to reinvent the Flash character with a more sci-fi bent, and Barry Allen was created, in a continuity where Jay Garrick only existed as a character in a comic book (Yay, meta!). While the new Flash proved popular, readers still wanted to see the original. So, in the now classic Flash #123 “Flash of Two Worlds”, Jay made his first guest appearance in one of the first “multiple earth” stories that DC would use to keep their older characters active, yet separate from then-modern continuity. On what eventually became known as Earth-2, Jay was shown to be much older (keeping continuity with the original series) and had been retired from superheroics for some time. When Barry needed his help however, Jay eagerly put the crimson and the lightning back on.
In 1985, DC merged all their continuities into one by way of the story Crisis on Infinite Earths (Really fun, I recommend it to everyone, even those new to superhero comics. Plus, fans of the Flash TV series may notice some more easter eggs after reading this.) and Jay Garrick was rewritten as being the original Flash active during WWII, retired until Barry Allen eventually took up the name. Since then, Jay has been a father figure for the superhero community alongside the other still-active members of the Justice Society, notably being the elder statesman of the Flash family until the most recent reboot by DC comics, in the new 52.
Some Flash Facts about Jay, and other cool things:
- Despite the lack of a mask, Jay keeps his identity secret by vibrating his features and relying on his speed.
- While no longer as fast as he once was due to his age, Jay is consistently portrayed as making up for it with experience.
- When the Flash went rogue in “The Return of Barry Allen” story, Jay led the charge alongside other veteran speedsters to keep this Barry in control.
- Has his own Reverse-Flash, in the form of “Rival”, another scientist by the name of Dr. Edward Clariss, who recreated the experiment that gave Jay superspeed but used his powers for evil instead.
- Even though retired, Jay still uses his powers and is more than willing to resume active duty, subbing in when necessary .
- As the elder Flash, the other speedsters look to Jay for advice, from life to superheroics.
- Jay though, is more than willing to learn from the younger Flashes as well; once using Wally’s speed absorption trick to absorb Black Adam’s speed; giving him enough speed to banish an Elder God. Yes, that happened.
- Jay, unlike the other Flashes, is a true metahuman; when the Speed Force disappeared and the other speedsters were unable to access their powers, Jay retained some of his speed and took over as the active Flash until Bart Allen was able to step up.
- This is also not Jay’s first TV appearance; references to Jay have been made in the original Flash TV series, has shown up in the Young Justice animated series, and he even made a cameo appearance on Smallville, alongside other Justice Society characters.
All characters are the property of DC Comics and are used here without permission. This site is in no way affiliated with DC Comics.
The CW’s The Flash airs at 8:00pm ET on Tuesdays.