Fans of The CW’s The Flash may still be reeling from the revelations regarding Zoom’s identity in recent episodes, but fans of the comics could have seen it coming all along. The first season turned everything on its ear by revealing Earth-1 Harrison Wells had been replaced by Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, and this season’s twist is even bigger, with implications for two universes.
The concept of an opposite or reverse Flash dates back over sixty-five years, and each incarnation of The Flash has his own evil doppelganger that has risen up to try and tarnish the legacy of the Speed Force. From obsessive super-fans to strange family ties, the history of The Reverse Flash is as bizarre as any other super-legacy, and we’ve put together profiles of six of the most notorious men to put a nasty spin on the Flash mantle.
Rival (Dr. Edward Clariss)
Created by John Broome & Joe Kubert (Flash Comics #104)
The Rival first made his debut at a gala for Dr. Edward Clariss, Jay Garrick’s chemistry teacher and mentor, kidnapping the professor and holding him hostage. Jay investigated The Rival’s identity, believing it could possibly be a fellow student, but he was attacked by a gang of super-speedsters imbued with power by The Rival, brought before his enemy and depowered.
The Rival and his gang set out to rob Keystone Bank, but The Flash fought through The Rival’s compound that slowed his mind and reactions to stop the robbery and discover that The Rival was none other than Dr. Edward Clariss. Clariss overheard Jay’s wife Joan reveal parts of The Flash’s origin and tried to recreate it, but his super-speed was only temporary and without a top-up, he was powerless and sent to prison.
The Rival returned over fifty years later to menace Impulse by trapping his mentor Max Mercury in the Speed Force and actually getting away with it. Rival later appeared as a member of Johnny Sorrow’s Injustice Society with plans to kill Joan Garrick, but The Flash defeated him, and The Rival himself was trapped in the Speed Force.
Professor Zoom (Eobard Thawne)
Created by John Broome & Carmine Infantino (The Flash Vol 1 #139)
Eobard Thawne was born in the 25th century and grew up obsessed with The Flash in an age when hero worship was looked down upon. He emulated the accident that gave Barry Allen powers and came back in time to meet him, only to learn that he's destined to become The Flash’s greatest enemy, The Reverse Flash. This knowledge drove Thawne insane, and he believed he was Barry Allen for a time, fooling Barry’s family into believing he was back from the dead following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Following his defeat at the hands of Wally West, Thawne returned to his home time period with no memory of the incident and became Professor Zoom, archenemy of Barry Allen. He went on to kill Iris West, and when he threatened to kill Barry’s new love Fiona Webb, Barry was forced to take Thawne’s life.
Professor Zoom returned to life following Blackest Night, went back in time to bring Barry Allen back to life in Final Crisis, and further ruined Barry’s life by framing his father for his mother’s death when Barry was just a child. At this point, Thawne was referred to more as the Reverse Flash, which had always been more of a nickname, but it helped differentiate him from the other Zoom (see below).
Eobard Thawne was partly responsible for the Flashpoint crisis that created The New 52, although he died at the hands of that reality’s Batman. The New 52 incarnation of Professor Zoom is a completely different character. Still from the future, he gained super speed but was stopped by ordinary citizens who looked up to The Flash. He went on to grant speed based powers to a legion of followers and began tormenting Barry Allen in the present. He was eventually defeated and currently resides in Iron Heights prison.
Cobalt Blue (Malcolm Thawne)
Created by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn & Jim Aparo (Speed Force #1)
Did you know Barry Allen had an evil twin brother? You do now! On the night Barry and his brother were born, another woman’s child died on delivery due to the doctor's negligence. The doctor lied to Nora Allen and told her one of her twins didn’t survive, and presented that child to the Thawnes as their healthy baby boy to cover up for his mistake.
Malcolm Thawne grew up without the advantages Barry Allen had and was raised by con-artists who had the inherited power of a blue flame that could heal people, and Malcolm was mocked by his family for lacking this gift. He eventually discovered his origins, killed the doctor, and set about getting revenge on Barry Allen for stealing his life.
He discovered the power of the blue flame for himself, which was powered by his hatred for Barry, and became the villain Cobalt Blue. He was easily defeated by Barry Allen and Wally West, but resurfaced following Barry’s death, where Wally learned the truth of his origins and discovered that the hatred of the blue flame would carry on for one thousand years, inherited by members of the Thawne family for generations.
Over the course of a millennium, The Flash repeatedly fought Cobalt Blue in one form or another, with the power of the gem able to possess people at will, and eventually possessing an army of cross-time Flashes led by a possessed Jay Garrick. Wally and a time-travelling Barry Allen managed to stop Cobalt Blue, but at the cost of Barry’s life, which changed the timestream to one where The Anti-Monitor was victorious in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Wally eventually changed everything back and defeated Cobalt Blue for good, although it cost him his existence as he merged with the Speed Force and was thought dead for some time, replaced by the Dark Flash, Walter West, of a divergent timestream.
Inertia (Thaddeus Thawne II)
Created by Todd Dezago & Ethan Van Sciver (Impulse #50)
Bart Allen AKA Impulse is one-half Allen and one-half Thawne; his father was Don Allen of The Tornado Twins and his mother was Meloni Thawne, a distant descendant of Malcolm Thawne. Bart’s grandfather Thaddeus wanted to use Bart to carry on the legacy of the Thawnes, but he sided with the Allen clan.
Thaddeus then created a clone, Thaddeus II, who became the evil speedster Inertia, Bart Allen’s own Reverse Flash. He assumed Bart’s identity for a while and joined Deathstroke’s Titan East, relying on the speed drug Velocity 9 to maintain his powers.
Inertia eventually gathered up The Rogues and tricked them into going against their own code to kill The Flash, who at the time was an adult Bart Allen. This put Intertia in the crosshairs of The Rogues, but Wally West got to him and sucked all of his speed from him, rendering him as still as a statue, which Wally placed in the Kid Flash wing of The Flash museum.
Inertia recovered and, upon hearing of his escape, The Rogues set about tracking him down to get revenge for tricking them. He took on the mantle of Kid Zoom and, with the help of Hunter Zolomon, he unlocked more speed powers. But The Rogues found and killed him, leaving a note to The Flash that they were now even.
Zoom (Hunter Zolomon)
Created by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins (Flash Secret Files and Origins #3)
Hunter Zolomon was introduced as a friend of Wally West, a criminal profiler who was driven out of the FBI following a mistake that led to the death of his father-in-law. After an attack by Gorilla Grodd, Zolomon was left paralyzed and begged Wally to use the Cosmic Treadmill to go back in time and prevent all the terrible things that happened in his life. Wally denied the request, stating that the risks to the timestream were too great.
Zolomon used the Treadmill anyway, but it exploded and shifted him outside of time, giving him powers that resemble The Flash’s own super-speed, and he became the supervillain Zoom. Unlike most villains, Zoom was dedicated to making The Flash better through adversity, and everything he did was with that end in mind. This led to him attacking Wally’s wife Linda, causing her to miscarry their twins.
The attack was eventually undone when Wally teamed up with his uncle Barry to change the past, and Linda gave birth to two healthy babies, a boy and a girl. Zoom went on to clash with the Justice League, the Justice Society, and The Rogues. His powers were stripped by his protege Kid Zoom, which left him unable to walk. He was last seen in Iron Heights prison, making his predecessor Eobard Thawne an offer. Like many details of Geoff Johns’ second Flash run, it went nowhere, and Zolomon no longer exists in The New 52.
Reverse Flash (Daniel West)
Created by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (The Flash Vol 4 #0)
Daniel West was the brother of Iris West, and they grew up under the rule of an abusive alcoholic single father. One day, Daniel snapped and pushed his father down the stairs. Daniel ran away and fell in with the wrong crowd, and was caught by The Flash during his first heist.
Five years later Daniel was released from prison as Gorilla Grodd and his army waged war on Central City, and he crashed his car into Dr. Elias’ Speed Force battery. The wreckage of his car wrapped around him and he gained super-speed powers, but they needed to be recharged like a battery, so he began killing other people touched by the Speed Force as the Reverse Flash.
When he gained enough power he travelled back in time to kill his father, but was given pause by a young Iris who didn’t recognize her brother and only saw a monster. He gave his speed to the Flash in order to fix things, and the Flash took them both back to the present, where Daniel was sent back to prison.
Most recently, Daniel was recruited to be a member of the Suicide Squad, and died in the line of duty roughly around the same time The New 52 incarnation of Eobard Thawne was introduced. However, he has made appearances in alternate future stories such as Future’s End, and with a family connection to the West family, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return sooner or later.