DC has finally made it official. According to the latest issue of the Flash (Flash v5 #49, “Flash War, Part 3”), the Flash is faster than Superman.
Well, this is probably as it should be, Flash is, after all, ‘the Fastest Man Alive’ while Superman is acknowledged to be the ‘Man of Steel’. Making the latter faster than the former seems counter-intuitive.
The problem throughout the years hasn’t been that the Flash isn’t fast enough or that his top speed changes (although it does, i.e. depending on the version of the Flash we’re talking about. For example, when Wally West first inherited the scarlet cowl, after the 1985 Crisis event that killed Barry Allen, he was originally written as being decidedly slower than his mentor). No, the Flash isn’t the problem. In my humble opinion, the real problem is Superman. Supes’ abilities change throughout the years.
The increase and decrease in Superman’s powers, moreover, don’t always depend on different versions of the character. In reality, Superman’s powers change depending on who is writing him. Basically, he is as strong or as fast as the writers need him to be. But it’s a good idea to leave a limit in the speed department, since Flash is the speedster – it’s what defines him. Superman, of course, has many other powers.
In terms of Flash-Superman races, the question of who is truly the fastest was left open for the past 51 years, with only subtle hints that the Flash is actually faster. The two Justice League members would meet and race many, many times, but the most common outcome was that these races would end in a tie. Not that that makes these race issues any less collectible or valuable.
Here are my selections for the best Superman-Flash races to buy in terms of return on value:
For a lot of fans, one of the best moments of the 2017 Justice League movie was the first mid-credits bonus scene. Superman and Flash are preparing to race- “But if I win, you’re off the team” says Clark to Barry. At last, the characters are acting like their comic book counterparts, why were exchanges like this left as post-credit scenes! Oh well, the tradition of the Superman versus Flash race all starts with Superman #199. The plot is as follows: Superman and the Flash decide to hold a race for charity to benefit the United Nations. Of course it’s not as simple as that, since their race is also being bet on by various mobsters and other interested parties. After capturing the heroes and replacing them with doubles who will throw the race, the original Flash and Superman break free and deliberately make the race a tie so none of the criminals can collect the winning bet. This is the most collectible of the Flash-Superman races. Hard to find in high grade, only four 9.6 copies (highest known grade) are known to exist. Best returns have been on 7.0 copies which currently sell for $325.00.
So popular was the first Superman-Flash race that DC did it all over again a few months later. In this issue of The Flash we see the rematch. This time, space aliens force Superman and Flash to race again with the consequence of seeing their home cities destroyed if they refuse. The aliens (in reality the Flash villains: Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra in disguise) want the two to run so they can collect the bets they made on the first race. The two are told to race to the end of the Milky Way Galaxy and back. Once again we are not told who wins, it’s another tie. If the original Superman-Flash race is out of your price range, this rematch issue is much more affordable and also seeing good returns in higher to mid-grades. An 8.0 copy can be found for around $220.00.
Who is the Fastest Man Alive? The third Superman-Flash race was another story set in space. This time guest starring the Guardians of the Universe from Oa who inform the heroes that they must run to fight creatures known as the Anachronids, These creatures are trying to destroy time, and in the course of the comic we learn that they were created by the Phantom Zone villains Jax-Ur, General Zod, Kru-El, and Professor Vakox. This was the first of a two-part story that was continued in World’s Finest #199, and by the end of the story the heroes actually finish the race. Although the Flash wins this one, in the end it’s an unsatisfactory victory since both are exhausted from their efforts to escape the Phantom Zone so that, by the finish, the two literally crawl over the finish line. Best returns are on 8.5 graded copies, which currently sell for circa $140.00.