Take a lap: 9 of the most electrifying super-speedster races in comics

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Mar 15, 2016

[Editor's Note: March kicks off a season of big-time showdowns, grudge matches and maybe a few team-ups. Infamous as the month when Brutus betrayed Caesar, March will get even more epic because Batman will take on Superman on the big screen, Daredevil will get company in Hell's Kitchen in the form of The Punisher on Netflix, and The Flash shall race on over to CBS to meet Supergirl. And, of course, just a few weeks after this kickoff, we'll see a breakdown in the friendship between Captain America and Iron Man in Marvel's Civil War movie. Because we love seeing a good battle between titans, we've dedicated March to versus. Over the next four weeks, check this space for stories on title fights in superhero stories, horror, science and more!]

During Blastr’s Vs. Month we’ve been spotlighting superhero throwdowns of all kinds, but not all great battles are done through feats of strength. Many of the greatest superheroes of the Marvel and DC Universes possess the ability to move faster than a normal human, and some characters possess speed that boggles the mind and rends time and space asunder.

Races between these speedsters have been started off by circumstances both friendly and dire, but often with legendary results. The tradition of sense-shattering super-speed races is best known in the form of the friendly rivalry between the Flash and Superman, which dates back to 1967, and which is about to dash into live action when the Flash crosses over with Supergirl in an episode whose first promo poster is an homage to the cover of the issue.

The Flash/Superman rivalry is only the first heat, however, as there have been many other fleet-footed heroes from the comics that have taken their marks at the starting line and challenged each other’s limits in meta-human marathons. Just try to keep up with these nine super-speed races from comic-book history!



(Superman vol. 1 #199, 1967, by Jim Shooter and Curt Swan)

The starting gun for superhero races went off for the first time when the Secretary General of the United Nations asked Superman and the Flash to participate in a race for charity. All of the money raised would go to aid programs in third-world countries, so of course both heroes agreed. A worldwide obstacle course race was organized and the two were off, faster than a pair of speeding bullets.

Sadly, bad guys always seem to find a way to ruin these sorts of events, and this time was no different. On the third and final lap two opposing crime families who had placed bets on the opposing heroes began setting a series of traps in order to stall the other hero. One family held a plane of glass across the highway, Wile E. Coyote style, and the Flash ran into and was captured while the other family ambushed Superman with Kryptonite dust. Both organizations replaced the heroes with impostors whose covers were blown as soon as they figured out that they were both trying to lose. The real deals freed themselves about the same time, crossing the finish line simultaneously so that no one wins the bet. 

In fact, they even tied a second race — this time across the Milky Way — a few months later, and it wasn’t until a third race in 1970 that Superman ceded the title of “fastest man alive” to the Flash.



(Squadron Supreme 2015 #3, by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk)

If I learned anything from Dick Dastardly, it’s that the best way to win a race is to fight dirty. Wacky Races is clearly a multiversal constant, because that also happens to be the lesson applied by Squadron Supreme member Blur — last survivor of Earth-148611 —when he raced Quicksilver.

Blur’s team came up against the Avengers Unity Squad when the Avengers ambushed Nighthawk in Arizona, and he called in the rest of the Squadron for backup. Blur briefly sparred with Deadpool, and Quicksilver with Hyperion, before the two speedsters paired up with each other and began trading high-velocity blows. They ran a neck-and-neck race across the Grand Canyon and around the world, passing London, Italy, and Japan before Blur lead them right back to where they’d started, sending Quicksilver tumbling over an invisible tripwire set up by Nighthawk, giving Blur the opportunity to knock Pietro out. It might not have been a perfectly virtuous victory for Blur, but it’s what Muttley would have wanted.



(Superboy vol. 5 #5, 2011, by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo)

The race between Kid Flash and Superboy was about as friendly as these things get. Wayne Enterprises donated a lot of money to the race as a fundraiser for Smallville farmers who’d lost their land to recent supervillain attacks. The principal of Smallville High, where Conner Kent was attending school, shot the starting gun, which apparently startled Krypto the Superdog, because he took off along with the two teenage speedsters.

Like I said, this race was pretty casual, with Conner worrying more about his relationship with Wonder Girl — who hadn’t shown up to cheer him on — than he was with winning, at least at first. Bart stopped Conner atop a pyramid to talk to him about his feelings, and a small bit of bro-bonding later they were both headed full speed for the finish line, neither wanting to give bragging rights to the other. Surprisingly, the victor of the race wouldn’t be doing any bragging, but he would do plenty of barking. Still probably unaware that there was a race at all, Krypto zoomed past Kid Flash and Superboy just as they returned to Smallville, leaving the Smallville Ledger newspaper to declare Superman’s best friend the “World’s Fastest Dog."



(The Ultimates 2 #12, 2004, by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch)

Not all match-ups between speedsters end in a photo-finish, since the limits of super-speed can vary wildly depending on the runner. This is a lesson learned the hard way by the Ultimate Universe’s Hurricane, a North Korean woman granted super-speed in exchange for inclusion in the multinational superpowered strike force known as the Liberators.

Hurricane and her teammates clashed with the Ultimates during their occupation of Washington, D.C., and Blur took the opportunity to deliver a merciless beating to Hawkeye in front of the White House. It didn’t last long, as Quicksilver bolted in and initiated a blindingly fast battle with Hurricane, who relished the chance to take on someone else up to speed. Unfortunately for Hurricane, her power paled in comparison to Pietro’s, who after trading a few punches and quips, grabbed her and accelerated to such a speed that she disintegrated in his hands. This all happened in the miniscule span of time it took for Hawkeye to fall to the ground from the last punch landed on him, leaving Pietro’s heroics unnoticed.



(Justice #7, 2006, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite)

When Billy Batson says the magic word, “Shazam,” lightning strikes and transforms him into Captain Marvel and is endowed with the power of the gods! Each letter in the magic word stands for a legendary hero from whom he draws his power: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. That last one grants him unbelievable speed, which comes in handy when you need to catch up to the Flash.

In the 2005 maxiseries Justice, the Silver Age incarnations of the Justice League go to war with the Legion of Doom, who have elaborate strategies and traps to subdue the heroes individually. When Clark Kent is ambushed by Bizarro, Parasite, Solomon Grundy and Metallo, he sends out a distress signal to the Flash, who plays right into the Legion of Doom’s hands by zipping away to help Superman, not knowing that Captain Cold had spiked his food with something that made it impossible for the scarlet speedster to stop running! He made countless laps around the world, moving so fast that he appeared to be racing himself!

Luckily, Captain Marvel stepped in and saved Superman and then used the speed of Mercury to effortlessly catch up to the Flash, making his godlike speed seem equal — if not superior — to that of the fastest man alive. But Captain Marvel was unable to grab Barry because he was vibrating so fast, and so to stop his momentum, he caught up and yelled “Shazam!”, striking them both with a bolt of lightning that sent Billy and Barry flying into Superman’s arms. The Flash was weak, but back on his feet in no time. It wasn’t his first time being hit by lightning, after all.



(The Flash vol. 2 #55, 1991, by William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRocque)

The Flash got another chance to challenge the speed of the gods, but this time it was a different Flash! Wally West was the Flash in 1991, and so he was the one to be caught up in a conflict between two speed-gods, the Greek messenger god Hermes and his near-identical Roman counterpart, Mercury. Oddly, neither of the gods wear their trademark winged helmet in this story. Perhaps they were jealous of Jay Garrick, the original Flash, wearing it better.

Hermes arrived in Keystone first, and goaded Flash into a race. He toyed with Wally by utilizing his ability to ignore petty mortal laws like inertia, which ignited Wally’s temper, causing him to get sloppy and fall right into the trickster’s trap. True to form for a god of thieves, Hermes stole the Flash’s speed and flew away, leaving Flash to lick his wounds with a lot of food and a game of Dungeons and Dragons (seriously). 

Hermes made his presence known to the Flash later that day when he stole Lady Flash’s speed as well. Wally luckily is able to fully recover (after eating another large meal) and confronts Hermes, who was using the stolen speed to survive an attack by Mercury, whose Roman pantheon had declared war on their Greek predecessors. Flash led Mercury away, admitting to himself he’s slower than both gods, and ran Mercury straight into the mouth of his friend Chunk — a living black hole. Mercury escaped almost immediately, but it bought Wally enough time to get a running start from the neighboring state and lands a haymaker on Mercury, who teleports away. Hermes thanked Flash and Chunk for the save, and swept Wally away to join the War of the Gods crossover event.



(Superman vol. 2 #221, 2005, by Mark Verheiden and Ed Benes)

“On mark, set, stop! Loser take all!” Cheetah and Zoom weren’t quite sure whether Bizarro refused or accepted their proposal to join Lex Luthor’s Secret Society of Super-Villains when they initially asked him, and he left them for a long day of giving Superman and Jimmy Olsen migraines. Bizarro sought them out later that evening and challenged the furiously confused Zoom to a race.

Thanks to Bizarro’s twisted speech and logic, Zoom was unsure whether he should win or lose in order to recruit him, and so he just ran alongside Bizarro, yelling at him as they zig-zagged nonsensically across North America. They then took a jaunt across the Atlantic so Bizarro could stop to eat some grapes and freeze a French vineyard, before finally coming to a stop at the base of one of the pyramids, where he declared himself the disgraced winner. Bizarro agreed to join the Society and thanked Zoom for all the insults he’d hurled at him the whole race, rewarding his “new best moron pal” with a spine-crushing hug.



(Quasar #17 & 58 -- 1990, 1994 -- by Mark Gruenwald, Peter Sanderson, Mike Manley and John Heebink)

There’s nothing that Marvel’s Elder’s of the Universe like more than to make super-people pointlessly compete for their amusement, and the Elder known as the Runner does it by forcing them to race him in his Galactic Marathon!

When the Runner arrived on Earth, he brought together Black Racer, Speed Demon, Super Sabre, Quicksilver, then-Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau, the Whizzer, and the Eternal known as Makkari and invited them to race and prove themselves the fastest man on Earth and gain a spot in the upcoming race. The Runner created a road from Earth to the moon for them to run on, and the seven competitors took off from the starting line with gusto. One by one the racers had begun to hit their walls, with Makkari emerging as the leader, when an eighth racer burst onto the course in a blinding … flash. The mysterious blond man crackled with lightning, wore tattered yellow and red spandex and knew nothing of himself other than his need to run. The amnesiac speedster passed Makkari at the last second, and told the impressed Runner that “Buried Alien” sounded about right for his name.

But Makkari didn’t let that slow him down. He spent the next several months training and when it came time for the big race, he begged the Runner for a chance to compete in the race, and beat the qualifying time one-legged in order to get in. He raced against the Runner, Buried Alien (now going by Fast Forward), and several strange looking aliens, including an energetic bunny carrying a drum, which he uses to sabotage most of the other racers. Buried Alien stops him, leaving Makkari to claim victory over the Runner. In one final ridiculous easter egg, Makkari’s medal is bestowed upon him by an alien creature that looks suspisciously like Looney Tunes’ Road Runner.



(JLA/Avengers #1-4, 2003-04 by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez)

If you’ve hung around Marvel and DC fans at the same time for very long, odds are you’ve heard the age old question: Who is faster, Quicksilver or the Flash? It is one of those ridiculous hypotheticals that no one thought they’d ever have an answer to, but Marvel and DC managed to put their differences aside for a few months in 2003 to provide an answer. Sort of.

Quicksilver and the Flash finally got to race in JLA/Avengers — a massive crossover between the flagship superteams, and currently the last crossover between the two publishers — but the results weren’t as definitive as some fans hoped. The story unfolded across both universes, and the two speedsters raced each other multiple times, each setting yielding a different result. In the Marvel Universe, Wally West found himself unable to tap into the Speed Force, and was rendered powerless, but when Pietro took him on in the DCU, Wally was significantly faster. This resulted in a begrudging tie that has left fans on both sides hopelessly praying for a JLA/Avengers 2 to give them a rematch on neutral ground.

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