Many people today think of either Barry Allen or Wally West as the fastest man alive. There was a time where that title belonged to one person 75 years ago who came out racing on the comics page. Jay Garrick, the original, the first, the fastest man alive, the golden age Flash! So who is this guy and where he get that sweet helmet? Let’s find out!
Jason “Jay” Peter Garrick was just a college graduate student studying heavy water. An accident would spill the contents with the fumes knocking Jay out. He was rescued and as he recovered, something happened. It seems this was all he needed to trigger both his metagene and link him to the extra-dimensional Speed Force. Gifted with super speed, Jay realized he could use these powers for good… and playing some great games of college football.
Donning his father’s helmet from World War I and using his powers to blur his smallest head movements to grant him anonymity, Jay would become The Flash, the fastest man alive. On his first outing he would stop the stealing and selling of an atomic bomb. Soon Jay wasn’t just dealing with regular criminals but super-powered criminals as well.
Marrying his college sweetheart, Joan, the two would reside in Keystone City. Jay could travel the world in minutes to help anyone he could. He’d come across other superheroes like himself and they would unite and found the Justice Society of America. As their first Chairman, Jay would lead the team throughout most of America’s time in World War II. Sadly, due to the Spear of Destiny residing with the Axis Powers, no super-powered human could aide in the war without risk of being mind controlled into fighting against the Allies. Still, Jay and the JSA would do their best to keep the world safe during the war.
Sometime after the war, three of Jay’s old enemies would unite to phase Keystone City out of reality, leaving he and all the residents in suspended animation while being lost and forgotten to the outside world. Not until Barry Allen was able to vibrate to the same frequency, by accident, were Jay and Barry able to free the town. Seeing there was a new Flash and that nearly 20 years had passed, Jay decided to retire, only returning when he was needed.
The world pretty much always need Jay Garrick. Coming out of retirement again and again, Jay would also end up getting all sorts of bizarre effects that would slow his aging. So much so that Jay could be active in the 1990s and only be a very fit 50 years old when he should have been older. He and Joan would be seen as a fatherly and motherly figure for the proceeding generations of superheroes.
When Barry died and his former sidekick, Wally West took over, Jay was their to mentor him. When Wally came back from the far future with Barry’s speedster grandson, Bart, Jay and Joan would adopt the boy. Training Bart and working with the JSA, training the next generation of heroes became a major part of Jay’s life. In his time with the JSA, Jay would be confronted by the Spear of Destiny once more but this time he’d feel the effects of its mind control powers and be forced to fight his fried and teammate, Wildcat, nearly killing him before his mind was freed.
When Superboy-Prime would come punching his way back into reality, Jay would unite with all the living speedsters to try and stop him. The plan was to run so fast to drag Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force, imprisoning him. Jay couldn’t keep up but he could grant the rest of power to the others and watched as his friends and the deadliest threat they’d ever encountered vanished in front of his eyes. Only Bart Allen returned, aged from a teenager to his early twenties. Like before, Jay would be the new Flash’s mentor, but he was much slower now as Bart had the Speed Force tied only to him, leaving Jay with nothing but his metagene granting him the ability to move at the speed of sound. Sadly, Bart’s time as the Flash was short-lived and Jay would mourn the death of a young man he’d come to accept as a son.
These were tumultuous times as soon after, Wally West along with his wife and children would return. Now taking on the role of grandather, Jay would try and help both these young speedster children as well as Wally and Linda as new parents. Jay would also be dealing with a possible near-apocalyptic dystopian future that was quickly becoming the present with the arrival of a being named Gog. He would fight to change the present for a better tomorrow and is turned into living Speed Force in the process.
In the New 52, Jay Garrick is a twenty-one year old college graduate when he is granted super speed by the god Mercury. Going up against the dark gods of Apokalips with other heroes, Jay deals with cosmic threats.
There you have it folks! Jay Garrick is my favorite Flash, Wally may be my Flash, but Jay always holds a special helmeted place in my heart. His costume design is so simple, cool, and recognizable. He can currently be seen making guest appearances on the CW show The Flash as a visiting resident of Earth 2. Maybe with that we’ll start seeing stores selling his helmet cause then you have my Christmas gift already picked out. See you next time!
The Golden Age Flash Archives Vol. 1 & 2
The Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told
The Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told
Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team Ups Vol. 1 & 2
Justice Society of America