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You Oughta Know: Jay Garrick

You Oughta Know: Jay Garrick

Jay Garrick by Alex Ross

With comic book adaptations on almost every channel and streaming service, fans will meet many new characters with extensive backstories. We’re here to introduce these characters to help lessen the learning curve. 

Back in its second season’s first episodeThe Flash introduced the Flash. No, not Barry Allen. This character is known to comic fans as the first Flash, and his name is Jay Garrick.

Well before Barry, Wally West or anyone else donned the scarlet speedster’s jumpsuit, Jay was the fastest man alive. Created in 1940 by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, Jay inhaled vapors that granted him superspeed. His costume was simple: blue pants, a red t-shirt with a yellow lightning bolt, and his father’s World War I helmet with wings resembling Mercury’s, the Roman God.

During the Golden Age, Jay was a part of the Justice Society of America and was its leader until he left the team and book. Throughout the 1940’s, the character was popular and became one of the medium’s breakout characters despite lacking major villains to fight. His stories were typical of the Golden Age; easy morals and heroes beating villains were par for the course. Of course, that meant that he was retired in the early 1950s as the popularity of superheroes waned and DC started cancelling many of its titles.

The Flash came roaring back once an interesting direction was found. Much like his television counterpart, Jay helped usher in the multiverse as part of the iconic “The Flash of Two Worlds.” Jay met Barry when the latter traveled to Earth-Two, which he thought was a fictional setting for some popular comic books. The two teamed up, prompting Jay to come out of retirement and reclaim his mantle as Earth-Two’s Flash.

This set a huge precedent for DC; almost every time there’s a multiverse shattering event, a Flash is involved. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jay and his hometown (Keystone City) became a part of Earth-One, allowing the character to interact more freely with his namesakes and new heroes. He also served as integral part of the new JSA as one of the established veterans who taught younger heroes as they adopted legacies from previous generations.

Over time, Jay became one of the defining mentors in DC’s universe. Besides guiding the JSA and occasionally Teddy Sears as Jay Garrickhelping Barry and Wally, he also helped raise Bart Allen, who adventured as Impulse, Kid Flash, and finally the Flash. Jay’s time as Bart’s guardian highlighted the former’s ability to take speedsters to the next level and encourage them to work beyond their flaws. Where Bart started as a reckless time traveler who put himself in harm’s way in search of a quick fix, he became a wiser and more thoughtful hero who ultimately became worthy of becoming the Flash thanks to Jay’s tutelage.

Beyond the costume, powers, and home Earth, this is the most important trait brought to the CW’s version of Jay (played by Teddy Sears). While this iteration of the character may only have had his powers for two years, his goal is to teach Barry new skills and unlock his true potential as a hero.

Every great hero has a mentor. Every Flash is lucky enough to have learned from Jay, the original.