Though he seems like something of a bit player compared to the rest of the Justice League, The Flash played an important role in comics history. The debut of Barry Allen and his brick red jumper heralded the dawn of Silver Age back in 1956, beginning a superhero comics renaissance and changing the underwear of all 5-year-olds forever. If you take into account the 1940s version of Flash, he's been around longer than Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and every single one of the Avengers -- which means he's had more chances to make an ass of himself than almost anyone. Out of complete disregard for the important contributions the character has made in the medium, we've collected Flash's most embarrassing moments below.
As far as villains go, Deathstroke is no slouch. Even before he was ripped off by the creators of Deadpool, Slade Wilson was among the smartest and strongest bad guys in the DC Universe. Still, he's not faster than The Flash, and he knows it. So he's taken every opportunity to use his opponent's speed -- his biggest and only strength -- against him. But here's the deal: Flash isn't helpless. He can run really fast, sure, but he can also think at lightning speed; whenever he gets insulted, Flash can rush to the shower and think of something really good to say and then rush back and hit them with the comeback before his hair is dry. So when coming around the corner in pursuit of someone he knows without a doubt to be a ruthless and cunning supervillain, at some point his superfast brain should have considered to look where he's running.
It was even worse in the Identity Crisis storyline, wherein Deathstroke sets up a series of explosions that he knows the Flash will dodge, leading him right onto his sword.
We get it, Deathstroke is a brilliant tactician who could even fend off the Justice League by pinpointing and striking at their weaknesses. He's like an evil Batman, with one major difference: When Batman outsmarts a foe, it just solidifies the belief that Batman has an IQ of 3,000 -- but when Deathstroke makes the Flash impale himself on a sword that he should otherwise perceive with his supersenses, it just makes Flash look like a moron. Even someone below-average brain capacity would've figured out by now that running full speed at Deathstroke will get yourself got.
Look, there's no dispute that the Cosmic Treadmill is bona-fide classic Silver Age gadgetry. It makes perfect sense for Flash in the 60s to come up with a method of time-travel that involves sprinting on a high-powered Nordic Track. It's the sort of wacky bullshit you just sort of accepted back then, not unlike George Jetson's evil man-eating treadmill. But it's absolutely baffling that, instead of letting it gather dust in his basement like most of the fitness equipment in America, Flash keeps trotting it out, year after year.
Since The Flash first called that 1-800 number in time to get the free cupholder with his Cosmic Treadmill, lots of other time-travel methods have been discovered in the DCU. Even goons with names like Time Lord and Booster Gold have time machines that don't ask you to run the Boston Marathon if you want rewind the TV without a DVR. On one hand, it's sort of nice to see something as unabashedly silly as the Cosmic Treadmill still kicking around in the modern day -- but superhero comics have changed, for better or worse. In a world where everyone's arms get cut off all the time, a goofy apparatus like the Cosmic Treadmill looks even dumber than wearing a scarlet leotard with yellow boots.
Speaking of those zany 1960s, back then DC was pretty fond of transforming its heroes in humiliating ways. Most of the time they'd just make their heads comically large and call it a day, but Flash #115 had something more sinister in mind for Barry Allen. In that issue Gorilla Grodd, an ultrasmart ape that stole my high school band name, shot Flash with a gun that made him absorb the air's moisture and swell up like an infected mosquito bite. But instead of the sudden water weight expanding his body at a rate so fast that his suit rips and his skin tears open at the seams, he just gets really fat. Get it? He used to be able to run fast but now he can't because he's being crushed by the weight of his own body. It's okay to laugh because fat people don't have feelings.
Empathy for real-world obese aside, I have to admit that the image of a superhero being rapidly engorged by a Fat Ray does look pretty hilarious... until Flash also gets hit with a memory-loss ray, which leads to a stranger taking him in and exploiting him. This is what happens on the exact same page, two panels later:
That... got pretty dark. Immediately after seeing a celebrated superhero gain 1,000 pounds in seconds, society's first instinct is to plop this amnesiac in front of a crowd and charge admission. The cover and storyline itself was meant to make the real world laugh at the idea of someone becoming morbidly obese against their own will, but then they have to go and make everyone in the comic a fat-hating chucklehead too. Only the promoter knows that it's actually The Flash, but the crowd is still slapping their knees at the idea of a really chunky dude in a colorful skintight suit. I hope these people never go to Comic-Con.
Barry eventually bullies his way to the dehydrating room -- because fat people are funny but also sometimes scary -- where becomes his sveldt self again and then saves the day. The moral of the story is: People are terrible in both fiction and reality; also it's a good idea to make superheroes subject to a real life-threatening condition that people struggle with every day, all in the name of drama and comedy. Next issue: Flash accidentally eats a bowl of Lou Gehrig's disease!