Move fast. Speed is one of your main advantages over competitors – Sam Altman
In the final tantalizing moments of Justice League Superman and The Flash line up on a pre-arranged starting line and with a friendly grin, they both hit the gas and take off like lightning in an attempt to find out which of them is the fastest.
Unfortunately, as the screen fades to black and the rest of the credits roll before their challenge ends, we never find out who crossed the finish line first.
But it isn’t the first time in their extensive, shared history that these two titans of the DC Universe have actually raced, and if the past is anything to go by, it won’t be the last either.
The four-color versions of Superman and the Flash have actually raced each other nine times, and the results of those races have produced a clear and consistent winner, and before we reveal which of them is the fastest superhero, we thought it would prudent to look at who was faster on paper, Superman or The Flash, before taking a deep dive into some of the more famous races and finally revealing who the King of Speed is.
Superman: The Fast Facts
We know Superman is fast. Even if the comic books hadn’t already established it, by the time Christopher Reeve became the Man of Steel and reversed the rotation of the Earth in 1978’s Superman by flying around the world in low orbit at superspeed in an attempt to turn back time, the whole world knew that Superman was fast.
Do we know how fast Superman is? We kind of do.
In the Snyder cut of the Justice League, Kal-El flies from sea level to the upper limits of the atmosphere in roughly eight seconds, and to cover the distance he does in that time, he’d have to be capable of flying at a speed of roughly two and a half million miles per hour.
If we take his comic book history into account, things tend to get slightly more confusing as different writers have claimed that he can fly at different speeds at different periods in his history.
As he’s visited far off worlds and traveled to other galaxies, in order to be able to do so, it’s generally assumed by fandom that he can fly at many times the speed of light, because if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be able to cross the staggering intergalactic distances that he has.
However, trying to ascertain how many times faster than the speed of light Superman can fly is nearly impossible, as it varies according to the demands of the story being told.
The Flash – The Speedsters Speedster
Now that we’ve established that Superman can fly faster than the speed of light, it’s time to find out how fast the Flash can run.
We know that Barry Allen (the Flash’s secret identity) shares the same basic powers as every speedster in the DCU, which means that when he enters the Speed Force, according to four color lore, he can run at ten times the speed of light.
And ten times the speed of light? That’s 1.86 million miles per second. Which is a good place to start from.
We also know that during his time as a speedster, The Flash outran the Black Flash, who was the avatar of death for speedsters, and by doing so, actually managed to reach the edge of the universe and ran out of space, and time.
Let that sink in for a minute. The Flash outran the physical limitations of the Universe and the laws of physics. So if anyone could challenge Superman for the title of the DCU’s fastest hero, it’s definitely The Flash.
Off To The Races
The first time that Superman and The Flash raced each other, was for a United Nations Charity in Superman #199, but when the world found out about the race, the criminal community began to bet on the outcome and in an effort to try and gain an advantage attempted to sabotage both heroes.
After discovering why they had become targets, in order to hamper the previously mentioned criminals, Superman and The Flash decided to end the race as a draw and both crossed the finishing line at the same time.
The next time that they decided to try to find out who was fastest was in The Flash #187, when after racing through space, which meant that the Flash had to be surrounded by a forcefield, the race finished in… That’s right, a draw.
Again. The writers of the book, and fandom, have claimed that depending on the angle you look at the page that features the finish of the race from, the “official” result is nonsense and there is a clear victor.
But if you want to find out who “won”, you’ll have to find a copy of the book, because we don’t do spoilers.
Their third most famous showdown was in Race To Save The Universe, which was, as the title suggests, quite literally a race to save the universe.
As usual with these tightly plotted tales, both heroes encountered their fair share of disasters along the route, but surprisingly, this time there was a clear victor. The Flash actually won.
There Can Be Only One… Victor
Since those first three races, our heroes have raced an additional six times. With nine clear results having been recorded for posterity, we can now reveal that three of those races ended in a draw, and Superman was declared the winner on one occasion.
That means that The Flash has five clear wins over Superman, and as such there can only be one conclusion about who the fastest superhero in the DC Universe is.
It is, of course, Barry Allen, also known as The Flash. We’re sure that you didn’t have any real doubt and that when you started reading you probably muttered, “I’ll bet it’s The Flash” to yourself, and if you did, congratulations you were right. The Flash really is faster than Superman.