The Flashes' Secret Ids Going Public
May 6, 2003 - 22:05
This article is the most thorough account of the secret identity aspects of the lives of Barry Allen and Wally West, the Flashes. It is an authorized republication from a message board posting. The Comic Book Bin hopes you enjoy it as much as we did.
By Marcelo Cury
After reading Green Arrow #17- which was very good- I decided to check some facts on the moments when Barry Allen and Wally West had their identities revealed. The result was a bit too big, but I'll try to post it here anyway in several smaller posts (under this topic). (I guess I'll be stealing SNW21's thunder as über-poster & Flash reference here, but I swear it's just this time, hehh)
A Flash-fact if there is one: The Flash doesn't have a secret identity- since he ditched his "Kid Flash" persona and took on the mantle of Barry Allen (his late predecessor), Wally West's life is an open book to the public.
But it didn't begin that way- as anyone who has read the first couple of issues into Wally's run as the Flash (Flash v.2 #1 & 2), and the "Legends" mini-series as well- will attest, the Flash did have a secret identity, at least for a short time.
Also, Barry Allen never revealed his identity to the general public, but after he died (in the Crisis), everyone knew his secret. So how did that happen?- or better yet, did it happen?
The answer is no. There were a few hints here and there, but no actual revelation... or at least till the November, 2002 issue (#17) of Green Arrow, where newcomer writer Brian Meltzer did us Flash-fans a favor by telling us about Barry. Or rather, Oliver Queen himself did:
Green Arrow: "It actually started with Barry. When he died, we all lost a friend. But Hal [Jordan, Green Lantern] lost a brother. It was Hal’s idea to gather Barry’s keepsakes. Not just to honor him... but to protect his identity and those close to him. Unlike Barry, though, we weren't fast enough. The [Flash] Museum opened its newest exhibit six months later, and the whole world knew. Take it from me... that's the real reason Wally went public."
Actually Mr. Queen only missed the mark on his
last sentence- though hey, it is the character's opinion and thus not
necessarily wrong. Wally West did go public with his secret identity for
two reasons: First and foremost, to honor Barry's memory- as Wally
himself said several times. Let's take a look at one of those times just
to make sure- a conversation between the Flash and DEO's Agent Chase in
the recent The Flash Secret Files & Origins #3 (11/01), as written
by Dan Curtis Johnson:
Agent Chase: "Why did you go public with your
ID?" Flash: "(...)It wasn't the Flash who died in the Crisis, it was
Barry Allen. When I went public, part of the reason was to make sure he
didn't get forgotten."
Wally's other reason to go public in the
beginning of his career as the Flash was, he was going through an
identity crisis- due to the pressure of having taken on Barry's mantle,
which meant the world to him.
Even though it was Flash writer Mark Waid whom
better dwelt on the subject, there is a passage from Secret Origins
Annual #2 (1988) by William Messner-Loebs that shows it best- when
Wally's shrink tells him, "You're allowed to be alive when Barry's
dead."- and then goes on to explain the whole "Imposter's Syndrome" he
said Wally was suffering at the time (ergo, feeling that Barry's boots
were too big for him to fill).
Of course, Waid did go further with the theme in
his great "The Return of Barry Allen" storyline- when Wally finally
came to terms with all that and became his own man, the ultimate Flash.
But let's move a little further backwards to
take a better look at the identity crisis deal: Even though the first
time Wally "became" the Flash, it happened in the last issue of Crisis
on Infinite Earths... but it was shortly after that, in Legends #1
(11/86, scripted by Len Wein) that he officially debuted.
His ID still a secret, Wally is questioned by a
group of New Yorkers after defeating the villain Deadshot- "Didn't you
use to be taller?", "Why didn't ya just catch the bullets- or vibrated
...because Wally's top speed by then was around
Mach 1 if you remember the Crisis- As Kid Flash, Wally had a strange
disease that was killing him every time he used his speed, and after he
was hit by a blast from the Anti-Monitor, he was healed- but as Jay
Garrick noted- his speed was greatly reduced (and as time passed, Mark
Waid established that Wally's disease & limits were not really due
to his metabolism, but the result of mental blocks which have been
shattered since then).
Anyway, after returning Deadshot to the Police,
the Flash goes to the Titans Towers to find someone he can talk to, Gar
Let Me Tell You a Secret
In Legends #4 (02/87), the Flash encounters
Captain Boomerang, one of Barry's old foes (from Australia). Boomerang,
as well as the general public, isn't aware of his secret identity just
yet- though he acknowledges it is Kid Flash who's wearing his enemy's
Captain Boomerang: "Well, fancy meeting you
‘ere... Kid Flash! (...) I ‘eard you was tryin' to fill the old boy's
boots, but frankly mate, you just ain't man enough!"
By the end of Legends #6 (04/87), Wally refuses
Dr. Fate's invitation for joining up with the all-new Justice League,
saying "I'm still trying to sort out all the mess my life has become-
but I'll be there if you really need me!"
...And cut to Wally's own series, Flash #1-2 (06
& 7/87, written by Mike Baron), where alas!, his identity is still a
secret. Not a very well-guarded or important one, but still a secret.
For instance... when he's called by a Hospital to help them with the
transportation of a heart for a transplant, he is surprised they found
him at home (the Hospital was given his home number by the Titans).
Also, by the time he's returning home from his
task he foils up some terrorists' attempt at hijacking an airplane and
has to reveal his ID to the airport Police... and when he's treating his
wounded hand with a doctor at the Hospital, his girlfriend is actually
startled that Wally told him his secret. And so on.
To tell the truth, Wally tells about a zillion
people his identity as the Flash in those first couple of issues: he
simply doesn't care it's a secret- of course, to honor the memory of the
late Barry Allen.
But even so, it is still a secret, only a not
well-guarded one at all. When Wally wins the lottery by #2, he is given
the money by the state's governor on TV- and it's never mentioned he's
In Flash #3 (8/87), Wally meets Tina McGee, a
beautiful scientist, and while flirting with her he's asked:
Tina: "Why do you wear a mask?" Flash:
"(...)Tradition, respect for Barry... but I don't lead a double life.
A Normal Life
...As was the idea since Flash #1. So far as
Flash's 3rd issue, Wally doesn't have a secret identity per se, he just
doesn't care- but the public in general isn't aware he's the Flash (or
aware of "the Flash's real name" if you will).
In Flash #5 (10/87), after moving in from his
shabby Brooklyn apartment to a mansion in Southampton, Long Island
(bought with some of the lottery money), Wally is surprised by the
editorial of a local newspaper, about the town's liability insurance
being cancelled since Wally moved in. Enraged, Wally meets the President
of the City Council in a nearby restaurant:
City Council President: "(...)The truth is, Mr.
West, your realtor was under obligation to tell us that he was selling
that property to a super-powered individual(...)"
So there you go. By the time of Flash #5, the
hero's identity is no longer a secret to the world at large. But can we
say the Flash revealed his identity in that issue? No!
What about the other issues? No- there isn't a
specific moment he revealed his identity as the Flash to the world- it
was a gradual process since #1. (I'll get to Flash Annual #8's
controversial "Year One" tale... and then return to Green Arrow #17,
fellow Flash-fans... just hang in there!)
In fact... ever since he finished High School,
Wally wasn't very comfortable with his secret identity. Take a look at
the 1978 "Dollar Comics" Flash Spectacular (written by Cary Bates). Upon
his imminent graduation, Wally chooses to tell his parents he's Kid
Flash- and once the ceremony is over, he actually tells Barry (then the
Flash) that he is planning to drop his super-hero career once he
There are echoes of that story in Secret Origins
Annual #2 (again), when Wally recalls a time during the trial of the
Flash (when Barry- as the Flash- was in jail for the murder of Professor
Zoom) in which he's talking to Barry and says he's quitting being Kid
Flash once he's gone to College- that he wants to lead a normal life,
lead a family, etc. (Interestingly enough, this same Flash Spectacular
featured Jay Garrick, the original Flash, then of Earth-2, revealing his
secret identity to the general public in a magazine article for the
But on to Barry's death & beyond:
Barry, as the Flash, died in the Crisis- but we
never got to see his funeral nor anything. Barry's widow Iris Allen's
book The Life Story of the Flash (late-1997, written by Mark Waid and
Brian Augustyn) doesn't mention a thing about secret identities or
Barry's funeral- but (and I'm nitpicking here) there is a picture of a
Daily Planet (newspaper) of the time, with the headline, "Flash
The Museum Knew
Once the trial was over and the Flash (Barry)
was declared innocent, he went to the future with his then-
presumed-dead- wife- returned-from-the- future Iris, his identity still a
secret to the world (he was unmasked by his Attorney during the trial,
but thanks to a Gorilla City plastic surgery, his face was altered and
no one recognized him. Once he got to the future, his looks were
So after the Crisis the world knew the Flash was
dead- but what about Barry? Barry had been declared a missing person by
the Police, being missing since his almost-wedding to Fiona Webb (when
he, as the Flash, killed Professor Zoom in self-defense).
Back to Flash #1, "He [Barry] died owning
thousands of Dollars in legal bills. The Justice League had to pay for
his funeral. He left me his costume- and a picture of what a hero should
So the League paid for his funeral, eh? But
whose funeral was that- the Flash's, or Barry's? Or was his identity
revealed to the world as soon as he died?
Once again, let's take one more look at the quote from Brian Meltzer's Green Arrow #17 of 11/02:
Green Arrow: "It actually started with Barry.
When he died, we all lost a friend. But Hal [Jordan, Green Lantern] lost
a brother. It was Hal's idea to gather Barry's keepsakes. Not just to
honor him... but to protect his identity and those close to him. Unlike
Barry, though, we weren't fast enough. The [Flash] Museum opened its
newest exhibit six months later, and the whole world knew. Take it from
me... that's the real reason Wally went public."
And now hang on to your winged hats,
Flash-fans... for the final, and most troubled leg of our journey: Flash
Annual #8 (1995, written by Mark Waid).
All DC's annuals of 1995 all had the same theme-
"Year One". The Flash's issue told the reader a never-seen-before
period of Wally's life- the period between Barry's death and the Legends
mini/Flash v2. Series... namely, Wally's last adventure as Kid Flash-
his last adventure wearing his yellow costume before he took on Barry's
A few months after the Flash (Barry) died, the
Flash Museum in Central City was preparing to set up an exhibit honoring
the late hero- as the world mourned
Kid Flashes City
Dexter Miles, the museum curator, was suddenly
confronted by someone wearing the Flash's uniform- saying he was not
dead. Miles, of course, knew it was Kid Flash- who then said he was
protecting the legacy until Barry returned.
Wally, you see, hadn't accepted Barry's death-
since there had been no body, Wally believed Barry would eventually end
up finding a way to return- he was probably lost in another dimension or
The conversation between the Curator and
Wally-as-the-Flash was cut short by a Police alert: Dr. Alchemy, one of
Barry's enemies, was back in town... and Wally ran to the city's rescue!
...only to meet a crushing defeat as Alchemy
turned his Flash costume to chalk dust, leaving him with only his
underwear- humiliated in front of a large crowd. Wally was then saved by
the Green Lantern, then a Hal Jordan recently-returned to active duty,
who said from then on he'd split his time between Coast City (his
hometown) and Central City.
That night back in the Flash Museum, Wally was
approached by Jay Garrick and a very angry Green Lantern, who showed him
the latest newspaper edition, saying:
Green Lantern: "(...)In fact, the whole world
saw you today- unmasked. To protect his parents and friends, the League
chose not to tell the world Flash's real name. But now that Wally West
has been caught on film as his would-be replacement, the trail will lead
back to him anyway."
The paper had the humorous headline, "Kid flashes city, Green Lantern saves crowd."
Wally then said the two elder heroes could stop
him from taking over Barry's mantle, but couldn't stop him from
protecting Central City as Kid Flash- and he returned to his yellow
A short time later, as Kid Flash raced to stop
yet another attack by Dr. Alchemy, he was joined by Jay Garrick and
Green Lantern- both heroes had been looking over Barry's home after his
death. Since by then Wally was pretty slower than the two of them, they
got to the villain before him- and were severely defeated
Kid Flash arrived just in time to save the
heroes' life- and when he was cornered by Dr. Alchemy, he finally
realized Barry Allen was dead- he accepted the death of the Flash.
In order to save his friends- and himself- Wally
put on the spare Flash costume inside one of Barry's old rings (which
Green Lantern had taken from him back at the Museum), and saved the day.
Green Lantern and Jay Garrick then said Wally
had earned the right to take over Barry's place as the Flash. (By the
way, for those of you questioning Jay Garrick's presence in this tale...
yes, it's a bit confusing- for right after the Crisis ended, Garrick
and the rest of the Justice Society were transported to Limbo and
stayed there for a few years- in the 1986 special edition, The Last
Days of the JSA. The obvious conclusion is, the Flash Annual #8 tale
happened immediately before Last Days... so no real problem there.)
So if Wally was really unmasked during this
told-later adventure, then it kind of negates his Legends bits- and the
first few numbers of his own series, right? Not exactly- The way I see
it, we can get away with a clean-cut continuity without having to
"negate" anything- after all, the whole thing about the Flash is
transparency and easy-access-for-everyone, right? So let's keep it that
Summing it all up, then:
The Flash was unmasked as Kid Flash in the "Year
One" tale of Flash Annual #8... Meaning the press, and the world at
large, realized it was Kid Flash who was sporting his late-mentor's
identity- but never made the connection between Kid Flash and Wally
...so by the time the Flash (now Wally) began
having identity crisis problems, he moved to New York City- looking for
his friends' help- the Titans' help... even though he was not a member
of the team at the time.
Legends #1, after Wally had defeated Deadshot:
Flash: "Gotta get away(...) find someplace quiet where I can think- and
these days the place that comes closest to fullfilling that description
is the Titans Tower. It's not exactly home- but for now, it'll do!"
We can only suppose Wally had dropped off
College by the time he first took on the Flash's ID (Flash Annual #8)...
for then it was right off to Legends, and his own series- where he
lived by himself in Brooklyn, New York- and after winning the lottery,
moved to a mansion in Long Island (Wally ended up losing his money in
Flash #14, and had to move to a very poor New York tenement by #15...
but that's another story!)
What About Barry Allen?
So again, after all the Darkseid affair was over
and the heroes had won (Legends), Wally realized the best way to get
rid of his ID crisis and honor Barry's memory at the same time was to
live his own life... and he simply stopped caring for his secret
identity at all! (Flash #1).
In Flash #2, when Wally was given the lottery
money, he said (with his identity as the Flash still unknown to the
world at large, remember) his goal in life was to pursue a Doctorate in
Physics- so either he was fibbing to the cameras, or he really had the
intention to go back to his academic life once he'd settled his current
But what about Barry's death?
Both Flash Annual #8 and Green Arrow #17 clearly
show a Justice League concerned about protecting his secret after his
death... and as to Green Arrow #17, his identity was only revealed by
the Flash Museum in an exhibit they did to honor him.
Remember the Museum was setting up an exhibit at
the time Kid Flash took on the Flash's identity? So there you go- after
"The Flash" was revealed to be Kid Flash by Dr. Alchemy, the people of
the Museum, even against the JLA wishes, decided to go public with
Barry's identity- and they did just that once their exhibit was opened
to the public (Dexter Miles, the Museum's Curator, was aware of his
friend Barry's double-life).
When the Flash was buried and the JLA had to pay
for his funeral (Flash #1), they didn't tell anyone the Flash's
identity- as Dexter Miles remembers the funeral in Flash Annual #8,
"Superman and the others spoke at his funeral (...)."
I guess the only question without an answer is
whether Barry Allen himself had a funeral as well, meaning, for his
civilian identity (keep in mind he was declared a missing person after
the whole Professor Zoom affair, not dead).
I really think that Barry was only properly put
to rest after the Flash- after the Flash Museum went public with his ID.
Also, I'm unsure whether Barry's parents got to know their son was the
Flash- for as per Flash #143 (12/98, written by Mark Waid), "not long
after Barry left us, his parents passed on"- and yes, we saw the graves!
Regarding graves, then... I recall two times
Barry's tombstone was shown-
The first time happened in Flash #18 (11/88,
written by Messner-Loebs), when Vandal Savage hid a kidnapped baby in
Barry's grave and Wally ran for the rescue. Weird enough, it happened in
a cemetery around New York City, and even Wally notices it's odd Barry
wasn't buried in Central City.
There's an explanation for that one:
Messner-Loebs always said he wrote the Flash issues in the "Marvel
Method", or "plot first"- where the writer gives the artist a general
outline of the story and then writes the dialogue over the artwork- thus
Wally's remark was Messner-Loebs quick and easy way out of it. Anyway,
Barry's tombstone has a Flash insignia on it- meaning, everyone knew it
was the Flash that was buried there
to the cemetery scene in Flash #143, Wally sees Barry's parents' graves
because he's there to protect Barry's own grave against the villain
Cobalt Blue (never mind this villain, too lame a storyline to get back
Upon seeing Barry's tombstone- much larger than
the simple one in #18, and more of a tribute to the Flash, Wally says:
"Barry's monument dwarfs all the others in Central City cemetery and
it's not big enough(...)".
Well, that's it. I for one am happy with the
answers I got from gathering the many different passages of the Flash's
career.... and I feel everything important there is to be known about
Wally's identity as the Flash going public, and the revelation of
Barry's secret upon his death, has been told.
Green Arrow #17 was the last piece to the
puzzle- so a big "thank you" goes to Brian Meltzer, a much more capable
writer than the way over-hyped Kevin Smith, his predecessor on the
If you have any questions, doubts, comments-
and more important than everything, corrections, please say so!
Regards from a fellow Flash-fan.
Here are some comments by fellow Flash fan SNW21.
Hello Fund! Excellent research. I
found an answer for you (based on a question you asked in one of your
above posts) and have an important question that was brought up from
something in GA#17 which can't really be fixed based on current
continuity. I'll get to this last statement I just made in a few
minutes. I'd like to address a question you brought up with an answer
You're question was: "Also, I’m unsure whether
Barry’s parents got to know their son was the Flash- for as per Flash
#143 (12/98, written by Mark Waid), “not long after Barry left us, his
parents passed on”- and yes, we saw the graves!"
Well, I went back a couple of issues to The
Flash#325. Let me answer this all up by stating a couple of lines from
The Flash#325: Page 11: (This is two issues
after Barry killed Zoom.) Barry and Wally race back to Barry's parents
house and his mother Nora says: "Oh Barry, Thank the lord Kid Flash was
able to find you. Henry and I were worried sick.
Henry says:"Our hearts go out to you, son.
You don't know how much we wanted your wedding day to be the happiest
day of your life. But you mustn't forget you only did what you had to
do to save Fiona's life."
So, from this issue alone we know his parents
knew his secret identity. I should also mention that he did take off
his mask then as well (he still had his normal face and yellow hair).
So it's not like they assumed The Flash was Barry Allen. At the same
time, though, they still had no clue that Kid Flash was Wall West. I'd
go back farther, but I don't have every issue of The Flash from the
first series. I could only go as far back as The Flash#275. I'll do my
best to see exactly what issue it was but it'll take some time. When I
do though, I'll post it here a.s.a.p. I think this should be enough to
answer your question though. Barry's parents did know that their son
was The Flash.
Moving on, there's one problem/question from
GA#17 that can't really be fixed based on current continuity. On page
5, the first picture, in GA#17, it shows Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and
Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) on Qward with Hal holding Barry Allen's torn
Flash costume. The problem with is that Hal wasn't Green Lantern then
and Green Arrow wasn't on Qward during Crisis On Infinite Earths. So,
the picture going with the story alone doesn't really make sense since
both characters couldn't have done what they did since one wasn't even
GL then and the other wasn't on Qward at all.
Why is this picture important? Because this is
supposedly when and where Hal came up with the idea to gather all of
Barry's things to protect his secret identity.
In short, how could they be on Qward if both
of them weren't originally there during Crisis On Infinite Earths?
Anyway, I just thought I'd point this out. Anyone have an answer? I'd love to hear it.
I have some interesting news about
Barry telling his parents his secret identity. I did some research and
found something very interesting indeed.
pointed out, Barry told his father his secret identity when the Top took
over his father's body. This happened after his father and mother were
in a car accident that happened in The Flash#297. In The Flash#302,
Barry reveals his secret identity to his father, who's body was
possessed by The Top at the time. Barry's father got back into his body
by the end of The Flash#303 issue. It turns out that Barry's father
still knew Barry's secret identity once his astral form went back into
his body. This happened after Barry got The Top's astral form out of
his father's body. In short, even though Barry's father wasn't in his
body at the time when Barry revealed his secret identity, his astral
form was probably around and heard the whole thing. How can we assume
this? Because once Barry's father's astral form went back into his
body, he called The Flash, Barry and by the next panel, son.
This takes care of his father. What about his
mother? Well, in The Flash#303, Barry decides to wait until she's
stronger to tell her his secret identity (as Barry says to himself on
page 2). Here's where it gets interesting. I looked through every
issue after that and by The Flash#312, page 2, we hear Barry's mother
say the following to Barry over the phone:
it does seem like we haven't heard from you much since our recuperation
from that nasty accident last year! But Henry and I aren't complaining!
Ever since you told us during our recovery that you're The Flash,
we've understood how busy you must be!"
Now, based on
this statement, we know that both his parents know his secret identity
now. When did Barry tell his mother though? My guess is it happened
off panel between the end of #303 and the beginning of The Flash#304.
Why? For two reasons. The first reason is because there's no mention
of it nor do we see his parents from the end of The Flash#303-312. The
second reason I think it was between the end of #303 and the beginning
of The Flash#304 is because of a few lines in #303. On page 12, Barry
wonders, "What am I going to say to mom when she asks me why dad hasn't
been by for a visit for the past two days?" This alone tells you Barry
was gonna have to say something the next time he saw her. Finally, on
page 19, after Barry's father comes about he says, "We'd better get over
to the hospital, son--your poor mother must be worried out of her mind!
Barry replies, "Now that's my dad!" And keep in mind that Barry was
going to tell his parents after the accident, but didn't end up finding
time to tell them. I think after everything
that happened in that storyline (from The Flash#297-303), I think Barry
was ready to spill the beans to his mother. If not, then just by
looking at Barry's father's face when he said those words and Barry's
response (and Barry's big smile at the end of the issue), you'd just
have to assume that if he wasn't going to tell her then his father
would. Based on what was said in The Flash#312, Barry told his mother
and she assumed Barry was telling both of them about his secret identity
for the first time (which we all know isn't true based on the end of
In conclusion, Barry told his father his secret
identity in The Flash#302 and his mother probably between the end of
#303 and the beginning of The Flash#304. Unless there are anymore
questions, I think we can safely say the identity questions have been
Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12