The Flash first sped onto the pages of All-American Publications in 1940. Since then, several super speedsters have carried the name, each battling an array of colorful villains in the twin cities of Central and Keystone.
When DC revived superhero comics in the 1950s, they kickstarted what we now call the Silver Age. A new Scarlet speedster, police scientist Barry Allen, was at the forefront of the resurgence. It was against him that a group of foes banded together. Two years before Spider-Man battled the Sinister Six, the Flash fought the Rogues.
The origins and powers of the Rogues’ membership have altered over the years, but they’ve remained a distinctive group of super-criminals. Fiercely protective of their membership, with a unique code of honor, they’ve never drifted far from petty crime. That makes them an unlikely set of foes for the Flash, a character who’s played significant roles in reality-altering cosmic crises at DC for decades. But that’s part of their quirky appeal. Other superheroes have a rogue’s gallery, but only the Flash has his Rogues. And as the gang’s leader, Captain Cold, would be reluctant to say, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Not every Flash villain is a Rogue, but many counter or match the superpowers that the Flash derives from his connection to the Speed Force. Across 70 years and multiple speedsters, which of his enemies can claim to be the Flash’s greatest? Here’s the complete list.
This list of villains wouldn’t be complete without a mirror image. Like the Flash, the name Reverse Flash has been seized by different supervillains since the 1940s. The most famous is Eobard Thawne, who first appeared in 1963. Thawne developed an obsession with Barry Allen in the 25th century and used a time capsule to travel back to replace him. The two have battled through universe-changing events ever since.
Also notable is the second Reverse Flash, otherwise known as Zoom. In 2001, writer Geoff Johns introduced Hunter Zoloman as an ally of third Flash Wally West. Within two years, paralysis in the line of duty led a desperate Zoloman to the Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill and a horrific transformation. Unlike the Flash, Zoom isn’t connected to the Speed Force but dislocated from time, which gives him a distinct speed advantage. Driven to obsession by tragedy, Johns’ creation is an edgier spin on other yellow-suited sinister speedsters.
A frequent leader of the Rogues, Cold embodies the group’s approach to villainy. DC’s New 52 granted Cold meta powers, but he had already posed a critical danger to the Flash with just a cold gun and his tactical brilliance. His ethics and intelligence have seen him take on the role of antihero, even opposing the Crime Syndicate of America on one occasion. But Cold deserves his place as one of the Flash’s key foes and has proved to be the cold and calculating reason behind some of the Scarlet Speedster’s worst moments.
The speed of thought is an ideal counterpoint to the speed of light. Five supervillains in the DC universe have carried the Thinker’s menacing nickname, including the mysterious version above from the New 52. Clifford Devoe remains the most famous, a recurring antagonist of original Flash Jay Garrett in the 1940s, and a founding member of the Injustice Society. As a lawyer, Devoe realized that many criminals lacked the intelligence to get away with their crimes. A thinking cap that allowed him to project his mental force and control minds set him on the path to super-villainy.
You can’t miss Grodd in the Flash’s pantheon of villains. Grodd is a rogue member of Gorilla City and doesn’t just bring brute force and fiendish intelligence to his schemes. Exposure to a radioactive meteorite gave him psionic abilities, including occasional telekinesis and the power to control others. Formidable in every way, Grodd takes a lot to contain.
Another Rogue with abilities readymade to counter the world’s fastest man, this time they are light-based. Original Mirror Master Sam Scudder could inhabit his reflection for ingenious heists. When Scottish assassin Evan McCulloch picked up Scudder’s equipment, he not only took the name but found his way through to the Mirror Dimension, too. His mirror gun was capable of transporting anyone there using reflective surfaces. Glasgow writer Grant Morrison’s updated Mirror Master was edgy and dangerous but a mercenary happy to follow the highest bidder above anything else.
Three Killer Frosts have battled the Flash since the 1970s. Caitlin Snow arrived as the third Frost during the New 52 era and quickly became a popular incarnation on page and screen. Caitlin’s a formerly gifted scientist like her predecessors, although her increased powers can push Superman to a standstill. Although the 21st century Killer Frost has presented as an antihero, her name never fully thaws. There aren’t many supervillain gangs that haven’t had Killer Frost as a member.
Every speedster has an end, as proved by Barry Allen’s iconic sacrifice in the pages of 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Waiting at the end of the Speed Force is the Black Flash. Several unfortunates have taken the cowl of this zombie Flash, who’s more the inevitable logic of the speed force than a calculating villain. A chilling character, few heroes face an existential threat like it.
Boomerangs get less respect than gimmicky arrows in the DC universe. Fortunately, Australian villain Captain Boomerang has come to terms with that, as years of charismatic service in the Suicide Squad has shown on page and screen. As untrustworthy as “Digger” Harkness is, he’s become increasingly dangerous over the decades. From creating explosive boomerangs to displaying occasional bursts of super-speed, few have come as close to defeating the Flash.
A literal force of nature, his name may be a little over the top, but it fits right in with the Rogues. The Wizard’s weather control has plagued multiple Flashes over the years. A darker side to his powers has been revealed during that time, including the revelation that the Weather Wand he sometimes wields is slowly driving him mad.
Not just a neatly named electro-mechano-organic intelligence, Kilg%re is an alien virus that poses another challenge for the Flash’s abilities. While this villain occasionally takes on a more human appearance, it’s often been a faceless menace since arriving in 1987. Capable of taking control of anything electrical⏤it once infected every computer in the world⏤Kilg%re poses a global threat.
There’s always a mirror around the corner. The Scarlet Speedster has earned a spot on this list by proving he’s his own worst enemy more than once. His connection to the Speed Force and constant time tampering has caused countless problems. Once, Barry Allen battled Future Flash when his older self was determined to reverse past tragedies at any cost. It was also Barry who caused the Flashpoint Paradox. His attempt to travel back and save his mother’s life restructured DC reality and led to the New 52. Few heroes battle with the great responsibility that comes with their incredible powers like the Flash. The world’s fastest man might just have more responsibility than any man can handle.