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Superman vs. The Flash

Courtesy of the library, I recently read a trade paperback collection called Superman vs. The Flash, collecting their various races in the comics.  The first race ends in a deliberate draw, the second too close to call, and one of the later ones is aborted in order to fight the bad guys, although you could say it’s another deliberate draw; there’s a “cosmic curtain” that only one person can penetrate and Superman and the Flash contrive to go through it simultaneously.  But in the other races — SPOILER ALERT — the winner is consistently the Flash, whether Barry Allen, Wally West, or Jay Garrick.  And I like that.  It makes sense.  As one of the later stories points out (“Speed Kills” by Dan Jurgens, from the post-John Byrne era when Superman was powered down to a more reasonable level), Superman isn’t trained as a runner.  When he needs to go somewhere fast, he flies.  So it’s logical that he’d be outmatched in a footrace by the Flash.  (Though this logic wouldn’t apply to Smallville‘s Clark, who still doesn’t fly after nine seasons.)

My favorite race, though, is the Denny O’Neil one from World’s Finest Comics #198-199.  Both Superman and Flash end up wounded and weakened and must drag themselves forward with their arms to reach and deactivate a doomsday device before time runs out.  It’s a lovely twist, and I love the narration:

It is insane..!  It is ludicrous..!  And, yes — it is comical! These two renowned warriors dragging themselves on their stomachs…  Yet mark this moment well!  For behold — they are injured, shocks of agony scream along their limbs!  And still they go forward, fired by the most gallant determination…  Never have Superman and The Flash stood so tall

This is the first race the Flash wins, thus averting the cliche of ending in a draw, but still letting Superman fans feel satisfied that maybe their guy could’ve won if he’d been at full strength.  The Jurgens story has a similarly ambiguous ending, implying that Superman might’ve thrown the race and leaving it to the reader to decide.

There’s at least one Superman-Flash race not in the collection, the Superman: The Animated Series episode “Speed Demons.”  In that one, they abandon the race to stop the Weather Wizard, then at the end they start racing again to resolve who’s faster, with the answer never revealed.

What I don’t get is that the front of the TPB says “Seven of the greatest races of all time!”  There are eight issues including two 2-parters, for six races overall.

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