The Speed Force is a concept presented in various comic books published by DC Comics, primarily in relation to the various speedsters in the DC Universe. The Speed Force was the extra-dimensional energy that once powered all of the Flash's superhuman abilities. It is not like any other fundamental force. Its origin is likely the same as most superhuman abilities found in the DC Universe, a byproduct of the mysterious omni-energy known as The Source and The Godwave.
The ability to access the Speed Force has been limited to only a few individuals in the DC Universe and when DC characters travel to the Marvel Universe, they are unable to access the Speed Force.
The Speed Force has most often been discovered or accessed by accident as in the hard-water radiation accident which gave the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, his powers. (Pre-Crisis)
Barry Allen and Wally West acquired their powers from an accident in a laboratory (later retconned to be Barry traveling through time to give his powers to himself) (Pre-Crisis)
Bart Allen acquired his ability to access the Speed Force genetically, but had to be subjected to experimentation to prevent his power from hyper-accelerating him into old age.
Professor Zoom/The Reverse Flash was able to, using technology, recreate the ability to access the Speed Force in the distant future.
Others have had unique origins or specialized technologies or powers which gave them limited access to the Speed Force and the powers therein.
Please note that The Speed Force concept has been altered, remixed, rehashed and rewritten over the twenty years it has been in use. As of the "New 52" reboot, the new parameters (if any) of the Speed Force have not been specified. All references are from the Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, and Zero Hour continuities. The Post-Flashpoint Multiverse is not included. The concept of the Speed Force has been referred to as "completely absurd" and "basically magic" by Geoff Johns, who wishes for the concept to be written out of continuity entirely.
Scientists on the planet Savoth had a deep understanding of the Speed Force and there were many universities devoted to its study. One of these scientists, Gorflack, built a Speed Force cannon to defend his planet from a force of alien invaders. Instead of performing its intended purpose, it brought Jay Garrick, the first Flash, to Savoth. After Garrick helped drive away the invaders, Gorflack gave him a lightning-shaped piece of solidified Speed Force which he and his successors could use to transport to Savoth.
While fighting Superboy-Prime, Wally was nearly swept into the Speed Force. Wanting to see his family one last time, he visited his wife Linda and twin children. However, Linda was holding the Speed Force fragment and the entire family was swept off to Savoth. Bart Allen volunteered to absorb the entire Speed Force so that he would be fast enough to stop Prime. After this crisis had been averted, Bart found that his new connection to the Speed Force threatened to kill him. He refused to use his powers for a year. It wasn't until Tina McGee and Valerie Perez of S.T.A.R. Labs were able to modify a Flash costume to contain his abilities that he was able to return to action as the fourth Flash.
Shortly thereafter, Inertia; who had lost his connection to the Speed Force when Bart absorbed it, was forced to use Velocity 9 to maintain his super-speed. Inertia built a machine in Los Angeles which was designed to transfer the Speed Force from Bart to himself. However, the machine also threatened to cause an explosion which would have resulted in the deaths of millions. Bart sacrificed himself distracting Inertia and a group of Rogues while Valerie shut it down.
The deactivation of the machine caused a disruption in the Speed Force which not only resulted in Wally West and his family being transported back to Earth from their stay on Savoth, but also restored powers to all speedsters.
The sole survivor of the alien invasion forces that had attacked Savoth decades prior was sent back to his home dimension in a Speed Force explosion which resulted in a rapid evolution of his species. His descendants targeted the Flashes' solidified fragment of Speed Force and invaded Keystone City to avenge their defeat on Savoth. Wally destroyed the fragment to send them back.
Those with access to the Speed Force can use a large number of abilities, usually revolving around speed, including: Superhuman Speed, Superhuman Endurance, Increased Perceptions, Accelerated Healing, Decelerated Aging, Speed Force Aura, Supercharged Brain Activity, Vortex Creation, Phasing, Steal Speed, Infinite Mass Punch,etc.
Different conduits throughout the multiverse excel in different Speed Force-related abilities, and it furthermore has differing effects on all of its users. Some examples being the original Flash, Jay Garrick's decelerated aging as opposed to Bart Allen's over-accelerated aging process. Others examples being how the Tornado Twins excel in using their speed to create high velocity whirlwinds that allow them to take flight, while Bart Allen has shown the ability to divide himself into multiple physical selves. Lady Flash, who is the keeper of the Speed Force in Earth-33, casts electrokinetic blasts that are capable of temporarily draining the movement of her target. And as the third Flash, Wally West learns how to manifest his costume at will, being created purely from the solidified Speed Force. Prior to the loss of his connection to the Speed Force, Jai West's super-speed could temporarily accelerate the growth of his muscles, giving the child super-strength. Notably, there is also the Negative Speed Force, which as the name suggests, negates and opposes the average Speed Force energy. Professor Zoom (and apparently Black Flash) are users of this super-speed that manifests as red electricity.
Source of Super-Speed
The Speed Force is a vaguely defined extra-dimensional energy force from which most, but not all, heroes in the DC Comics universe with super-speed draw their enhanced abilities. For example, the multiple heroes named the Flash (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, and Bart Allen), Johnny Quick, Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle, XS, the Tornado Twins, and Max Mercury all draw their powers from the Speed Force. The Speed Force is also seen as a physical space to which speedsters can travel. Max Mercury traveled through time as a result of his efforts to enter the Speed Force and ended up several decades into the future every time he made an attempt. Bart Allen could control the Speed Force and could "commune" with the spirits in the Speed Force through meditation. When speedsters die, they become one with the Speed Force, as it is an afterlife for them. Max Mercury's own spirit is trapped inside following his possession by The Rival.
The Speed Force only exists in the DC Multiverse; when Wally traveled to the Marvel Universe in JLA/Avengers, he was powerless in the other world, requiring Steel to create a 'battery pack' that allowed Wally to absorb Speed Force energy in the DC Universe to give him a supply that he could use in the other world (Although Marvel speedster Quicksilver was unable to access the Speed Force during his time in the DC Universe).
Abilities granted by Speed Force
The Speed Force serves as the ultimate measure of velocity in the DC Universe. It introduced several "new" powers/implications to Flash and other Speed Force-powered persons. Some already existed during the Silver Age, but were either unexplained or rationalized as molecular/vibrational control and later retconned into manifestations of the Speed Force.
- Infinite mass punch - Introduced in Grant Morrison's JLA title. Flash (Wally West), traveling near the speed of light acquired the relativistic mass of such speed to impart blows which could hit with the force of "a white dwarf star," enabling him to knock down such powerful foes as the White Martians with a single punch. Flash's own durability is regulated by the Speed Force in such cases.
- Speed lend/steal - Perhaps his most versatile new power. Because the Speed Force governed all motion, Wally could rob objects of their kinetic energy, motion, or momentum (e.g., bullets in flight or turning a supervillain into a statue) and use the energy to accelerate himself even faster. He could similarly lend speed to inanimate objects or allies, enabling them to temporarily travel nearly as fast as himself. Bart Allen's future self is shown to also have this ability in the Teen Titans Titans Tomorrow story arc.
- Metabolize wounds - Accelerating his healing factor while using the Speed Force to sustain him, Wally could heal from grievous injury without prematurely aging like his counterpart from another reality, Walter West. Related to the ability above, he would serve as the "team medic," healing other team members by accelerating their healing factors (without prematurely aging them).[volume & issue needed]
- Constructs - Wally discovered that if he concentrated, the Speed Force could be used to create solid constructs. The first time he used this ability was to create a solid armor enabling him to run despite having broken legs. Later examples included sealing up the openings of his costume against disease, creating pockets for holding things, etc. In JLA, when shot by Prometheus, his suit displayed bullet-resistant properties.[volume & issue needed] Most recently, it was used to repair the damage done to the various speedsters' costumes, allowing Wally to change his uniform; Jesse Quick to take up the uniform of her father, Johnny Quick; and Wally's daughter, Iris, to become the new Impulse.
- Shield - Exhibited by Savitar, whose mastery of the Speed Force allowed him to reflect objects away from himself.
- Flight - Exhibited by Johnny Quick and his daughter, Jesse Quick; the only speedsters known to exhibit this ability. However, all speedsters traveling faster than escape-velocity exhibit "inverse flight". The ability of flight also seems to manifest itself in the flash of the Kingdom Come story arc.
- ESP - Exhibited by Max Mercury, whose communion with the Speed Force allows him to detect the motion of any object in the world, and especially to perceive other speedsters. Wally West exhibited a similar ability which allowed him to perceive Linda across time and space due to the strength of their bond.
- Total recall - Exhibited by Bart Allen, who can retain everything he speed-reads (in contrast to other speedsters, who only retain the information temporarily).
- Speed scouts - Exhibited by Bart Allen, who can create Speed Force-duplicates of himself that, due to the timeless nature of the Speed Force, can travel forwards and backwards through time. They can also manipulate objects or merge their consciousness with Bart, informing him of their actions. However, after one of his Speed Scouts was killed, Bart was thrown into a coma and hasn't used the ability since.
- Speed control - Traveling at any speed one believes they can move at.
- Negate Anti-Life Equation - Not yet explained, but it is seen in Final Crisis #4 when Barry Allen kissed his wife, who was under the control of Anti-Life, and the Speed Force surrounded her and she regained her free will.
- Muscle growth - Exhibited by Jai West, who has the power to speed up the growth of his muscles, temporarily giving him super strength, but causing him to be exhausted after a short time.
- Intangibility/Self-molecular control - Exhibited by Barry Allen, Bart Allen, and Iris West. Their total control of kinetic energy at a molecular level allows them to match the vibrational frequency needed to travel easily into and through solid matter. Wally West has this ability, too, but with less control, so solid matter usually explodes when coming in contact with him. When Bart Allen internalized the Speed Force into himself, he too showed difficulty with this ability, melting matter if not concentrating enough. Iris' control is as effortless as Barry's, but unlike his, it is somewhat unstable. As an offensive ability, it can be used to scramble one's molecular structure to the point of literal disintegration.
Despite its immense power, the Speed Force did not prove to be an asset when Wally West was pitted against Brother Grimm, a sorcerer with the power to sense other dimensions; as well as being able to find the regular universe from his pocket dimension, Grimm can also sense the energies of the Speed Force, with the result that Wally must restrict himself to normal speed when fighting Grimm or Grimm will be able to sense his moves and counter them.
Status and future
During the events of Infinite Crisis, most of the speedsters in the DC Universe combined their powers to push Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force. Aided by Max Mercury, Barry Allen, and Johnny Quick from within the Speed Force, several Flashes vanished in the attempt; and, according to Jay Garrick, the Speed Force itself was gone.
One year after the end of Infinite Crisis, the Speed Force was still believed to be missing, and Jay Garrick was the sole Flash due to his metagene compensating for the loss of the Speed Force. However, it was soon revealed that the Speed Force still existed. The Speed Force was now unstable and Bart was afraid it would kill him. According to tests run by S.T.A.R. Labs, the entirety of the Speed Force was now within Bart, who was now the only person who could use it. Despite this, Owen Mercer, Bart's half-brother, still displayed occasional access to the Speed Force before and after Bart's death, which caused his body to generate a "background bio-electric field."
When Bart died, Wally West reclaimed the mantle as the Flash and freely used the Speed Force at will. Wally's return had prevented Bart from accessing the Speed Force, inadvertently causing his death. With the Speed Force released from Bart, Jay Garrick could again go beyond the speed of sound (as he was limited to before), and Jesse Chambers' speed returned.
In The Flash: Rebirth #4, Max Mercury revealed to Barry Allen that the Speed Force was created by Allen, himself, when he became the Silver Age Flash; adding that, "When [Allen runs, he generates] the kinetic wall between the present and the time barrier. It's an electrical energy that exists in every dimension, every universe, and every era. It touches every part of reality. It contains the knowledge of every place and time. The Speed Force is the all-encompassing Flash Fact."
The Speed Force had been seen in the future a number of times. A future Flash, Blaine Allen, was struck by a dilemma. His son, Jace, was infected with a virus by a future Cobalt Blue. Unlike many others in the Allen family, Jace was not gifted with super-speed by the Speed Force and his metabolism would not be able to handle it. Blaine removed all speed from all of the molecules on Petrus, effectively freezing the planet. Cobalt Blue pointed out that she liked the idea. "No one dies that way, it’s true... but no one lives either." He thought this over and decided to take Jace to the Speed Force. As he ran Jace to the Speed Force, he was sucked in instead.
- Jimenez, Phil (September 29, 2008). "The Flash". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 124–127. ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1. OCLC 213309017.
- Flash (Volume 2) #233
- Flash (Volume 2) #236
- Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #6
- Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13
- All-Flash Vol 1 #1
- Waid, Mark (September 1, 1995). The Flash: Terminal Velocity. DC Comics. ISBN 978-1-56389-249-3.
- The Flash: Rebirth #5 (November 2009)
- Final Crisis #4 (November 2008)
- Impulse #89 (October 2002)
- Infinite Crisis #3 (February 2006)
- Infinite Crisis #5 (April 2006)
- Bilson, Danny; DeMeo, Paul (March 21, 2007). The Flash, The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle. DC Comics. ISBN 978-1-4012-1229-2.
- Checkmate #15 (August 2007)
- Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Nightwing/Captain Boomerang (October 2007)
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #8 (October 2007)
- Speed Force #1 (November 1997)
- "Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning" Article on the Speed Force
- Crimson Lightning An online index to the comic book adventures of the Flash