What is the Speed Force?
The Speed Force has alternatively been described as the source of all speed, as a force generated by Barry Allen, as a godlike pseudo-intelligence, and as a sort of location or dimension that exists on another plane of reality. Regardless, it is the power source for the Flash.
All DC characters who are called “speedsters” are connected to the Speed Force regardless of the origin of their powers; it is said that when they die, speedsters become one with the Speed Force, something of a Valhalla for speedsters. That said, not every DC super-humans that can travel at high velocities is connected to the Speed Force, only the ones whose primary power is superhuman speed. For example, Superman, though he is very fast, has no connection to the Speed Force. The same holds true for the Green Lanterns, who can traverse the galaxy at incredible speeds. Additionally, characters who are explicitly stated to be mimicking super-speed without being speedsters themselves, such as Hunter Zolomon, who uses time manipulation to operate as the villain Zoom, are not connected to the Speed Force.
Max Mercury discovered that it is Barry Allen himself who generates the Speed Force with every step that he runs. When he was struck by the bolt of lightning that gave him his powers, the Speed Force was created and echoed through time and every dimension. By running, Barry generates a kinetic wall between the present and the time barrier that manifests as electrical energy that touches every part of reality and contains the knowledge of every place and every time.
As Barry runs, the Speed Force grows and someone past, present or future is able to tap into it. After Barry’s death, the Speed Force hasn’t grown because he’s the engine that generates the electrical energy that makes up the Speed Force. It is a positively charged electrical energy and Professor Zoom’s Negative Speed Force is the negative, opposite charge.
During the Infinite Crisis event, Wally West, Jay Garrick, and Bart Allen grabbed Superboy Prime and tried running him into the Speed Force. When Jay Garrick had to stop and Wally West disappeared, Bart Allen knew he could not push the villain into the Speed Force alone; Barry Allen, Max Mercury, and Jesse Quick then grabbed Superboy Prime and pulled him in. This revealed that they live on in the Speed Force.
Characters associated with the Speed Force
- Barry Allen, The second Flash actually created the Speed Force when he was struck by lightning and energized chemicals. When he died, his spirit merged with the Speed Force even though it was also seen in Heaven. After Bart returned to Earth so that he could absorb the Speed Force, Barry gave his grandson his costume, choosing to remain within the Force. Professor Zoom, however, sensed his old enemy’s return and sent a subliminal pulse into the Speed Force to reawaken Barry’s self awareness and bring him back to the physical world so he could engineer his revenge.
- The first Flash Jay Garrick, originally couldn’t even run at the speed of sound until he met Barry Allen and began to tap into the Speed Force. He could then run 20 times as fast. Despite this he was unable to keep up with the many speedsters when they entered the Speed Force to entrap Superboy-Prime and when Bart returned and absorbed the Speed Force, Jay’s powers began to swiftly diminish. Eventually however, when Bart apparently met his demise, Jay’s powers have returned to their full strength.
- Wally West, the third Flash, his powers were connected to the Speed Force, a dimension he chose to live in during Infinite Crisis. He turned into a being of pure speed energy and came to his wife, Linda Park West who grabbed onto him and so they and their children, Jai West and Iris West vanished into the Speed Force. There they remained for many years, so that the twins could age without any pressure on their lives from Wally’s superhero life.
- The second Kid Flash and fourth Flash, Bart Allen’s powers came from the Speed Force, and at one time he wished to lose this connection, fearing the Speed Force. This was because during Infinite Crisis he was brought into the Speed Force where he aged four years and returned, only to absorb the Speed Force into himself, claiming it was gone. Recently he has been de-aged and become Kid Flash again.
- Johnny Quick, to save his daughter’s life, ran into the Speed Force, and merged with it. He somehow tapped into the Speed Force by visualizing a mathematical formula in his mind and saying it out loud.
- Jesse Chambers, known as Liberty Belle, inherited her connection to the Speed Force from her father and his speed formula but has flip-flopped between using it or powers inherited from her mother. She has also gone by the name Jesse Quick.
- Max Mercury, The ‘Zen Master of the Speed Force’ is a speedster from the past who jumped several times into the future until he arrived in the present. He was guardian to Bart Allen who had arrived from the future and understands the Speed Force probably better than anyone else. He could converse with spirits of those trapped in the Speed Force through meditation and ended up trapped there until Barry Allen brought him back.
- Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, was sucked into the Speed Force and there he went insane after remaining there for 50 years. When he returned he wreaked havoc and eventually became a being of pure speed energy who has possessed the body of Max Mercury, thus condemning Max to the Speed Force.
- Savitar developed powers from the Speed Force other speedsters had not, creating a cult based around himself. He murdered people in order to gain speed until Wally West forced him into the Speed Force. Shortly after Barry Allen returned from the Speed Force, Savitar used Barry as a doorway to engineer his own escape; however, Barry’s touch caused Savitar to be consumed by the Negative Speed Force that Professor Zoom had infected Barry with.
- Impulse, Iris West is the daughter of Wally West and Linda Park West. At first she and her twin brother Jai West shared a connection to the Speed Force and them fighting over it caused them to manifest unconventional powers for speedsters. During Flash: Rebirth she severed Jai’s connection to the Speed Force and gained the full connection gaining traditional super speed and choosing to call herself Impulse. She is possibly Bart Allen’s biggest fan.
- XS, a descendant of Barry Allen and cousin to Bart Allen, is a superhero in the 31st century. She too is connected to the Speed Force.
- The Black Flash is a Grim Reaper of sorts for speedsters. When near death, all speedsters connected to the Speed Force must face the Black Flash and unless they are able to outrun him they die. When Barry Allen was infected with the Negative Speed Force Wally West called him the new Black Flash.
The Negative Speed Force
Recently, in Flash: Rebirth, it was revealed that Professor Zoom created a ‘Negative Speed Force’ that eats away at the regular Speed Force like a cancer and can consume any speedster connected to it by touch. Professor Zoom himself is the engine that generates this Negative Speed Force with every step that he runs. He used it to infect Barry Allen in the hopes that the Negative Speed Force would consume Barry’s loved ones and other speedsters who rely on it, consuming Barry in grief so that he’d merge with the Speed Force. Professor Zoom is currently being kept immobile in Iron Heights Penitentiary to prevent him from generating the Negative Speed Force. However, Hunter Zolomon (the most recent Zoom) is kept in the next cell, and believes working together they can be even more powerful, which may be bad news for both Central and Keystone Cities.
The Speed Force serves as the primary measure of velocity in the DC Universe. It is usually referred to in terms of different barriers: The Sound barrier, Light barrier, Time Barrier, Dimensional Barrier, and finally the Speed Force Barrier. It introduced several “new” powers to Flash and other Speed Force-powered persons. Some of these powers had previously existed during the DC Silver Age, but were later explained as manifestations of the Speed Force.
The Speed Force can be used to various effect including time travel, faster-than-light travel, speed duplicates, constructs using Speed Force energy, faster healing and speed stealing or lending. It also provides speedsters the ability to function at unnatural speeds without the laws of physics stopping them. Those within the Speed Force are protected from heat or bearing the brunt of impacts at any speed they travel. It also lets them breathe, receive stimuli (sight, hearing, etc.), and avoid completely destroying themselves and the world around them as they move. It can even be used to hold enemies indefinitely.
Here is a list of abilities granted by the Speed Force:
Superhuman Speed – Speed Force users can move at incredible superhuman speeds, sometimes surpassing even the speed of light.
Superhuman Reflexes -Speed Force enhances the users reflexes to inhuman levels, allowing them to easily react to danger and perceive time in slow motion.
Superhuman Agility – Speed Force users posses greater balance, equilibrium, and bodily coordination than any normal human.
Superhuman Stamina – Speed Force users possess near limitless levels of stamina.
Infinite Mass Punch – When The Flash begins traveling near light speed he gains the relative mass of such a great speed allowing him to strike with blows with the force of “a white dwarf star.
Speed Lend/Steal – His most useful new power, Wally West could “rob” objects of their kinetic energy and, for example, stop bullets in flight or convert a supervillain to a statue and use the “stolen” kinetic energy to accelerate his movement. He could similarly lend his speed to objects or allies, enabling them to temporarily travel almost as fast as himself.
Regenerative Healing Factor – Using the Speed Force to accelerate his healing factor, Wally West could heal from deadly injuries, without aging. While he was in the Justice League Of America, Wally could use this power to heal his other team members by accelerating their healing factors without aging them. Most speedsters can quickly regenerate from injuries.
Speed Force Aura: Speed Force users are surrounded by an aura of kinetic absorbent energy, allowing them to be unaffected by the effects of moving at super-speed, such as friction, g force, and kinetic impact.
- Superhuman Durability – Because of their resistance to kinetic impacts, Speed Force users are far more durable and resistant to injury than any normal human.
Speed Force Lightning – All speedsters generate electrical Speed Force energy from their bodies. This electricity varies in color, but is usually depicted as yellow. Some speedsters have used this energy to their advantage, such as when Bart Allen charged his hand with it, to shock Jay Garrick back to life. Some speedsters can also forcefully discharge a large blast of electricity from their body.
- Lightning Bolt Projection – Some speedsters, such as Barry Allen, have learned to manipulate their Speed Force lightning in the way that they could manually project it from their hands as bolts of lightning.
Energy Constructs – Wally West made the discovery that if he concentrated he could create solid energy constructs using the Speed Force. He has used this ability to protect against disease, create pockets for holding items, and to compose a bullet-proof costume.
Shield – Exhibited by Savitar, whose Speed Force mastery allows him to reflect objects away from himself.
Flight – Exhibited by Johnny Quick and his daughter Jesse Quick.
ESP – Used by Max Mercury, whose strong connection with the Speed Force allows him to detect the motion of any object around the world and also to perceive other speedsters. Wally West also exhibited this ability to perceive Linda across time and space.
Total Recall – Bart Allen as the Flash used this ability to remember everything he reads using his super-speed. He is the only speedster to show this ability.
Speed Scouts – The only speedster to use this ability, Bart Allen can create duplicates of himself using the Speed Force that, using the Speed Force’s timeless nature, can travel forwards and backwards through time, manipulating objects or merging their consciousness with Bart’s, informing him of their actions. Once, when a Speed Scout was killed, Bart fell into a coma and has never used this ability since.
Vortex Creation – By rapidly rotating their arms, or running in circles, speedsters can create strong vortexes of wind on various levels.
Dimensional Travel -Speedsters can break the dimensional barrier with their speed, and travel throughout parallel dimensions.
Time Travel – Speedsters can break the time barrier with their speed, and travel throughout time.
Time Manipulation – Some Speed Force users in the New 52, like Barry Allen, Eobard Thawne and Daniel West are able to manipulate their personal time-fields, giving the effect of super-speed.