Impulse shows off his speed. Artist: Humberto Ramos.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1994
Creators: Mark Waid (writer) and Mike Wieringo artist
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Superheroes, their villainous counterparts, and other super-powerful persons tend to proliferate over time in the average comic book universe. In that of DC Comics, from about the late 1980s through the …

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… dawn of the 21st century, the population of those specializing in super speed underwent particularly rapid growth. Bad guys such as Savitar, good guys such as Jesse Quick, in-between guys such as Red Trinity … Among the more prominent of the crowd was Impulse, who held down a title of his own for several years, continued longer as Kid Flash, is and still later used the most famous name of the genre, The Flash.

Impulse was Bart Allen, a third-generation speedster (his father was Don Allen, who hung around with the 30th century Legion of Super Heroes, and his grandfather was Barry Allen, the 1960s Flash). Despite the scientific fact that acquired characterstics aren't inherited, he'd been born with super speed. His problem was that he couldn't turn it off, and was aging at a rate commensurate with his motion. Scientists of his far future era (he came from a family of time travelers as well as speedy superheroes) devised a virtual reality environment for him, so his surroundings would keep pace with his metabolism. He spent two years in it, during which he grew to the age of 15. He finally emerged in The Flash #92 (July, 1994), in a story written by Mark Waid (who also scripted the DC/!mpact versions of The Comet, The Shield and other MLJ/Archie Comics heroes) and drawn by Mike Wieringo (Excalibur, Spider-Man). Aside from settling down, time-wise, in the sense of living and aging normally, he also settled down, time-wise, in the sense of relocating to the "present", i.e., late 20th/early 21st century.

Having been around for 15 subjective years, he was an adolescent — only more so, as living in virtual reality hadn't entirely prepared him for the real world, where actions have real consequences and dangerous situations aren't always just pretend. But he had a guardian, Max Mercury, to teach him the ways of both reality and super speed. Max and Bart settled into a parent/kid-style relationship, living in as close as possible to a normal two-person household. Bart did some superheroing on the side, under the name "Impulse", with Max available to rescue him as need be. They operated that way for 90 issues of DC's Impulse, dated April, 1995 through October, 2002. Max later disappeared, and Bart now lives with Jay Garrick (the 1940s Flash).

Meanwhile, Impulse got involved in the group scene by teaming up with Robin and Superboy in Young Justice #1 (September, 1998). He stuck with that group for its entire 55-issue run (through May, 2003). When it segued into a new Teen Titans series, he was there. The fourth issue of the latter (December, 2003) was when he took on his new superhero monicker, reviving the old Kid Flash name. Later, DC grew him up and started calling him The Flash.


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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.