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Flash of Two Worlds, the comic book that introduced Earth-Two and the Multiverse

Just as the world outside was changing, the comic book industry was experiencing a shift in the sixties. The release of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1 in November 1961 would lay the foundation for Marvel Comics as we know it today and change the superhero genre. A few months prior, DC Comics also put on sale an issue considered one of the most important comics in their history: The Flash #123.

Written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, the story Flash of Two Worlds introduced readers to the concept of a parallel Earth and paved the way for the multiverse which would inspire many writers for the following decades.

Parallel World, from science to comics

As you can imagine, DC didn’t invent the concept of parallel universes. American physicist Hugh Everett III is the man credited for coming up with the theory of parallel worlds, with his 1957 doctoral thesis. He conceived that our Universe was just one of the numerous parallel worlds that branch off from each other, emerging from every different small event that could happen. Though this is today well-established, the scientist didn’t encounter a lot of enthusiasm for his theory at the time. Actually, his thesis slipped into instant obscurity following the publication, leading Everett to abandon the world of academic physics.

His theory was a reality in the science-fiction genre many years before the publication of his thesis. Though alternate history fiction was already written, H.G. Wells is credited for writing the first tale in which our Earth exists in parallel to another one – in Men Like Gods (1923).

Flash of Two Worlds wasn’t even the first comic book with a parallel universe. Three years before Barry Allen met Jay Garrick, Tommy Tomorrow from Action Comics #238 (1958) traveled to a parallel dimension where he encounters his counterpart. Superman himself found his way into a parallel universe in a story published in Superman #146 (also released in 1961).

This is by bringing back Jay Garrick that The Flash made history.

Two Generations of Flash

As explained in American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-1964, Schwartz was well aware of the strong fascination sparked by the Golden Age characters members of the Justice Society among young readers. He wanted to exploit it and summoned Gardner Fox, creator of the original Flash, to brainstorm ideas for a story that would bring back the ‘Twin Thunderbolts’ (as they are called in the comics) together!

Or it is said, as penciler Carmine Infantino adds another layer to the story. In an interview available on Nerd Team 30, the artist recalled that “because I’d do a cover, and dammit, they’d write the story around it, so I was getting very upset by this, so I said, “I’ll fix you.”  I did a cover with some guy in the foreground and two Flashes running up, he’s saying, “Help!” and they’re both saying, “I’m coming!”  So I put it on his desk and I said, “Here. Solve this!” and I walked out. By the time I got home my phone rang. He said, “We got it solved. I went through hell.” I couldn’t believe it. It was a great story, a terrific story. ”

But, who came up with the parallel Earth solution? That part is a mystery as Schwartz and Fox both have claimed in separate interviews to have come up with the idea. In the end, Fox would simply goes on to say “If Julie says it was his, fine… It probably evolved out of one of those plot conferences when we batted ideas back and forth. I’m not sure, and I don’t think Julie is, either.” (from Batmania #22, via American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-1964)


The Flash Travels to Earth-Two

It was introduced in Showcase #4, Barry Allen’s first appearance, that the Scarlet Speedster was reading Flash Comics starring Jay Garrick. This fact had to be taken into account while crafting the story of Flash of Two Worlds. So, how Barry Allen could find his way to the Earth of Jay Garrick? 

At Central City, our hero was performing an act at a charity function for children when he disappeared in front of the public! Barry reappears on a lonely road and arrives to the conclusion that he must “have vibrated so swiftly that I passed through some sort of space-warp!” Soon enough, the scarlet Speedster discovers that he is not at Central City anymore, but at Keystone City. He deduced that this was the world of Jay Garrick, the star of the Flash Comics written by Gardner Fox who once explained how he dreamed up the adventures of the Flash!

Young readers, unfamiliar with the old tales, met Jay Garrick at the same time as Barry Allen. The original Speester was now a middle-aged man, married to his longtime girlfriend, Joan. He was also retired from superhero life, though he was entertaining the idea of putting on the costume once more to stop a recent crime.

With a little push from Barry, Jay was back in the superhero business, making him the first of the Justice Society to make his return. All the members of the team will make their comeback over the next two years.

Flash Barry Allen - Flashpoint Reading Order

Decades after Barry Allen traveled to Earth-Two, the concept of the Multiverse and parallel Earths continues to inspire writers to explore the vast and diverse versions of DC characters, allowing for more creativity and countless tales. Flash of Two Worlds became a landmark story with the Flash’s history always intertwined in DC’s grand history, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to breaking the entire multiverse in Flashpoint and beyond.

For more stories with the scarlet speedster, check out our Flash reading order. Flash of Two Worlds is also part of our selection of the 25 Best DC Comics to read.


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