Superman Through the Ages! Forum

Superman Comic Books! => Superman! => Topic started by: JulianPerez on July 27, 2005, 06:00:39 PM



Title: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: JulianPerez on July 27, 2005, 06:00:39 PM
Ancient fanboys scrawled their speculation as to the winner of this race on cave walls.

That said, is it just me, or has there never been a truly satisfying and definitive Superman/Flash race?

Sure, there was the first one, hosted very kindly by the very classy Nightwing on his website, which comes the closest.

But what I mean is, a Superman/Flash race that accomplishes the following goals:

1) Have the characters REALLY cut loose. 20,000 miles per hour or so used in the first of their races is a snail's pace compared to how fast the characters can really go. An ideal Superman/Flash race would have them circle the earth sixty times in a single second and require them to make several hundred thousand laps around a given course (one far from civilization obviously, or else the sonic booms would destroy cities). It would require Superman constructing cameras that take 150,000 photographs in a single second to even know who was neck and neck - and by the time the photographs are analyzed, the two have already circled the earth  several hundred times. And to an outside observer, the two running would just appear to be a continuing solid beam or arc of blue or red light, respectively. The sonic booms from the race would be audible all over the entire planet, and even the newsmen covering the race have to stay several miles away, and even then, wear earmuffs.

2) It would have to have a definitive winner; draws are emotionally unsatisfying.

I understand I may be preaching to the choir as this is a forum of Superman fans, but would it REALLY be so heretical and treasonous to have Superman win?

I understand the perspective of Flash fans: after all, speed is the Flash's one gimmick, right? Other characters have superspeed, AND Invisible Airplanes and Heat-Vision to boot. However, life isn't fair and considerate like this. In order to have an emotional investment in the DC Universe, the DC Universe has to have plausibility. And in order to have plausibility it has to be treated like a real place by the writers.

The fact of the matter is, it is very likely Superman is faster than the Flash. Superman has super-strength; his feet can, if he chooses, propel himself by pushing harder off the ground (at the end of the race, this would mean Superman probably has made a canyon to rival the Grand one in Arizona). Further, Superman's superstrength indicates that he has the ability to take and use large amounts of energy - and to take in and use lots of energy is to be fast. Consider the comparison to car engines; a gas guzzling Ford with a “stronger” 7.4 liter engine would make a car go faster and accelerate more quickly than a “weaker” 1.5 liter fuel efficient Honda engine. This energy Superman uses derives, I might add, from the most powerful source of said energy in the solar system, the sun.

Apart from considerations of raw speed, in any given race, the edge would have to be given to Superman for the simple reason that the Flash is human and will get tired eventually, and start to slow down. Superman doesn't get tired. What's more, if the race was an "around the world" race, it would involve going to places with conditions that the invulnerable Superman would shrug but would severely impair the Flash. For example, the heat of deserts and bitter cold and dryness of Antarctica, and in the Andes or the Himalayas, the thin air would leave the Flash gasping for breath.

All considerations of physics and reality aside, I think a Superman victory in such a race would be satisfying to the basic idea of who Superman is. After all, the basic concept of Superman is that he is SUPER; physically, mentally, and morally; any superpower he has, he ought to be better at it than anyone else that also has that superpower, simply because that is who he is, the niche that Superman occupies not just in the DC Universe, but as a fictional character.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: MatterEaterLad on July 27, 2005, 06:21:19 PM
The most plausible conclusion to me is a draw or the heroes distracted elsewhere...how can you have a "realistic" conclusion to a match between two beings that are more impossibly fast than the confines of a planet like Earth can even accomodate?

As in most things, for example, a team that wins a match or a seven game championship series, etc., I give credit to the winner without assuming he/she or them are "better, faster, stronger, more skilled" except under those circumstances...


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: JulianPerez on July 28, 2005, 01:23:16 AM
Quote from: "MatterEaterLad"
The most plausible conclusion to me is a draw or the heroes distracted elsewhere...how can you have a "realistic" conclusion to a match between two beings that are more impossibly fast than the confines of a planet like Earth can even accomodate?


I would say that yes, you can have a realistic conclusion.

Realistic means something quite different in science fiction than it does in other types of stories. It means creating rules and being consistent with them.

In the Star Trek television show, the Transporter was an obvious piece of fantasy, working by really, really mushy physics. But we were made to believe in its existence because they created rules as to how the transporter worked that made it feel plausible. The transporter can't beam through forceshields, the transporter requires the ship to be at full power, and so on. And, if the characters are faced with the likely possibility the transporters may not work, they still have shuttlecraft - another nod to how well the writers of the show thought this through, since it would be illogical (no pun intended) that the transporter, just like any other piece of machinery, would always work, and so gutsy folk like our space explorers would anticipate this.

Superspeed is an obvious departure from reality, as are superpowers. But they are made to feel real because rules have been created as to how these powers work, and the details are defined as to what these characters can do. And with these rules in hand, we can make a pretty shrewd guess as to the outcome of something like a Superman/Flash race.

Quote from: "MatterEaterLad"
As in most things, for example, a team that wins a match or a seven game championship series, etc., I give credit to the winner without assuming he/she or them are "better, faster, stronger, more skilled" except under those circumstances...


You're very correct and right. Heart, guts, will, and just plain luck are all factors that give victory in a sports competition to one side or the other, and may be more important than just plain statistics and batting averages. But Superman and Flash are both great, heroic superheroes; they've both got heart, guts and will. All things are equal here, so one ought to look to external factors.

Also, a draw, as I have said before, is unsatisfying because there is no closure and doesn't resolve anything. Not that resolving anything should be the main priority of a Superman/Flash race; telling a good story ought to be the main priority. But we can have our cake and eat it too: it can BOTH have a good Flash/Superman race, and tell an entertaining story as well.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: TELLE on July 28, 2005, 01:42:46 AM
Maybe a "realistic" conclusion would be having someone responsible like the Spectre stop the pair before they damage the fabric of reality itself, what with their irresponsible zipping and zooming through dimensions and times.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: JulianPerez on July 28, 2005, 02:05:40 AM
Quote from: "TELLE"
Maybe a "realistic" conclusion would be having someone responsible like the Spectre stop the pair before they damage the fabric of reality itself, what with their irresponsible zipping and zooming through dimensions and times.


As cool as a Spectre guest-star in anything would be, responsible stand-up citizens of the world like Superman and the Flash would make sure they don't hold their race anywhere near where someone could get hurt.

Though food for thought: according to Einstein, at speeds approaching lightspeed, mass expands to near infinity. So you'd better hope Superman doesn't trip and fall to the ground during this race, because he'd blow up the earth. But I wouldn't worry about that. Superman doesn't trip. Why? He's Superman, that's why.

For that same anxiety, they would probably not hold their race anywhere near Antarctica: their friction might melt the polar ice cap, covering the world's cities in tidal waves and icebergs.

Though it might be interesting if, during the race, in their good-natured need to outdo one another, the pair of them exceed the speed of light and travel back in time. This might lead to an interesting paradox: the results of the race might be known before the race is even held.

And the canyon Superman would make with superstrength might be a neat tourist attraction. (Take THAT, Arizona!)


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: Gary on July 28, 2005, 10:09:33 AM
Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Apart from considerations of raw speed, in any given race, the edge would have to be given to Superman for the simple reason that the Flash is human and will get tired eventually, and start to slow down. Superman doesn't get tired. What's more, if the race was an "around the world" race, it would involve going to places with conditions that the invulnerable Superman would shrug but would severely impair the Flash. For example, the heat of deserts and bitter cold and dryness of Antarctica, and in the Andes or the Himalayas, the thin air would leave the Flash gasping for breath.


But all of the above are good reasons why Superman shouldn't win. Clearly, he has all the advantages. But a battle in which the guy with the advantages wins isn't nearly as interesting to read as one where the underdog comes from behind and prevails. To have Supey beat Flash and still have a satisfying story you'd have to spend the first half of the story somehow convincing the readers of the unlikelihood a Superman victory, and that isn't going to be easy to do.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: JulianPerez on July 28, 2005, 04:54:58 PM
Quote from: "Gary"
But all of the above are good reasons why Superman shouldn't win. Clearly, he has all the advantages. But a battle in which the guy with the advantages wins isn't nearly as interesting to read as one where the underdog comes from behind and prevails. To have Supey beat Flash and still have a satisfying story you'd have to spend the first half of the story somehow convincing the readers of the unlikelihood a Superman victory, and that isn't going to be easy to do.


Good point, Gary; Superman isn't the underdog, ever. That's what we have Clark Kent for.

Though I think in perhaps this instance Superman is enough of an underdog that a Superman victory would be surprising, considering in the last race with Wally West, Superman LOST. And it's just sort of taken for granted now amongst DC's more clueless writers that Superman is slower than the Flash.

Bringing the above facts to light I mentioned above would be interesting. That said, why DID Superman lose the last race to Wally? Perhaps 1) because Superman guessed Mr. Mxyzptlk, being deceitful, was betting AGAINST him, and 2) perhaps he let the Flash win. Something like winning this race would matter a lot to the competitive Flash, proud of his speed, but it is an honor that means nothing to the humble Superman. What's the harm in letting the Flash win? If the situation changed, for example, and both had their cities threatened with destruction if they lost the race (neither aware the other was offered a similar threat): see how quick Big Blue'd cut loose. Lives are more important than his friend's feelings.

Perhaps if the Flash won the race by doing something intelligent, that would be interesting. For instance, vibrating THROUGH the entire Himalayas, while Superman has to run over each and every single peak, for example. But pure speed vs. speed in a race, I'll give it to Superman every time.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: MatterEaterLad on July 28, 2005, 08:51:00 PM
OK, I have to admit I'm puzzled why you think that Superman (as the greatest of DC heroes) HAS to be the greatest in ALL aspects...even in the 60s, I assumed the Flash was the fastest man alive...


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: Super Monkey on July 28, 2005, 09:21:06 PM
Well, Superman shouldn't be the best in everything. I think that Flash should be faster, not a lot faster, just faster. That said, Superman could still fly faster than Flash could run.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: MatterEaterLad on July 28, 2005, 09:34:19 PM
Well, the flying might convince me...

Sorry, I love the Flash, even so much that I like the "Speed Force" and him climbing the "stairsteps of time" or whatever such rot THAT was (OK, I guess its called the "Cosmic Treadmill", but whatever)... 8)

Even the fact that the Flash could vibrate his molecules and pass between matter (conceivably, through the liquid and solid Earth's core) led me to believe he had different and superior speed, in some ways the opposite of Supe's "incredibly dense" molecular structure that helped lend him invulnerability...

So I give the Flash the edge in terrestrial speed, though who knows on planets with different gravity...

Still, who needs a winner?


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: JulianPerez on July 30, 2005, 08:01:14 AM
Quote from: "Super Monkey"
Well, Superman shouldn't be the best in everything. I think that Flash should be faster, not a lot faster, just faster. That said, Superman could still fly faster than Flash could run.


Perhaps. Maybe the statement I made of "Superman ought to be best at everything" is an overreaction, but it is an overreaction as a result of a very real and unfortunate trend, which is the marginalization of Superman in the DC Universe that he was instrumental in creating.

Superman, in the current contradictory DC non-continuity, is no longer a founding member of the Justice League. While this has led to an enlarged role for the very cool and underused background player Martian Manhunter, who was criminally absent from the League for hundreds of issues at a time, it is achieved at the expense of Superman's history and role within the JLA. You'll find lots of moments achieved at the expense of Superman.

Will the Batfanboys ever shut up about the Dark Knight Returns? The grotesque caricature of Superman in that overrated, so-so miniseries served no purpose other than to prop Batman up as harcore and uncompromising by pairing him next to Superman the Sell-Out.

While ordinarily it would not be hard to object to a Flash victory in such a race provided it was explained and examined with plausibility in mind, in this context, it becomes aggrivating: yet another character made by the writers to look good at Superman's expense.


Title: Re: Superman/Flash Races
Post by: Captain Kal on August 08, 2005, 03:08:42 PM
Pre Crisis, legendary DC editor Julius Schwartz has stated his position that for short sprints -- under say a million miles -- the Flash (Barry Allen) is faster.  For longer races, Superman's inexhaustible stamina would make him the victor.

This was reflected in their second race where they raced to the edge of our galaxy and back.  The two were pretty even until the trip back when Barry was so incredibly exhausted by the constant running over 20,000 light-years.

So, one way of looking at it is the Flash is a better sprinter but Superman is a better long-distance speedster.  Take a marathoner and he'd do poorly in a sprint.  But take a sprinter and he'd do poorly in a marathon.  The proportion of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibres defines the speed capabilities of real runners so something similar may apply to our star super-speedsters.

Also, as mentioned on another thread, speed involves other elements besides highest velocity and stamina in maintaining it.  It also involves acceleration and reaction time.  Given the Pre Crisis and even Post Crisis portrayals, the Flash of any stripe takes it for acceleration and reaction time.  But, with the exception of stamina, all the aspects of super-speed seem to have both Superman and the Flash different like those between two ordinary men.  We're not talking about the difference between an SST and a snail but that of two cheetahs competing with each other.  Most days, for short distances and accelerations, any Flash takes it over Superman but not more than twice his capabilities, at best.  On a bad day for the Flash, Superman easily takes it.  They're in the same league -- pun unintended! -- for super-speed.