Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the Rogues, The Flash’s most troublesome villains.
Many superheroes have a colorful rogue’s gallery. Batman’s enemies are among the most recognizable in the world. Spider-Man’s list of villains is long and varied. But only the Flash’s opponents call themselves the Rogues. There is a certain code that they live by and Captain Cold makes sure that they keep to their rulebook.
Captain Cold was the first member of the Rogues to debut. Shortly after Barry Allen, the second Flash, first showed up in the pages of the try-out title Showcase, Len Snart began his nefarious career. A striking figure, Snart simply ambled down the boulevard in broad daylight until he came upon the his target, used his cold gun, and walked away with his cash.
Though his cold gun was able to slow down the Flash, it wasn’t enough to actually defeat the World’s Fastest Man. Snart, as he would do so many times in the future, ended up in prison.
After Captain Cold’s debut, many other colorful Flash villains debuted. The likes of the Trickster, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, the Top, and Pied Piper made themselves known to the citizens of Central City. Most of them were very similar to Captain Cold. They were just normal men who had some sort of technological device that they would exploit in their attempts to rob banks. Inevitably, the Flash would defeat them all.
Something changed a few years after they all debuted: They began to team up. First was the pairing of Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Here were two polar opposite characters who might not have liked each other, but who had a similar goal: Make money and take out the Flash.
Of course, they were defeated again.
The Rogues as we know them today wouldn’t come into play until two years after this first teamup. In 1965, a group of six Flash villains came together to fight their common foe. Unfortunately, their battle stance let the Flash use his speed to make each of their attacks strike a teammate. It was a poor beginning for the group.
Yes, you are seeing the above image correctly. The Pied Piper was taken out by one of the Top’s toy tops. That’s a tough beat.
From here on, the Rogues remained a thorn in Flash’s side. They were a gang with Captain Cold as its de facto leader. As the years progressed it almost became a game to see if these group of men could actually defeat the Flash. Time and again, the answer was no. No, they couldn’t.
The Rogues began to change when Barry Allen, their longtime Flash opponent, died. After his death, his nephew Wally West took over the role of the Flash. Without Barry to spar against, the Rogues took a turn in tone. They began to mellow out and some of them even turned to helping society. Pied Piper became a reoccurring ally to Wally and Captain Cold became a bounty hunter while working with his sister, the Golden Glider.
During the earliest interaction between a solo Wally and the Rogues, Len sat Wally down and explained to him the Rogues’ relationship to Barry.
Barry kept the Rogues focused on him which distracted them against using their powers to do some real damage. It was a game that they played together and with Barry out of the picture, there was no need to keep playing it. So, many of the Rogues went straight.
Still, that nagging feeling of what could have been remained with them. They wanted respect in the villain community but their garish outfits and small-time obsessions left them as outcasts. So, when Abra Kadabara, another longtime Flash villain, approached Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, and Captain Boomerang with the promise of power and respect, they all jumped at the offer. All they had to do was sell their souls to Neron, a bigwig in Hell. As we’ve seen with Blue Devil, this is never a good idea.
Fortunately, Wally was able to free their souls but it would scar these men for years.
During Mark Waid’s run on Flash, the emphasis was not on the Rogues. Waid spent a lot of time fleshing out Wally’s supporting cast members and fellow speedsters. He was behind the creation of the Flash Family, which I enjoy so very much. It wasn’t until Geoff Johns began writing the book that the Rogues came back to prominence.
Early on in Johns’ run, he introduced a load of new villains. A new Trickster hit the scene after the original one went straight and became a government agent. A powerhouse named Girder was introduced alongside a creepy serial killer named Murmur. A former girlfriend of Wally’s, the magnetically charged Magenta, was around as well. Blacksmith, another new creation, brought these villains together alongside veterans Weather Wizard and Mirror Master to create a new group of Rogues.
After a lot of effort, Wally was able to defeat them all. Before he could capture his two oldest foes, Captain Cold returned and told his old allies that it was time to get the real Rogues back together. They agreed to add newcomers like the young Trickster and Captain Boomerang’s son to their crew.
Near the end of Johns’ run on Flash, the Rogues came face-to-face with some of their reformed former brethren, including the original Trickster, a more sane Magenta, Pied Piper, and Heat Wave.
During this battle, the Top revealed to everyone that the reason that so many former Rogues turned good was because the Top had used his mental powers on them around the time of Barry’s death. Their various changes of hearts had not been done naturally. After this revelation hit, everyone scattered. Angry over their forced mental adjustment by the Top, Trickster, Pied Piper, and Heat Wave decided to rejoin Captain Cold in order to get the Rogues back to their full strength.
Before the Rogues could plan out their next big heist, Wally West went missing during Infinite Crisis. A year later, a new Flash appeared on the scene. This time it was Bart Allen, former Kid Flash, who wore the costume.
Not every villain of the Flash can call him or herself a Rogue. Gorilla Grodd has never been a member of that particular fraternity nor has Vandal Savage. Inertia was also decided not a Rogue. A clone of Bart Allen, Inertia was a speedster just like his genetic tissue doner. During a plan to steal all of Bart’s speed and then kill him, Inertia recruited the Rogues to do his dirty work. In the haze of battle, after learning about Inertia’s true plan, the Rogues were sent into panic mode when Bart battled against them. When everything was at its most frenzied, the Rogues attacked a depowered Bart and killed him.
They had just broken one of the only rules of being a Rogue: They’d killed a Flash. Knowing that revenge was going to rain down on them hard from nearly every corner of the DCU, the Rogues split up and ran. They just didn’t run hard enough. The Suicide Squad, including ex-Rogue Captain Boomerang II, tracked the fugitives down and captured them.
The U.S. government then sent the Rogues, along with various other villains, to another planet in Salvation Run, an unfortunately forgettable miniseries. At that story’s end, the Rogues managed to make it back to Earth where they immediately went back underground.
They didn’t stay there long. Enraged at Inertia for tricking them into killing Bart Allen, the Rogues tracked the clone down. Inertia was now calling himself Kid Zoom, but Captain Cold still managed to lead the team in their revenge against the speedster.
They left Kid Zoom’s battered corpse on Keystone City Police Department’s front steps with a note asking for Wally West’s forgiveness for killing Bart. Wally, you see, had returned to take on the Flash’s duties during the Rogues’ exile.
Just before Flashpoint hit, it was revealed that the Rogues’ legacy would live on for years. Barry Allen was back in the role of the Flash (long story and one best saved for another day) and when a group of Rogues from the future showed up in Central City, things got confusing for everyone. Calling themselves the Renegades, these men, lead by Commander Cold, charged Barry with a crime he hadn’t even committed yet.
Barry was eventually able to clear his name but not before the current Rogues took on their future counterparts in another all-out brawl. Shortly thereafter, Flashpoint reset everything.
The Flash in the New 52 has a slightly different set of Rogues on his tail. It appears that the Flash’s foes from the previous year are teaming up to take on Barry Allen.
How will Barry take out this collection of Rogues? Perhaps he’ll do it the old-fashioned way by running between them as they fire at each other. The old strategies are, sometimes, still the best.
Jeff Reid would chose to be the Weather Wizard, if he had to choose to be a Rogue. He would pay you good money not to make him be Trickster. Get more fascinating insights like this on Twitter.