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One of the things that DC Comics hit on during the '80s was the idea of a superpowered arms race between the US and the USSR. The US was well ahead of every other country, but the USSR had some heavy hitters. The Soviet version of Firestorm, called Pozhar, who we discussed in the Firestorm piece (and viewers of Legends of Tomorrow may have noticed was heavily hinted at last week) was easily the most powerful of the Soviet heroes, but he was far from alone.
One of the things that made it hard for countries to create their own superheroes was that no one really knew how superheroes were created, not until the world learned of the Metagene during the Invasion! miniseries. Before that, it was a total crapshoot. Except for superspeed. When Wally West revealed his identity to the world, he also shared aspects of how he gained his powers. This let the Soviet scientist Pytor Orloff work out the secrets of superspeed, creating two teams, Blue Trinity and Red Trinity. Blue Trinity didn’t work out so great - for some reason, the serum Orloff used on them gave them superspeed, but also deformed all three test subjects. With his next version, Orloff was completely successful, creating Red Trinity. Neither team was as fast as Flash, but they had numbers on their side.
At the same time, Jerry McGee, husband of Tina McGee, was working on his own attempt to create superspeed. He was able to give himself not only superspeed, but super strength as well, which he used to try and kill Flash. Jerry’s formula proved highly dangerous, shutting down his organs. In order to save Jerry, Flash snuck into the Soviet Union in order to help Doctor Orloff and Red Trinity escape to America. Once in America, Orloff was able to save Jerry’s life.
This is where things got bad for everyone involved.
Vandal Savage, who you may remember had a serious hard on for Flash, kidnapped Orloff and forced him to work on a new version of his super speed serum, one that would be highly addictive and only last for a short period of time. Orloff complied, and so was born Velocity 9. Savage began to sell Velocity 9 to the poor, the same way any drug starts. Once they were hooked, he took every penny they had, building up his empire of evil once again. When they ran out of money, Savage would force the V9 addicts to pull jobs for him, mostly assassinations.
Drug kingpin Nick Bassaglia, not wanting to be left out of the fun, had his team of drug scientists synthesize their own version of Velocity 9, leading to a full on gang war between Bassaglia and Savage. The two were able to work out their differences, and Bassaglia agreed to push Savage’s far superior V9 through his coke and heroin supply lines getting the drug into the hands of the Wall Street Elite. Savage’s plan of taking over organized crime was well under way, until Flash put a stop to it. Wally shut down the supply lines and destroyed Bassaglia and Savage’s factories. Bassaglia was captured by Flash. Savage got away, but not before Doctor Orloff injected him with some V9.
Red Trinity, now known as Kapitalist Kouriers, was hired by the US government to bring in the remaining V9 junkies. Sadly, 90% of them died before KK was able to get to them. Some died from withdrawals, others by running into cars or walls at mach 2. V9 was a tough drug to kick.
As with any drug, some people kept toying with V9, and over time, the worst aspects of the addiction were eradicated. A “pure” version of V9 was introduced to the world, one that was not as addictive. It never took off as well as the previous version. The supervillain Inertia, an evil clone of Impulse, used V9 after his connection to the Speed Force was lost, but beyond that, there were not many V9 stories in the comics.
Personally, I love the idea of V9. Marvel comics would do a similar storyline in the early 2000s with MGH (Mutant Growth Hormone) but in a more middle class way. MGH is a party drug that has little danger to it and, from what I have read, is not addictive.
On The Flash we’ve seen that V9 works, giving Jay back his speed as well as apparently curing him of his illness. Then again, he appears to have died in the latest episode, so it wasn’t too much of a help to him. Only time will tell if Caitlin’s version of V9 ever makes it to the streets. I sure hope so - I would love to see a storyline of Flash dealing with superspeed drug addicts running around Central City.