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If you’ve been reading Flash Facts, you may have caught that one of my favorite things about the Flash mythos is the legacy of it. There is no one Flash, there are many Flashes. Jay Garrick was first, followed by Barry Allen, who was followed by Wally West, who was followed by Bart Allen (then Wally came back, then Barry came back). We long time readers of Flash know that in the future there will be many more Flashes, including John Fox, Iris West II, Blaine Allen, and Kryad, and the idea of that - the idea that Flash is a name that will be passed down not just between family members, but between other people, and even alien races, is very cool.
Flash isn’t the only speedster who has a legacy, though. While the Quick name may not be as well known to the world at large, the characters have been around for almost as long as Flash. The first story featuring a Quick came out just a year after Jay Garrick showed up, and while the name hasn’t been showing up in DC comics for the last few years, the history still stands. Today we’ll be learning about Jesse Quick and her superhero parents, neither of whom are named Harrison Wells.
It started with a mathematical formula, 3X2(9YZ)4A, that was created by smart guy Professor Gill who based it on an inscription on the tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Professor Gill’s formula, when said by someone who truly understood it, would grant the speaker superspeed and flight. Old Gilly shared his formula with a kid named Johnny Chambers. Johnny, understanding that the formula represented a fourth-dimensional construct that allowed a person to channel the power of speed (note that I didn’t say Speed Force - that’ll come back later!) used the power to fight crime as Johnny Quick.
Now, at this point, I’m going to start mixing in a few retcons that help simplify things. I’ll also be using some aspects of the DC miniseries The Golden Age which is kind of in continuity depending on which comics you read. The Golden Age is a great story, but it was written as something that was not part of the official DC universe. When it proved to be real popular with fans, DC let pieces of the story become continuity, but never explicitly said it was continuity. If any of that makes sense to you, you understand why I’m mixing continuities - because DC did it and if I don’t, none of this will make any sense…
During the first week of December 1941, the time traveling super villain Per Degaton was going around capturing members of the Justice Society of America, though no one knew why. By December 7, the reason was clear - Per Degaton was making sure that the JSA wouldn’t be there to stop the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Deciding that America needed a government controlled superhero team, President Franklin Roosevelt called on the heroes to come to the White House to join a new team, the All-Star Squadron. Johnny Quick was more than happy to serve his country in any way he could (the superheroes couldn’t travel to Europe because Hitler had the Spear of Destiny, which negated their powers, so instead the All-Star Squadron protect the shores of the US). The All-Star Squadron’s first mission was to stop a second Japanese bombing, this one targeting San Francisco.
The All-Star Squadron was a hell of a team, led by Libby Lawrence, know to the world as the superhero Liberty Belle. Libby was in Poland with her father when the Nazi’s invaded. Her dad was killed, but Libby made it to France and swam the English Channel to escape. Back in the US, Libby learned that a medal she had won in a triathlon was made with a piece of the Liberty Bell, and when the Liberty Bell rang, Libby gained super strength.
Libby and Johnny fell in love and married. After the war, they both retired from superhero stuff, though Johnny would come out of retirement from time to time (including that time he and a bunch of other heroes had to fight a still alive and super powered Hitler). Johnny and Libby, for reasons I don’t think were ever explained, didn’t age at the same rate as others.
The marriage of Libby and Johnny was rocky. Johnny missed the superhero action, and Libby wanted to a quiet life. Rather late in life, the two had a child, a daughter they named Jesse Belle Chambers. Johnny began lecturing about the abilities of the human mind, believing that the formula he used to unlock speed was nothing more than a mantra, even though the speedster Quicksilver (not the Marvel one) had explained to him what the Speed Force was. Johnny didn’t buy into this magical energy mumbo jumbo, he believed in the power of man. Johnny believed in it so much that he created QuickStart, a company that sold products and lessons on how to be a better, stronger person. Basically, Johnny became an infomercial star, not unlike Billy Mays. Libby wasn’t feeling the whole selling people crap money making deal, and she left Johnny.
As the years went on, Jesse grew up. She was close to her dad, and blamed her mom for the divorce. Seeing a chance to keep the family legacy going, Johnny taught Jesse the speed formula against Libby’s wishes. Jesse took to the mantra and gained superspeed, just like her pops. Unlike her pops, Jesse didn’t really want to be a superhero; she chose to go to college instead. Still, the hero life was interesting to Jesse, and she decided to focus her studies on "The Impact of Superheroes on Society". With her connections, Jesse was able to shadow the newly returned from limbo Justice Society of America. Before long, she joined the team, taking on the name Jesse Quick. It broke her mother’s heart
Jesse remained a member of the Justice Society until the rest of the team chose to retire. She then helped the Flash (Wally West) train the newly arrived from the future Bart Allen, grandson of Barry Allen and Iris West. When Wally connected with the Speed Force for the first time, he began to turn into a being of energy; believing that he would end up becoming part of the Speed Force, Wally named Jesse as the next Flash, making her the first woman to hold the title. Later, Wally admitted that he chose Jesse hoping that it would make Bart take his training seriously. This pissed Jesse off big time; she didn’t like being used as a pawn in the Allen/West family drama, and Jesse went back to working with her dad.
When Savitar showed up, Jesse put her anger at Flash aside to help stop the big bad. Along with Jesse and Wally, Savitar and his speed ninjas (yeah, SPEED NINJAS. How cool is that!?) had to deal with Impulse (Bart Allen), XS (Bart’s cousin from the future) Max Mercury (who used to go by Quiksilver), Jay Garrick, and Johnny Quick. In the battle, Johnny went faster than light in order to save Impulse, who was goofing around during the fight. In doing so, Johnny was pulled into the Speed Force, forcing him to admit that it did, in fact, exist.
Jesse took over her father’s company while continuing her superhero life. She joined the Titans for a brief period, but felt that everyone was comparing her to Wally, a founding member of the team when they were the Teen Titans, so she quit.
I guess Jesse wanted to be on Maury because around this point she started having an affair with a dude named Philip Geyer who happened to be the fiance of her mom. When Phil showed up murdered, the gross affair was brought to light; the already shaky relationship between Jesse and Libby was destroyed.
In a battle with the evil speedster Zoom, Jesse lent her speed to Wally. In doing so, she found that she could no longer access the power of the formula. Content to live a life without powers, Jesse hung up her costume. When the Justice Society reformed, Jesse acted as their business manager. Jesse met fellow legacy hero Rick Tyler, the new Hourman, and the two fell in love.
When her mother’s powers went haywire, Jesse and the JSA helped Libby deal with it, saving Libby’s life. Jesse and Libby reconciled and Jesse, wanting to get back in the hero game, took Libby’s super strength granting medal. While she couldn’t continue the legacy of her father, Jesse took on her mother’s identity, and a new Liberty Belle joined the JSA
Jesse was happy. She and Rick were married and together they were kicking baddie butt as members of history’s first superhero team. Things were awesome. Real awesome.
Then Zoom came back around.
When Zoom attacked the JSA, something happened… Jesse, fearing for the lives of her team, regained her speed abilities. Jesse would later realize that she had never lost the power; she had created a mental block, believing that she could never live up to her father’s sacrifice. Now, with super strength and superspeed, Jesse returned to her first hero identity, Jesse Quick.
When Flash left the Justice League, Batman offered the open position to Jesse, and she jumped at the chance. Her time with the League was short lived - Jesse quit the team when she became pregnant.
Not long after that, DC did the whole Flashpoint and New 52 thing. Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, and Jesse Quick were all wiped out of continuity.
Of the DC speedsters, Jesse was always one of my favorites, along with her dad. I liked the Quicks because, as the others came to learn about the Speed Force, it was Johnny and Jesse who reminded them that speed was nothing without courage. Jonny’s death was a major turning point for the Flashes: it was the first time a hero died under Wally’s leadership and it forced Impulse to see that his actions had consequences. It also put Savitar into a very exclusive group: he was the first speedster to kill someone since Barry killed Eobard Thawne.
Jesse was an interesting legacy hero because, as far as I know, she is the only one to have two superhero parents who were divorced. You don’t see divorce in comics very often, and when you do, you never see it from the POV of the child of divorce. Growing up with divorced parents, Jesse stood out to me as someone who I could relate to in a way I couldn’t with the other heroes. Fourteen-year-old me appreciated that.
I also love the idea that the Speed Force can be accessed through a mantra if you understand it, which is where I’m kinda bummed by the way Jesse is used on the show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Jesse is in The Flash, but I’m equally bummed that she is such a different character from the comics version. Having her be the daughter of Earth 2 Wells takes away the legacy aspect, as well as the use of the formula (which actually showed up in season one - Thawne/Wells has it written on a white board in an episode or two).
While I am upset with the changes they’ve made to Jesse Quick, I do like her on the show. Violett Beane, who plays Jesse, does a solid job with a character who, so far, has been defined by other characters. Hopefully, if she does become a more regular presence on the show, they build her out some. After last night’s episode, it is clear that Beane and Keiynan Lonsdale have good chemistry, and I hope they get to explore the relationship further.
Still, ain’t no one gonna be mad if a certain mathematical equation starts getting used.