43 years ago - Barry Allen is born.
25 years ago - 18-year-old Barry begins studying chemistry & forensic science.
21 years ago - 22-year-old Barry graduates and begins his postgrad work while apprenticing in the Central City police department.
19 years ago - 24-year-old Barry first meets Iris West.
18 years ago - 25-year-old Barry gains his speed force powers in a lab accident & becomes the Flash.
16 years ago - 27-year-old Barry is a founding member of the Justice League, and he first meets Wally West, Iris's nephew.
15 years ago - 28-year-old Barry is first confronted by Eobard Thawne, a refugee from a lost future timeline and expert at speed force manipulation who is obsessed with using Barry to return home.
14 years ago - 29-year-old Barry takes on Wally West as Kid Flash when he gains similar powers in a lab accident.
11 years ago - 32-year-old Barry marries Iris West.
10 years ago - 33-year-old Barry goes to Themyscera with Diana Prince, Etta Candy & Hal Jordan, becoming one of the only men to ever set foot on the island.
9 years ago - 34-year-old Barry is expelled from the Justice League when Eobard Thawne attempts to draw him into the Speed Force by trying to Murder Iris West. When he tries again they are both drawn inside. Barry outruns him, managing to save Iris by depositing her in the 30th century. before is absorbed into the Speed Force, while Eobard is killed.
The legacy of Barry Allen is further reaching than almost any other character in DC. He's the very first character of the SIlver Age, and the very first classic character to pass on his legacy to his protege. He's also the character who's return marked the true downfall of DC's continuity. There were mistakes before him, but his death was too big, and too much a part of the bedrock of the story. Once he returned, there was nothing left for DC to do but push reset on everything. It could be argued that Barry is responsible both for the beginning and the end of the DC universe as we know it.
Barry Allen's Comic History
The innovation of Barry Allen, when he first appeared in 1956, was that he was a completely new take on an established superhero. It seems pretty common now, but at the time the Flash was understood to be a hero from wartime comics, back when superheroes were more popular. While the name and powers were the same, Barry Allen was a completely new character. These new stories used modern science-fiction sensibilites, often silly to the point of unbelievablity, but they were incredibly popular. Soon after Green Lantern followed suit with an even more science fiction-based premise, and an entire new generation of DC superheroes soon followed. Some were holdovers from the earlier generation, but even they shifted thematically to more closely resemble the child's-fantasy science fiction stylings established in the pages of Barry Allen's Flash. In many ways, this single character is responsible for the entire pantheon of DC heroes that are so recognized today.
These classic stories with Barry Allen were all pretty whimsical and fun, but they also laid the groundwork for future Flash stories featuring his successor, Wally West. It's these tales that give us our modern sense of who the Flash is.
Our Barry Story
We made the case for why we chose Wally West as our Flash over on his page, but it needs to be said that a big part of our decision is that Barry's place within the DC continuity as the classic original Justice League Era Flash is just as important as Wally's role as the modern Flash. These are very different roles, and it's vital that we recognize when one era of the Flash ends, and one begins.
Modern readers, of course, are more familiar with Barry as the singular Flash, but the character that they're reading is really an amalgam of the two. The world he occupies is Wally's. The enemies he faces are Wally's. They simply have Barry and Iris transposed into them. Barry's carrer was more colorful, brighter, funnier. He aproached his heroism with a lighthearted optimism and a love of science. To try to wedge that character into Wally's more pronounced blue-colar no-nonsense heroism is to do a disservice to both stories.
One thing that really defined the classic Flash stories was his constant dabbling in time travel and alternate universes. It's from the pages of the Flash that we first got to see the multiverse take shape. His archnemesis was actually a man from the future. We needed to strip that back since it's not part of our DC universe, but thankfully Barry transcends those tropes, because there in an unrecognizeable energy to the character. He simply is the greatest Legacy DC has.
There's a singularity to the Flash that makes him pretty universal. When you're talking to non-comic fans, they will obviously know Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman, but even if they don't know who the Flash is they'll be able to nod when you say "the red one". It speaks volumes for the character that his look has permeated the public consciousness, even if his actual story hasn't.
The innovations of Wally's costume over Barry's are pretty minimal. the lightning belt on Wally's costume is two bolts that meet in the middle while Barry's is one continuous one that goes all the way around. Wall is often depicted with coverings over his eyes, while Barry's tends to be wide open. More than anything, though, the innovation of always depicing the Flash with arching lightning coming off of him came long after Barry's death, so I always associate it specifically with Wally, while I imaging Barry's speed to have more of a woosh. Also... the ring that deploys the costume is a singular innovation of those classic stories, and it should absolutely stay with the original Flash.