Jay Garrick is a fictional character, a comic book superhero in the DC Comics universe and the first to use the name Flash.
Jason Peter Garrick is a college student prior to 1940 (later retconned to 1938) who accidentally inhales hard water vapors after falling asleep in his laboratory where he had been working (later stories would change this to heavy water vapors). As a result, he finds that he can run at superhuman speed and has similarly fast reflexes (retcons imply the inhalation simply activated a latent metagene). After a brief career as a college football star, he dons a red shirt with a lightning bolt and a stylized metal helmet with wings (based on images of the Roman god Mercury) and begins to fight crime as the Flash. The helmet belonged to Jay's father, Joseph, who fought during World War I. He has been seen using the helmet as a weapon/type of shield, as seen in Infinite Crisis. He has also used it to direct a beam of light at Eclipso.
His first case involves battling the Faultless Four, a group of blackmailers. In the early stories, it seems to be widely known that Garrick was the Flash. Later stories would show him as having his identity secret, and that he was able to maintain it without the use of a mask by constantly "vibrating" his features, making him hard to recognize or clearly photograph. The effectiveness of this is debatable, as he later blamed his lack of a mask for Joan (his girlfriend) deducing his true identity.
During his career he would often find himself embroiled in semi-comical situations inadvertently initiated by Winky, Blinky, and Noddy, a trio of tramp who tried their hand at one job after another, and never successfully.
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Official Site: DC Comics
Links: Jay Garrick Wiki Entry Spider-Bob's Hero Directory Those Who Ride the Lightning