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I was wondering, when we see the Flash do everyday things, like ordering coffee or having a conversation, he seems to do it at "regular" speed. Is this because he can turn his speed "on and off" or is he essentially doing it super, super slow?

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    Also, while we have you here please take the tour and see the help center. This is an interesting question, but is there a difference between the two?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 11:25
  • @AncientSwordRage Yes, imagine if you had to talk s...u...p...e...r... slow to order a coffee, and then it took (subjectively) hours to get to you, but you had to hold extremely still the whole time. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:22

1 Answer 1

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The Flash can turn his speed on and off.

As shown in The Flash Vol 2 #30, the Wally West Flash could sit down in a movie theatre with his girlfriend, and perceive a movie running at the same speed as normal people. But when he subconsciously turned his speed on, in response to the sensation of a speeding bullet beginning to press against the back of his neck (a gunman at the back of the theatre had just begun to unleash a hail of bullets into the audience), everything and everyone around him suddenly froze in place from his perspective.

At first, he was confused as to why everything and everyone had suddenly stopped moving, but soon realised what had happened when he noticed the bullet seemingly frozen in midair, just behind his neck (technically, it wasn't strictly frozen, just moving very slowly).

In explaining what had occurred, he specifically noted that his speed had turned "on":

WALLY WEST: I must've turned my speed on sub-consciously when I first felt the bullet touch my neck.

Wally West is in a cinema. He turns to Connie and says "Connie, I said 'Did it work'". The next panel is a close up of Connie's motionless face. Then a panel where Wally looks at Connie's motionless face and just says "Connie". The next two panels show that everything around Wally is frozen in time. Wally thinks to himself "She's frozen. Everybody's frozen. It's like a spell. Even the screen's stuck on one frame. What the hell's going on."

A close up of Connie's frozen face, focused on her eye. Wally whispers "Connie...Connie? Snap out of it. In the next panel you see the movie goes frozen. A bullet presses into Wally's neck. Wally thinks to himself "No good... I'm the only one who can move...OUCH". In the next three panels Wally touches his neck where the bullet touched, turns to grab the bullet then looks at it. His thoughts over those three panels are: "Somethings pressing into my neck", "A Bullet. Floating in the air!" and "Which means everything else isn't floating."

A top down view of the cinema, with Wally's thoughts floating over the scene. "I must've turned my speedforce on subconsciously"... "That means someone's out there in the dark shooting at me"..."And he's frozen like everybody else! 'Cause less than a second since he pulled the trigger. In the inset panel, he eats something and thinks "So I need to keep eating to maintain this speed." The next panel is a close up of his superhero costume flying out of his ring. Wally thinks "Become Flash". You then see him in his costume thinking to himself, "And find this guy, before I have to slow down. If he gets another chance I'll be a sitting duck".

After intercepting all but one of the bullets fired into the audience, and disarming the gunman, he then turned his speed back off again momentarily, so he could taunt the gunman before knocking him out. His exact words in this case were:

WALLY WEST: All I have to do to start time again is will myself to stop.

(That's when he realised he'd overlooked one of the bullets, because the one he missed immediately took out the exit sign over one of the doors.)

When you think about it, it really has to work this way, otherwise the Flash being able to converse with normal people -- in such a way that both sides can understand what is being said -- would be either impossible, or at best, impractical. I mean, even if it were somehow possible for the Flash to understand words being spoken at an excruciatingly slow pace from his perspective, imagine the inordinate amount of patience it would take to stand there and listen for that long, and to speak in turn at the same, excruciatingly slow pace.

From a writer's perspective, it's an absolute no-brainer that you'd want a character like this to be able to turn their speed on and off as necessary.

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    I'd recommend reducing the number of images, and request if possible adding the alt text for each image (a description, plus the text in each picture)
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 11:27
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    Yes please to alt text! We have a huge backlog of posts missing alt text.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 11:44
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    Odd that he decides he has to put on the costume in order to run around and find the shooter. Clearly his powers work without it or time wouldn't have "frozen" in the first place. I guess it's following the Superman model, where he had to go change in a phone booth to save the day, but in his case as well we know the powers aren't related to the suit. Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:02
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    @DarrelHoffman IIRC the suit has an actual use where it prevents him from overheating. Or helps with friction. Something along those lines. At least I do remember it seeing it in some incarnations. The implication is that the Flash can still be very fast without the suit but moving at such speed for extended periods of time would have adverse effects. I don't know if those adverse effects really ever came up in a story, though.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:17
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    @VLAZ - His control may not be perfect under all writers, but he clearly can't be at top speed all the time, otherwise normal people wouldn't just be slow enough to be annoying, they'd be so slow as to make their movements virtually imperceptible. The Flash shown in the scans I posted is probably the slowest one ever that still actually had powers. During the first few years that he was the Flash (previously having been Kid Flash), Wally's speed was reduced from near-lightspeed levels to moderately supersonic levels. He later regained the ability to run at near-lightspeed and beyond. Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:47

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