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The History Of DC's Iris West Explained

Superheroes don't exist in a vacuum.

The spandex-wearing crimefighters who populate comic books and cineplexes are undoubtedly the focal point and draw of the over-the-top stories that have dominated the box office over the last decade and change. But watching them repeatedly save the world would get old fast if there was no one in that world to save. We need sympathetic humans — fellow travelers and friends to give weight to the universe that the Justice League and Avengers are trying to keep on its axis. It takes cohorts to humanize a superhero and make the fact that they're beyond human seem less than monstrous.

While it's taken quite a while for comics and movie writers to absorb this lesson, flashes of it were there from the very beginning. As long as there's been Superman, there's been Lois Lane. And though fans of the CW series might groan at the way they chose to show it, Barry Allen needs Iris West.

The story of the Flash's closest companion helps to ground an otherwise insane timeline in ideas even the uninitiated can understand. In a universe where characters live and die and live again, time travel is possible and frequent, and the Flash is a mantle worn by several characters, a central relationship like Barry and Iris can help bring all that wild comics weirdness back into focus. This is the history of DC's Iris West explained.

A woman out of time

Before we dive too deep into who Iris West is, it's worth noting how she's different from many superhero companions. Iris isn't just a damsel in need of saving or a shoulder to cry on. She's deeply tied up in the strange and knotted mythos of the Flash. The most important thing to know about Iris is that she's actually from hundreds of years in the future.

While for most people, thinking of the Flash brings to mind a red suit and the ability to run at insanely high speeds, a significant portion of the Flash universe is centered around the idea of moving through time. Barry Allen frequently treks through time to right wrongs or prevent atrocities, finding out just as often that his meddling was a bad idea or entirely ineffective. In the world of the Flash, big bad events tend to act like deep stains on time, refusing to come out no matter how hard Barry tries to remove them. When he makes small personal changes, the ripple effects have severe consequences.

One of the many reveals of the Flash's effect on time came decades ago, when the Barry Allen of the comics discovered that his wife Iris was actually a time traveler from the 30th century. Though different versions of the story have her coming back at different points in her life, one of the most prominent puts Iris' time travel in her infancy, leaving her with little recollection of the far-off future.

Before The Flash

Like Barry Allen, Iris West grew up in Central City. Different versions of The Flash have given her different occupations over the years, but her attraction to Barry remains pretty consistent regardless of which continuity the story happens to be in. Most versions of Iris have her working for the Central City newspaper as a reporter and coming across the Flash that way. Some iterations, like the Flash series on the CW, have Iris and Barry being friends since childhood. In the television series, Allen was essentially raised as a part of Iris' family following the death of his mother, who died at the hands of Eobard Thawne.

No matter how they come together, these two lovebirds always seem to get together. A running bit that pre-dated Barry and Iris as an item (and Barry as the Flash) was that Iris was compulsively punctual, contrasting with Barry's flustered lateness. Even after he gained the ability to run around the world in a blink, he remained too disorganized to get anywhere on time.

In spite of their differences, Iris still loves Barry very deeply. They were engaged and eventually married, with Iris eventually learning that Allen is secretly the Flash about a year after they tied the knot.

A terrible tragedy

Being close to a superhero has its perks — it can definitely add a few colorful wrinkles to date night — but it also inevitably leads to pain. After all, if you have an enemy who has dedicated their entire life to seeing you suffer (as most comics heroes do), a non-superpowered loved one is a flashing neon target.

All of which is to say that with Flash's nemesis Reverse-Flash looking to harm Barry Allen in every possible timeline, Iris may as well have been the base of a house of cards. It was only a matter of time before the supervillain knocked her down to leave Barry in shambles. The bright yellow mastermind isn't one for subtlety, but he was able to find a way to corner Iris without sacrificing any of his characteristic flair. He found Barry's then-wife at a costume party, where he was cleverly disguised as himself. Iris, meanwhile, was dressed as Batgirl, a character with her own history of being attacked by supervillains hoping to extract misery from their nemesis.

The character sometimes known as Zoom used his speed powers to vibrate his hand through her skull. He phased his hand through her head only to slow down with his hand inside, scrambling her brain and killing her instantly.

Though Iris remained dead for a while in Barry's timeline (to his knowledge), she was actually doing well elsewhere. In the meantime, Barry fell in love again — and Zoom, true to form, also attempted to kill his next fiancée.

Alive in the 30th century

While Iris was absent from Barry's life for quite some time, another Iris existed further up the timestream. As mentioned earlier, Iris was born in the 30th century. After another battle with Professor Zoom, Flash takes a trip into the future to visit Iris' birth parents, the Russells, who sent Iris into the past after enlisting the help of that era's Flash, John Fox. When Iris died in the past, it created a paradox in their own time. The Russells were able to solve the problem by putting the consciousness of Iris in another body, apparently something we have the technology to handle in the 30th century.

When Flash came to visit the Russells, he found this new Iris and they quickly fell back into their old ways, with Allen vowing to stay in the 30th century. Allen knew enough about the timeline, from the vantage point of the future, to know that he died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. To avoid that fate, he stayed with Iris as long as he could. This vacation couldn't last, however. Time's inelasticity wouldn't allow it.

A villain known as the Anti-Monitor traveled into the 30th century and kidnapped Barry Allen. After bringing him back into his original timeline, the villain tortured the Flash as he set about destroying many different versions of Earth. The Flash broke free of his restraints and was able to destroy the antimatter machine at the heart of the plan by running so fast that he turned the antimatter in on itself. The exertion of his feat and the toll of handling the antimatter killed Barry, who passed away shortly after averting the disaster.

On a mission

Iris West knew that her centuries-long partner was gone. But she's a hero in her own right, and even after losing him, she refused to shy away from the world that Barry Allen inhabited.

During their month together in the 30th century, Iris got pregnant. She would eventually give birth to twins, who were also imbued with the power of the Speed Force. Don and Dawn were collectively known as the "Tornado Twins" and grew up to fight crime in their own time until they were both killed in an attack by the Dominators.

Before Don's death, he had a child named Bart with Melodi Thawne, the descendant of Professor Zoom. They hoped that their relationship would finally put an end to the eons-spanning fight between the Flash and Zoom, but the combination of their superpowered genetics created a child that aged very rapidly. Out of concern for Bart's longterm health, Iris traveled back in time to seek a cure for his condition. She teamed up with the Wally West, who was then fighting crime under the mantle of the Flash, and found the solution, leading Bart to start his own superpowered vigilante career as the hero known as Impulse and fight alongside Wally's Flash.

Hot commodity

As you might imagine, Iris felt deeply uncomfortable in the 20th century. Living in an entirely new, more primitive time made her uneasy, to say the least, and she decided to go into hiding rather than deal with the demands of 20th century life.

Unfortunately, hiding wasn't possible for someone who held knowledge of the future. The history contained in her brain made her a massive target for villains hoping to get one over. She stayed in hiding both because she feared for her life, and didn't want her presence to drastically alter history. She did eventually stick her neck out to help Johnny Quick win a battle with the Speed Force-worshipping cult leader Savitar, thus giving herself away. She was kidnapped by Polaris and Abra Kadabra so that they might plot world domination using her insight. When she managed to escape, she went underground again, publishing a history of the Flash from an undisclosed location.

Later events made her understand that the future is not all it's cracked up to be. After learning that some of what she believed about the past was incorrect, she realized that the world was already somewhat different than the one she came from. Knowing that, she opted to come out of hiding and cherish her time with her family.


All of that was turned on its head with the Flashpoint miniseries. In this Flash-led event that rippled out throughout the DC Universe, Barry Allen realizes that he's woken up in an alternate world (and is the only one who remembers the world as it was). Superman's place in the pantheon has been taken up by Cyborg. Thomas Wayne is not only not dead, he's Batman. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are locked in a forever war rather than working together in the Justice League. In fact, the Justice League doesn't exist.

Iris West is married to another reporter. Though her nephew Wally West still exists in this world, he has nothing to do with the Speed Force and is eventually killed.

As Barry attempts to set the world right, he is confronted by Eobard Thawne, who reveals that the new timeline was created by Barry's attempt to go back in time and save his mother. Because the resulting shift wrote him out of the history of the Flash, Thawne gloats that he could kill Barry without endangering his own timeline. After Batman incapacitates Thawne, he and Allen attempt to reawaken his speed powers so that he might fix the altered timeline.

The first attempt goes poorly and burns Barry badly. The second attempt works, though it nearly kills Thomas Wayne. Barry eventually resets the universe, losing ten years of DC canon in the process.

New 52 and Rebirth

Things became quite tangled at DC after the universe-restarting Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 2011, they rolled out another hard reboot of their titles, dubbed "The New 52." This reset brought back Barry Allen and started his story before he was involved with Iris. Though Iris has a crush on the young Flash, the story picks up before either of them have revealed how they feel. In the New 52 timeline, her feelings for Barry get stronger and stronger. However, in a bit of a diversion from previous incarnations of the character, he doesn't feel the same way.

The New 52 was semi-abandoned just five years later with the DC Rebirth event. This time around, Iris realizes that she once lived another life. She sees visions of herself married to Barry Allen, and begins to understand that the timeline has been altered somehow. She begins to take in the events of Flashpoint, the event that set the DC Universe on its current path. When she realizes that Barry is responsible for altering the timeline due to his frequent time travel, she starts to push him away.

Iris knows that Barry is fully aware of the differences that exist in a post-Flashpoint universe, and that he kept that knowledge from her. She knows nothing of her death at the hands of Zoom (though she does end up killing his non-superpowered analogue in this universe). Ultimately, Barry is able to win back her trust after he apologizes to her and allows her into the world that the Flash inhabits.

The Arrowverse

The Arrowverse version of the Flash picks and chooses portions of Iris' backstory to keep. While she remains a journalist in Central City, other parts of her story are less defined by comic book history. Wally West is her brother in the television series, and she's not romantically involved with Barry, at least at first. Barry is infatuated with another woman, and the pair go on an awkward date early in the series that doesn't go well.

Iris does a lot in the television series to position herself as a crucial part of the the Flash continuing to exist. Outside of her occasionally derided delivery of the line "We are the Flash," Iris is explicit about the importance of the non-powered team around Barry.

"You're human, and we have a purpose too," she explains to another team member in a season 5 episode. "We remind superheroes what they're fighting for."

Over time she grows close to Barry, and the pair eventually marry. She has a child with Barry named Nora, but in true Flash fashion, the child is a bit unstuck in time and raised by Iris entirely alone after Barry winks out of existence during a fight with Thawne. Iris hides Nora's speedster powers by implanting a limiting chip in her daughter and steering her away from stories of her father. In time, Nora learns of her abilities and grows resentful of Iris, traveling back in time to join Team Flash as an adult and meeting her father for the first time.

Losing a daughter and disappearing

Nora West is obsessed with the superpowered serial killer known as Cicada, a villain that her late father never caught. When she travels back in time, she attempts to help her parents solve his crime spree. Unfortunately, mucking about in the timestream and eventually destroying a weapon that belonged to Cicada alters the future so much that Nora ceases to exist. She's able to embrace Iris and Barry one last time before she's erased.

This sudden change of fate shakes Iris deeply, but she doesn't have much time to dwell on it. Just one season later, Iris herself is whisked out of the Flash's universe, finding herself trapped in a dark parallel universe called the Mirrorverse during The Flash's season 6 finale. While the Flash showrunners have shared that Iris will be back in season 7, she'll likely be deeply shaken by her time in the parallel universe. A little post-traumatic stress is perfectly normal in this situation, after all — but if we know anything about Iris West at his point, it's that she always finds a way to triumph over adversity.