Nerd Labs: Issue #8 - Who Is The Fastest Superhero?

Hello True Believers!

Welcome to Season 2 of Nerd Labs! So, I know, the break between Season 1 and now was a long one. I essentially took a year off. In my defence, it was a busy year for me, during which I got married, moved twice, and started a new career. BUT, this season is going to be much smoother, much more frequent, and just as good as the last one! My plan is to write a bunch of issues early so that I have a backlog to keep things flowing properly. This means that you should be getting a brand new issue of Nerd Labs every month on the 15th. So make sure you check back often!

We are going to kick-off the season by tackling one of the most hotly contested topics in comics: Who is the fastest superhero in comics?

I have chosen two candidates from Marvel and two from DC, and we will compare some of their craziest feats to determine who is the fastest!

Representing DC, we have The Flash (namely Barry Allen) and Superman. For Marvel, we have Quicksilver and the Silver Surfer.

Before we get started, I need to make something clear. We will only be looking at their feats which are measurable in regards to science as we know it. I simply can’t do anything with feats of outracing death, going so fast that times turns backwards, or running faster than instantaneous teleportation. Those things can’t be measured with science we have in 2018, so I am choosing to ignore them for the sake of this issue. Feel free to argue with me later, but I’ll expect you to somehow give me quantifiable data on those types of things before I consider your argument valid. In regards to one specific feat, The Nerdist did a great video on the Flash’s Infinite Mass Punch, so rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I’ll just encourage you to check out their video here.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some of the feats we CAN measure for our four speedsters.




Let’s start with the Flash:

  • Outran death
  • Ran fast enough to change time
  • Outran teleportation
  • Moved half a million people to a safe distance (35 miles) from a nuclear blast in 0.0001 microseconds, one or two at a time
  • The first three fall into the “not measurable” category, so we will predominantly be looking at the last feat from the pages of JLA #89.

Next, Superman:

  • Fly speed of light
  • Caught the Flash running (Flash’s speed unknown)
  • Vibrated fast enough to become invisible
  • Ran across water
  • Mach 10,000 (10,000 times the speed of sound)

Most of these are actually calculable, so we’ll briefly look at all of them to find his fastest feat.


Over to Marvel, we have Quicksilver:

  • Disarms 17 men before a finger can pull a trigger
  • Travels from Genosha to Latveria in the time Dr. Doom takes a couple steps
  • Runs from LA to Buenos Aires at Mach 321.5
  • Runs from Tibet to Indonesia in approx. 5 seconds (time to say a sentence) Mach 4891
  • Outran radio waves
  • Ran halfway around the world in 92 seconds
  • Ran 347 miles in 3.7 seconds

The first one is pretty abstract (how long does it take to disarm someone?), so we will look at the others more prominently.

Finally, the Silver Surfer:

  • Enters warp-speed and travels 500,000 light-years in seconds
  • Crosses the universe in seconds
  • These can both be used, but I’ll be focusing on the second feat.

The Math

For the Flash’s feat, I have to go against what the writer himself says in the pages of the issue. Multiple times, Joe Kelly states that the Flash is moving near light-speed. However, my calculations differ from that. In the issue, The Flash saved 500,000 people from a nuclear blast in Korea, transporting them to a safe distance away (35miles) in 0.00001 microseconds, carrying them one or two at a time. Taking an average of 1.5 people (assume his arms got tired at exactly the halfway point), we find that Barry was running at approximately 13,500,000,000,000,000,000,000km/hr (8,300,000,000,000,000,000,000mph). This is approximately 12,500,000,000,000 times the speed of light (that’s 12.5 trillion, in case you don’t like counting zeroes).

For Superman, our calculations are a lot easier to find. The speed of light is 1,080,000,000km/hr (671,080,887.6164mph), but this is a moot point looking at what the Flash just did. It takes a speed of 108km/hr (67mph) for an average sized man to run on water (there were scientific studies, the pictures from which are hilarious, by the way). Mach 10,000 is approximately 12,000,000km/hr (7,456,454mph). All of these pale in comparison to The Flash. The toughest feat to calculate was the vibration invisibility. The human eye and brain can recognize objects seen for as short as 13 milliseconds. This means that Supes needs to be vibrating so fast that he isn’t occupying any one space for longer than that speed of time. The fastest way to do this would be to move one shoulder width back and forth with his whole body (the shoulders being the widest part of the male physique. The average man has a shoulder span of 18.25” (46cm). We’ll assume Superman is larger than average, but not bodybuilder size, as he still needs to be able to pose as Clark Kent. We’ll say 21” (53cm) just for the sake of argument. For him to move that distance every 13 milliseconds, that means he is moving at 1908km/hr. Some people may have trouble with this, seeing as we can see rockets moving at greater speeds without much issue. Trust me, it was complicated and has to do with the relative distance from the eye and a lot of trigonometry. Just trust me, that’s his speed.

As you can see, Superman doesn’t come anywhere close to The Flash, so we’ll just move on to Quicksilver. The distance from Genosha to Latveria is approximately the same as that from Madagascar to Romania (the approximate real world locations of these countries) at 7,669km. Assuming Dr. Doom is of average height and moving at average speed, this means Quicksilver covers that distance in 2 seconds, making it a speed of 13,804,200km/hr (8,577,532mph). Mach 321.5 is approximately 396,988.2km/hr (246,677mph), while Mach 4891 is approximately 6,039,407km/hr (3,752,713mph). Outrunning radio waves means that he was running at approximately light-speed, but we can’t calculate an exact amount. It is safe to assume that he was still nowhere near the speed of The Flash, and his other feats are even less threatening to his reign.

Then comes the Silver Surfer. At this point, I was positive that the Flash was going to walk away with the title. Then I found a case where Marvel’s favourite Herald crosses the entire universe in a matter of seconds to find a planet for Galactus to eat. While the time frame is by no means exact, I decided that 3 seconds was a reasonable amount for “a matter of seconds” (Renegade and Ken backed me up on this). This means that The Silver Surfer would have been flying at a STAGGERING 105,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000km/hr (65,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000mph). That’s 9.72 QUADRILLION times the speed of light, and 7,778 times faster than the Flash’s feat with the Korean explosion. I couldn’t find any measurable feat for any of the other heroes that came close to this.

With all this in mind, I feel confident in crowning The Silver Surfer as the fastest superhero in comics!

Thanks so much for reading everyone. What’s your favourite speed feat in comics? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,