Reverse-Flash vs. Professor Zoom What's the Difference? 'The Flash' Villains Have a Wonderfully Weird Comic History
I am still reeling from the game-changing midseason finale of The Flash . I laughed! I cried! I was completely blown away by "The Man in the Yellow Suit." The episode pulled back the curtain on the Reverse-Flash and finally revealed that Harrison Wells is almost definitely a total bad guy. But one pattern I noticed while live tweeting the show was that critics and viewers alike were very confused about Reverse-Flash. Was there more than one Reverse-Flash? What's the difference between Reverse-Flash and Professor Zoom? Why didn't Reverse-Flash kill Detective Eddie Thawne? How could Harrison Wells be Reverse-Flash when we saw him get beat up by the villain? Oh, my sweet, naive The Flash fans. I am here to help set everything straight by dropping some knowledge about The Flash and his greatest enemy.
The Reverse-Flash Is a Title, Not One Villain
One of the biggest points of confusion I noticed during the finale came from misunderstanding the dynamics of Reverse-Flash. The Reverse-Flash isn't one speedster, it's a title that's been taken on by several villains. The first Reverse-Flash known as The Rival was the villain of the first Flash, Jay Garrick. But the Reverse-Flash you need to know about is the second villain to take the title and Barry Allen's greatest foe, Professor Zoom.
Eobard Thawne, more often known by the title Professor Zoom, is the most important Reverse-Flash. No other has had quite the effect on the history of The Flash, including in the defining comic event, Flashpoint. Professor Zoom has killed Barry's mother along with Iris, and gone to great lengths in his obsessive rivalry with Barry. Dude doesn't need to beat Barry, he needs therapy.
So, Who is Professor Zoom? Why is He So Important?
Imagine the craziest Beyonce stan you've ever met. This stan is so obsessed with Beyonce being an even more badass entertainer that they decide to become a pop star to force their idol to step up her game. But the stan turned-pop star goes full blown crazy and tries to ruin Beyonce's life, including killing people close to her. In a nutshell, that is Professor Zoom. He's brutal. He's obsessive. He's not to be messed with. Originally from the 25th Century, Professor Zoom has two very different origins both of which I suspect are in play on The Flash.
Does This Mean Harrison Wells is Professor Zoom?
I believe that based on what we've seen, Harrison Wells is Professor Zoom. The show hasn't outright called him that, which is understandable, but he's the only Reverse-Flash that makes sense to appear on the show, and all signs point to Harrison taking up that mantle. And thus far, the series has been playing around with established canon but not outright ignoring it.
Time travel is a major factor and is integral to Professor Zoom's role as a Reverse-Flash, which we know is a part of the show thanks to the newspaper in Wells' lair. Grant Gustin, who stars as Barry Allen, gave some interesting hints about where the show is going in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter and said, "What the coolest thing about that moment, to me, is they're setting up the fact that the Flashpoint story line [from the comics] could potentially happen — that Speed Force could be an aspect and time travel is potentially a part of the show."
How Did Harrison Wells Get Those Powers?
Remember that ending with Wells breaking out a super creepy Reverse-Flash voice and operating some future tech on the yellow suit? That's straight out of the earlier version of Professor Zoom. Eobard Thawne comes from the 25th century and was a big fan of The Flash. This obsession leads him down a dangerous path including getting plastic surgery to look like Barry and a tendency to hurt Iris. And that last scene that had Wells using a machine on the Reverse-Flash suit?
Yep, that one. Original Professor Zoom doesn't have any speedster abilities. Instead, he uses some future machinery to amplify a Flash suit's speed energy, providing him with some superpowers only when he has it on. As the comics continued, Barry Allen's abilities became more diverse. He's honestly more powerful than non-comic book readers realize and the show has only touched the surface of what the superhero can do. It makes sense that Professor Zoom would get a revamp to continue being a real threat to Barry.
In his new origin, Professor Zoom replicates the accident that gives Barry his superpowers and travels back in time to meet his hero. Things don't go well once Professor Zoom realizes he's destined to become the biggest superpowered jerk in existence. Professor Zoom goes mad and his obsession turns from idolatry to straight up villainy. Without The Flash, there is no Professor Zoom, which would explain why Wells is so hellbent on Barry reaching his full potential. I suspect Wells is going to try to gain Barry's abilities full stop.
Why Didn't He Kill Eddie Thawne?
While there were suspicions that Eddie Thawne could be Reverse-Flash, I figured the show would play things differently. Wells seems more like the show's version of Eobard Thawne aka Professor Zoom aka the second villain to take on the name Reverse-Flash (time travel definitely included). Notice Eddie's last name? If Wells really is Eobard and had killed Eddie Thawne, he'd be screwing up his family line and probably even inadvertently making himself nonexistent.
Where Is This Awesome Show Going?
I know all the knowledge I've dropped is pretty bonkers. The Flash is a long running comic book character that involves a lot of time travel, so it isn't surprising that his history is this confusing. The show will continue to tease out information about its Reverse-Flash and show how underhanded Wells truly can be. One theory I have is that while Wells' super speed abilities are only from his Reverse-Flash suit, he is trying to find a way to gain them permanently. The fact that we saw two Reverse-Flashes in the mid season finale doesn't mean they are two different men. Most likely, the masked Reverse Flash that caused so much damage was just Wells at a different point in his timeline.
It isn't without precedent for Professor Zoom to travel back in time to shape his own life and ruin Barry's. This means the road ahead for our favorite Scarlet Speedster, Barry Allen, is definitely not going to be an easy one.