It’s been a while since I’ve contributed to this series, huh? Well, you’re in for a real treat today, because this is the anniversary of the day the Flash, Fastest Man Alive, met Mopee.
A good number of you have probably never heard of Mopee before. That’s because, like Bruno, we’re not supposed to talk about him: he’s not very well-liked by the fandom, to say the least. But I’m a rebel, so I’m doing this anyway.
It all happens in Flash #167, which starts on the night of December 8, 1966. Flash is taking down some jewel smugglers when he suddenly catches on fire, necessitating a quick douse in a nearby river.
Normally, when Flash uses his speed, he is protected by a special aura that keeps him (and his clothes) from burning up. Now, however, something has taken his aura away — or rather, someone. That someone is Mopee, “initiate tenth class of the heavenly help-mates.” No, we never get more of an explanation than that.
And why should Mopee wish to rob Flash of his aura, you ask? According to him, he’s the one who gave Barry his powers, so he can do whatever he wants. The imp giveth and the imp taketh away, in other words.
As Mopee tells it, his superiors tasked him with granting a worthy human super-speed for…some reason. Mopee chose Barry and caused the lightning bolt to hit the chemicals that spilled all over him and gave him his speed. But because of a minor technicality, it turns out Barry’s speed was given to him in an “illegal” manner, so Mopee now has to take those powers back. Even in heaven, one can’t escape bureaucracy.
Fortunately, there is an incredibly convoluted loophole that would allow Barry to keep his powers: if he, as the Flash, can earn enough money within 24 hours to buy the chemicals that hit him, Mopee can recreate the event that gave him his powers, and he can stay speedy forever. Per Barry’s near-instantaneous mental calculations, he must earn $94.36, or $851.27 in 2022 dollars. (Thanks, CPI Inflation Calculator!)
So Barry puts an ad in the morning paper, which is how we know the date of this little escapade.
Out of all the job offers, Mopee selects one from a plastic manufacturer who is behind on delivering packages. It just so happens that the jewel smugglers from earlier hid their diamonds in one of these packages, a fact which allows Flash to finally capture them while earning his $94.36 for the speed chemicals.
But even after permanently regaining his speed, there is one question left: if Barry’s accident was no accident, then how did his sidekick Wally West, who got his powers in an identical accident, gain his powers?
This question of how Barry and Wally “really” got their speed cropped up again and again. After Crisis on Infinite Earths rewrote reality, it was revealed that Barry, in trying to save the multiverse, became the lightning bolt that originally gave him powers, thus erasing Mopee’s contribution. In another story, it was implied that the lightning strike (which was, again, Barry himself in magic lightning form) made Barry more than human, and that he subconsciously willed a similar accident to happen to Wally.
Look, is the Flash’s origin silly and improbable? Of course. He’s a superhero. They’re all a little silly, whether we like to admit it or not. Why not just leave it that way instead of trying to force logic where it doesn’t belong? It’s not like Clarence Oddbody’s less endearing cousin added any dignity to the proceedings.
As for Mopee, for a long time, his only other appearance was a surprisingly funny cameo in Ambush Bug #3, in which he claims to be the driving force behind all of DC’s heroes, and also Marvel’s while he’s at it. (He “released a spider in the radioactivity exhibit at the university” and “arranged for Xavier to get an educational development grant,” among other things.) But in mocking himself, Mopee only highlights the pointlessness of both his own existence and every other Flashy retcon: to enjoy a superhero story, you need to suspend your disbelief just enough to buy the idea of a bat flying into a window at an opportune moment, or a convenient assortment of chemicals giving a man super-speed. We’ve all done it, and we’ll continue to do it, and we don’t need a little dude in a robe to facilitate the process.
Maybe that’s why Mopee’s only other appearance, a cameo in Flash #771, recreated his debut with a much more sinister edge.
Honestly, that’s fair. If some rando popped up just to set me on fire, I’d be inclined to think badly of him, too.