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Hometown superhero: TV fame outs Barry Allen as The Flash

Staff writer

Breaking news: a superhero lives in Marion County and may have been your mechanic for decades, without you even knowing.

The Flash, a DC Comics superhero known for exceptional speed, has put his talents to use at Webster Auto Service in Marion.

When not speeding around saving the world in his bright red suit emblazoned with a lightning bolt, the Flash walks through life with a secret identity: Barry Allen. And Barry Allen is owner of Webster Auto Service.

The secret was so well kept that Allen didn’t even know his superhero alter ego for years.

“I was sitting down here in one of the barber shops downtown, and they always had comic books there,” Allen said. “I didn’t know at that point, then I was flipping through and I saw my name in there.”

He was about 7 or 8 years old — old enough to read, and to work.

Allen has only ever worked at Webster Auto.

“Ever since I was about this high,” Allen said, holding his hand a few feet off the floor of his office. “Ever since I could push a broom and go get parts from the auto supply. I kind of grew up down here.”

Allen’s grandpa started the business in 1953.

While the grandson shares a name with a superhero, the grandpa, Marium Webster, shared a name with a dictionary: Merriam-Webster.

The Flash was not as popular of a superhero when Barry Allen was growing up.

“Everything was Batman and Superman,” Allen said. “It wasn’t until recent years that anybody even knew what The Flash was.”

Ever the humble mechanic and superhero, he usually does not reveal his alter ego.

“I usually don’t say anything unless somebody asks,” Allen said. “Since the TV show, I’ve heard a lot since then. That’s what really did it.”

The Flash’s popularity and Allen’s name moved mainstream when the TV show came out in 2014 on CW and Netflix.

“For years nobody even had any idea,” Allen said. “It’s amazing what TV can do.”

It has only been the last two or three years that people have taken notice, primarily the younger generation, Allen said.

“It’s been kind of fun to play with now that people recognize it,” he said.

Now, it is not uncommon for The Flash’s secret identity to become not so secret when showing identification.

“I’ve been in a lot of places now that they’ll ask my name or you have to show a credit card,” Allen said, “and they ask, ‘Is that really your name? Are you really The Flash?’”

“‘Oh, I wish,’” Allen replies.

When checking into a Reno, Nevada, hotel on a national bowling tournament trip three years ago, the receptionist noticed his name.

“She looked at the screen, she looked at me, she looked at the screen, and she goes: ‘Is that really your name?’” Allen said.

He said he is a fan of superhero comics, TV shows, cartoons, and movies, but The Flash has always been a favorite. He looks a little different from the live-action TV actor. In his own words, their hair color is the same, but the actor doesn’t wear glasses.

Allen said he has never thought about incorporating a flashy catchphrase as a business slogan.

“It would be nice to be that fast,” Allen said. “You could get a lot done.”

For those who are unconvinced of Allen’s superpower identity, The Flash plans to be in costume at Webster Auto on Halloween.

Last modified Sept. 27, 2017

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