When the latest trailer for The CW's The Flash hit the web earlier tonight, fans got a glimpse of Barry Allen with a beard -- and one has to wonder: could that have been one of the most obscure comics references the series has made yet?
Shortly after he ran into the Speed Force and apparently died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen -- or a reasonable facsimile thereof -- reappeared in the Marvel Universe, sporting a beard and almost no memory of his previous life.
The character of "Buried Alien" first appeared in 1990's Quasar #17, and was created by Mark Gruenwald and Mike Manley. He only appeared in a couple of issues (leaving the Marvel Universe for good in 1994's Quasar #58), but has unsurprisingly been the subject of a lot of fan interest over the years.
Per the Marvel Wiki, "'Buried Alien' (not his real name, but he recalled it as being 'something that sounded like that')...was discovered by the Runner and invited to participate in his great race. He beat several other speedsters and was declared to be the fastest man alive, but never recovered his memory. He later adopted the alias 'Fastforward.'"
The character of Fastforward wore a tattered red costume with yellow accents and boots, felt like he had a "ball of energy -- like lightning -- inside of" him. Arriving just few years after Barry ran himself essentially to death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Fastforward's last memories were of "running," and he happily accepted the title of "fastest man alive," saying it "feels...right".
The idea seemed to have been that Barry did not "die," but was simply transported through the Speed Force and into another dimension. It is possible that explanation could be used to explain why, in so many visits to the Speed Force between the time of Barry's death and his return 20 real-time years later, Wally and other speedsters rarely interacted with him: maybe he was gone most of that time!
If a bearded, disoriented Barry popping out of the Speed Force is meant to be a wink and a nod to "Buried Alien," it would be one of the most esoteric, creative, and fun Easter eggs on the show to date.
Incidentally, and much less well-known: Not long after "Buried Alien" made his debut, Peter David featured a man who was clearly meant to be Hal Jordan -- then insane, and possibly dead, in DC's main-line continuity -- locked away in an asylum, dreaming of his power ring, in an issue of The Incredible Hulk.