On The CW's version of the DC Universe, there's one thing you can more or less count on: everyone is connected.
Whether it's an an family friend of the person they've looked up to for years, it's likely the hero will know the villain, and that the connection will end up being deeply personal.
Oliver and Merlyn. Oliver and Slade. Merlyn, Sara and Ra's al Ghul. Barry and Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells.
So -- who is Zoom?
That's a question that many fans have wondered since the character was introduced -- but back then, it was a little more academic. "Which version will they use?" was the question we could really have been asking back then.
And, of course, ask we did.
The early favorite was Hunter Zolomon, the second Reverse-Flash and more frequently referred to as Zoom (something Eobard Thawne had sometimes gone by in the past as well).
Zolomon was somebody who fancied himself a friend and aide to The Flash. Like the Reverse Flash on television, he incorporated some black into the outfit, he worked to make Barry "better" and he had the crazy red eyes.
"My name is Hunter Zolomon. Despite what the public believes, I am the fastest man alive. I am Zoom. But I am not a Rogue. Far from it. I have taken the name and colors from Eobard Thawne -- the time traveler know as Professor Zoom -- in order to terrorize my friend. Wally West. The Flash. I suffered through tragedy. I lost my family to it. I understand the depths it will drag one down to. And only by surviving it does one become stronger. I will recreate myself to help my friend and in turn -- the world. I will do anything to make the Flash a better hero."
He wasn't technically faster than The Flash, although it often seemed like it; his powers worked a little differently and involved manipulation of time, allowing him to basically move between seconds, appearing fast but in fact moving at normal speed, just in a way that made him nearly impossible to hit.
Because of that, if TV's Zoom is a take on Zolomon, it seems likely we'll know about it right around the time of the midseason premiere. If the villain is bending time, we should find out when "Time Master" Rip Hunter shows up for the first time.
Ultimately, he fancied himself a perfect foil for The Flash because he wanted to make him a better hero. Everything he did, then, he rationalized that it was only to challenge The Flash and force the speedster to evolve past it.
That isn't what we've seen so far, though. He wants to be the only speedster, and hopes to kill Barry Allen.
...Oh, yeah. Barry Allen.
There's a popular theory right now that Barry Allen's Earth-2 counterpart might in fact be Zoom. This is derived mostly from the fact that Zoom's costume looks like a matte-black version of Barry's with a few extra touches to further conceal his face.
Zoom's voice, provided by Tony Todd, can be explained away by the fact that he's modulating the voice with high-speed vibrations. That's going to be what's used if there's any familiar face under that mask, but certainly it would be necessary to completely divide Barry from Zoom, rather than just masking the voice, since fans are so familiar with Gustin's voice.
If it were Earth-2 Barry and he had some similarities in his life, it would explain how he intuitively knows what friends to use or to strike at.
The character looks slightly larger than Barry, though, prompting some fans to question -- especially since depending on who you ask his eyes resemble these characters -- whether it might be either Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) or Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) who will be Zoom. In the case of Cosnett, he's probably the closest thing we have to Malcolm Thawne, Barry's "evil twin" Cobalt Blue, and it could be either the Earth-2 version, or simply a resurrected version of the Eddie we knew.
Obviously, if it were Henry Allen, it would have to be the Earth-2 version...but it would give the showrunners a chance to put Shipp back in a Flash suit for the first time since 1990 or so.
While Thawne is generally discussed as the first Reverse-Flash, that's because Earth-1's continuity has always taken priority since the Crisis on Infinite Earths. There was, in fact, a Golden Age Reverse-Flash in the pages of Jay Garrick's Flash comics as well. A blue-masked, self-obsessed doppelganger of Garrick, Edward Clariss is generally called The Rival, who for a while seemed like our best candidate for a TV villain.
Many fans have wondered what significance the blue lightning Zoom produces when he runs might have, and it's something that's appeared in The Flash comics periodically over the years. More often than not, fans have associated it with Cobalt Blue, Barry's literal evil twin brother, who appeared during Mark Waid's run on The Flash and who was actually an ancestor of Eobard Thawne. A lot of people -- occasionally myself included -- thought Eddie Thawne might turn out to be Malcolm Thawne, better known as Cobalt Blue, in the TV show.
There have been other times, too; in The Flash (1990), John Wesley Shipp actually played a twisted clone of The Flash called Pollux, who wore blue and had a blue speed trail behind him. Barry in recent years has gone for blue lightning twice: once during the Blackest Night and Brightest Day events when he could be seen wearing a Blue Lantern ring and uniform, and once during the Futures End event and its fallout, as an "evil" Barry from five years into the future was introduced with a blue costume and powers. That version of Barry was instrumental in the introduction of Wally West to the post-Flashpoint DC Universe, so when Wally was announced for Season Two of The Flash, it was easy to draw that connection.
But probably the most obvious answer remains Clariss.
Clariss was a professor at the university attended by the Earth-2 Flash, Jay Garrick. He believed he had recreated the formula that gave Garrick his speed, but the scientific community didn't believe him, driving him to madness and crime.
In the comics, the formula Clariss wanted credit for was a drug called Velocity 9, later retconned to have been invented by Vandal Savage -- who, coincidentally enough, will serve as the primary antagonist on DC's Legends of Tomorrow in its first season. It isn't, as far as I can tell, tied to the mathematical formula spoken by Johnny and Jesse Quick in order to gain them access to the Speed Force, although with Jesse joining The Flash this year, it may not be entirely unrelated on TV.
Clariss took to the streets in a darker version of Garrick's costume, and instead of trailing yellow lightning behind him when he ran, his blue, possibly becuase of the darker pants and blue face mask he wore. Clariss's formula proved to be temporary, and he was defeated when it was expended. He reappeared a few months later, and in battling the Flash, reached light speed and vanished.
Clariss, it seems, had inadvertently trapped himself in the Speed Force, where he remained for decades before being retrieved by Johnny Sorrow, who invited him to join the new Injustice Society -- in a storyline written by The Flash executive producer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, the driving force behind Zolomon. He would appear in another, Garrick-centric storyline in The Flash during the Johns era.
After returning from the Speed Force, The Rival was reinvented to have his face blurred by speed motion rather than simply wearing a mask -- something that many of Johns' speed-powered villains would echo. This could explain why Tony Todd will be only the voice of Zoom, rather than having one actor do both.
After his escape from the Speed Force, Clariss was able to possess other bodies, being that he was now a being of pure energy, which may also explain the need for a dynamic voice actor to do at least part of the work.
There are other possibilities, of course: Jay Garrick and Harrison Wells have both been considered potential candidates, and there's always the possibility that he's actually a literal force of nature, like the Black Flash or the Black Racer.
Who do you think might be Zoom? Chime in in the comments below.