The cosmic treadmill is a fictional time travel device appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The treadmill first appears in The Flash #125, and its origin is never explained in the comics.
The cosmic treadmill in Flash #196
Art by Paul Winslade
|First appearance||The Flash #125 (December 1961)|
|Created by||John Broome|
|In story information|
|Type||Time travel device|
|Element of stories featuring||Flash|
The cosmic treadmill was first seen in The Flash #125. It was initially developed as a means of allowing Barry Allen to travel through time precisely to battle aliens who had taken over the Earth in 2287 by projecting a hive into the past that stopped technology, so Kid Flash traveled to the past to stop it, while the Flash battled the aliens in the Future. Kid Flash succeeded, enabling the aliens to be defeated. The Flash had already travelled through time to return a future criminal to his own time using superspeed vibrations in his second story, and passing through a "roadblock" in the mists of time called the Time Barrier.
The cosmic treadmill appeared in a handful of stories, notably allowing Barry Allen to travel to the 25th century and meet Eobard Thawne (Professor Zoom aka the original Reverse-Flash).
The cosmic treadmill appeared during the Crisis as well, in issue 11. Jay Garrick (Earth-Two Flash), Wally West (Earth-One's Kid Flash), Kal-L (Earth-Two Superman) and Kal-El (Earth-One Superman) attempted to travel to Earth-Two to allow Kal-L to return home. Instead of finding Earth-Two, there was simply a void, a consequence of the multiverse collapsing into a single universe. Upon returning from the void, the treadmill exploded.
The cosmic treadmill has appeared several times since the Crisis, during Wally West's time as the Flash.
The first significant appearance was in Flash #79, when it was revealed that a man previously thought to be the Flash was in fact Professor Zoom having traveled back in time from the 25th century using the treadmill and lost his memory. This was Professor Zoom's first trip through time, Wally West subsequently tricking him into using the cosmic treadmill again to return home. The battle also released Wally's previous block on his speed, Wally having previously placed a mental block on his powers because he was afraid of replacing Barry by surpassing him.
In Impulse #21, several time-lost Legionnaires attempt to use the cosmic treadmill to make it back to their own time. The unwanted assistance of the hero Impulse (Bart Allen) seemingly destroys the cosmic treadmill and the time-lost heroes leave, dejected. It is soon revealed that Impulse had accidentally sent the cosmic treadmill itself a few minutes into the future.
Impulse later travels into the future, several years before the Legion is formed. He uses it to retreat from hostile forces. He is worried about it malfunctioning again but is reassured that the Flash of the 23rd century had made improvements. As such, Impulse is able to return to the appropriate time period.
Hunter Zolomon attempted to use the cosmic treadmill in Flash #196 in order to travel back through time and prevent the events that had left him a paraplegic. The attempt proved disastrous as the treadmill exploded, destroying itself and the Flash Museum while also shifting Zolomon slightly out of time. Zolomon subsequently became Zoom (a.k.a. the second Reverse-Flash) as the cosmic treadmill's explosion having essentially 'derailed' him from the timeline and granted him the ability to control the rate at which he perceives time.
The cosmic treadmill last appeared—rebuilt by Zoom and unwillingly powered by Jay Garrick—during the Rogue War story arc featured in Flash #220–225. Zoom (Zolomon) used it in order to bring Professor Zoom (Thawne) back from the future. Wally was assisted by Barry Allen who took Professor Zoom back to his rightful place in the timeline. The cosmic treadmill was seemingly destroyed during the fight between Zoom and Wally.
In a possible future where members of the current incarnation of the Teen Titans mature into a corrupt and tyrannical Justice League, the cosmic treadmill is absent from the Flash Museum; it is instead kept in a more secure location inside the Batcave, presumably to ensure that their "enemies"—in truth, a group of right-minded Titans—cannot alter the past and change their timeline.
While investigating the mysterious button and the implications of an unknown foe who manipulated the recent universal reboot for its own ends, Batman and Barry Allen use the cosmic treadmill to try and track the source of the button, resulting in them briefly returning to the Flashpoint timeline before being chased by Professor Zoom, nearly becoming lost in the timestream before Jay Garrick's return helps them return to reality.
The cosmic treadmill returns in Action Comics #992. Superman, still suffering mentally and emotionally after learning that his father Jor-El survived the explosion of Krypton, is further crushed when he learns that Jor-El is also Mr. Oz. Superman, seeking more answers, decides to use the cosmic treadmill to travel back in time and learn more about the unseen forces affecting the universe. As he finally gains enough speed to travel in time, Booster Gold and Skeets appear one second too late to stop him as he disappears into the time stream.
The cosmic treadmill allows any being with super-speed to precisely time travel, and Pre-Crisis it allowed travel between the multiple Earths. The treadmill works by generating vibrations that will shift the user into a specific time. The vibrations require a high amount of speed to generate and attempts to use the treadmill without it have proven dangerous. Initially, the vibrations had to be kept up internally, or one would fade back into the time from whence they came. This was fixed by John Fox in Flash #112.
Since the treadmill needs a speedster in order to function, in many stories a working one can be found inside the Flash Museum. Since few people have the speed to have it work, it is usually seen as an exhibit, though at times it has been stored in the archives. It is shown that over time the treadmill can become unstable and unreliable and cause extreme stress to the mind of the user.
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