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"Our city has seen incredible...impossible things. Meta-humans, men and women with extraordinary abilities. The ability to soar above buildings, to run faster than the speed of light. Unfortunately, most of these meta-humans have chosen the wrong path with these powers, a dark path."
Harrison Wells[src]

Meta-humans, commonly shortened as metas and often referred to as super-humans, are individuals who acquired powers and abilities unlike those of normal humans after experiencing mutation of their bodies (in comparison to magic users, who learned how to harness primordial energies without being mutated themselves). On Earth-27, meta-humans are referred to as hyper-humans.[1] Most obtained their powers after surviving an explosion caused by a malfunction of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator on December 11th, 2013. These people were exposed to the particles and dark matter that altered their genetic, chemical, or even atomic structure, giving them a variety of abilities. Their abilities seem to often relate to what energy or matter the future super-humans were directly in contact with at the time of exposure. According to DeVoe, 2600 people became meta-humans the night the accelerator exploded. Only certain people became meta-humans as only certain people carry a rare gene that allows the pituitary gland to process dark matter to power the meta's abilities. Team Flash has recently developed a cure for meta abilities that involves suppressing this gene to remove the meta's ability to process dark matter and the powers they gain from it.

On Earth-2, intending to prevent the negative effects of the particle accelerator, Dr. Harrison Wells of that universe allowed excess radiation to flow underground, with the first meta-human appearing eleven hours following.[2]

Overview

Meta-humans are represented by a wide spectrum of mutated people, with mental state, physical appearance and physiological specifics unique for each individual. The conditions they were in during the exposure to the mutative element seem to affect how the mutation changes a person. Furthermore, there are dormant meta-humans, like Henry Hewitt and Jefferson Jackson, whose powers did not resurface until the connection to the Firestorm Matrix, which either re-enabled their mutative physiology or represented a new mutation altogether.[3] Within the spectrum of meta-humans, there have emerged a few specific classes or sub-species that share common traits and powers; speedsters, for example, are meta-humans who are connected to the Speed Force and collectively possess speed-based powers. Vibers are another example; meta-humans who possess psychic connections to the dimensional energies of reality, allowing them to open breaches to parallel universes at will, generate vibrational energy and giving them powers of retrocognition, clairvoyance, and precognition.

Most meta-humans seen on Earth-1 and Earth-2 mutated after exposure to the dark matter connected to the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator. Some meta-humans acquired their powers through other means, not directly related to being hit by the wave of dark energy after the particle accelerator explosion. Among such meta-humans are Eliza Harmon (used Velocity serums to give herself superhuman speed, although she may have been a dormant meta-human prior to that), Valentina Vostok (used the Operation Svarog version of Firestorm Matrix to become a Soviet Firestorm) and Jake Simmons (source of mutation unknown). Through unknown means, meta-humans of Earth-19 and Earth-3 also acquired powers. In other universes, like Earth-38, humans would mutate as part of an accident without any dark matter involved, like what happened with Livewire. There's a middle-ground case regarding advanced cyborgs, like Metallo: while mostly enhanced by cybernetics, Metallos were mutated on some level, surviving despite their bodies being filled with Kryptonite energy, and requiring the Kryptonite "heart" to function properly.

It is debatable whether those affected by the Mirakuru drug can be considered true meta-humans. On the one hand, their case is similar to that of Eliza Harmon, who amplified herself with the Velocity drug, receiving meta-human powers at the cost of negative effects for sanity. On the other hand, their condition is reversible, as a Mirakuru cure was created, that allowed them to cure Slade Wilson and Roy Harper. However, the Flash's meta-human powers were also taken away from him when Hunter Zolomon stole his speed, turning him into a normal human once again. Additionally, Slade Wilson was affected by the Mirakuru for years, implying that he would retain his superhuman abilities if not for the cure. One way or another, Barry Allen researched the case of Cyrus Gold, a Mirakuru-affected member of the Church of Blood as part of his hunt for "the impossible," which otherwise included meta-humans.[4] Furthermore, Cisco Ramon eventually concluded that it would be possible to create a meta-human cure, further supporting the fact that, like individuals enhanced by Mirakuru, a meta-human's condition is also reversible.[5]

Some meta-humans consider themselves separate, or at least different enough from the regular humans to identify as something else. The prime example of such thinking would be members of Zoom's meta-human group, who ushered in the Metapocalypse upon Central City. In the speech before his followers, Zoom depicted humans as the archetypal "Other," claiming that they think that Earth-1 belongs just to them, and inciting the meta-humans under his command to take over this world. Characteristically of this group, Killer Frost, Black Siren, King Shark, and Reverb were all shown preferring to refer to themselves with their meta-human "names," instead of their original ones. Interestingly, Hunter Zolomon himself preferred to be called by the name of the man whose identity he stole, Jay Garrick, rather than his own meta-human nickname, or especially his real name, as shown when Caitlin Snow called him "Hunter", causing Zolomon to relive a painful traumatic flashback.[6]

Meta-humans are not to be confused with magic users, like Damien Darhk or John Constantine, who receive their powers not thanks to mutation, but by manipulating primordial energies of the universe, such as Light of the Soul. However, it is possible for an individual to exhibit both magic powers and abilities related to mutated physiology, Vandal Savage being a prime example of such.[7][8]

History

Due to the rogue time remnant of future Barry Allen's machinations, he created a legend that the "God of Motion" Savitar was the first meta-human and speedster of the entire multiverse. The legend says that this "God" would hunt multiple universes to fight and destroy every speedster whom he considered a challenge. To prepare these worlds for his arrival, Savitar would interact with the humans through his avatar as Alchemy, possessing them to do his being and create cults in his name. Savitar's source of powers was the Brahmastra, commonly known as the Philosopher's Stone, an ancient Indian artifact able to mutate people into meta-humans. Savitar used this artifact on himself, tying it to his destiny forever, resulting in him depending on the Brahmastra to lure new candidates to be his "Alchemy," whom would free him from the prison in the Speed Force along with the Philosopher's Stone. However, his original self from a possible future was the one who initially managed to imprison him, forcing Savitar to swear revenge on Barry, as he waited for millennia to be freed.[9]

The race of Dominators studied meta-humans for many years, considering their threat level, but it was the Flashpoint caused by Barry Allen that alerted them to the need to hunt down all meta-humans. Before an eventual invasion in 2016, the Dominators appeared at Redmond in 1951, alerted by the appearance of the Justice Society of America, which included meta-human members of unknown origins. Due to the efforts of time traveling Legends, along with Felicity Smoak and Cisco Ramon, one Dominator was saved from cruel experiments performed by the United States' secret services' members. This made the Dominators reconsider their approach towards their invasion, as they decided to propose a trade: the lives of all meta-humans on Earth-1 for Barry Allen, whose ability to change timelines was perceived as the greater threat.[10]

Other than the Justice Society, a source of meta-humans in the times before the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator's creation, was a biomolecular enhancer created by the time criminal Eobard Thawne. Thawne's meddling led to Nazi Baron Krieger turning into Übermensch, and time traveler Nate Heywood turning into Steel.[11]

Due to the time travel adventures of the Legends, meta-humans such as Firestorm have been sighted in different points of time. After witnessing Firestorm, Vandal Savage started an extensive study of meta-humans. On the one hand, his research proved fruitful when another meteor from Thanagar landed in Harmony Falls, allowing Savage to create imperfect Manhawks using mutative Thanagarian technology. On the other hand, Savage assisted the Soviet Union with research of his own, culminating in Operation Svarog, which would produce a Soviet Firestorm.[12] Additionally, Eobard Thawne has been using his powers while traveling throughout time, 1927's Chicago is one of the earliest points in his travels.[13]

Nevertheless, the meta-humans remained a mystery to the world at large, and superhuman powers were generally considered impossible. The trend would continue until 2013, when the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator, created by "Harrison Wells", exploded, giving birth to many meta-humans such as the Flash. These events were manipulated by Eobard since his travel to 2000, first by slaying Nora Allen, the mother of Barry Allen, the future Flash, and then by being stranded in time and having to take on Harrison Wells's identity, to ensure that the particle accelerator explodes and Barry becomes the Flash. As the result of Eobard's knowledge from the future, S.T.A.R. Labs was able to create a working particle accelerator much earlier than in the supposed original timeline, resulting in a massive influx of meta-humans in the years 2013-2014.[14]

Barry Allen, who witnessed "the Man in Yellow," was sure that he was the culprit that killed Barry's mother, and Henry Allen was wrongly accused of the murder. Seeing his mother killed by "something impossible" motivated Barry to give special attention to cases connected to the meta-humans, which would appear paranormal to the general population, trying to prove that "the impossible" was real. After becoming an assistant CSI in Central City Police Department, Barry started searching for super-powered beings in hope that he would one day prove a case true and, subsequently, find answers to clear his father's name. Among such cases was the rampage of Cyrus Gold, a man mutated due to the Mirakuru drug, giving him superhuman strength, endurance, and vitality. Mirakuru was also harmful to one's mental state, turning its users into killing machines, something that was also characteristic of the meta-humans post-explosion of the particle accelerator. Additionally, not everybody could survive the mutation, just like dark matter exposure.[4]

In the year 2013, S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator exploded, covering Central City and its outskirts with a wave of dark matter energy, exposing countless people to physiological mutations. Hartley Rathaway, one of the victims of dark matter exposure, suspected that Dr. Harrison Wells knew of the high probability of the explosion, and still risked with the lives of many people. However, with Dr. Wells actually being Eobard Thawne, a meta-human from the future, the explosion was his goal all along. "Wells" assembled a team with his loyal employees Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon and asked Joe West, Barry Allen's foster father, to be allowed to care for the comatose Barry in S.T.A.R. Labs, intending on making sure that Allen becomes the Flash.[15]

Barry eventually started to work with "Wells" and the other scientists of S.T.A.R. Labs, organizing themselves as Team Flash, with their goals turned to fight crime in the Central City area, specifically, with apprehending meta-human criminals, which were sent to the Pipeline, or, later, to the Iron Heights Prison. Some meta-humans were recruited by Leonard Snart, who broke them from captivity along with Lisa Snart. Eventually, other members of Team Flash discovered Dr. Wells's true identity as the Reverse-Flash, the man who killed Nora Allen, and managed to defeat him with the help of the Arrow and Firestorm.[16]

After the confrontation with Eobard Thawne and the resulting appearance of the singularity above Central City, the Flash and Firestorm saved the day at the cost of Ronnie Raymond's life. Their victory darkened by the loss and the betrayal, Team Flash members temporarily went their separate ways, before having to reunite due to the appearance of "breacher" meta-humans from Earth-2, led by Zoom. Team Flash, joined by such denizens of Earth-2 as Dr. Harrison "Harry" Wells, Jesse Wells and Jay Garrick, opposed Zoom's meta-humans, culminating with Jay's apparent death. In truth, "Jay" manipulated the events all along, being the mastermind behind Zoom's invasion. Declaring Earth-Two to already be on its knees before his power, Zoom led the meta-humans of his home universe to Earth-1, capturing the CCPD station and declaring that this Earth belongs to meta-humans. Zoom's invasion, nicknamed "the Metapocalypse" by the people of Central City, was ultimately stopped thanks to the joined efforts of CCPD and Team Flash, with most of Zoom's army being incarcerated in the meta-human wing of the Iron Heights, while a few (who were known to have Earth-One counterparts) were locked in the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator.[17]

Among other meta-humans Barry Allen encountered were specific individuals that mutated without direct relation to the particle accelerator explosion. The real Jay Garrick, for example, exhibited speedster powers similar to Barry's, but the origin of his powers is unknown. Some meta-humans stayed dormant for a while, before their hidden powers being awakened by specific events, like memories of a changed timeline (Vibe experienced his meta-human powers after Barry aborted a timeline in which Central City was destroyed by a tidal wave and Cisco was slain by Eobard Thawne), or Firestorm Matrix exposure (Henry Hewitt and Jefferson Jackson were both diagnosed as being mutated just enough to allow for a merge with Martin Stein in form of Firestorm, and although the former was unsuccessful, the experiment awoke his own powers as "Tokamak"). However, Barry Allen recognized that Vandal Savage's fighting abilities were not meta-human in nature, but a result of magic, much the same as Kendra Saunders, initially thought by Cisco Ramon to be a meta-human.[18]

However, while Savage was indeed a magic user and wasn't affected by the particle accelerator explosion, he later found out and revealed to Kendra that his powers of immortality and regeneration, as well as Hawkman and Hawkgirl's bird-like powers and reincarnation, were not actually magic, but a result of physiological mutation due to the exposure to Thanagarian technology, advanced beyond that of humanity's, and stored in what appeared to be meteors. Savage intended to use this technology to wipe out the timeline and reverse it back to the times of Ancient Egypt, allowing himself to rise as Hath-Set, the ruler, not just a secret advisor or manipulator. However, he was ultimately slain by Kendra Saunders and Scythian Torvil in the year 2021, his plans foiled.[8]

An unidentified number of meta-humans appeared in Central City through unknown means during the "Flashpoint" timeline, created when Barry Allen saved his mother from Eobard Thawne and imprisoned him in a version of 2016. For unknown reasons, rather than reverting to the state the timeline was in before Thawne's time travel to 2000, it changed instead into an altered reality, in which neither Harrison Wells, nor Eobard Thawne posing as him, created the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator, with Ramon Industries becoming the main scientific corporation in its stead. It's unknown whether Ramon Industries was related to the appearances of meta-humans, since, according to Wally West of this alternate timeline, he gained his powers after a lightning bolt zapped his car, which had been full of his newest nitro formula. With his anti-friction suit designed by alternate Cisco Ramon, Wallace became a hero known as the Flash, stopping meta-human criminals, including the infamous Rival.[19]

When Eobard Thawne restored the version of the timeline that was created by his actions in the year 2000, the reality was still somehow altered, an effect that Jay Garrick described akin to a broken cap glued together with some of its pieces missing. The appearance of Julian Albert at Central City Police Department as if he worked there for quite some time, as well as his connections to the Philosopher's Stone, were not evident in any of the previous timelines. The meta-humans from the Flashpoint timeline lost their powers but were recognized by Savitar, who appeared to them in the guise of Alchemy telepathically and guided them to his lair. The Philosopher's Stone restored powers of four meta-human criminals, along with Wally West. In addition, according to Craig, one of Savitar's acolytes, it could also "cure" somebody of their powers. Furthermore, an unclear case appeared with Caitlin Snow, whose powers were either already present, yet dormant, or became part of reality altered by Eobard's helping Barry undo Flashpoint.[20][21] However, it was later confirmed that Caitlin's powers were present before the particle accelerator exploded or even before Barry created Flashpoint.[22]

When Barry Allen came out of the Speed Force in late 2017, the portal that he ran through released a wave of dark matter, giving a dozen people on a nearby city bus meta-human powers.[23] All of the meta-humans created in this incident had gained some kind of power that Clifford DeVoe desired to harness to bring about the Enlightenment, as this combination of powers would allegedly allow him to defeat Team Flash, and any allies they may potentially call to their aid to stop him, effectively allowing him to rule the world.[24] In the case of most of these meta-humans, he desired to absorb their powers into himself (killing them in the process), while in the case of a few of them, he also transmitted his consciousness into their bodies for a time, as his ever-expanding mind was taking a toll on his own body, and was slowly killing him. Every time he moved his consciousness into a new host, he'd take all of the powers he'd acquired with him into his next host body, leaving his previous host body dead.

Ultimately, Clifford transferred his consciousness into the body of Ralph Dibny; one of the meta-humans created by the dark matter released from the Speed Force, whose elastic powers were immune to the negative effects of DeVoe's condition. After Clifford's plans to bring about the Enlightenment were foiled by Team Flash, with Ralph regaining control of his body, forcing DeVoe's consciousness out of it, Clifford proceeded to transfer his consciousness into his hoverchair, living on as a hologram. When DeVoe's wife, Marlize removed a key component of the chair, thereby killing Clifford to put an end to his insane plans, his death triggered a dead man switch, knocking the S.T.A.R. Labs satellite, which he'd taken control of as part of his plan, out of orbit, causing its remains (which he'd loaded with dark matter) to fall down into Central City. While Barry and his daughter from the future were seemingly able to keep the falling debris from killing any civilians, dark matter-packed pieces of the satellite still hit certain people and other things. This caused the creation of an unknown number of new meta-humans, and imbued certain nearby objects with dark matter, giving those items powers akin to those commonly attributed to meta-humans.[25]

Erased future

In what is now an erased future, at some point between 2021 and 2042, meta-humans were branded "people of interest" and subject to imprisonment, with any association with them also being considered illegal. In this future, innocent meta-humans are captured, (wrongfully/unfairly) imprisoned, tortured and experimented upon by A.R.G.U.S.. Aside from the actual mutants, A.R.G.U.S. also targeted users of magic (such as Zari Tomaz and her family) along with people allied with meta-humans, but are not metas themselves; for example, members of the Legends, such as Mick Rory, Sara Lance and Ray Palmer.[26] However, thanks to the Legends' efforts to open Heyworld, a theme park dedicated to showing people that magical creatures are nothing to be afraid of, the future has changed so that the anti-meta-human law never comes to pass.[27]

Powers and abilities

Main article: List of powers
Barry powers through The Turtle's pulses

The Flash and the Turtle using their meta-human powers.

There is a wide range of meta-human powers, including everything from time distortion to elemental manipulation. Meta-humans who gained their abilities from the dark matter explosion in Central City often have powers influenced by unusual conditions at the time of exposure: Barry Allen was struck by lightning and gained access to the Speed Force, giving off electricity when he runs at superhuman speeds, while Tony Woodward and Joseph Monteleone gained the power to transform into the substance they were immersed in during the explosion (steel and tar, respectively).

Due to their altered physiology, certain meta-human powers affect meta-humans differently than normal humans. Likely due to his heightened immune system, Barry had a delayed reaction to Roy Bivolo's rage-inducing powers while a normal person would be impacted immediately.[28] The emotional state of a meta-human also has an influence on their powers; reacting and strengthening when the meta-human is in a state of emotional stress. For example, Caitlin Snow's anger amplified her growing Killer Frost powers, to the point when she was so "drunk on power" that she forgot that this anger initially came from wanting to get rid of those same powers, and instead reveled in them and threatened to kill or harm Team Flash members.[21]

Known meta-humans

Earth-1 particle accelerator meta-humans

Earth-2 particle accelerator meta-humans

Earth-27 particle accelerator meta-humans

Meta-human status unclear

Individuals with Thanagarian mutations*

Individuals mutated by Mirakuru*

Individuals with Harun-El mutations

Individuals with other sources of mutation*

Speed Force dark matter wave meta-humans

S.T.A.R. Labs satellite shrapnel meta-humans

Individuals with an unknown source of mutation*

Notes:

  1. Hawkman and Hawkgirl were originally referred to as meta-humans by Cisco Ramon, but Vandal Savage was described by Barry Allen as something other than a meta-human, a user of magic. However, while Vandal Savage can use magic, it was eventually revealed that both his and his nemeses' powers come from a mutation triggered by Thanagarian technology. Whether this confirms their status as meta-humans is unclear.
  2. Those infected by Mirakuru show signs of mutation similar to people affected by dark matter: either mutating and surviving, or dying after irradiation. Additionally, Mirakuru-infected Cyrus Gold was part of Barry Allen's initial investigation for the sightings of "the impossible", which included other meta-humans. However, Mirakuru-infected were not directly called meta-humans.
  3. These individuals were either directly called meta-humans, or exhibit mutations identical to other characters that were called meta-humans, but weren't directly affected by the particle accelerator themselves.
  4. These individuals were directly called meta-humans, but the source of their mutations was either unrevealed or deliberately kept unknown.
  5. In an alternate timeline where David Hersch presumably became a serial killer known as Cicada (who targeted meta-humans), Floyd Belkin was his first victim. However, because Orlin Dwyer became Cicada in the new timeline instead of Hersch, Belkin was never one of his victims. It's currently unknown whether Floyd Belkin even became a meta-human in this new timeline at all.

Cure

Main article: Meta-human cure

After Cisco's hands got cut by Cicada's dagger (which was capable of negating the powers of meta-humans who gained their abilities from exposure to dark matter), Cisco began having trouble using his powers. After removing small shards left behind in the wounds in his hands inflicted by the dagger, Cisco decided to run some tests on the shards and his hands' tissue. These tests revealed that the shards hadn't been dampening Cisco's powers but removing them, giving Cisco the idea to use this new-found information to concoct a meta-human cure.[5]

Appearances

The Flash (CBS)


Arrow

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Season 6

Season 7


The Flash (The CW)

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5


Vixen

Season 1

Season 2

Supergirl


DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4


Chronicles of Cisco

Stretched Scene

Freedom Fighters: The Ray

Comics

The Flash: Season Zero


Novels

The Chronicles of Cisco


Behind the scenes

In the DC comics, "Metahumans" are a loose term to describe any and all beings with superpowers. Although stricter classification exists in-universe (with Homo Maji, magic users, being a separate group from the wielders of "Metagene"), different types of superhumans are often lumped together, while the shared multiverse continuity distinguishes mutated humans from other beings with powers.

  • The term "meta-human" usually refers to a mutated human. The prefix "meta-" means "beyond", denoting abilities beyond human limits. However, animals can go through similar mutations, like Grodd; a meta-gorilla. The meta-spiders are a similar known case.
  • Meta-humans used to rarely appear on Arrow​​​​​ due to the show being more realistic. However, due to the introduction of Dinah Drake and Earth-2 Laurel Lance, since "Vigilante"​​​​ meta-humans have appeared on every episode; except for "Kapiushon"​​ .
  • While it seems that the meta-human powers are transmissible to a meta-human's offspring, it is clear that the powers deriving from the Thanagarian mutations are not transmissible, due to the fact that Aldus Boardman, and the children of Savage born over the millennia did not possess them.

See also

References

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