Firestorm the Nuclear Man was created by Gerry Conway
and Al Milgrom
. He's a superhero
character published by DC Comics
off and on from the late 1970
s to today. He's a great idea, and I personally found him to be one of the most entertaining of their characters back in the 1980
s, but his popularity has been rocky to say the least, and his comic book title has been cancelled at least twice, due to an uncertain readership.
The tales of Firestorm
The story of Firestorm goes something like this. He started out actually as two people. Professor Martin Stein
and Ronald Raymond
. Stein was a serious workaholic nuclear physicist who designed and initiated the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant
. Raymond was a devil-may-care college student who had his eyes and his libido set on this cute blonde named Doreen Day
. Raymond found out that Day was interested in ecology
and the environment. He decided to try to impress her by joining a bunch of eco-terrorists
. Only he didn't know until it was too late that what they wanted to do was destroy Stein's Hudson Nuclear Power Plant. The eco-terrorists show up at the power plant, knock out Stein, and set off a bomb. Raymond tries to save an unconscious Stein from the ensuing explosion, but they get caught in the middle of it.
Now if this weren't the comic books they'd both have just died right there. However, DC Comics had a comic book to release, so what happens instead is this. Raymond and Stein's bodies are merged together in the ensuing explosion, and the nuclear explosion caused the new fused body to be infused with supremely incredible power over every subatomic particle in every molecule all over everywhere. By a mere whim, Firestorm can turn anything into anything. A falling space station into a hot air balloon. Coal into gold. Steel into glass. A stack of magazines into confetti. A keg of beer into an empty keg of beer. You get the idea
. Now, because Stein was unconscious at the time they initially fused, Ronnie Raymond had control over the body, and all Stein could do was kibitz
with Ronnie and offer advice, as a disembodied head and voice that only Ronnie and we readers could see and hear. Also, while Ronnie retained the memories of what they did as Firestorm, Stein couldn't remember anything about it after they once separated again, but Ronnie could only turn into Firestorm with Professor Stein. Raymond didn't realize this until much later, but he was able to transmute matter because he had access to Stein's knowledge as a scientist of physics. Without Stein, Raymond would lose confidence in his abilities.
At first the storyline was rather happy-go-lucky under the tutelage of Firestorm's first writer and co-creator Gerry Conway
. What I liked most about Firestorm was that Ronnie Raymond had some similarities to Spider-man
's Peter Parker
. The primary difference though was that while Peter Parker spent most of his time being depressed and unhappy, Ronnie Raymond took his life's trials and tribulations largely in stride. Sure things got him down now and then but he was able to handle them. For him, Firestorm was like a vacation from his real life, but this would inevitably lead to his downfall in the hands of other writers who didn't see Conway's vision.
Things took a turn for the worse, and due to some other accidents, Raymond and Stein found themselves merged with other people; particularly a Russian metahuman named Mikhail Arkadin
. Things just got really weird for poor old Raymond. Last I heard Professor Stein (who was never really all that level-headed and sane once the original transformation took place), took over the body of Firestorm and thought he was going to become a Fire Elemental. He flew out into space for awhile, changed the costume, and the story got so bad I guess I wasn't the only one who stopped reading.
I have learned however that there have been other significant developments in the story since I stopped paying attention. The russian counterpart turned out to be a genetic clone of Firestorm, who lacked humanity and therefore was a danger to himself and others. I mean imagine someone without humanity playing with the building blocks of all life as we know it. Professor Stein had to forego his own life in order to take control of the Firestorm, and went out into the universe to live the life of a fire elemental *shrug*.
Ronnie Raymond tried to return to a normal life after Firestorm, but couldn't get things straight. He wasn't able to patch things up with his old girlfriends. He had to get a job as an underwear model to pay the bills, and he showed signs of turning into an alcoholic and generally being miserable about himself. Not the Ronnie Raymond I'd come to know and love that's for sure. I'm glad I stopped reading the comic book when I did. Then it was discovered that due to his exposure to nuclear radiation while Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond was dying of leukemia. Professor Stein, as the Fire Elemental Firestorm, returned to convince Raymond to join him. They could merge and Raymond could help Stein with his problem of losing his own humanity running around as a Fire Elemental. Raymond refused, not wanting a part of that anymore, and after some discussion Stein relented. He used his powers to cure Ronnie Raymond of his leukemia, and asked Captain Atom
to be Raymond's mentor, because he also insisted on giving Raymond the original Firestorm powers back. Ronnie Raymond as Firestorm without Martin Stein has made a few appearances since then, but there's been no significant developments.
(Update of Firestorm's continuing storyline was added to the bottom of this node on April of 2005.)
Firestorm's Rogues Gallery
Firestorm had some kickass arch villains to fight at the peak of his greatness. Killer Frost
was once a coworker of Stein's but she was in an accident involving an experiment of her own, and turned into a literal ice maiden who was quite mad and could turn any man into an icecube by just kissing them. She could also shoot blasts of cold from her fingertips and she was just generally a old mean woman. Multiplex
was an adversary of Stein's who discovered in the same nuclear blast that forged Firestorm that he could replicate himself into many duplicate clones. The Hyena
was basically a werewolf. Plastique
was a terrorist mercenary who literally wore most of her bomb-oriented arsenal on a skin-tight suit of her own design. Typhoon
was a lunatic who had been overtaken by water elementals and could turn any coastal city into a remake of the story of Noah. Black Bison
was a native american who didn't embrace his heritage, and his father gave him an amulet that drove him insane and caused him to wreck havoc with powerful shamanic magicks. The Fury of Firestorm comic book series was rather silly at times, but its a great read and a lot of fun.
Firestorm also had a fling with a gorgeous female counterpart: Firehawk
. Her alter ego is Lorraine Reilly
and she was a featured performer in the Crisis on Infinite Earths
but hasn't done much lately. Ronnie's original girlfriend Doreen Day
never really got along well with Ronnie, because when he was finally able to turn her head, he'd keep having to run off as Firestorm and eventualy she just blew him off. There were other supporting characters too, like Ronnie's father and Stein's ex-wife, but the rest of them are largely not noteworthy.
The Real World
The character has gone through some ups and downs. When he was first invented in 1975
or thereabouts, his first comic book title only lasted five issues. DC Comics had to cancel a number of their titles in the late 70s due to financial setbacks and a growing lack of interest in the comic book scene among readers. Firestorm enjoyed a resurgence of popularity when years later they started featuring him as a secondary story in Flash Comics. This gave DC the chance to renew Firestorm's original fanbase, and aquire new readers. In the early 1980
s, Firestorm's second comic title, The Fury of Firestorm
was released and published monthly for many years. I think there were around eighty issues in all. Firestorm has also prominently been portrayed as a member of the Justice League
of America. He's also appeared in DC Comics Presents
and some other titles. I believe he joined Extreme Justice
for awhile, but that comic book title was also sadly short lived.
The problem with Firestorm is an inevitable case of bad timing coupled with writers after Conway who refused to stay true to his original mission of just being silly and having fun while saving the world repeatedly. He's a great idea, but DC is never able to give him his due because of financial setbacks and other concerns. He's also admittedly an aquired taste, and may not appeal to newer audiences. It can also be argued that in order to properly tell the story of Firestorm, a writer needs to understand both the mindset of a college student and a nuclear physicist. That's a bit of a tall order. He also attained his highest fame during the Crisis on Infinite Earths
which generally left his origin and existence intact and unchanged, but affected how he was inducted into the Justice League and also left much of the DC Universe
in a state of higgledy-piggledy
from which DC is still trying to recover even today. So Firestorm often just gets tossed to the wayside.
I think there's still a lot of stories left in him, but he needs someone who knows what makes him tick. Otherwise, he may soon fall into a state of limbo from which some super hero characters never fully recover.
UPDATE: April 25th 2005
A lot has happened to the character of Firestorm in recent years. In 2004, DC Comics put writer Dan Jolley
with artists Chris Cross
and John Dell
to bring Firestorm into the 21st century. The storyline focuses on a new lead role in the controlling persona of Firestorm. His name's Jason Rusch
and he's a college student from Detroit Michigan
who experiences a rough home life with an abusive father. In need of money, Rusch lands a job as a courier for two-bit thug Stevie Golek
. Soon after starting his job, a fiery object that falls from the sky hits Rusch while in his car. He regains consciousness over an hour later and attempts to continue his courier gig, but when he arrives at his destination a gun fight ensues. Rusch's panic triggers the power of the Firestorm, but with a twist. Rusch inadvertently merges with an unconscious fallen thug, who takes on the recessive position like Professor Martin Stein did back in the 1970s. We learn that this new incarnation of Firestorm has a matrix that comprises of Rusch in the dominant role, but that he must merge with someone else who takes the recessive "voice in the head" position. Whoever Rusch merges with has no memory of the events, similar to Stein's amnesia that led to his alcoholism, but this new Firestorm is most decidedly completely different from the previous two series of the comic book.
Jason Rusch finds himself getting deeper into Stevie Golek's world of crime and violence, and while following Golek on a hunch, Golek confronts Jason and stabs him in the stomach. Again Rusch panics and instigates the transmutation into Firestorm, this time with Golek as the recessive role, but something goes wrong. Golek's psyche attempts to overpower Rusch and take dominant control of the Firestorm matrix. This causes an instability and Golek's cohesion dissolves. When Jason's finally able to break free of the Firestorm matrix and set Golek free, all that's left is a puddle of protoplasm. Since Golek tried to kill him, Jason doesn't lose a lot of sleep over it. He instead attempts to return to a normal life and doesn't reprise his newfound role as a super being for a month, but his father's verbal and physical abuse coupled with the trials of mundane life brings Jason to merge with a homeless man and try being Firestorm once again. While foolishly 'joyriding' Firestorm encounters Green Lantern
and Martian Manhunter
who are members of the Justice League
who confront Rusch as Firestorm and question him about the disappearance and presumed death of Ronnie Raymond
. Rusch has no idea what they're talking about, but they determine Rusch is well-intentioned and guiltless. Even so, Jon Jonzz discreetly places a tracking device on Rusch so they can keep tabs on him.
Rusch soon discovers this tracking device, and while examining it he learns that even when not Firestorm, Rusch can perceive matter at a molecular level. Rusch later encounters a woman with powers to transmute matter around her called Casey Krinsky
. Unable to find the homeless guy, Rusch decides to merge with a passing jogger named Nicole Garcia, who's a police woman and accuses Rusch of assault and kidnapping. Since she's in the recessive part of the Firestorm Matrix, her disapproval of Rusch is merely an annoyance as Rusch confronts Krinsky and combats her until she's near death. He utilizes the discovered JLA tracking device and is assisted by Superman and The Flash. They help him take the dying Krinsky to STAR Labs, where she'll be treated. Superman offers the fledgling hero some helpful advice, and on his way back home Garcia challenges that Rusch is becoming addicted to his powers.
Later, Rusch learns about Ronnie Raymond's death in a haunting dream. During an event called the Identity Crisis
, Raymond was stabbed by a magic sword that threatened to cause him to explode. Rather than damage the people and property around him at the time, Raymond flew into the atmosphere and his physical body was destroyed but his consciousness still existed in the Firestorm Matrix, which fell to Earth and found Rusch as its new host. Rusch's friend Mick visits Jason later that day asking him why he hasn't returned his calls. Rusch responds by merging with him and showing him first hand why he's been so busy. Rusch selfishly uses his abilities to take revenge on a policeman who once troubled Mick and Jason before he became Firestorm, despite Mick's disapproval in the recessive role. They visit the JLA watch tower on the moon, where the Martian Manhunter confirms Rusch's dream, and Batman chastises Jason for his reckless behavior.
After a crimelord named Luis Salvador kidnaps Jason and his father, Jason uses the Firestorm Matrix by merging with the crimelord, thinking that would be a convenient way to subdue him. However, the crimelord having a more dominant personality takes over Firestorm and turns him into a monster. The crimelord uses Firestorm to attempt revenge on Bloodhound
aka Travis Clavenger
. Jason manages to take control of the Firestorm Matrix, and Bloodhound manages then to subdue the crimelord.
Because of their recent encounter with Salvador, and sicne Jason's disappeared so much recently and shown signs of rebellion against his abusive nature, his father Alvin demands he move out. While arguing, Lorraine Reilly
arrives, seeking information about Ronnie Raymond's death. Jason thinks he ditches her, but Reilly's secretly Firehawk
and tails him. Rusch then finds another homeless guy and becomes Firestorm again, seeking to find wrongs to right in an attempt to follow some of Superman's advice. He encounters a woman who appears to be suicidal, and she tells him she's dying. He attempts to use his powers to heal her, but then discovers the suicidal woman is actually Killer Frost
. Firehawk manages to save Rusch's life before Killer Frost can get him with her patented kiss of death.
Firestorm continues persuing Killer Frost after Firehawk runs to get help. However, because Rusch was tricked into curing Killer Frost, she's more powerful than ever, and she gets the upper hand. Firestorm runs away, and leaves the homeless guy at some hospital. Reilly finds Rusch and insists he do something to stop Frost. He attempts to merge with Reilly against her will, and the result of this challenge of wills brings Ronnie Raymond back into consciousness in the Firestorm Matrix. Ronnie manages to take control of Firestorm but is confronted once again by his old cold nemesis Killer Frost. During the battle, Raymond has trouble competing with Frost's new power, and Rusch manages to take control of Firestorm as both Raymond and Lorraine begin to lose cohesion inside the matrix. Rusch tries to undo his healing of Frost, leaving her deformed and dying. In order to save Lorraine's life, Rusch is forced to break the merger, leaving them both helpless at the hands of an enraged and deformed Frost. She leaves only after hearing police sirens. When Jason regains consciousness, he finds himself in a hospital with his father watching over him. They seem to reconcile, but Ronnie Raymond, who had seemingly disappeared in the end of Jason's merge with Lorraine, makes his presence known to Rusch as a voice inside his mind. Lorraine is missing, presumably at STAR labs undergoing treatment. An argument with Alvin ensues, and Raymond suggests Rusch attempt to become Firestorm without merging into another person. Successful, with Raymond now in the recessive role, Firestorm leaves the hospital to seek out Lorraine. Killer Frost trails Firestorm, and overhears him talking to Raymond. She makes a phonecall to some of her old friends, as Raymond takes control of the Firestorm matrix and flies to his father's home. Once there, Firestorm is confronted by three of Firestorm's other old foes, Multiplex
, the Thinker, and Typhoon
Rusch regains dominance of Firestorm and kills many of Multiplex's doppels, assuming them to be fakes. Raymond chastises him for having such needless thought to the lives of others, and assumes control. They appear to be getting the upper hand against Typhoon and Multiplex, when The Thinker devastates the Firestorm Matrix with a mental attack. They manage to survive the fight, but the result is that Raymond seems to disappear and Rusch once again takes a dominant role. Though not bleak, Firestorm's future continues to be uncertain. Still, inspired by his predecessor, Rusch pledges to improve his quality of life. This includes landing a new job at STAR labs as well as returning to college. However, as is always the case with super heroes trying to juggle a personal life, the endless stream of bad guys will have something to say about Rusch's future happiness.