Firestorm TPB

In the last two seasons of Super Friends/Super Powers Team, a new DC hero joined the team. His name was Firestorm, soon to become my second favorite DC hero (Superman being #1 and as much as I love Batman he’s #3–which may be heresy nowadays but so be it). When I picked up Fury Of Firestorm #16 it was locked. Suffice it to say the current “New 52” version took too long to get the formula right. The idea of a hero that could not only turn things into other things but had a mentor in his head was a cool idea to young me and gave older me a bit of inspiration in a character I’ve created.

Before Fury, however, was the original Firestorm, The Nuclear Man comic in 1978, co-created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Al Milgrom. I’ve already reviewed the individual issues that make up this trade and I will link to those reviews at the end of the article. For this review we will focus on the trade collection put together by DC and released in 2011, but first some catch-up for anyone new to the composite hero.

Firestorm is two men in one, new kid at Bradley High Ronnie Raymond and physicist Martin Stein. Ronnie was having trouble fitting in thanks to one Cliff Carmichael (I’ll touch on him later) always trying to make him look stupid, especially in front of Doreen Day, a girl he likes. In the hopes of impressing her, Ronnie joined a group protesting Martin’s newly designed nuclear power plant, but it turns out to be a fanatic group who want to blow the place up. Ronnie is left behind to take the fall and Martin is knocked unconscious when he tries to stop the eco-terrorists. For some reason, the explosion didn’t kill Ronnie and the Professor but fused them together to become Firestorm. While Ronnie “controls” Firestorm, Martin is still there as a psychic projection and gives Ronnie advice. Together they build quite the rogues gallery and they try to protect New York while their personal lives suffer (especially for Martin, who can’t remember what happens when they fuse). There are also secrets in Ronnie’s life that even he isn’t aware of.

I just love the concept, following Ronnie trying to figure out how to become a superhero and even getting to meet Superman, while Martin tries to deal with the blackouts he’s experiencing until Ronnie finally explains to him what’s going on. The original series lasted only five issue, with a sixth unpublished (more on that as well) with more stories appearing as backup tales in The Flash (I’m thinking Firestorm appearing in the new show is a nod to that) until DC dropped the backup feature in their comics and decided to give Firestorm a second chance, even putting him on their Saturday morning show and in the Super Powers Collection toyline.

Firestorm has a good supporting cast…at least on Ronnie’s side. While two villains, Multiplex and Killer Frost, have history with the Professor the only character that came from him was a private investigator who disappears once the series moves to The Flash. Ronnie, on the other hand, has a girlfriend who cares about him and whose sister is keeping secrets, a fellow basketball player who befriends him during the secret superhero’s problems, and his father, who is keeping a huge secret that wouldn’t be resolved until the longer series.

And then there’s Cliff Carmichael. I HATE Cliff Carmichael. Not just the way that Conway intends. I mean I hate the fact that he’s even in this comic! Look, I suffered psychological bullying throughout my school life while the teachers and principals did almost nothing to deal with it, if at all. But I can handle Flash Thompson over at Marvel. Cliff is the reverse of the usual bullying trope. While Ronnie is the jock, Cliff is the geek and he goes to every length possible to make Ronnie look bad. However, and maybe this came later in the long series, there is no motivation for Cliff’s actions. People seem to hate Cliff and yet take his side (except for Ronnie’s friends) when he goads Ronnie into a fight. The things he does are beyond simple bullying as both series goes on and I can’t stand every time he’s on panel. I just hate him and it’s not a personal bias. He’s a horrible human being, a terrible character, and those mutton chops on his head look stupid! Cliff Carmichael needs to go away.

As for the collection itself, it has few extras. The first few backups from The Flash appear at the end as well as well as that unpublished sixth story, an alternate origin and identity for Firestorm’s enemy, Typhoon. It was technically published in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, a two-issue collection of stories from canceled comics that had reached the lettering stage but possibly not the color stage. Otherwise there’s nothing. No foreword from Gerry Conway or Al Milgrom. No early designs ideas of Firestorm’s costume or the characters, no apology for Cliff Carmichael existing…nothing! The covers are there (at least for the miniseries) and that’s it. That disappoints me.

Still, unless you can track down the individual issues (I do own the first issue), it’s a good way to be introduced to a really fun hero, back when DC writers still appreciated fun, but with complex character relationships you’d expect from a transport from Marvel Comics. I say pick it up if you can. Now the individual reviews:

  • Issue #1: Introduction of Firestorm and the important cast.
  • Issue #2: Firestorm gets his first supervillain, Multiplex, Martin’s traitorous assistant looking to steal the glory of the new power plant design and eliminate his former boss. Caught in the same explosion that created Firestorm, he has the power of fission rather than fusion, able to create duplicates of himself with superhuman strength.
  • Issue #3 (which for some reason I called #2 in the review): Introduction of Killer Frost, a scientist spurned by Martin who is turned into a heat-draining supervillain out for revenge on ALL men.
  • Issue #4: The Hyena, a new supervillain who (as we learn in stories not in this compilation) is closer to Ronnie than Firestorm realizes.
  • Issue #5: Multiplex returns while the Hyena remains at large in what was sadly the final issue of the series.
  • Cancelled Comic Cavalcade: The “lost” Firestorm adventure with an alternate origin for Typhoon as our heroes explore their powers more.
  • The Flash #s 289-293: While more issues of The Flash contained back-up stories, these were the only one in the trade, reviewed as part of my Scanning My Collection feature.