Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best Character Ever 18: Firestorm

Firestorm painted by Rod Reis.
Owned by Ivan Costa.
I've mentioned my love of Cyborg dating back to his days on Super Friends, but he wasn’t the first Super Friends character I really fell in love with.

That would be Firestorm.

Who wouldn't want a giant floating head as a buddy?
As a young student at the time, I loved the idea of a teenage (Ronnie Raymond) merging with his teacher (Professor Martin Stein). And I don’t care what some people say: Al Milgrom’s original costume design is still one of the best superhero costumes ever.

When I first started buying comics regularly a few years later, Firestorm was high on my regular buys. I still remembered the character's awesome visual style even if the writing on the book was far more mature than anything Super Friends gave viewers. (Which to be honest, isn't a hard feat all things considered.)

This era also turned me into a life
long Tom Grindberg fan.
By the time I started reading, original writer Gerry Conway had made way for John Ostrander and Professor Martin Stein was long gone, replaced by Mikhail Arkadin. I loved that comic characters were suddenly changing at DC at the time (Nightwing stopped being Robin and Superman killed General Zod) and I found that amazing.

Over the next several years, I would build a near completely run of Firestorm and with every new issue my fondness for the character would grow. Sometimes his rogues would be a bit odd (I’m looking at you Hyena), but his adventures were always dynamic and compelling. Ronnie was a backwards Peter Parker and Stein was an Uncle Ben that didn’t die. It made for a fascinating dynamic.

Firestorm was also the first pitch I ever wrote for a publisher. I never found anyone to try and sell it to at DC, but the five or six pages that opened issue one served as a spec script for me for some time. That new take would echo later versions of the character as it would have combined Ronnie with a new professor, a black woman. It would allow me to revive a character who was then defunct while also exploring some of the things I want to explore in storytelling: the dichotomy of gender, politics and racial identity on superheroes. (I may have been ambition at twenty.) Alas the proposal and script are now lost along with several other writing projects from the time.

That being said, I loved the Jason Rusch revival book and even the often ill-conceived Van Sciver/Simone New 52 version. I am amazed that the character is playing such an important part of the DC television universe, first on Flash and starting this week on Legends of Tomorrow.

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