Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: Heads Up, New York! Make way for Firestorm!
Written and co-created by: Gerry Conway
Penciled and co-created by: Al Milgrom
Inks by: Klaus Janson & J. Rubinstein
Colors by: Adrienne Roy
Letters by: Todd Klein
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Nuking DC’s First Firestorm?!
With an all new and all different Firestorm set to debut on May 5th, looking back at the origin of DC’s first Nuclear Man seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Our friends at Newsarama conducted an interview with new series writer Dan Jolley.
Ultimately, May’s Firestorm #1 represents an all new start for an all new ongoing series starring an all new character as Firestorm. Instead of a merged form of Professor Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond (as originally created) or just Ronnie Raymond (as later modified), this Firestorm is a young kid named Jason Rusch andâ€¦well, whoever is nearby at the time…. Jason Rusch is a 17-year-old African-American Detroit native; he’s just graduated from high school, and he’s desperately trying to scrape up money to pay for Fall term at college.
Back to the Future
The Anglo-Saxon original Firestorm debuted in 1978’s Firestorm the Nuclear Man #1. The issue used the “traditional” debut format for a new character at the time – its was an “origin” issue in large part.
Essentially, frustrated college student Ron Raymond is nuclear(ly)-fused together with nobel prize winning physicist Professor Martin Stein after an “accident” at the experimental Hudson nuclear plant (that Stein designed).
The longer version goes something like this: Ron joined an anti-nuclear proliferation movement that was picketing the Hudson plant that was set to go online. However, it turns out that the group has more nefarious and proactive plans in the works to blow up the plant and make their new groupie, Ron(nie), the fall guy. Professor Stein, meanwhile, is slowly activating the plant, in violation of court injunction.
Ron quickly realizes that his fellow anti-nuke activists are up to no good, but is knocked unconcious and left for dead in the bomb-wired experimental nuclear plant with an equally incapacitated Stein.
Using writer Gerry Conway’s own words: At another time and in an another place, under different circumstances, both Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein would be dead in less than three seconds. Fate, however, has other plans! A few minutes ago, this plant was activated for the first time — and in a way inexplicable, it now blooms to full fury — catalyzed by the thundering dynamite detonation! A million ergs of radiation pour through man and boy like sunlight through a pair of windows — very special radiation, unlike anything previously unleashed by man!
This fate + dynamite + experimental nuclear power coalesce and cause Professor Stein to merge with Ron Raymond. A new creature that can transmute the atomic structure of objects and change them into other things is born. The body of Ron Raymond changes and Professor Stein becomes his telepathic advisor.
A funny part of this origin issue is when this new yet-to-be-named “hero” realizes that his pants were destroyed in the explosion and that he is naked in the middle of a partially destroyed nuclear plant! So, further realizing that he has “the powers of some crazy kind of super-hero” Raymond decides to create matching crazy looking orange and yellow duds to go with his new abilities.
Super-hero name? Um…… hold on a sec.
In the same goofy 70’s fashion (pun intended) that our hero’s flashy costume was created, a brief soliloquy helps our hero select a nom de guerre: What is it you call the aftermath of an atomic explosion? A firestorm! That’s it! That’s what I’ll call myself — Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!
And, thus, using my deep game show announcer voice and a comics cliche…. a hero is born!
This new hero goes about and foils another nuclear plant attack by Raymond’s former compatriots, and our debut issue concludes.
Almost a year prior to Firestorm’s debut, another “new” DC hero had his own coming up out party and series debut – Black Lightning in 1977. However, unlike Firestorm, Black Lightning’s story and history at DC is not as… um… bright, as was covered in one of my recent Near Mint Memories columns. A key pop-culture difference was that Firestorm would make it onto the tv cartoon series Super Friends, while Black Lightning would not. A similar, but different, hero would make the tv cartoon debut – an African American lightning powered hero called Black Vulcan. (Check out my NMM column on BL for more on that.)
Its interesting that this May a new, and African American, Firestorm will debut. This is another connection between the two heroes and perhaps the start of a successful “new” franchise. The comic world needs more stronger, vibrant, and commercially successful black hero centric titles.
Hopefully this new Firestorm will be just that.