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Remember that trend of naming characters “[Something] The [Something Else] Man?” They should bring that back.

§ May 26th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, employee aaron, firestorm § 14 Comments

Jay from Tennessee volunteers the following

“What was it that you liked most about Firestorm?”

Let’s borrow Mr. Peabody’s WayBack Machine and travel back to the joyous, nigh-utopian days of 2007 when I wrote a bit about my Firestorm fandom:

Me: “You know what I like about Firestorm?”

Employee Aaron: “No, what?”

Me: “Well, Ron Raymond [Firestorm’s secret identity — well, one of them] is on the school’s basketball team, and he’s always getting picked on by the school brain, Cliff Carmichael. It’s some kind of weird parallel universe high school where the jocks get bullied by the smart guys.”

Aaron: “So what parallel Earth would that be?”

Me: “I’d call it ‘Earth-Remarkably-Improbable.’”

Okay, that’s a little facetious (what, on this blog? NOOOOO) but…you know, I was trying to think if I’d encountered Firestorm much prior to the launch of the 1982 series. I’ve read some Justice League of America before that, so I definitely c him there, and there were a handful of back-ups in Flash that I know I read. But at this point in time, I can’t recall if the character really grabbed my attention or if he just happened to be a dude in a comic I was reading for other reasons.

I suppose I must have liked him well enough to drop my two quarters and a dime on the first issue when it was released. I think a lot of it had to do with being an excited 11 to 13-year-old getting in on the ground floor of all these new comics that were popping up (like Saga of the Swamp Thing, natch, and All-Star Squadron, just to name a couple).

And like I said in my 2007 excerpt up there, I liked the weird premise of Firestorm actually being two people who would merge together into one shared-body superhero, with the impulsive teen (Ronnie) controlling the body and the older scientist (Martin) as the voice in his head. The additional twist of that “voice” being represented by Martin’s ghostly “head” that only we, the readers, and Ronnie could see was a clever one.

Another plus was the artwork, which remains my favorite example of Pat Broderick’s work to this day:

Even after doing this blog for nearly two decades I’m still not any better at describing art much beyond “pictures good,” but, hey, you know, pictures good. There was a detail, a graininess, to his work that felt…unusual to me at the time, which you didn’t see much in the usually much slicker superhero comics. Even when Broderick left regular penciling duties and was replaced by Rafael Kayanan:

…the artwork was still somewhat Of A Kind with what had come before. A little slicker, maybe, but still evoked Broderick’s influence in a way that later artists on the title would leave behind.

I enjoyed the stories as well, particularly the difficulties superhero-ing placed on Ronnie and Martin’s personal lives (especially Martin, who initially didn’t retain memory of his time as half of Firestorm). And of course the whole business with Ronnie’s rivalry with Cliff Carmichael, as mentioned above. It was all presented with just the right mix of humor, melodrama, and action, and always felt like I got my money’s worth out of each issue. I realize in hindsight it’s all very Spider-Man, almost certainly intentionally, but for a kid who hadn’t read many of those Spideys, and certainly not from the beginning, this all seemed fresh and enthralling to me.

Okay, with all this “from the beginning” talk I should note that I was aware at the time there was a previous Firestorm series in the ’70s. Certainly that they named the title Fury of Firestorm to differentiate itself from the previous Firestorm I do remember noting back then (in the same way Saga of the Swamp Thing was so named as to avoid confusion with Swamp Thing.) This, amongst other quests, is what would eventually lead me to comic shops looking for back issues. I eventually got that first series, though oddly I never sought out the Flash back-ups I didn’t have. Ah well, I eventually bought the book, so that’s moot now.

Once or twice on this site I believe I’ve mentioned that I really enjoyed the beginning of Fury of Firestorm and the end of it, while kinda coasting along through the middle which wasn’t…well, let’s say it was a little more inconsistent. Not necessarily bad, but not always to my taste either. However, I was still invested in the characters and wanted to see what happened with them. Yes, even Cliff Carmichael.

This is, unsurprisingly, going on forever, so let me try to wrap things up a bit. I did like how they changed things up and did things like replace Martin with another guy in the Firestorm merger, and went through a period where Firestorm himself had his own personality separate from the two men who’d form him.

Most notably, there was that business where, “inspired” by Swamp Thing’s journey into discovering he was a Plant Elemental, formed by Earth to be its champion, so was Firestorm sent on his own journey to become a Fire Elemental in much the same way. Oh, and said journey came with his own knock-off of John Constantine. Yeah, I know. But this all brought us to a new, relatively short-lived redesign for the character and some dynamic artwork from Tom Mandrake:

And then after this there were additional revivals/revamps of the character, specifically with new kid Jason taking over the role:

…in a fun series that provided a new take on the premise, while still following up on characters and events from the previous series. Of note: the end of DC’s Brightest Day event included an epilogue that threatened a dire fate for Firestorm that clearly was going to lead into…something, but that (and other set-ups from the end of this series) were cut down a’bornin’ with the advent of the New 52 publishing initiative. That to me was a major clue (along with what appeared to be poor, rushed planning overall) the New 52 was as much a surprise to DC as it was to the rest of us.

Anyway, Jay, I realize a lot of that was more “here’s a history of Firestorm” more than “what I liked about Firestorm,” but all these twists and turns in the character’s timeline always kept me interested. Until the cut-off and relaunch with the New 52, you could drawn a line from those beginnings as a 1970s series canceled early due to the DC Implosion, to all those Brightest Day shenanigans. I enjoyed being able to follow the lives of these characters for so long, and though their original story didn’t end so much as stop, as is often the case in superhero comics, the ride was of course all the fun.

I will say that the reveal of Martin Stein as a bad guy in Doomsday Clock was not my favorite thing. Who knows if DC’s “Infinite Frontier” initiative takes care of that or not. IT BETTER.

Was putting together something else for this site…

§ August 7th, 2017 § Filed under firestorm, superman Comments Off on Was putting together something else for this site…

…and it didn’t work out, unfortunately, so instead let’s admire this page from DC Comics Presents #17 (January 1980) by Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Steve Mitchell:

That Garcia-Lopez fella…he knew what he was doin’.

Three things.

§ October 29th, 2012 § Filed under firestorm, sluggo § 6 Comments

1. So reader David was at a convention recently where he encountered Guy Gilchrist, one of the current creators of the Nancy comic strip. Well, he explained to Mr. Gilchrist my little Sluggo Saturday project — I can only imagine how that went! — and apparently it went okay, as Mr. Gilchrist presented David with the following sketch:

I am downright flabbergasted. In times of darkness and despair, I shall simply focus on this image and let its beauty shine over me.

Also, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Sluggo Saturday. I’ll try to cook one up soon.

2. Here’s a thought that crossed my mind when I read the recently-released Fury of Firestorm #13: the general status quo for the character, recently reestablished in the new title, is that two people would merge together to form Firestorm, with one person controlling the body, and the other person existing as a disembodied voice who can mentally communicate with the first person. Or, you know, something like that. You get the idea.

In the old Firestorm comics, sometimes Ronnie (the fella running the body) would be talking out loud to Professor Stein (the poor bastard stuck in the “disembodied voice” position) and someone would walk in on the conversation and would be all “hey, you talkin’ to yourself?” and Firestorm would be all “D’OH!” and embarrassed and stuff, since the Firestorm-is-actually-two-people thing wasn’t general knowledge.

Well, we got a scene like that again in the aforementioned #13 of the new series:

…and what I thought was “wouldn’t people nowadays just assume anyone talking to himself was actually using one of those Bluetooth ear-clip thingies?” That actually happened to me at the shop once, where a sole gentleman was in the middle of a very spirited conversation and I just assumed he simply had a Bluetooth headset on…until I got a good look at him and realized, oh, there’s no cell phone involved here.

Okay, in the panel up there, the dude isn’t explicitly saying that he thinks Firestorm is talking to himself…I mean, I think it’s sort of implied, but I suppose he could be thinking that Firestorm is just yappin’ on his cell. But anyway, I think modern technology may have taken away one of Firestorm’s running gags, and surely the world is poorer for it. (NOTE: Not actually sure of that.)

3. There is no third thing. I’m a big lying poopiehead.

The nose grew progressively less pointy as the years wore on.

§ December 15th, 2011 § Filed under firestorm § 3 Comments

Yeah, what about Classic Cliff Carmichael, personal nemesis to Ronnie (Firestorm) Raymond, and reboot-victim of DC Comics’ post-Flashpoint universe? Oh, sure, there’s still a Cliff Carmichael in the new Fury of Firestorm comic, but whither the attitude? Whither the pointy nose? Whither the amazing near-Asimovian sideburns? Nowhere, sez I. Well, maybe a little of the attitude, but still, without those sideburns…just not the same.

Speaking of the post-Flashpoint DCU, I still want to hear what you think about the New 52 so far, and if your opinions have changed on any of the titles in the three or so months we’ve been reading. Again, not sure if I’m going to have any kind of significant follow-up to all this feedback, but you’ve had some interesting things to say, and besides…doesn’t it feel good to get these feelings out? Sure it does.

image from Justice League of America #179 (June 1980) by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin

Yes, I used the word “elements” intentionally.

§ September 26th, 2011 § Filed under firestorm § 7 Comments

So I finally picked up for myself that Firestorm The Nuclear Man trade paperback DC Comics released several months ago. Normally, I don’t tend to buy reprints of material I already own (my…um, dozen or so versions of House of Secrets #92 notwithstanding), but I was in the mood to read a little somethin’ archival, and Firestorm is one of my favorite superhero series, and the trade’s cover is pretty sharp-looking, and I’d like to have these stories printed on nice white paper.

It’s fun stuff, a little rough around the edges and maybe trying a little too hard to push the Spider-Man formula of “put-upon high schooler is also an awesome superhero,” but still an entertaining read that has aged reasonably well. With a new Firestorm series heading our way this week, it’s nice to look back at where the character began.

For instance, I’d forgotten just how callous Ronnie Raymond (one half of Firestorm’s alter egos) was to Professor Martin Stein (the other half). When merged together as Firestorm, Stein was the disembodied voice who advised Ronnie, who was in control of their physical form. However, when the two would split apart into their civilian identities, Stein wouldn’t remember his time as part of Firestorm, attributing his time-loss to blackouts and such. And, of course, this leads to all kinds of personal and professional problems for Stein, which Ronnie just kind of brushes off with an “ah, well…it sure is great to be a superhero!”

I know this is eventually resolved…in the second Firestorm series from the 1980s, Stein is aware of his dual life, but…I don’t recall exactly when or how this is resolved. It used to be I had these comics pretty much memorized, but it’s finally to the point where it’s been so long since I’ve last read them, they’re almost like new to me again. At least, in terms of specific plot points, since, as I described, I remember general things about the series and characters. Anyway, I thought that was a neat twist for a superhero…not just having two different people squeezed together to form one hero, but by having one of them not remember his superhero life, and the other not have enough of sense of responsibility to realize what he’s doing to his “partner.”

The other aspect of this series that I enjoy is the reversal of the typical “jock versus nerd” conflict, where Raymond (a member of the school’s basketball team) is constantly harassed by Cliff Carmichael, the school brain. I’ve written about Cliff before, and…man, I kinda miss that particular conflict. I seem to recall a time or two where Cliff and Ronnie actually, if briefly, get along, which was a nice touch, adding a little extra dimension to the typical high-school rivalry proceedings. But, like I said in that previous post, Cliff ends up becoming a supervillain or something and it always struck me as an unsatisfying closure to what was a (relatively-speaking) normal adversarial relationship.

But, back to specifically discussing this trade paperback: it also includes a story intended for the original series but never published, save for the copyright-establishing-but-not-intended-for-general-distribution Cancelled Comic Cavalcade. Or, as the trade’s back cover would have it:


Anyway, the story is presented in black and white, and features plot elements that, if my aging and increasingly unreliable memory serves me, were repurposed into the Firestorm back-ups that ran in Flash. (Some of the back-ups are reprinted in this book as well, but not the ones I’m thinking of, it seems.)

Also, the “next issue” blurb at the end of the sorta-unpublished issue #6 promises the appearance of “The Reptile Man.” I was going to say the Reptile Man never did appear, but a quick Googling pulls up this Firestorm Fan Page, which (along with a couple of Al Milgrom’s pages for #7) links to an audio interview with Firestorm cocreator Gerry Conway and states the Reptile Man eventually became Batman villain Killer Croc. Huh. (Also, I would have sworn on a copy of DC Comics’ The Bible treasury edition that Killer Croc predated Firestorm…but nope, first appeared in ’83.)

So that’s a lot of words just to say “I like Firestorm,” but hey, I do. And I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this new series as well. And with any luck we’ll see more Firestorm paperbacks…I think some of Pat Broderick’s best work was on those early issues of Firestorm’s 1980s revival, and I’d like to see that art on paper that isn’t thirty-year-old decaying newsprint, for the sake of my forty-two-year-old decaying eyesight.

Because sometimes you just need to blog about Cliff Carmichael.

§ April 6th, 2007 § Filed under firestorm § 2 Comments

from Firestorm the Nuclear Man #4 (Sept. 1978) by Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom & Jack Abel

Me: “You know what I like about Firestorm?”

Employee Aaron: “No, what?”

Me: “Well, Ron Raymond [Firestorm’s secret identity — well, one of them] is on the school’s basketball team, and he’s always getting picked on by the school brain, Cliff Carmichael. It’s some kind of weird parallel universe high school where the jocks get bullied by the smart guys.”

Aaron: “So what parallel Earth would that be?”

Me: “I’d call it ‘Earth-Remarkably-Improbable.'”

To be fair, Cliff Carmichael always was one of my favorite antagonists in comics, Asimovian sideburns and all, and that switcharoo on the expected relationship between the smart guy and the athletic guy is clever and amusing. Alas, and almost inevitably, Cliff was turned from a regular everyday jerk into a supervillain, and that was pretty much that.

In other news:

  • I’ve suddenly had a bunch of folks sending me this link to a kids book entitled The Swamp Thing, which has nothing to do with big green fella up there in this site’s title banner, aside from the name. It seems to me I’ve seen this before, on one of my many internet searches for “Swamp Thing’ — I may have linked to it before, but trying to Google up occurrences of the phrase “Swamp Thing” on this site seems too much like a fool’s errand to even try. But thanks to you all for the comments and e-mails…it’s good to know you folks are thinking of me!
  • A follow-up to my comments yesterday about the less-than-stellar sales debut of Fallen Son: Wolverine: well, movement on this issue improved on Thursday, and we’ve gone from “oh, God, this is going to tank hard” to “well, maybe we can sell through what’s left over of this issue once a Fallen Son one-shot comes out that people actually like, causing them to look for previous installments.”

    I think the forthcoming Fallen Son: Avengers one-shot will probably have pretty good sales right out of the gate. At least at our store, people don’t tend to buy every Wolverine series and/or appearance that Marvel cranks out. Contrast that with the Avengers…most of our Avengers-reading customers are more likely to pick up the attendant tie-ins and spinoffs. If they buy the Fallen Son tie-in, and realize it’s part of a series, there’s a chance they’ll want the Wolvie one-shot and the following issues. A small chance, I know…don’t crush my hopes.

  • “Bus stop Batman prompts police pursuit of Caped Crusader”

    “It’s like something out of a comic book: Police cars mobilize, attempting to track down Batman. But Monday afternoon, the Hesperia Unified School District Police were taking it very seriously.

    “‘A school teacher on her way home passed a bus stop and saw a bunch of kids at a bus stop, and there was a person in a Batman costume standing next to a van, playing a flute,’ Chief Bob Mosley, formerly with the Los Angeles Police Department, said Thursday.”


    “Those with information about the Batman incident are asked to call the Hesperia Unified School District Police….”