From the cover of the second first issue. Artists: Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1978
Creators: Gerry Conway (writer) and Al Milgrom (artist)
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Like The Human Torch and The Ghost Rider, Firestorm was probably the most visually striking superhero of …

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… his decade. His mask ended just above his ears, which with most guys would mean his hair stuck out the top. But where they had hair, he had an open flame.

He was also rather unusual in the secret identity department. Most superheroes have one, but Firestorm had two. One of them, in fact, was even a secret from the identity himself.

Firestorm, a DC Comics character, debuted in his own comic. Firestorm the Nuclear Man #1 was dated March, 1978. It was part of an ongoing promotion the publisher called "The DC Explosion", involving added pages, more features, and the launch of several new or revived series, such as Claw the Unconquered, Shade the Changing Ma and Star Hunters. The writer was Gerry Conway, who also co-created Ms. Marvel, Power Girl and several other characters for both DC and Marvel Comics. It was drawn by Al Milgrom, known for his work on The Incredible Hulk, West Coast Avengers and The Defenders, and as editor of Marvel's 1980s experiment with higher-quality production, Marvel Fanfare.

The origin story concerned high school student Ronnie Raymond, protesting the opening of a nuclear power plant. There was an attempt to blow up the plant, resulting in Ronnie and the unconscious Dr. Martin Stein, one of the plant's designers, being bombarded with radiation. Instead of dying in excruciating agony, as real people would do, they merged into the immensely powerful Firestorm, whose first act was to cart the eco-terrorist off to prison. Since Ronnie was the one conscious at the time of the merger, he was the one in control, with Stein a mere observer and commentator within the shared mind. After they de-merged, Stein had no memory of having been half of Firestorm. Afterward, Ronnie could bring on the merger just about whenever he wanted to, which wrought havoc on Stein's life but did give Ronnie the fun of being a superhero (which Stein didn't much care for).

Later that same year, the bean counters of DC's accounting department pulled the plug on the so-called explosion, rolling back the extra pages and dropping the new titles. Even some that pre-dated the promotion by a year or two, such as Secret Society of Super-Villains and Black Lightning, got the axe. Naturally, Firestorm was a victim of what readers quickly dubbed "The DC Implosion". The last issue was #5, dated November, 1978. The pages that would have been in #6 found their way into a xeroxed compilation titled Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, which was distributed only to staff members and is now a rare and seldom-traded collector's item.

Most "Implosion" victims didn't get a second chance, but in Firestorm's case, a guest appearance with Superman led to that venerable character sponsoring him as a member of The Justice League of America (which by then had become a haven for superheroes without series of their own). The fact that Conway was writing the JLA comic at the time probably had something to do with Firestorm joining. His first issue as a member was #179 (June, 1980). He even turned up in one of the later incarnations of the JLA's TV version, The Super Friends.

A few months after joining the JLA, Firestorm got a series in the back pages of The Flash; and from there he moved back into his own comic. The Fury of Firestorm ran from June, 1982 through October, 1987. Conway scripted most of the character's adventures, but Milgrom dropped out after the first series. Later illustrators included George Pérez (Teen Titans, Wonder Woman) and Pat Broderick (Captain Marvel, Captain Atom). Eventually, Stein found out about his role in the Firestorm persona (which explained a lot of mysterious blackouts); and he and Ronnie reached an accord.

In more recent years, Firestorm has been seen in specials, mini-series, guest appearances, toy lines, and everywhere else you'd expect to find a minor but reasonably popular denizen of the DC Universe.


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Text ©2003-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.