Why I Like Firestorm

Mentioning Firestorm the Nuclear Man yesterday sent me back to my old long boxes for early issues of FoF.

Firestorm was DC Comics' answer to Spider-Man. If Peter Parker had the mind of a middle-aged physics professor talking in his head... and the power to change the molecular structure of anything... and if his hair was on fire. Hey, it's the DC Universe. They just make 'em tougher. But the Nuclear Man is like a Marvel hero in that 1) he lives in a real city (the bad news is, it's Pittsburgh) and 2) he has a ton of personal problems (girl trouble, parent trouble, college trouble, he lives in Pittsburgh). And you know what? Firestorm was probably the first solo book I really got into.

The Annual is the climax to a storyline that, had it been written only 5 years later would have had some cool arc title, like Nuclear Wars or something. Basically, you've got a number of characters with nuclear-type powers and they're gunning for Firestorm. To quickly recap: You've got this Luthor wannabe called Hewitt who hires Multiplex (he's fission to Firestorm's fusion), finances Enforcer (a nuclear-powered suit of armor), creates Firehawk (nuclear fire) and finally turns himself into the human reactor, Tokamak! And at the end of the previous regular issue of Firestorm, he used his magnetic rings to crush Firestorm down to subatomic size.

But because of Firestorm's unique powers, he wasn't killed. Me? I'm a sucker for any story in which the Atom is sitting on an electron, getting a subatomic tan. So when Firestorm strips the electrons off an atom to cause a chain reaction that will give him enough energy to bounce back into full size. Well, that is just killer stuff from writer Gerry Conway.
Better still, when he does pop up, it creates a nuclear explosion in the heart of New York City! It's later implied that he absorbed all the radiation, but look at this panel and tell me those firemen aren't gonna die of cancer in the next couple months?
While the Enforcer fights a resurrected Firestorm, Multiplex is finding out that Tokamak has some serious problems. And I'm not just talking about his metal diaper.
Multiplex decides that his boss is quite insane (though any guy that calls his split-off selves "Duploids" is clearly not all there either). Total aside: Anyone ever figure out how Multiplex can have a porno moustache when he doesn't have his helmet on, but no moustache when he does? It is on a Duploid somewhere? Anyway, things that bug you as a kid.
So he gives up Tokamak's location, and the fight moves to Washington D.C. If nothing else, this gives Thomas Jefferson the chance to punch out a guy who based his armor on the Russian reactor that would blow up Chernobyl 3 years later.
The category is: Things I didn't know Firestorm could do. Had he used Lincoln, the fight would have been over right then and there. Now THAT ex-president can hold his own in a fight. Slave Owner/Molester vs. Great Emancipator? No contest. But Firestorm's not always that bright. Finally, Tokamak goes into meltdown (told you those Russian reactors were no good) thanks to Firehawk and there's another nice nuclear explosion, this time in D.C.

Nuclear explosions... In the Marvel Universe, they give you powers. In the DC Universe, they just look cool.


De said...

Tokamak reactors are experimental fusion reactors. Magnetic force is used to confine a plasma; similar to pressure confining a gas. The Chernobyl reactor responsible for the 1988 incident was a poorly-designed fission reactor (that and the conducting of dangerous experiments).

Can you guess who minored in nuclear physics?

Matthew Turnage said...

I love the old Firestorm comics. Gerry Conway did start to lose some steam later in his run, but it was a fun read while he was there.

As much as I love John Ostrander, he just wasn't a good fit for Firestorm. He produced some nice stories, but the characters changed so radically they didn't seem like the same people anymore.

Siskoid said...

De: I knew someone would own me on my lack of proper research. Glad it could be you!

Matt: Agreed. Ostrander was always more interested in telling these international political thrillers, which worked great for Suicide Squad, but seemed odd in Firestorm.

De said...

No ownage intended, good sir. Actually, I apologize for getting a bit carried away. Four years studying physics and I write software manuals for a living. It was hard not to get a little excited :-)

Siskoid said...

It's the kind of ownage I like and respect. :)


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