Who's Black Bison?

Who's This? A New York shaman.

The facts: Debuting in Fury of Firestorm #1, Black Bison is a Native American totally immersed in the "White man's world," and given a talisman by his great-grandfather who had once been the Shaman of the legendary Bison cult. When his great-grandfather was killed by muggers, Ravenhair found himself possessed by the old man's spirit, which granted him superpowers and a need to avenge the white man's many injustices against his people. He would take part in another Firestorm storyline a couple years later (the one introducing Silver Deer), but otherwise was relegated to cameos whenever all the mystical characters showed up or were referenced together.
How you could have heard of him: He was one of the Black Lanterns (so you know he dies along the way) and teamed up with other Firestorm villains in the New52 and was a part of Forever Evil. The Flash TV show has a female Black Bison loosely adapted from this character.
Example story: The Fury of Firestorm #1-2 (June-July 1982) by Gerry Conway, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez

Wait. The Nuclear Man gets his own series back and his first bad guy is a sorcerer?! Well, my first issue of FOF had a were-hyena, so it was a thing Gerry Conway did. If at least it had been a way to introduce Pittsburgh, but no, Firestorm is still in New York at the start of the series. Lorraine Reilly, fated to become Firehawk one day, makes her first appearance in this story because her dad, Senator Reilly, has donated "Indian antiquities" to New York's Museum of Natural History from his "extensive collection", which is really the trigger for Black Bison's ascendance. John Ravenhair thinks it's a good idea for the world to learn about First Nations through such exhibits, but his great-grandfather wants revenge on the white man. John leaves for his work as a teacher after being given the talisman of the Bison Cult, and we later see his great-grandpa, on his last legs, goes to the park for a round of ritual magic to pass on his gifts to his unbelieving great-grandson. Meanwhile, Ravenhair is AT the museum where he is touring the exhibit with his class. Unbeknownst to him, he's about to need a costume. Luckily...

Ronnie Raymond, Doreen Day and Cliff Carmichael are IN that class - what a coincidence - so half of Firestorm is poised to intervene when the shaman transfer goes wrong. Criminals kill the old man in the park mid-ritual and John Ravenhair goes berserk, which I don't think is a good reason to summon the Nuclear Man, but of course, he's needed. John has become Black Bison, a warrior-shaman who seems to have control over the elements and rejects his former girlfriend.

The original John Ravenhair is in there somewhere, or else he might have killed her where she stood. With no personal connection to Firestorm, he doesn't need to handle him with kid gloves. So what other powers does he have?

Ok, so animating stuffed animals, and as we'll see later, statues. I guess this makes him a good match for Firestorm in terms of matter-manipulating powers. All the animals can't be "stuffed", right? I thought Firestorm couldn't use his powers on organic things, and he says Doreen by turning the animated mountain lion into a harmless teddy bear. And certainly, the giant turd on the cover to #2 (actually the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland) is a statue.

After the museum, Black Bison heads for Senator Reilly's estate. He's the real stand-in for the thieving white man, after all. And that puts Lorraine in play. The Senator's out and she makes an excellent hostage.

Firestorm better get a move on, because the cops aren't equipped to handle all this merry-go-round action!

Ol' flamehead is soon pitted against the whole collection of Alice in Wonderland statuary, but eventually, Ravenhair's girlfriend Vanessa comes racing up, worried. Black Bison is shaken.

Firestorm takes that moment to grab the obviously magical medallion and throw in the seal pond, and that breaks the spell. Ravenhair is back, in his love's arms, and about to get arrested, undoubtedly.

And that's really the problem with Black Bison. It's a Jekyll and Hyde story, and it'll always be about returning him to normal, which can apparently be done by snatching a very obvious necklace (so why didn't Firestorm just transmute it to nothing?). But without Black Bison, Firestorm would never have met Lorraine, which is the first step towards getting rid of Doreen Day as his love interest. I have heard she is the worst, and I believe it.

Who's Next? An evil druid.


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