A Firestorm Problem?

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I’ve made it clear several times that my all time favorite superhero is Firestorm. This stems from my days as a early comic book collector in the early 1980’s. Over the years I’ve come to look at this character, that resides in the DC universe, as the runt of the litter. The most powerful character to always get the worst hand in the deck. Please bare with me as I kidnap take you on a journey. (Warning: Spoilers lay ahead)

Firestorm_v.1_01Firestorm was created in 1978 by Al Milgrom and Gerry Conway as the answer to the Marvel problem DC was having. They wanted a superhero that was young and flashy. Something that was eye catching and had a science fiction feel to it. So, this duo came up with Firestorm: The Nuclear Man. Back then, the cold war was real and there always seemed to be some terrorist looking to get there hands on a nuclear weapon. Firestorm was created by a nuclear accident that fused two people into one, Ronald Raymond (High School Jock) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist).

While the first volume ended after 5 issues in 1978, the second volume began again in 1982 and lasted 100 issues. Firestorm’s popularity grew as he became a member of the Justice League of America which also lead to a animated role in the Super Powers cartoon. I remember getting the toy and thinking it wouldn’t get any better than that. After he played a critical role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the readership for DC in general began to decline and multi book crossover became the norm. Firestorm was losing steam after Conway left the book in 1986.

This lead to a different writer (Ostrander) and different people who controlled the Firestorm matrix. This is where everything becomes dicey. Stein “dies” and Ronald shares the matrix with Mikhail Arkadin. Then after a few years of that crap, Stein comes back and takes over as the true “Elemental” Firestorm and the series ends at 100. From here, in different books, we find out the Ronald has leukemia and is cured by Stein (who has been living in space) which allows him to be the original Firestorm again without Stein.

COLD!!!!Years later Ronald’s Firestorm dies in action and his power is somehow absorbed by Jason Rusch, a young brilliant African American student, who takes over the the matrix alone. This starts volume 3 of Firestorm which does not last long. Before the New 52 starts we find out the Jason and Stein end up merging to become a stable version of Firestorm.

Then everything is reset during the new 52 where Ronald and Jason are separate Firestorms created by Stein and his God Particle. They can also merge to become an ultimate form. This book also didn’t last.

Again, runt of the litter consumed with bad ideas and bad concepts. He had a tendency to shine in books that were not his own. I liked Jason Rusch because he was so smart that there was no need for Stein in his version of Firestorm.

Why am I saying all this? Well, this brings me to current times. DC’s highly anticipated, Legends of Tomorrow debut last night with considerable hype. One of the main characters is Firestorm whom we saw in The Flash television series.

So let’s play some catch up with that. Firestorm in The Flash was Ronald Raymond (scientist) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist). In season one, we spend most of the season figuring out who and what Firestorm is. There is a real clever mystery about it too and we even see Jason Rush (Stein’s student) for like an episode. At this point I’m thinking, I know what’s going to happen, if they kill off Raymond, then Jason will be the next person in line just like the comics. Let me be clear, the writing on this show has been superb.

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So what happens? (Spoilers from here on out)

They kill off Raymond and the next person in line is Jefferson Jackson in Season two. Who? Jefferson was a character in the early run of Firestorm as Ronald’s best friend. A fellow High School basketball player (with an afro too). In The Flash, Jefferson is a star quarterback that gets injured by the particle accelerator explosion and somehow becomes a viable option to merge with Stein in the matrix. The problem with this, for me, was that they used a typical black story trope of an athlete kid that lost all his options and cant go to college now instead of using the genius black kid in Jason Rush that we rarely ever see in any television show (outside of Urkel in Family Matters).

Jax (what they call him) is a stereotypical black kid, much like the new Wally West in The Flash. So when we talk about how people of color are portrayed in Television, Film, and books, you can see why this is a little disconcerting.

Ok, last night. In Legends of Tomorrow we see that Time Master, Rip Hunter selects eight people to hunt down Vandal Savage and he awaits for their answer. Stein is down to go and Jax isn’t. Understand that Firestorm doesn’t exist if both of them are not involved. Dr. Martin Stein drugs Jax (via roofie in his drink) and kidnaps him in order to make the quest. First of all, this is uncharacteristic of Stein. Secondly, the white man – black man dynamic of the former kidnapping the latter to go on a voyage is NOT GOOD WRITING.

It further proves my point that Firestorm is the runt of the litter and with writing like this, the character will never get any respect. Also, this move reduces Jax to sidekick status to Stein. The power dynamic is now reversed even though Jax ultimately controls the matrix they share. Have I confused you? Good. Because this shit is confusing.

I should’ve changed the title of this entry to, How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Character in Less Than a Thousand Words.

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COLD!!!!

It is really insanely cold outside. I wish I could explain what it feels lie to just walk outside and be bundled up and shit be freezing. It takes may car more than 10 minutes to warm up. It reminds of when I went down to New York City in December and my brother needed to run some errands. I was in his condo chillin with my nephew. We played the Wii most of day and night when we had gotten a chance. My brother saw this particular time as a opportunity to go out and pay a bill. 5 minutes pass and we walks back in talking about “how brick it is outside”. I just look at him like he is wimp.

New York City cold is definitely not like Syracuse cold. It has been Arctic up here here. People think I am joking when I talk about the icicles hanging from my house. I will have to take a picture of them. I think that I can break off a piece, pack it in some frozen type of package, send it to a small town in Central America and irrigate the land. That is how big these glacier like icicles are!

But, this is what I don’t get. I want someone to explain this shit to me. Why is it that I will always see a white person with no coat…not hat…no gloves…just chillin like it ain’t at all cold??? I mean I have seen people in shorts just walking around campus…or women with open toed shoes. How is this at all possible?

It takes me less than 10 minutes to walk from my job to the garage. By the time I get there. I have frost on the mustache! My fingers are numb! I saw this white guy chillin on the phone with no jacket. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of cold white people that are just as bundled as I am, but you have those few that are just nuts!

Just want everyone to know that I have started adding my old blogs. So if you interested, they are all from dated in 2007 and further.

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Black Superhero Profile: Firestorm

Jason Rusch was a seventeen year old teenager living in Detroit, who wanted nothing more than to escape his home city. He lived with his father, who had turned abusive after he lost his hand in an industrial accident. His mother left his father sometime after the accident, leaving the young Jason with his father. Jason later recalled that his father had hit him on four occasions. With the loss of a job he needed to fund college, Jason turned to a local tough for money, accepting a job as a courier. It was on that job that he encountered the Firestorm matrix. (taken from wikipeda)

The original Firestorm was white and when DC comics decided to change this character Black there was a huge uproar amongst fans of this character. There is a message board on the DC comics website that just talked about how much of joke this character was. I has even gotten into words with some fools. While a lot of the discussion was not so much about race, it was clear that many fans were upset that he was now black. What made this change interesting is that books mainly feature Black Superheroes in the main role, do not sell very well. So, many people predicted that this book would not last a year. The book lasted 35 issues, which was 3 years.

In reading this series, Firestorm was treated as any other hero. Not that his skin color did not matter but his relationship with his father and mother was certainly not because he happened to be African American. However, his best friend Micky, was in college and was Latino. There was a point in which he did fight some Neo Nazis, but that fight did not last too long.

I will rate all black heroes I profile from a scale of 1 to 5 based on their cultural significance. I give Firesorm a 4. For being the only Black Superhero in DC to be in his own comic for 3 years, which is a first…

Black Superheros!

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been reading and collecting comic books. I just could not get enough of them. I am sure that is what has really sparked my passion to read and write so much. As a kid, I spent most of my time and allowance on reading DC comics. I was a particularly a fan of Firestorm, the nuclear man. As a boy, I never saw color or race. So, despite the fact most comic books were of white superheroes, that did not bother me at all. I was into the action and the drama, and of course the art. Firestorm was a very unique character that gained his power from a accident at a Nuclear Power plant that (through nuclear fission) joined two people (Ronald Raymond, high school jock, and Martin Stein, Scientist) into one man.

I loved this character because he was different from the rest. He could beat Superman and Wonder Woman at the same time. Which was always a favorite argument of mine back in the day. Reading Firestorm lead me to read other books that became my favorites as well. Books like the Justice League of America, Flash, and Green Lantern. I will say that Green Lantern became a quick favorite of mine. These books, to me was also very much about the man behind the mask as much as it was about the hero and the powers. At the time, Hal Jordan was always going to be Green Lantern just as Bruce Wayne will always be the Batman.

However in 1983, something curious happened that took me for a loop. Hal Jordan quit being Green Lantern and this sparked a big thing…who was going to take his mantle? Much to my surprise it ended up being a man called John Stewart and he was black. This upset me! How are you going to change Green Lantern? Up to this point, DC had two black superheroes and that was Black Lightning and Cyborg; I was so no interested in either of them! Hal Jordan was a test pilot and John Stewart was an Architect…what fun was that? All of a sudden this book went from an all white cast to a practically all black cast.

This began my introduction to a world larger than myself. It is not that I thought black people could be superheroes, it was the was now apparent to me that there just wasn’t enough. Black Lightning quite frankly was wack. Here is a guy who’s mask is attached to his Afro! So to take off his mask he would have to take of his Afro, which is fake. I wasn’t buying it. Cyborg was ok, but I just didn’t connect.

Which brings me to the world of Marvel Comics, which has Spiderman, X-men, Iron Man, and Captain America. I started collecting X-men and Spiderman when I was in High School. At this point, Firestorm was cancelled and I was mad. But, I did keep an eye on the Black Hero situation for both companies. Marvel barely had any either. They had Black Falcon (Captain America’s sidekick…ok), Storm, and Black Panther. Storm, I liked. Strong black woman who could just kick your ass with her powers or just duke it out with you. Black Panther was ok, never saw him all that much. But, what I did know was that he was a King for a country in Africa! With the exception of Storm, these character we just under used. I lost faith in the ever seeing a true black representation in Comic Books.

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There was a time that I did stop collecting. In my years in college I just did not have enough income from my work study position to buy comics. But once I graduated and moved back to New York City, I started getting the itch. I need to know what I missed. So, I started buy a small number of comics starting with the Ultimate Spiderman and Ultimate X-men, which is a different spin on Marvel. The main point that shocked me was that the main character in all these books was a man named Nick Fury and he is black. So for those who saw the clip in Iron Man after the credits were done will know why Samuel Jackson was there.

Black heroes were making it in modern comics and I can tell you that they are too many to name. But what really put the icing on the cake was a cartoon called. The Justice League. The main characters of course are, Superman, the Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawk Girl. In role of Green Lantern is John Stewart. Not only was black back in comics but it was cooler than ever.

During this month, I will feature certain Black Superheroes and break them down contextually and conceptually. Some heroes will be dope and some wont. But I will hold no punches in what I analyze. Hopefully by the end you will also see why I love comic books so much.

Oh, and on a side note…Firestorm was reborn…as an African American Teenager. He will be first on my list…

Have a good one!