While The Flash is on hiatus, we’ll be running weekly content about the comic book backgrounds of characters like Firestorm, Gorilla Grodd, and Reverse Flash, to help give you your Flash fix on Tuesdays.
Firestorm has been a background character in The Flash for the better part of this season, only recently coming to the forefront to play a huge role in the show’s plot. Since we’ll likely be seeing more of him in upcoming episodes (or perhaps his own spin-off series), we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to …
An original creation of Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, Firestorm first appeared in DC Comics’ Firestorm, the Nuclear Man No. 1 in March of 1978. In that first iteration, the title character was an atomic-level combination of two individuals: high school student Ronnie Raymond and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Martin Stein. Viewers should recognize those names since they’re the same characters who appear on The CW’s version, played by Robbie Amell and Victor Garber respectively. Though the nuclear accident of the comics is similar enough to the particle accelerator explosion of the show for how these two combined to form Firestorm, it’s interesting that the television version allowed Stein’s consciousness to control Raymond’s body; in the comics, Stein was resigned to acting as Raymond’s voice of reason, while the teenager was largely in control of his body and powers.
Firestorm’s alter egos have changed over the years, starting with the Russian Mikhail Arkadin combining with the original duo, Stein himself taking on the mantle alone starting in 1990, and Detroit teenager Jason Rusch acting as the third Firestorm character. Sharp-eyed viewers probably noticed Rusch appearing in The Flash episode “Revenge of the Rogues”, played by Luc Roderique.
Fun fact: The first Firestorm run did not do well, failing as part of DC’s infamous implosion. Rather than scrap the character completely, Conway added him to Justice League of America and featured him in a series of short stories at the back of The Flash comics, eventually leading to Firestorm’s series revival.
Much like The Flash introduced on the show, Firestorm is powered by an energy matrix of the same name. Now, so far, we’ve seen him use this incredible energy source offensively (fireblasts from his hands), for transportation (flying at superspeeds), and for casting smoldering looks at one time-fiance Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). To say that this is the tip of the iceberg for Firestorm’s abilities would be both a huge understatement and a temperature pun from the wrong end of the thermometer.
As Wikipedia helps to inform me, Firestorm can actually manipulate matter on the atomic and subatomic levels, crafting objects of the same mass from different elements on command. Not only does that make him easily the best science teacher ever, his power also allows him to pass through solid matter, fly at incredible speed, blast foes with fusion energy, absorb radiation, regenerate damaged tissue, shapeshift, and survive without air, just to name a few.
Fun fact: Firestorm can use his abilities to affect organic matter (other than himself), but suffers near-lethal feedback when he does so. In other words, he falls a bit short of a god in that he can’t just rearrange a living thing’s atoms without chancing his own death.
Though the television duo of Raymond and Stein flew away from Central City for the snowy, steely streets of Pittsburgh, Firestorm has made other cities his home over the years. For a time, the Raymond/Stein team lived in New York and fought off such foes as Multiplex/Danton Black (who appeared in “The Fastest Man Alive” episode) and Killer Snow, whose latest iteration is that of Dr. Caitlin Snow, who is afflicted with an icy condition that only Firestorm’s heat can cure. That plotline is tailormade for a CW Firestorm spin-off with Amell and Panabaker. Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?
When he was done struggling through his adolescence in New York (much like Peter Parker) and dallying with fellow nuclear heroine Firehawk, Raymond left the Big Apple to attend college in Pittsburgh, where Stein had landed a professor position. There, they worked together to find a cure for their unique condition.
While Firestorm may never quite achieve the “fire elemental” status he enjoyed in the comics (or the giant walking reactor version of the combined Firestorms), there’s plenty of drama for a CW spin-off to feed from. The Amells have a bit of a dynasty building over at the network, and it would be cool to see Robbie team up with cousin Stephen in a crossover that sees Arrow, The Flash, and Firestorm working together. There’s also plenty of humor and heart to be found in the relationship between Raymond and Stein, something that we glimpsed in recent episodes of The Flash in the form of their witty banter; the father/son element is a strong device in the series so there’s every indication it would make it’s way to Firestorm. Perhaps most interesting for the CW crowd would be the potential super-powered love triangle between Raymond, Snow, and Firehawk, if they want to introduce her.
Whether or not a Firestorm spin-off ever gets off the ground, the character’s got more than enough spark to fuel plenty of dramatic tension and action-packed moments in The Flash. Keep an eye out for the nuclear hero’s return when The Flash comes back with new episodes starting March 17th.