Actually, this is the story of two regrets. See, I loved the original Firestorm. It’s one of the few comics from DC that I ever really got into, the tale of Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein, two men who were stuck together through accident and had to find a way to coexist. It was a great story, it originally ran, in 2 series, from 1978-1986. It also had wonderful writing, something that I think was missing from DC comics. Series creator Gerry Conway introduced a great sense of humor into the pages, expertly walking a narrow line between being too serious and too silly. The original run lasted 5 issues and the second, 100 issues until Conway left the title and it took a turn, tragically, to the absurdly serious and topical. Firestorm became a crusader against nuclear proliferation and as Professor Stein was dying of terminal cancer, Firestorm was transformed into a combination of Ronnie Raymond, Russian superhero Pozhar and the disembodied Stein running the show. It just wasn’t the same and I left it then, really missing the original series and hating what it had become. It wasn’t too long until, in DC’s 2004 Identity Crisis saw the death of Ronnie Raymond.
That didn’t stop DC though, shortly thereafter, DC revived Firestorm with a new character taking over the reins. This is one of the things I absolutely hate about DC, they are very costume-driven. It doesn’t matter who wears the suit, the only thing anyone reads the comic for is the suit, not for the character inside of it. This time, they put Jason Rusch, who had received the “Firestorm matrix” from the dying Ronnie Raymond, into the suit. I never cared for Rusch. I gave it a shot, but Rusch came off as a “token black kid in a superhero costume”. He was purely stereotype. Smart kid, living in the ghetto, with a single parent who wanted to do good by him but never could. I don’t remember the details anymore, but at the time it occurred to me that his father kept pushing him to be “blacker”. I couldn’t stand it. It lasted a couple of issues before I dropped it.
More recently though, they gave it another shot with their “New 52” reboot in 2011, this time teaming Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond together as Nuclear Men. They hated each other, they fought and frankly, the chemistry was awful. It was a complete reboot, nothing from their past ever happened and that could have been either good or bad. Both Jason and Ronnie were high school students from “different sides of the track”. They were involved with an accident, caused by Professor Stein’s “god particle” that gave them both the ability to transform into different versions of Firestorm. While the concept, I suppose, was interesting in theory, in practice it was horrible. They spend more time squabbling and beating each other up than they did actually learning how to work together. They could combine their powers into an incredibly powerful nuclear monster, but even when combined, they still yelled at each other. It was just a mess, I think I made it through 6 issues before throwing in the towel.
It’s really a shame because the original 2 series were really excellent, but I have to chalk that up to the writing of Gerry Conway. After he left, the series was never the same and it devolved into the same kind of suit-swapping nonsense that makes up the majority of the DC universe.
I still miss it, but I think I’ll give up trying new Firestorm offerings in the future. It just doesn’t look like they’re capable of recapturing the original magic or fun.