By Beau Smith
I guess that most of ya out there have read about a group of fandom/readers that ain’t too happy that there is rumor of a return and change of the DC Comics character Firestorm.
Fans/readers of the past version of Firestorm are throwin’ online spit-balls at DC. Another group of fans / readers are stokin’ the flames for a new and improved Firestorm. DC Comics ain’t sayin’ much.
Me?? Well, as a former full time writer for DC Comics on Guy Gardner:Warrior. I’ve dated this prom queen before and I know where the panties get tossed at the end of the night.
When I took over Guy Gardner at DC from my good buddy, Chuck Dixon, the book was in transition. Then editor Kevin Dooley was in the works of handin’ the book over to his assistant editor, Eddie Berganza. DC was in the midst of gettin’ rid of all other Green Lanterns and turnin’ Hal Jordan over from baby face to heel. I jumped on the horse in mid-stream.
I was all for guttin’ all those other Green Lanterns. One Green Lantern was great. A few of em’ was fun. Double digit Lanterns was interesting, but thousands floatin’ around was like bein’ in the same room with every bad date ya ever had? at the wrong time of the month.
I was told at DC that Guy was gonna lose the ring? green or yellow? didn’t matter? no jewelry. I said “You got it!” I never thought it was real manly to wear a bunch of jewelry anyway.
DC wanted no relations to the old Green Lantern way. No rings! Not a problem with me. I had always thought Guy Gardner was a misunderstood character that was taken to the point of being a one-line joke. He was made into a cardboard character that had only one volume? annoying. He was always shown as a one-note jerk. No balance. Even jerks have other sides to their personality. Chuck had started laying a good foundation to the human side of Guy. I was there to take that and run to the next level.
I was thrilled to be workin’ with Mitch Byrd. The guy is brilliant. No other way to put it into words. Mitch is an art genius. Those of you that know me understand that I do not throw the words brilliant and genius around easily. In my world there are two artists that are under appreciated masters? Mitch Byrd and Flint Henry. A look into their personal sketchbooks is a quick trip to artistic heaven. These guys are a full tilt drunken binge without the pain and hangover. They make your eyes so happy they hurt.
I had hundreds of stories in my head with Mitch’s art attached. Knowing I was gonna work with him made my mind hard to shut down. If it would have been physically possible I would have had Mitch do Guy Gardner weekly. That’s how excited I was.
My plan was to make Guy Gardner an Indiana Jones kinda’ hero. No super powers. He would depend on his own manly personality and guts. He’s a man that has seen it all and knows how to handle that dangerous situation when it came up. I created Buck Wargo and The Monster Hunters to be his support team. Buck Wargo was a kind of Cowboy “Doc Savage”. His crew was like Docks. All experts in their own fields. Guy, Buck and the gang would be globe trottin’ adventurers. Takin’ on Yetis, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Dinosaur ridin’ Nazis. You name it and they would be runnin’ up against it.
Well, I had my way for a couple of issues? #22 and #23 and then the cluster fuck known as Zero Hour crawled up my butt and pitched a tent.
DC was really big into crossover “theme” issues. Things that connected the whole DC universe. Ya see, DC hit it big with the “Death Of Superman.” The thought that kinda thing worked once? it should work over and over. Marvel was doin’ the same thing. They would get a character that would get hot? The Punisher? Ghost Rider? next thing ya know those two guys are guest starring in every issue of every title. They weren’t beatin’ the dead horse, they were nukin’ it!
Now, I’m not gettin’ on Marvel and DC? they we’re just doin’ what they thought the fans wanted. ‘Sides? I still need em to give me writin’ work.
Well, Mitch Byrd and I started gettin’ Guy into a groove. We were havin’ a really good time. Then one day Eddie tells me that the higher powers didn’t think that Guy should be without powers. He said that heroes without super powers didn’t sell. I argued the point, but in the end DC owned the ball I was playin’ with, so I had to come up with something. My idea was that Guy would be the manly version of Superman. The last of his kind.
Guy would find out that there was a reason why he has always been drawn to being a hero. Why the blue boys of Oa picked him, why he always insisted he was the only true Green Lantern. The reason? like salmon do whatever they have to do to get back up stream to.. Guy had to be a hero. Guy was the last of his kind.
That why I came up with him being part of an alien seed plantin’ process that was put into the work thousands of years before. Guy Gardner was the fruition of the most noble race of galactic warriors ever? The Vuldarians.
They came before the Green Lanterns, before the Dark Stars? before the Space Rangers. They were like a mix of “Braveheart Meets The Texas Rangers.” The Vuldarians were the greatest warriors the universe has ever seen. Bar none. They were the best fighters ever. Mention the word “Vuldarian” to any crummy crook, and they would fill their pants right then. Bad guys would kiss Batman and call him Mommy rather than face a Vuldarian. They were that bad!
Since I’m limited to space and your attention span I won’t go into the whole history of The Vuldarians. Check out my issues of Guy Gardner for that.
Like I said? I made Guy the last of his kind. Part human, part Vuldarian. The greatest warrior of all. Nobody in the DC Universe was a better fighter? not even the sacred cow himself? Batman. I was so sick of Batman being touted as the end all of end alls.
Needless to say? by makin’ Guy the greatest fighter and second to only Superman in strength? well? you know where I was goin’.
If not let me refresh your memory? Batman’s one punch knock out of Guy when he was in the JLA.
I wanted my revenge.
You ask? “Were you gonna have him one punch Batman and knock him out, Beau?”
My answer? Nope.
That would be an easy revenge, too easy. A crummy British writer would do something like that. Not me.
I was gonna have Guy save Batman’s bacon from some menace in front of everyone in the JLA. Then in one real tense moment when everybody thought Guy was gonna “One Punch” Batman?
Panel One-Small Panel. Shot of Guy doin’ his best Clint Eastwood squint at Batman.
Panel Two-Matching small panel. Shot of Batman doin’ his best Batman scowl as he looks back at Guy.
Panel Three-Pan to the faces of the other members of the JLA as they look at Guy and Batman. All look tense.
Panel Four-Back to Batman still scowlin’ as he speaks.
Panel Five-Guy still giving his squint and lookin’ stone cold dangerous as he speaks.
Panel Six-Batman drops the scowl and gives his flat-line smile? you know, the only thing he has close to a smile and offers his hand to Guy.
Panel Eight-Largest panel on the page. Show Guy and Batman shaking hands and there is a slight smile on both faces. The rest of the JLA looks on in disbelief. They thought for sure there would be a fight? at least a punch thrown. But there wasn’t.
GUY: S’okay. Anytime.
That was what I had planned back then. If this were WWE wrestling this scene would be called Batman “Putting Guy Over”. Meaning putting Guy over with the readers / fans. A show of respect. Erasing that Guy was once a jerk and had grown as a character. At the same time showing that Batman has grown as well and isn’t the stuck in the mud nut he is always shown as being.
Gettin’ back to the subject? I just wanted to leave Guy at being the greatest warrior in the DCU? but the powers that be wanted more powers. Ugh?
This next part you will really groan at. I did.
At the same time all this power talk was goin’ on, on TV the kid’s show The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers was huge. DC said they wanted Guy to be able to morph weapons. That’s like bein’ a manly blues singer and havin’ your agent say ya gotta sign like Justin Timberlake. Ugh?
Again I tip my cowboy hat to Mitch. He came up with a very cool visual for Guy to morph stuff. Saddled with this morphin’ stuff I made it that Guy could only morph the weapons of the greatest warriors of the universe. I figured that would narrow it down to spears, knives, swords, guns? and so on. Thought I was safe there. I would’ve been but all of a sudden we had rising sales on Guy and now everybody and their ugly brother wanted to borrow him for their crummy books.
I made real hard lone rules about what Guy could morph. What happens?
I open up these other books and these jokers have Guy morphin’ chain saws, egg beaters and everything short of a dildo. See what happens when super powers get forced on ya?
As time went on I got to tone down Guy’s powers? it was hard to do ’cause every six months DC had another “theme” goin’ on. By the end I had Guy bein’ part human, part Vuldarian. He could morph now and then, but not much. I was gettin’ back to him just bein’ the best warrior. He and Superman made up and were friends and I was headin’ towards the Batman meeting you read in one of the above paragraphs.
Then the word came down from DC. Guy’s sales were down to 40,000 and on the bubble to be axed. That was low sales then. Now days my ass would be kissed for those numbers.
To tell ya the truth, the reason for the sinking sales (Down from 60,000) was because Mitch left the book and we had a different artist every other issue? plus the stinkin’ themes.
In the last issue I was so stoked? we got Mitch to come back for the big ending and fight against the great evil bad guy – Major Force? and when your initials are M.F. you know you’re bad.
In this last issue? a real knockdown drag out, gut wrencher? I revealed that Guy’s powers were finally defined. He was the greatest fighter/warrior. He could morph a little, plus he could regenerate his heart and other organs.
It was tough to go out, but at least I went out on my terms and with my buddy Mitch.
That brings us back to Firestorm.
Am I gonna cringe and grimace when DC finally hauls Guy Gardner back? Yeah? a little. Even more so if they bring him back in his old bowl haircut, ring wearin’ version. That’s a step backwards? a big one.
Part of the reason I made that Guy Clone was so that the readers would always have that annoying Guy version to remind them of their Batman-One-Punch day. Why mess with Guy Gardner Warrior?
But mess with they do. I am resigned to that fact.
Unlike other creators I’m not gonna moan about what a publisher does with the character that they own. I got to come over and play for a while with their toys and was paid well to do so. I am happy.
But? there is something you can do about changes you like or don’t like.
This brings us back to Firestorm? again.
Buy or don’t buy the book. As I’ve said many times before? vote with your wallet. Ya like it? buy it and tell a friend to buy it. Ya don’t like it? DON’T BUY IT. But be positive for comics and keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Just push the positive. If ya just gotta say ya don’t like something then do it in a constructive way. A way that’ll make it better. Don’t give me any of that “It sucks!” stuff. Break it down and use your mind. Be a teacher not turd.
In closin’ I’d like to ask ya to go to your local comic shops and hunt down some of my run on Guy Gardner: Warrior. Try em’ and see if ya liked what me, Mitch and the rest of the gang were doin’. For the record I did issues #20 through #44. There was an issue #0 and two annuals that I did as well. Prove those morons at Wizard Magazine wrong? They hated my Guy Gardner and cried for the bowl headed Guy. They are the ones that still sing the glories of that Batman-One Punch over and over. They just don’t wanna get a life and move on.
You check out those issues and let me know what ya thought. I love honest thoughts.
In the mean time? I ain’t hard to find.
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
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