Countdown to Final Breakdown #25A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: John Hays
Firestorm. Firestorm first appeared in 1978. That makes him 31, one year older than I am. Perhaps that’s why I miss Ronnie Raymond. So I’m going to tackle his history first and then move onto Jason. I actually thought I’d already covered Firestorm for some reason, but I just looked back at my previous Breakdown columns and can’t find him, so here we go!
As I stated above, Firestorm first appeared in 1978. Two of his rogues that have actually appeared in Countdown are Multiplex, who was also created in the same nuclear accident that created Firestorm, and Killer Frost, a spurned admirer of Martin Stein. This accident caused Ronald Raymond and Martin Stein to fuse together as Firestorm, with Ronnie’s mind being the more dominant of the two, leaving Stein to communicate with Ronnie in his head. This usually led to others wondering why Firestorm always talked to himself.
In the pre-Crisis days, Firestorm was an interesting addition to the JLA, since his powers made him so unique, as opposed to many heroes who were basically copies of other members. Plus, when the JLA and JSA would meet up, there was always some subtle mention of an attraction between Firestorm and Power Girl.
In later years, when John Ostrander took over the Firestorm title, he made it politically charged, with Firestorm trying to end the nuclear arms race. He also wrote Firestorm as a fire elemental who tried to save the environment. Martin Stein eventually broke off as the elemental version and was accidentally exiled into space. He returned some time later to cure Ronald of leukemia and allow him to transform into Firestorm on his own.
Ronald’s Firestorm was killed during Identity Crisis when the Shadow Thief impaled him upon The Shining Knight’s magical sword. His essence flowed into a young kid, Jason Rusch, who became the new Firestorm.
Jason came from a broken home with an abusive father. Becoming Firestorm only added to his problems, when villains started coming out of the woodwork, either for the power itself or revenge for Firestorm’s past deeds. Jason actually perished in deep space while assisting Donna Troy’s assembled team but was saved by Martin Stein’s Firestorm elemental. Stein was convinced to join Jason as a new Firestorm, complete with a few tweaks to his abilities. Jason was allowed to essentially pick which abilities he wanted and which ones were too volatile for him at the time.
When Stein had mysteriously disappeared One Year Later, Jason had to employ the services of Firehawk, an old ally and flame of Ronnie’s, to become Firestorm and search for Stein. Jason recently discovered that he contains one quarter of the Life Equation, apparently the opposite number to the mysterious Anti-Life Equation coveted by Darkseid. This makes him very valuable to all involved in Countdown.
The Atomic Knights. The Atomic Knights first appeared way back in 1960 in Strange Adventures. They lived in the post apocalyptic future of 1992. Go figure. Apparently after the Hydrogen War of 1986, Black Baron ruled the Midwest and was opposed by the Knights, who were led by Gardner Grayle. Years later in the Hercules Unbound series, Kamandi, Hercules, and the Knights all inhabited a future after the Great Disaster had taken place. Sound familiar?
In pre-Crisis, the Knights were eventually shown to be nothing more than Gardner’s dream, and Gardner was actually trying to prevent a nuclear war from happening in the present. At one point Grayle donned a knight’s uniform and joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory as the second Shining Knight. After the Crisis, Grayle joined the Outsiders for a time.
Most readers are familiar with the Knights' most recent appearances in the Battle for Bludhaven, so I won’t go into that here. That’s all for this week! See ya again soon!