A Brief History of Firestorm, Part Two
After last night's rundown, Firestormania continues unabated here on the ISB as we move into the second half of our nuclear-powered exposé. Tonight, it's a look at the foes who rise up to challenge his nuclear-powered heroic dominance. In a lot of ways, the villains are the most important elements of the series, as they provide the challenges that will define the hero. And after all, without his enemies, a hero has nothing better to do than sit around in his basement, and how successful would that be?
Well I'll brook none of that nonsense in this house, mister! IT'S CONWAY TIME!
My sentiments exactly, Ronnie.
For all its fun, Firestorm is very much a Villain-of-the-Month book, with themed bad guys showing up every Tuesday to keep Ronnie from getting to second base with Doreen. But even so, it's got a certain kind of charm to it. Especially with the way Conway set up all the villains along the same themes of identity that Ronnie and Professor Stein were dealing with themselves.
Firestorm's first super-villain and initial contender for arch-nemesis was Multiplex, an old rival of Professor Stein who got caught in the same explosion that crammed Ronnie and the Prof into a pair of poofy sleeves. But while they merge together via fusion to become Firestorm, Danton Black absorbs energy to split into multiple bodies--fission. See how Gerry Conway ties that nuclear jargon together?
Multiplex: He's not just an incredibly boring arch-nemesis, he's also educational!
Then there was Black Bison, who, like Ronnie, had to deal with a pesky know-it-all voice in his head and non-traditional headgear. Unfortunately for Firestorm, John Ravenhair's head-vox is a pissed off Native American who shoots magic out of a stick and wants a little bit more to make up for his people's suffering than loose slots and tax-free cigarettes. He's an all right sort of guy, though, once you get past the whole "I want to stab you while not wearing a shirt" thing.
Other VotMs include an inexplicable tussle with Pan, of Greek Mythology fame, along with appearances by Mindboggler and Slipknot, who wind up in the Suicide Squad, or as I like to call it, the Firestorm Villain Retirement Home. It goes about as well for them as you might expect. Mindboggler, if memory serves, was turned into a sentient computer program after being blown up, but Slipknot is adjusting to life with one arm quite well after finding Kobra in prison.
There's also the Hyena, who has a terrifying secret that I dare not mention here, as I didn't bother to read any of the post-Implosion backups in Flash.
The Zuggernaut's popularity eclipses even Firestorm himself, and therefore no appearances were available to review. Sorry, kids.
Okay, so now that the scrubs are out of the way, let's take a look at Conway's big guns. That's right:
Yes, Dr. Crystal Frost, despite being reasonably attractive, smart, and successful, couldn't even land a burger-flipping nerd like Martin Stein, which, of course, resulted in an icy vendetta when she got super-powers in the arctic. But she was a hit: If you go so far as to read through the lettercolumns after she appears (no doubt in search of DG Chichester's thoughts on Multiplex), you'll find readers clamoring for her return. One guy even goes so far as to claim that she's "THE Firestorm villain," but really: Her major competition is a guy named after a movie theater.
Still, they've got a point: To this day, she's the only villainess I've ever seen who manages to subjugate an entire city while wearing a corseted ball gown. And she's got the one thing that no other bad guy has to offer the world of super-crime:
Well, okay, it's "Curt Nolland," but no amount of clever Gerry Conway name-changing can hide the fact that that's the Goddamn Bandit. He even drives a Trans-Am!
By virtue of crazy Bandit-related crime sprees and an appearance in Crisis where she becomes smitten with Firestorm through the machinations of the Psycho Pirate, Frost is by far the most interesting Firestorm villain of the early years. Still, it doesn't take her too long to bite the dust and get replaced by her nigh-identical friend Louise Lincoln, who later ends up, as you may well imagine by this point, in the Suicide Squad.
For my money, though, the single best Firestorm villain of all time has got to be...
She never held Jerry Reed for ransom or cursed Firestorm with lycanthropy, but Bette Sans Souci is unquestionably Firestorm's greatest nemesis. Why?
Because she's a Militant Canadian Suicide Bomber, and that's not a phrase you get to use often. Or ever.
Seriously, that alone is enough to make her probably one of the best villains of all time. Just go back and read her dialogue aloud while affecting an over-the-top, Claremontian Québécois accent and tell me you don't want to see her on a monthly basis: "DEATH EES MAH WAI-PON AN' LOH-VAIR!"
She also has the distinction of being handed the most ignominious defeat by our flame-topped pal, as he bursts in on a hostage situation and disarms her quite handily by dashing in...
...and turning her clothes to air.
He goes on to grab the bombs and chuck them out the window, which begs the question of why he didn't just turn the bombs to air instead. Scott gave me a line about the bombs being complex machinery and harder to transmute in the nick of time, but considering that Firestorm changes an entire semi-truck to water on day one of his super-hero career, I'm willing to bet that it has a lot more to do with the fact that she's a hot French chick.
Well-played, Ronald. Well-played.