The Most Powerful? Matt Sturges on The Human Flame and Run!
Behind the Page - Matthew Sturges, 2
For anyone familiar with the Human Flame, that statement by writer Matthew Sturges is hard to believe. But as writer of the upcoming six-issue mini-series Run!, which focuses on the formerly comical villain, Sturges said that not only will the Human Flame be a serious threat, but "there won't be anything funny about him anymore."
The mini-series, which features art by Freddie E. Williams II, is one of four May mini-series about characters in the "Final Crisis Aftermath." Run! explores the DCU underworld through the experience of the Human Flame, Escape tells a story about the superhuman intelligence community through the eyes of Nemesis, Dance fleshes out Japan's Super Young Team, and Ink shows the evolution of the new Tattooed Man.
With its focus on the Human Flame, Run! continues a revival of the almost unknown character that was started by Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison. The Human Flame first appeared as a low-level villain in 1959 who failed in his one attempt to defeat Martian Manhunter. Although he wasn't seen in comics for the next 50 years, the Human Flame appeared in both Final Crisis and the Justice League of America #21 tie-in issue, where he was revealed to have a bitter hatred for his former nemesis and all costumed superheroes because they ruined his life.
But while the Human Flame may have been "revived," he was hardly portrayed as a likable character, particularly when his vendetta caused the death of Martian Manhunter.
"The Human Flame is a complete loser. I'd even go so far as to say that he is a complete douchebag. And he's starting at a place where he has absolutely nothing," Sturges said. "He's despised by everyone he's ever met. The hero community has it in for him because he was responsible for the death of Martian Manhunter. A lot of the villains aren't too keen on him either because he talked a lot of them into joining up with Libra during Final Crisis.
"So this is not a popular guy. He was never a particularly well liked guy. And now he's powerless and alone with nobody on his side. So that's where he starts out," the writer said.
What happens next is exactly what the title says. "He has nothing and he knows everyone is after him, and what does he do next? He runs," Sturges said.
"The story follows this guy as he flees across the entire underworld of the DCU. And over the course of this story, he manages to become one of the great supervillains," he said. "But the question is, how does that happen?"
The promise that the Human Flame will be a respectable and formidable villain at the end of his series seems to be a lofty undertaking for Sturges, but that's the kind of year the writer has ahead of him. As Newsarama outlined in our recent Behind the Page interview with the writer, Sturges is also taking over Justice Society of America with co-writer Bill Willingham beginning in July, along with writing House of Mystery for Vertigo and a new novel, Midwinter, coming out in March. And later this year, Jack of Fables, the series he co-write writes with Willingham, will cross over with the main series for a much-anticipated Fables event.
With Run!, Sturges said he's able to tell a story that utilizes the darker side of his sense of humor. "It plays to all my worst instincts," the writer said. "For people who have read Jack of Fables, you're familiar with the glee Jack has while he's doing these terrible things. Run! has that same kind of darker sensibility."
Sturges said there will be a lot of DCU characters showing up in Run! -- some familiar faces as well as many that haven't been seen in a long time.
"When Grant Morrison picked the Human Flame for Final Crisis, one of the reasons he did it was to show this joke of a character from an earlier time. He's sort of this silly Silver Age character from one little Martian Manhunter story," Sturges said. "And so to make him feel at home, we found a couple characters of his ilk and invented a couple others. And we're going to see what happens to him and them as they join forces for a short time."
As for other characters that might show up, Sturges is keeping those a surprise for now.
"We'll see a couple of heroes, and a couple of people from the Justice League might show up in here. We'll see a combination of some classic villains and some new ones. I don't want to spoil the fun," he said. "There will be a lot of interesting surprises."
But the main surprise, for most DC fans, is the idea that the Human Flame could become a powerful and important supervillain. To find out how such a transformation could possibly take place, Sturges said fans will just have to read and find out.
"Let's just say the Human Flame is someone who makes questionable decisions. Sometimes those decisions work in his favor, and sometimes they don't," Sturges said. "But he has made a decision in his life that he's not going to take anything lying down anymore. And maybe that's part of what's spurring him on.
"Yes, he's a jerk. Yes, he's a loser. Yes, he's sad and he has a mustache," Sturges said. "But there's something about him. There's something at his core that is magical and unique. There's a lot more to this guy than you might think."Related: Ian Sattler on the Final Crisis Aftermath miniseries