In the new DC anthology series Legends of Tomorrow, irestorm co-creator Gerry Conway will bring the "fun" back to Firestorm, combining the "New 52" version of the character with classic, "archetypal" elements of the character that have made him popular on TV.
Firestorm was created by Conway with artist Al Milgrom back in 1978 as the combination of the young Ronnie Raymond and elder Professor Martin Stein. He became one of DC's more high-profile characters when he became part of the Justice League and got his own title in the 1980s.
Since then, the character has gone through a few different incarnations — including the addition of a youth named Jason Rusch as part of Firestorm. And in for The Flash and then the new DC's Legends of Tomorrow TV show on the CW, Firestorm was brought to live action TV show with Robbie Amell as Ronnie, Victor Garber as Professor Stein, and Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson.
Back in comic books, Conway will be working with artist Eduardo Pansica on the Firestorm story, which will be serialized in six issues of Legends of Tomorrow along with three other stories: Len Wein and Yildiray Cinar on Metal Men, Aaron Lopresti (both writing and drawing) on Metamorpho, and Keith Giffen and Bilquis Evely on Sugar & Spike. Newsarama talked to Conway about the Firestorm character, the story he's writing for Legends of Tomorrow and why he thinks Firestorm has endured for so long, even expanding onto television.
Newsarama: Gerry, there have been a few different versions of Firestorm over the years since you co-created him. Who is the Firestorm character right now and where do you pick up his story?
Gerry Conway: Well it's interesting because the "New 52" did a reboot of the character with Ronnie Raymond of the past but recreating the Firestorm dynamic in a different way. And I'm actually planning a storyline that sort of brings things back a little bit into alignment with how they were during the first run of the character, while still trying to keep it up to date and acknowledge the changes that have occurred over the last decade or so.
Nrama: Wow, that's a tall order. So you're taking stuff from the past and present and everything in between to make sense of it?
Conway: I'm trying to, yeah. I'm trying to do it in a way that treats the changes that were initiated by other writers with respect, but at the same time, trying to recapture some of the original archetype that worked so well for the character, and the archetype that they're trying to embrace on the TV show, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, which is the young man at a crucial point in his adolescent development with the voice of an older adult in his head. I think it's something we can all relate to on some level in our own development from adolescence to adulthood, having that adult voice judging us and guiding us and interfering with our own impulses.
So that was something that I thought worked really well in the original conception of Firestorm. But I didn't want to just completely blow up the old version, so I'm trying to make a transition that allows us to keep Jason Rusch, Ronnie Raymond, Professor Stein and the supporting cast all integral to the character going forward, but that gets us back to that archetype at the same time.
Nrama: Is there a threat in the story? What is Firestorm dealing with?
Conway: Well there are two threats. There's a personal threat, which is that Jason is starting to experience problems that the professor and Ronnie believe are related to his participation in the Firestorm matrix. So that's a personal threat that actually entails a lot of the story elements that go forward over the six issues.
But there's a world threatening threat [laughs] through the activities of Danton Black, Multiplex, who in this version of the character is a far more potential menace to our reality than he is just a common criminal.
And so his activities are going to be acting in parallel to what Firestorm is going through. And the convergence of those two are going to be the dramatic axis of the story.
Nrama: You mentioned what's happening with the TV show. What do you think it is about Firestorm that has made that character endure since you created him, even making him a fan-favorite character on TV?
Conway: I think all really good superhero characters have an archetypal role. And Firestorm, as he was originally conceived, has that archetypal role. He answers a question about human nature. And this was inadvertent. I claim not great mastery or skill in creating this character, but inadvertently, I tapped into something, that adolescent moment where you're struggling to become an adult and enter the adult world. And you're struggling with that in-between — you're struggling to be independent, you're struggling with your willfulness, your desire to be taken seriously — and there's that adult persona that's ruling over you and watching your every move and criticizing it, or offering helpful suggestions that may not be helpful, and so on.
In some ways, that really struck a lot of young readers, when the book first came out.
Now those young readers are adult TV producers! [Laughs.] That may be why the character is seeing some traction now.
Nrama: How does it feel overall for you to return to Firestorm? You haven't worked on him for awhile, have you?
Conway: No, the last time I wrote Firestorm was, I think, back in the mid-1980s when I left the book. So it's been about 30 years since I wrote the character. But I did pitch a new take on the character back about seven or eight years ago, but DC went in a different direction at that time.
I'm glad they're giving me the shot to write him again. I love that character. I love Ronnie, I love the professor. And I like Jason Rusch's character, and Ronnie's mom. It's a lot of fun to be writing in that mindset, about a teenager struggling with growing up. It's a familiar thing.
Nrama: The artist is Eduardo Pansica. What does he bring to the story?
Conway: He's terrific. He's a young, new talent. He's got a good grasp of storytelling. Plus his stuff has very explosive, dynamic energy. He reminds me a lot what the work Al Milgrom did in the original series, in that they both are less "realistic" artists and more of a cartoony approach, which I think works for that character.
Nrama: For people that might not have been around for that first run, how would you describe this book overall? Is there anything you want to tell potential readers about what to expect from the Firestorm story?
Conway: I hope they'll look to this book to be a fun book. One of the things I loved about writing Firestorm was that he was a character who didn't take himself too seriously, and it was a series that didn't take itself too seriously. And I think the early issues for the "New 52" version of the character kind of got away from that. I would urge readers to try a shot at this version of it to see what made the character so much fun, at least in my opinion. I certainly found it a lot of fun, and I hope they find it to be a lot of fun.