With the release yesterday of The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, writer/artist Dan Jurgens becomes the man responsible for carrying the character and his new status quo forward into a new era, taking the reins from the departing Joe Harris and Yildiray Cinar.
One of the lowest-selling of DC’s New 52 titles to get a reprieve during the spate of cancellations announced in June, The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men entered the fray in September of last year with huge expectations surrounding it. The first collaboration by superstar creators Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver, the series revolved around a pair of characters who couldn’t come to an agreement personally, but had to in order to make great things happen as Firestorm. The narrative that Simone was a noted liberal and Van Sciver arguably comics’ most famous and outspoken conservative was not missed by the comics press, who saw the potential for the book to become more than the sum of its parts–but the political discourse in the title’s pages was shallow and silly, and Simone moved on almost immediately to other things.
The book, which started out weak but sold strong, never truly recovered from the loss and it’s been the better part of a year that DC has seemed to be looking for a direction for the title and the character. Enter Dan Jurgens who has, with varying degrees of critical and sales success, been called in to stabilize books like Superman and Green Arrow saddled with similar editorial challenges in the year since DC’s big relaunch. With a new status quo and a mission statement o make the book “fun,” Jurgens will join ComicBook.com on a monthly basis to discuss each issue, the choices he’s making and how they figure into the bigger picture. Before he starts his run, though, we’ve asked him to join us for a discussion about what makes Firestorm such appealing character and how he thinks he might more effectively reach out to new readers.
So, first thing’s first: Firestorm gets reinvented a lot. While the New 52 was a seismic shift for a lot of characters, Firestorm had just been reinvented for Blackest Night/Brightest Day literally immediately before the relaunch hit him one more time. What’s your take on the character, in terms of what you think worked and what didn’t during the Simone/Van Sciver/Harris run?
As a book, I think Firestorm has to be fun.
That comes down to a couple of things in particular.
One: One Firestorm, two “people” driving the character. In this case, Ronnie and Jason.
Two: We’re basically dealing with a kid here, though not many have any idea that Firestorm is a teenager.
Three: A lot of it relies on the bounce between Ronnie and Jason. There are two “voices”, or personalities, inhabiting one body. How does that affect their dynamic? Even if they get along and agree on everything, which they don’t, there have to be any number of places where they disagree.
Four: Big stories. How do a couple of kids deal with super villains? How do they fit that in with the basic demands of their personal lives, like school? Or don’t they care?
It’s a book that’s got some dedicated fans, but it’s had some pretty brutal reviews (including here at comicbook.com) and low sales almost from the launch. Do you have a strategy for trying to reinvigorate interest?
I’ve sort of hinted at it above, but I think we have to go back to the basic configuration and parameters that made the character a fan favorite in the first place. In general, most every character is best served by staying within the boundaries of his/her original framework.
Did you work with the current creative team on the zero issue? It’s kind of surprising to see a creative change come after that initiative rather than during.
No. I wanted a clean break and got that with #13. Given the time realities on Superman and Justice League International, it was the earliest I could jump in.
There’s a lot of speculation that your arc will begin with merging the boys and downplaying the Global League of Firestorms that we’ve had since the New 52. Can you comment on the roles that the existing players will play?
I always feel it’s best to let the stories speak for themselves, particularly when done by other creators.
Was shifting Firestorm into Justice League International a conscious way to transition you into writing the character?
Not at all. At the time I did Justice League International #9, this was not in the winds.
Any chance, with that title ending, that we’ll see some of your Justice League holdovers in this book, assuming they survive next week’s Annual?
I think we’re better off if we focus on the core characters of the book to start with. I am treating #13 like a first issue, where it’s important to establish the main characters, who they are, how they’re connected and why they do the things they do.
What are the most important things that you think fans need to know, going into your first issue?
That I have great respect for the character. Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom, Pat Broderick and a number of others figured this out long before I ever showed up. Their efforts made Firestorm a fan favorite at one point and I think it’s important to recognize what they did to make it click.
I’ve always liked Firestorm, whether he was on his own or in the JLA. He signified a certain sense of youthful fun in the DCU that I want to get back to. In addition, he’s a tremendously powerful character… one with almost limitless potential. That should lead to some very big, wide scope stories with huge stakes.