Firestorm's Finale, Major Force and the Fridge: Jurgens On #20

3058683-frstm_cv20The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man ends with today's issue, #20. And while it may not be getting the same level of attention as another DC finale, it's a book that has a strong following from its fans and has been generally well-reviewed for the half-year or so since Dan Jurgens took over as writer/artist.

Jurgens joined to discuss the issue, and the end of the series. Remember that there are spoilers throughout, though, and so if you haven't already seen the issue, you should buy one and read along with us. First of all, the one that I think everyone in and around comics has asked themselves at some point - Do you think it's even possible for second- and third-tier characters to support their own ongoings anymore?

Dan Jurgens: I wonder about that more and more.

Is it possible? Yeah, sure it is. But it's also a lot harder. And even then, I think the character has to be perceived as part of the larger universe. His or her adventures have to feel as though they'll have consequences beyond their own series and affect the wider DC or Marvel universe. It has to be a bit of a drag, having your big finale fall on the same day as the (delayed) GL finish. Kinda guarantees all eyes are pointed in another direction, doesn't it?

Jurgens: I have no doubt that Geoff engineered this in order to take the spotlight away from Firestorm #20. It's a real Booster Gold tactic!

Seriously, I think Firestorm fans will still care about the story. Geoff had an incredible run on Green Lantern and he deserves the bouquets thrown his way, including a few from me.

Firestorm What do you think of the social media campaign that the Firestorm Fan website is doing this week?

Jurgens: I think it's great. Though it might have been more helpful if it started when we published #13...

That having been said, I think it's a real positive for fans to explore ways of raising the awareness of the their favorite characters. Hey, did I ever ask whether Firestorm ran into Daniel Carter during his time in Pittsburgh?!

Jurgens: Not yet! A story waiting to be told, perhaps.

Though Daniel is bit holder than Ronnie and Jason. Major Force--is that the first time we've seen him in the New 52? I feel like there was a character who looked like that introduced in Ron Marz's Voodoo run, but I don't see anything to indicate it was him on the DC Wiki and I feel like they may have referred to him by another name there.

Jurgens: You were right the first time. Major Force made a brief appearance in the earlier days of the New 52, which is what we used for the overall character design. It was fun to push him back on stage. Now, they reference Alex DeWitt's death in today's Green Lantern. Does that mean Major Force was redeemed or didn't he do the deed in the New 52? Or is that one of those questions I probably just shouldn't ask?

Jurgens: I look at it more as another one of those stories, waiting to be told.

However, I wanted to put in a scene where Major Force reaches into a refrigerator to hand Firestorm a beer, while saying, "Um, don't look, okay? It's a mess in there." Unfortunately, I didn't have room.

That actually happened to a lot of the bits I wanted to plug in, as I started with about 38 pages worth of story for a 20 page issue. Always tough to pare it down. I remember noticing at the time that there's a pretty unmistakable similarity between this version of Major Force's look and Booster Gold's, excepting of course the color scheme. Did you notice that too?

Jurgens: I did notice it, which is why I did whatever I could to work away from it, mostly emphasizing Force's bulk. There's a real sense of chaos and action in this issue, and the six-plus panel pages communicates that really effectively. Do you wish you had a little more space to breathe in for the finale or do you think working in close quarters helped the storytelling?

Jurgens: I'm comfortable that the material we ended up using fit the space.

However, as I said earlier, more room would have been nice. I think everyone says that with regards to their last issue. Speaking of the visual storytelling...Norm's back! Any chance we'll see you guys working together again on a new project soon?

Jurgens: Norm is lined up to ink another project, which I really can't get into yet. We obviously enjoy working together and he's a great talent.

At the same time, I was very fortunate to have Ray McCarthy, Karl Kesel and Brian Miller on the book. They're all very talented and committed. As were editors Rachel Gluckstern, Rickey Purdin, Mike Cotton and Anthony Marques. I appreciate all their efforts. Was it always in the cards for that surprise guest star Superman brought along?

Jurgens: It was something we discussed for various points down the road. I'm glad we got to do it as it kind of brings things full circle. I can't help but notice that Major Force isn't under the same restrictions on his smoking habits as Wolverine...

Jurgens: Life in the modern age! Did you need to establish some things for Geoff to pick up in JLA, or was this all you?

Jurgens: Geoff and I talked about it and realized it was best to somehow set Firestorm up for the JLA, though Geoff was already well on his way to including him.

Beyond that, he said, "Whatever you want to do is up to you." I'm wondering particularly about the introduction of a character like Major Force at this late stage in the game. Was that somebody who you wanted to use after the Captain Atom storyline and this is just where it fell?

Jurgens: I had actually written Major Force into the book earlier-- as the mysterious guy taking orders-- before I knew the book was going to get cancelled. Had the book gone on, it was my general plan for Firestorm to spend six issues hunting down each of the six villains he met in #19. Each villain would have been the focus of one issue, which would have given us time to add depth to each of them. Major Force would have began as an ally of Firestorm's... though it couldn't have lasted long.

Sadly, we didn't get to that point. Having Superman guest star in the book but not promoting it on the cover, when the book is CHOCK FULL of Superman ads, was an interesting choice. Was that just how things fell or did you guys do it on purpose becuase you wanted to give Firestorm his "moment"?

Jurgens: It's Firestorm's book. The last issue is his!

I didn't realize Superman would be in so many ads. Kind of neat how it all worked out. I know you, like many of us, thought this book was really working well. Is there anything you'd have liked to get to, or would have done differently?

Jurgens: That's an odd question, because I really don't know that I'd have done a lot of things differently.

At the same time, the book is going away. I didn't save it and that's on me, to the extent that it's practical.

It's no secret that the book was in bad sales shape when I arrived. We were first given three, then five, and ultimately eight issues to try to build an audience. For any number of reasons, that didn't happen.

I gave it my best shot. In terms of changes or doing anything differently, I don't think there'd be anything major. Obviously the free-fall that the book had been in, sales-wise, before you came aboard stopped but it's hard to reverse a trend like that. You had a similar problem on Booster Gold. There, though, you came in knowing that you only had one arc left. Here, am I right in assuming the hope was to keep the book afloat as long as possible?

Jurgens: We all hoped for the best. Quite honestly, I appreciate the chance. The good folks at DC let me do pretty much what I wanted to make the book work. I know you've said you had some support at DC, though. Any thoughts for the fans who inevitably jump to blame somebody for the end?

Jurgens: Not sure I understand the question here, but I don't know that there's any blame to be leveled.

The sales weren't high enough to warrant further publication. That's the unfortunate truth.

However, I think Firestorm, Ronnie, Jason and the others were left in a strong position in terms of future use. Al Milgrom and Gerry Conway created a great character and great characters never go away for long.

There are no bad feelings here. I had fun doing the book and enjoyed working with the people involved and regard it to have been a very good, positive experience.