Firestorm The Barricades: Dan Jurgens Talks #13 and The Nuclear Man's Future

Yesterday marked the release of The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man #13, Dan Jurgens's first issue on the book as both a writer and artist. The veteran creator, fresh off runs on Justice League International and Superman, takes the reins on what's frankly been a pretty rocky start to the series, with creative changes and low sales leading many to speculate that the series may have been cancelled with #0.

Instead, DC Comics handed the book off to Jurgens, who takes the character back to his roots--roots, of course, that don't really exist yet in terms of the New 52. Jurgens joined us to talk The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man #13, and the where he hopes to take the series.

This is, you've said here and elsewhere, a kind of de facto #1 for the series. Is that part of why the subtle title change happened?

Very much so. On top of that, I wanted to signify that there is now just one, singular, unique Firestorm. So, yes, it's now called "The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man" as opposed to "Men".

The parents are getting close right away--which is better, actually exploring their relationship or exploring what such a relationship could do to Ronnie and Jason?

It's equal!

I think any child of a single parent is struck by who their mother or father might be dating. When it's the parent of a friend-- particularly someone who you're connected with as Ronnie and Jason are-- well... that's fertile story material.

And, on top of that, there should be a great deal that connects Jason's father and Ronnie's mother.

Now, DataXen is pretty formidable to be a throwaway. Is this a beastie that will keep coming back for more after this issue?

Yes. This is not one of those disposable robots.

How do you imbue a robot with enough "personality" to make it worth bringing back?

It has to be a combination of power, personality and motive. In this case, motive is a huge part of the agenda.

I never really thought of it--there has always been a fairly minimal amount of football talk in Booster Gold, but this is the first time you've really had a chance to run with those metaphors in a big way, right? Or am I forgetting something?

Yeah, that's probably true. But it makes sense.

For Booster, football is part of his past life-- part of a life that he wanted to walk away from.

For Ronnie, it's very much part of his active life. In terms of wanting an athletic scholarship to college, it represents a ticket to the future.

As people get older, it tends to be a bit harder to write for young characters. Is it any different doing so now than, for example, writing Teen Titans when you and George Perez did it in the mid-'90s?

Not really. Over the past few years, I've had quite a few kids of that age hanging around the house. Their manner of speaking and concerns aren't foreign to me by any means.

Is it a little different writing for teenagers now that you've had them for a while? Your kids aren't quite old enough to have been Titans back then.

It probably is at that. There's a higher degree of familiarity at this point. A greater awareness of what the problems and issues might be.

I really like the idea of Jason being Ronnie's "tutor" as Firestorm, telling him when he's on the right track with the formulae and the like. Is he kind of a stand-in for Professor Stein in that way?

Absolutely. I think of Ronnie as the pilot and Jason as the navigator. Ronnie is headstrong and ready to charge into anything while Jason is the voice of reason.

"I've had it with these metas" is an interesting comment--it's almost that veiled racism you get in X-Men titles about mutants, isn't it? It's kind of like, "If you lived in a world where these people were just a fact of life, and they were always breaking stuff, some people just wouldn't have any tolerance for it, and they'd have by extension no tolerance for the entire class of people with those powers."

I don't know about that. I do think, however, that it's consistent with what we see in the New 52.

Let's be honest-- trouble follows these guys everywhere and there has to be some, if not a great deal, of doubt about what and who Firestorm actually is. Is there one of them? One hundred? Are they good? Bad? A mix?

We never do see a payoff on that, though, do we?

In terms of the entire DCU or just Firestorm?

These difficulties will be part of the book. Given the first 12 issues, it's a natural result.

In a world where everything is increasingly under surveillance, does running afoul of the military put Firestorm at risk for being followed back home by a spy satellite or something?

Of course, it does. As I tipped off above, that will definitely be part of the story going forward.

I liked the idea of turning the missiles into tin cans rather than oxygen or something. Are you going to have a little Green Lantern ring-style fun with Firestorm's powers as you go?

In this case, I try to put myself inside a kid's head. I tend to think that a 16-year-old would be much more likely to turn missiles into soda cans than puffs of oxygen. It'd be that kind of cool, somewhat irreverent approach.

It's interesting--Ronnie's kind of a Type A personality in his own way, isn't he? Even though he's not focused on grades or work, he's a very competitive spirit, between the sports and the notion that "I'm going to be so great the Justice League will notice me."

If Ronnie is a star athlete, it's quite possible he's been catered to a bit. I'd like to think he has a healthy ego-- certainly one that's healthy enough to want to get noticed by the JLA.

In addition, I thought it was a great move when Firestorm was added to the JLA years ago. He added a spark and sense of vitality to the book that made for a great mix with Superman and company.

Just looking at those outfits, and comparing them to the one Max Lord wore during the Giffen/DiDio run on OMAC, is it safe to assume that DataXen came from Checkmate?

That would not be a safe assumption at all!

Is the Brady High defense a reference to anyone in particular? Tom Brady, maybe, or a creator whose name I'm not familiar with?

No one in particular. Just the name of another school.

Gerry Conway gets a little shout-out on the next page though.

Gerry's a friend, as well as the first guy who gave me a chance to write. On top of that, he's one of Firestorm's creators. I'm happy to tip the hat in any way possible.

Maybe it's just me, but Coach Conway reminds me a bit of the way they played Ronnie as the gym teacher in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Is that intentional?

No. Probably based more on a certain style that football coaches tend to fit into.

It sounds rather stereotypical, but there's truth to it. Eventually, I hope to dig deeper and reveal more.

How hard is the Tonya thing going to pull at the guys? I mean, if she's the only one who knows their secret, she's bound to be spending more time with Ronnie than Jason likes, even if it's just in the capacity of someone to vent to.

Their relationship will be one of the keys to the book. I think it's bound to be both complicated and fun.

And what do you think about this notion of her helping Ronnie with his schoolwork? It's hard to argue that it's for a good cause. I feel like back when Karl Kesel was writing for Superboy, he used to be able to get passes on homework and stuff...but then, everyone knew who he was.

Right. Exactly. But, given the amount of homework and stress kids are subject to these days, it's hard to squeeze athletics into that. Complicate it with the addition of a heroic identity and there's bound to be a problem.

Is it important, when you're introducing three new villains all at once, to have that kind of vaguely expository panel where all of their names are used?

Yeah... I find far too many books to be mired in obscurity these days. I can't believe the amount of books I pick up and read, and won't even see a character's name used until he/she has been "on screen" for 15 pages. It isn't part of the story element either, like building a mystery. It's sloppy writing.

It seems a little more stylish to integrate it into the dialogue than to have those intro captions like so many team books do these days.

Those captions represent laziness to me. I see why the exist, and I've used it myself, but it tends to not feel right.

Will we ever get to see Jason "drive"?

Stay tuned!

And if so, will Firestorm look black on the outside?

Same answer!

How much time do you put into designing these villains? This is--what, something like the tenth through twelfth entirely new villains you've created for the New 52?

It depends on the character. I have a sketch book filled with sketches, thoughts, doodles and ideas. Sometimes I'll come up with a particular look or design I like and look for a place to use it.

DC put a lot of stock in the "we need to create new villains" thing in the beginning of the New 52, but that seems to have petered out a bit linewide. Why's it remaining so important to you?

I think it's a balance. You need "new" but you also need to find the villains that had value and importance before and work them in as well. I hope to hit a 50/50 average on Firestorm.

Do you think it's harder to get readers to engage with new villains as opposed to the old, familiar faces they've all seen before?

Depends entirely on the character(s) in question. I do think Firestorm has some fun stuff in his background that I'd like to pull out and clean up a bit.

Because I noticed it, some others may have--what's the difference in terms of execution, penciling a bit action scene like this where the hero has a cape versus doesn't? Coming off Superman, are there new "positions" you can do in the combat and flight action pieces that you just couldn't get the same mileage out of with a cape in the way?

Once again, it depends on the character. For Batman, the cape adds to that sense of visual interest and drama with the the character.

For Superman, I always thought the cape added to that sense of majesty. It made him seem a bit more regal.

You can do cool stuff with shadows and silhouette and play with mood.

But I tend to like characters without capes, like Firestorm and Booster Gold. Though Booster wore one for "official" occasions because it made him look "more heroic". Or so he assumed.

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It's interesting--we've got the old man who seems to be pulling everybody's strings, and he's anonymous--but then we also have the anonymous stranger watching him as he watches Firestorm. Will we get an idea on these guys's identities soon?

Within the first couple pages of Firestorm #14! We hope to move things along at a fairly fast pace!