House ad for Firestorm v2 #86

House ad for Firestorm v2 #86

Firestorm v2 #86 marked Firestorm’s first real adventure as the new fire elemental. In a sense, this is a whole new character and an excellent jump-on point for new readers.

This issue introduced Firestorm as an avenging elemental force, a drastic departure from the ‘bumbling college student coping with great powers’ Firestorm we’ve come to know from the late 70s/early 80s. Now we have a soulless environmental crusader with godlike powers. His origin even received a brand new retcon one issue prior (#85) explaining that he was meant to be Earth’s fire elemental all along but something went wrong during the explosion that created him.

Why did DC decide to go with such a radical restructuring of Firestorm?

In order to answer that, you’d have to step back a bit.

Firestorm was facing a decline in readership before John Ostrander picked up writing chores on this title in 1987, he was given 6 months to raise sales. This may have been what had encouraged so much experimentation and change in the title. A major theme in Ostrander’s Firestorm run is the evolution of the character of Firestorm, and if you had been reading since Fury of the Firestorm #58 you’d realize the only logical conclusion would be for Firestorm to become an elemental.

Another factor that contributed to Firestorm’s final evolution was the abundance of Elementals in DC comics at the time – so far, we had Swamp Thing (Earth) and Red Tornado (Wind) so another addition was logical. Elemental Firestorm’s final look was designed just because Ostrander felt it looked ‘cooler’. As part of a strong marketing campaign, DC sent out promotional copies of Firestorm #86 to select comic book shops across the country.

A lot of interesting things happened during the Elemental Firestorm run – the comic dealt with mature themes such as the quest for identity, the impact of pollution on the environment, the examination of humanity’s relationship with the Gods and the consequences of impulsive actions. Most notable was an appearance by Swamp Thing as they battled other Elementals. A personal favorite of mine: ‘Fire elemental’ Firestorm also made an appearance in Swamp Thing v2 Annual #5 (which was Brother Power the Geek’s first appearance since 1968).

Ultimately, this series was cancelled because readership was too low. It has been speculated that had Firestorm rebooted back to issue #1 when Ostrander took over, new readers may have picked up the title thus saving the book from cancellation. Regardless, Ostrander requested to leave the series after issue #100 because, in his own words, he had no more stories left to tell about Firestorm.

Coincidentally, this issue was also a Janus Directive cross-over.

I have a lot of love for Ostrander’s work at DC during the late 80’s, and really feel that he was one of the more underrated writers out there. Two things I really like about Ostrander’s writing is 1) he builds a sense of cohesion with his other DC titles (Suicide Squad and Captain Atom) and 2) he manages to keep all of his stories within continuity, yet you don’t have to know everything about DC continuity in order to enjoy the story.

My only gripe with Elemental Firestorm was his costume – all that wild flame didn’t appeal to me and looked more like fur. I felt he looked less like ‘Lord of the Fire Elements’ and more like ‘Lord of the Woodland Creatures’.

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3 Responses to House ad for Firestorm v2 #86

  1. AS says:

    You’re alone on the costume – I LOVED it. True story: prior to 1988, I deliberately only collected Marvel comics, because the kid who got me into X-Men had convinced me, years prior (I began /really/ collecting comic books in 1985) that “DC’s heroes are too powerful”. Since then, however, I moved to Michigan, where my best friend was a die hard DC fan, and he literally “repented me with DC” (as in he physically held a DC Comic in his hand, waved it at me, and kept repeating “I repent you with DC” in order to get me to try them), so I began slowly, starting with characters I knew from the Super Friends, and later, Super Powers cartoon that I liked. This included Firestorm, and I came just months prior to the birth of the Fire Elemental. I LOVED Tom Mandrake’s art – was very surprised he didn’t go on to become a bigger star artist – and as a result, I loved the angry and confused “Fire Elemental-storm”. Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like was Naiad, the water elemental – they really should have taken one of the Sea Devils or something and made them into the water elemental, IMO, not introduce a new character (but she was Asian, which was a plus). Anyway, I really loved how this series ended, although I liked Ronald Raymond better than Martin Stein (that was his name, right?), and wish he’d retained the identity. I also theorized after that he and Mikhail, the Russian, should theoretically still be able to re-form the original Firestorm (their version – not the Stein / Raymond version), since the Fire Elemental had nothing to do with his original nuclear-based powers, and thought it would have been cool if that “original” Firestorm fought Stein as the Fire Elemental to end the series (still remember the title to _Firestorm_ #100: “Down In Flames”, lol), but now I’m really geeking out. But yeah, I collected it, was a fan, and memories like this are why I love this blog! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • dcinthe80s says:

      This is really an excellent comment as I really love hearing different viewpoints/memories from DC fans. 🙂

      I’m kind of in the same boat as you however I don’t remember if my first exposure to Firestorm was from the Super Friends cartoon, a few one-off JLA issues I owned as a child or the stack of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man issues my older cousin gave me when I was still in kindergarten. Nevertheless, the Firestorm I grew up with and fondly remember was the one in the bright primary-colored outfit who was somewhat goofy and had inner-dialogues in his head. He also had the power to transmute things – which is kind of a silly power for a guy with a flaming head (I mean, you’d at least expect him to shoot flames or something). I don’t remember the Fire Elemental being able to transmute things (I may be 100% wrong, here) and he just kind of shot powerful nuclear blasts from his hands – kind of like a fur-covered Captain Atom clone.

      • AS says:

        Not even. The fire elemental was a total fire based character, period. Like the Human Torch, for all intents and purposes – no real relation to the traditional version at all, whose power, I thought, was pretty cool. But I read and enjoyed his stories because they were well written. The first Firestorm comic I got and picked up the title was the second chapter of the “Eden” storyline, which was really cool because it explored the philosophical question of, “why don’t heroes just use their powers to solve the world’s problems?” It showed a remarkable understanding of those problems, which I liked, so I stuck with the book. Shortly after that, the Fire Elemental came, and like I said, I dug the way they handled that, and how they ended it.

        -BUT-

        You bring up a very interesting point here, one which I’ve never seen explored in a comic, but that I think could be done in a really good one. It never occurred to me that Martin Stein is Ronald Raymond’s externalized “voice of reason” or “inner dialogue”. I know it probably seems obvious to you, but DC never did much with that, and I think that was a missed opportunity. If they revived this character in his original form (I think they have), that would be a great way to approach it. If only.

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