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Firestorm, the Nuclear Man
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Fred Hembeck

Firestorm, the Nuclear Man
Uploaded January 28, 2000

"Millions and millions of minutes ago, a cataclysmic event shook the comic book universe. Declining sales figures and transcendent production costs collided with a tremendous impact, sending powerful ripples through the productivity-profit continuum located within DC Comics' corporate suite. The result was a massive implosion, akin to a black hole, which sucked a great many neophyte comic book series into oblivion. So drastic and sudden were these events, that several hundred pages of already completed artwork have yet to see the light of day, in any widely distributed fashion…."

Yeah, you're right; the Carl Sagan impression isn't working for me. Oh, well.

Here's what happened back in the halcyon days of 1978. Shortly after launching several new series as part of the self-described 'DC Explosion', DC found itself forced to axe many of those same titles in what has since been labeled by fans as the 'DC Implosion'.

Not only is fandom not always pretty, but they can be darn sarcastic, too.

A host of existing titles lost their berths on newsstands and many planned new series received the axe in mid-conception. Some found new homes as back-up strips, or re-worked material, in other titles.

Much of the as yet unpublished material has been distributed in the form of DC's alliteratively named 'Cancelled Comics Cavalcade', a collection of photocopies of the original art pages, compiled together for copyright reasons. DC put together only a few hundred copies of each of the two volumes, making them far more collectible than even Kyle Baker's 'Letitia Lerner' story.

One of the series caught in the implosion was a new title from the imaginations of writer Gerry Conway and penciller Al Milgrom, called 'Firestorm, the Nuclear Man'. Gerry, of course, is better known these days for scripting episodes of 'Law and Order' and 'Xena, Warrior Princess'.

If nothing else, Gerry is remarkably versatile. Given his comic book background, I wonder if he's thought to pitch a crossover between the two series.


Firestorm had an interesting twist to the typical super-hero schtick. He was actually two people in one, the result of a nuclear fusion accident between teenager Ronnie Raymond and physicist Martin Stein. In their super-hero form, Ronnie retained full physical and mental control, with Stein reduced to being a disembodied voice advising Ronnie on how to use his atomic restructuring powers. Visually, Milgrom represented Stein as this great, disembodied head floating alongside. (Shades of Richard Benjamin's 'Quark' series; all this comic book needed was the Barnstable twins, and sales figures might have shot upwards.)

The brief period between DC's explosion and subsequent implosion coincided neatly with Fred's two-year run on his Daily Planet strips, resulting in the strip at the top of this page. Personally, I think that the forlorn look and plaintive whine speak volumes…

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

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