If you didn't check out The Fury of Firestorm #7 today, maybe you should take another trip back to the comic shop to pick it up. Co-writer Joe Harris has come on board with Ethan Van Sciver, replacing the outgoing Gail Simone, to expound on this story of a massive worldwide superpowered arms race between established nations and rogue terrorists alike – one that will eventually find the two American Firestorms Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch crossing paths with the Justice League International. These are truly threats on a global scale which make it extremely difficult for two teenage boys to know who to trust, and the stakes are extremely high if they fail. We are talking Nuclear Men, after all.
Here's our interview with the guys bringing us some interesting new takes on some old concepts that kinda needed the revamping in Fury of Firestorm. Read on!
Q. What is it about writing The Fury of Firestorm that excites you the most?
JOE HARRIS: For me, I can tell you it's the ability to examine some of the powers as well as the themes of responsibility and power and real world issues filtered through this prism of the DC Universe. It's the ability to keep breathing life into these reimagined concepts, this little mini-universe that stands on its own but does fit squarely within the mandate of what the new DCU is. All the concepts that were laid down are so strong and so colorful and so interesting. We've seen so many different possibilities pop up as we talk about where to go moving forward. If I were allowed to divulge all the different things that excite me, I could probably run you off a list 40 or 50 items long.
ETHAN VAN SCIVER: He could. I get lots of emails from Joe, lots of emails with tons of ideas. The thing about this concept is, first of all, we took a big chance. We kind of started the Firestorm concept from the ground up and just ran with it, with this one little acorn of an idea that 'wouldn't it be interesting if Firestorm: The Nuclear Man was kind of an analogy for Cold War nuclear arms buildup?' We just said 'okay, every country in the real world that has a nuclear weapon, we're going to establish the fact that they have their own Firestorm that came from this once central source, and this one incredible genius who, with help, created the idea of the Firestorm Protocols and that is now being distributed to these countries, but also, the technology has been bootlegged and stolen and distributed to terrorist organizations as well.' That's enough to keep me up at night. That's enough to make me sit up and bed and just start babbling ideas to myself. I'm so happy to have Joe Harris on board as writer with this new story arc, starting with issue 7, because he feels the same way about it as I do. From that one little acorn, a gigantic tree grows. There are so many different characters, so many different ways to go. The possibilities are endless. It's a lot of fun.
Q: One of the knocks on Firestorm in the past is that he really didn't have a good cast of villains – his insane power level made it hard for anybody to pose a real threat. But you've given them an unlimited amount of equally powerful enemies with all the rogue Firestorms out there in the world. Was was your approach to the Firestorm rogues gallery?
VAN SCIVER: I think it's important, when approaching a DC Universe superhero, that his villains should be uniquely tailored to him and his abilities. I mean, a nuclear man is something that Superman could handle, but he doesn't quite fit. You really need to have characters that are sort of matched with each other, and I think we're doing that in a big way with the international Firestorms and the rogue Firestorms. I'm not sure Batman could deal with a rogue Firestorm. You definitely need Ronnie, you definitely need Jason, and you just pray they're up to the challenge.
HARRIS: Having nuclear-powered threats as well as friends who you may not always know what their motivations are and if you're really on the same team – you may be allies in name, but if everyone has their own agenda, especially when you're tied to the interests of a particular country – sometimes the decisions in the name of your nation aren't necessarily black and white, good and obviously evil or otherwise. It's kind of a gray thing, where the government has its own agenda, its own needs, and sometimes the characters are more pawns than independent actors. There are a lot of different forces at work, and they've all got this power, and the possibilities that these powers really open up are limitless. We're talking about them not only being living nuclear weapons, they are also these characters who are imbued with the strongest forces in the universe, the nuclear forces and all of the different properties of a star. So what kind of science fiction possibilities does that open as they master their powers and their powers master them?
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #7 cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Q: Those powers are immense in scale – transmutation of matter. If someone points a gun at them, they can turn it into flowers. How difficult is it to come up with specific threats and dangers on a level that high?
HARRIS: It's harder in that, if they slip up, the ramifications are that millions of people die, but I think we've been operating around the old idea of MAD theory – Mutually Assured Destruction. These different forces have these powers and, if everybody is stable in the mind and wanting to live in relative peace, they kind of check one another. It's almost like a security blanket, where the world hangs this threat, enemy over enemy, and as a result, nobody gets hurt. The problem is when you have irrational actors with powers like that. It does open up some challenges because we don't want to have mass casualties by the millions going off in this book every month, so we do have to come up with imaginitive ways to defuse threats, to have Firestorms who are allies work together in complementary ways that thwart attacks that are launched on civilians and population centers and such, but sometimes when they work together and stretch their own powers and abilities to defuse a threat, it opens up a possibility that they perhaps did not imagine, and sometimes they are unintended consequences. So I find, creatively, that's where some of the really cool, rich stuff comes from. One of our characters thinks they're doing the right thing and acts to do so and perhaps didn't consider, in the heat of battle, what door that might've opened and what happens next.
VAN SCIVER: We could very easily have the highest kill count every month in any comic book if we wanted to.
HARRIS: And it's tempting.
Q: The body count is already insane in this book – a packed concert stadium just got nuked.
VAN SCIVER: (singing) We've only just beguuun… (laughs)
Q: Obviously, that kind of death toll is going to draw the attention of the Justice League International, isn't it? You've got that crossover coming up. Will that be the official declaration of 'okay, Batman has noticed this nuclear bomb business now?'
HARRIS: It's gotten people's attention, yeah. This is going to be, for lack of a better way to put it, the establishment DCU's introduction to the Firestorms. They're going to show up in the middle of a very confusing – not for me or for hopefully the readers, but just for the characters – sort of Fog of War situation where you've got Firestorms with different flags on their chests, you've got independent actors, you've got terrorists who are imbued with this power who all sort of converge on the same scene, and the Justice League is going to have to figure out who are friends, who are enemies and 'can we trust any of them?' It's going to be a nice little view of how our concept fits into the overall DCU. I'd like to think that this first meeting really personifies that.
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #8 cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Q: It's kind of hilarious that Booster Gold is going to get involved in a mess of this magnitude. How's that going to work?
HARRIS: He's working to understand it the same as anybody else. The JLI has their own issues going on in their book so, by the time they catch up to the Firestorms, the way it's being presented, they're an exhausted, almost overwhelmed mess, and they're going to have to sort through this morass. It's going to be a challenge for them as much as it's going to be a challenge for our boys.
Q: Speaking of your boys, the dynamic between Ronnie and Jason is really interesting. Was it naive of me to think that, 30 years after Revenge of the Nerds, the divide between jock and brain wouldn't be quite as nasty as it is between them?
HARRIS: I think the archetypes that they were established as in issue 1 and 2, this first arc – I'd like to think we've opened things up a little bit as experience tempers these characters. From where we pick up in issue 7, they're going to be driven further apart than ever. Hopefully, with the hoops and hell we're going to put them through, their worldview will be tempered further still. They will gain new insight and understanding for one another. Neither one of them are going to come through this unscarred. Nothing brings people together like being in a foxhole, and as these two are split apart and they gradually work their way back to one another, I'd like to think we'll keep building them out as three dimensional characters who have echoes of what they were introduced as, but clearly keep evolving.
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #9 cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Q: Before you go, I'd just like to ask Ethan about the differences between working with Joe and with Gail Simone, who co-wrote the first arc. How is the process different?
VAN SCIVER: They're both very, very different writers. I love working with both of them. I think that Gail tends to work a lot in her own head, and Joe tends to be a lot more verbal and expressive and tends to try things out on you. With Gail, there are always a lot of surprises in her script, and you go 'whoa, I wasn't expecting that, that's great!' I get a lot of emails from Joe saying 'think about this! What if this happened?' He's off on a tangent, he's thought it through 800 ways to Friday and he's got all these different ideas. Often times, before I even have time to internalize them and give him a response, he's already thought better of it and written another thing, and it is wild. It is great.
HARRIS: I think we're in a good place. Ethan and I, we enjoy talking together, we love to spring ideas on one another that strike us individually as startling and hopefully the other one will think it's cool. I think what's best is – and I know my first issue, number 7, really is a good example of this – I had a lot of ideas for what I wanted to do to try and make some noise and bring some startling attention to this book, and I brought it to Ethan, and going back and forth, we really hit on something that was even better. That's always the best, right? You think you know exactly what it is you want, but through collaboration, you get something you had not considered, but it's so much stronger. That's exciting. That's one of the coolest parts about this job. I look forward to springing ideas on Ethan, and I love when he hits me with some. So far, so good.
Q: Last thing – what classic characters are you guys going to get to reinvent in the coming issues?
VAN SCIVER: Multiplex, Typhoon and Hyena.
HARRIS: We've also got Killer Frost at some point, too.