Another look at one of the stories written off by DC Comics in the wake of the DC Implosion of 1978 that resulted in a sharp and unexpected contraction of their publishing line and the loss of some of their staff members.
When Gerry Conway came on staff at DC after being passed over for the job of editor at Marvel in favor of Len Wein, he was forced to eke out a position for himself a little bit. Rather than inheriting existing books, Gerry was required to come up with new ones, both revamps of old discarded properties and entirely new concepts. His “Conway’s Corner” of the DC Universe was a pretty exciting place to me for the brief period when he was there. At a certain point, following a general call for new series ideas, Conway paired with fellow DC editor Al Milgrom to propose a new super hero for the DC line: Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.
Firestorm was intended as a bit of a spin on the Spider-Man formula, a character that Conway had written for extensively. Like Peter Parker, Ronnie Raymond would be a high school-aged kid granted powers in an accident. Unlike Peter Parker, this accident would also fuse him bodily with one of his professors, Martin Stein, and their combined form would posses the ability to manipulate molecular structures. Dubbing himself Firestorm, Raymond set out on a super heroic career. Unlike Peter Parker, Ronnie Raymond was a more athletic character. He was closer to Flash Thompson than Peter Parker, and that was the axis on which Conway revolved his Spidey parallels. Ronnie wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, so it was helpful to have the disembodied Professor Stein as a backseat mentor.
DC put a relatively big push behind the launch of FIRESTORM, featuring the character in omnipresent house ads building up to the launch. Unfortunately, distribution was especially bad for comic books that winter, and like much of the DC line, FIRESTORM’s sales were hurt by the hefty snowfall keeping potential buyers away from the spinner racks (assuming that the books even made it to those racks in the first place.) The series ran for 5 issues before the plug was pulled.
But there was a sixth issue well into production by the time the plug was pulled, and it was included in this issue of CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE. it concerned Firestorm’s battle with a new storm-based foe, Typhoon.
A few years later, as conditions improved for DC, the Firestorm strip was brought back, first as a back-up series in THE FLASH of all places, and eventually spun out into its own ongoing title, THE FURY OF FIRESTORM. in FLASH #294-296, Conway reused some of his ideas for Typhoon, but this version of the story and the character was entirely different from what he had done in the unpublished FIRESTORM #6. Only the character’s name and basic shtick remained the same.
This original story did wind up seeing print eventually in the 2011 FIRESTORM trade paperback that collected the rest of the run and most of the FLASH back-ups.
9 thoughts on “CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE #1: FIRESTORM #6”
“When Gerry Conway came on staff at DC after being passed over for the job of editor at Marvel in favor of Len Wein, he was forced to eke out a position for himself a little bit. Rather than inheriting existing books, Gerry was required to come up with new ones…”
This conflates a lot of history. Conway didn’t quit Marvel when Wein was made editor-in-chief in 1974. He quit to work for DC when Marv Wolfman was chosen to succeed Wein in 1975. Whe
Oops. When Wolfman left the job in early 1976, Conway was hired back by Marvel to replace him. He lasted in the editor-in-chief period for less than a month, at which point he negotiated a writer-editor contract with Marvel. He quit that in early 1977 to return to DC. That’s when the period you’re talking about begins.
The other thing Conway did to give Firestorm some much needed visibility between the series’ cancellation and the Flash backups was to make him a member of the Justice League (handily, Conway was also just starting his huge run on that book). That’s where I first encountered him (and loved him as a JLA member).
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A time-honored practice. Steve Englehart did it with the Beast in Avengers, Grant Morrison did it with Aztek in JLA, Stan and Jack did it with Hulk in Avengers.
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Gerry had Firestorm join in issue 179, over two years into his run (which, when you look at the whole thing, does feel like “just starting”). Given that it was Len Wein’s third issue as editor, I think it might have been Len’s idea — Len was intent on making JLA feel more like the Roy Thomas AVENGERS, and bringing in a young, lively hero to feel like a new face and have Marvel-type dialogue would have been a step toward that.
Though his joining was set up in an issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS, so Julie Schwartz helped out in the process.
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Addendum to this: The DC COMICS PRESENTS issue where Superman offers Firestorm the chance to join came out 8 months after Julie stopped editing JLA, but 3 months before Len took over.
So while Len would have had to okay Firestorm joining, it wasn’t likely his idea — it’d have been cooked up by Gerry, Julie and Ross Andru, the JLA editor at the time.
Looks like Jack Abel inking to me, even though credit says Bob McLeod – or is the poor reproduction throwing me off?
Yeah, looks like Abel to me, too.
Yeah, there are inkers it might have been other than Abel, but it’s definitely not McLeod.
Most likely, at the lettering stage it was intended to go to Bob, but by the time it came in from Leferman, he wasn’t available any more. Had the book gone to press they’d have corrected the credits box.