The world inhabited by DC Comics' superheroes Jason Rusch, Ronnie Raymond, and the characters at the heart of Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver's "The Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" just got a little more dangerous thanks to an old ally turned potential enemy: ex-Firestorm Professor Martin Stein.
Originally created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Al Milgrom in 1978, Stein was first introduced as the adult half of the duo driving the original Firestorm matrix, teaming up with teenager Ronnie Raymond to take on the body and powers of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. After DC's company-wide relaunch this September, Stein was assumed dead in the New 52, gone after giving Jason the ability to transform into Firestorm at will. However, as seen in issue three of Simone and Sciver's ongoing "Firestorm" series, which features art by Yildiray Cinar, Stein may both be alive and possibly behind a plot to sell the Firestorm Protocols, an act that will rock the DCU to its core.
"The Fury Of Firestorm" book editor Rachel Gluckstern spoke with CBR about the series, giving a glimpse into what is in store for Ronnie and Jason as well as detailing what questions fans should really be asking about the Firestorm Protocols.
CBR News: To give readers a little background on you before we begin, you edit "The Fury Of Firestorm" -- what other DC titles are you editing?
Rachel Gluckstern: I'm a full editor in the Batman group and I'm editing "Fury Of The Firestorms: The Nuclear Men," "Captain Atom," "Hawk And Dove," "The Savage Hawkman," "Catwoman" and "Deathstroke." In a lot of ways, I like to think of myself as the science editor or the guilty pleasure editor, depending on which books you're looking at!
In issue three, we have the revelation that Professor Stein may not only be alive, but may very well be selling the Firestorm Protocols to other nations. How long have you guys been planning this Professor Stein reveal?
Well, I think I'd best clarify this straight away -- we're talking about Professor Stein, but I think the stronger question you're going to see is whether or not Professor Stein is a traitor to his country and to the project he was working on, and what he was really recruiting Jason for. So, we don't want people to physically look for Professor Stein in these pages, but rather, pay attention to what Jason is experiencing as he interacts with the Firestorm Protocols and what happens when Jason and Ronnie are combined into Fury. That's really where I want to guide readers attention.
Along those lines, then, how does this change things as far as Jason and Ronnie's relationship goes? Will the Professor Stein revelations make those two look beyond fighting with each other and out into the greater world?
Oh, yes, you can definitely say that! As a matter of fact, the greater world is going to come looking for them, I think is another thing to tease out. You saw in issue one a monitor with a bunch of different Firestorm-esque figures on it, so how will that play into Ronnie and Jason's understanding of the Firestorm Protocols? It is going to play a huge part! I don't see Ronnie and Jason loving each other any time soon, but they're about to have some very big problems on their hands that they are going to need to work out. Otherwise, it's going to be devastating.
Obviously, as you said, there are hints at other Firestorms and Professor Stein's actions. Outside of "Fury," will the Firestorm Protocols being sold around the world have an effect on the greater DCU and other DC titles?
We definitely would like them to. As a matter of fact, we're talking to the Justice League group; nothing is set in stone yet, though. Definitely, you should look through echoes of this in the DCU. Although right now the Firestorm Protocols are pretty top level secret amongst governments, so I would say echoes and see where that takes us.
A lot of fans picked up on the fact that in "Batgirl" #2, on a subway car in one of the panels there was graffiti that read "Professor Stein Is Alive." Was that an Easter egg you threw in for people looking for greater connections between the books, and are we going to see more teases popping up in other books?
Well, it helps that Gail writes "Batgirl," too. Like I said, I would love for there to be more echoes and more reflections, and that graffiti really speaks specifically to the guerilla recruitment Professor Stein had been doing prior to his demise. That's how Jason got involved.
Along with Stein, later on down the line in issue six we'll have a Russian Firestorm, Pohzar, coming into play. Is Pohzar Mikhail Arkadin? Are we going to get a Firestorms of the past reunion?
I believe that is his name, but I want to make it clear that this is in keeping with the New 52, it is a re-imagining of the character. Old Firestorm fans should not be trying to predict his behavior based on old Firestorm issues.
Pohzar is going to be a very interesting addition to the book, particularly his connection to Professor Stein. We're not going to physically see Professor Stein in the present day, at least not anytime soon that I'm aware of, but his presence kind of overshadows things, particularly with the revelation we will have in issue three. Going forward from there, Pohzar is going to shed a whole new light on him, too. It's going to be pretty intense!
So Stein's more of the figure behind the scenes, pulling the strings, which Ronnie and Jason will slowly uncover.
I think that's a good way to think about it, and I am definitely intrigued to see how people respond. I want people to really pay attention to Fury as well, when Ronnie and Jason combine into Fury, to see if there is any sort of hints there that they might find interesting regarding Professor Stein and the boys in general.
With regards to the question you brought up earlier, is Professor Stein a traitor selling off Firestorm secrets, are we seeing just the big threats to America getting their hands on the protocols -- Iran, North Korean, Libya, etc. -- or are we looking at the entire world being weaponized?
That is a great question, and I think you will definitely see the answer play out in the next big story arc. All I can do right now is be a jerk and say keep reading!
The way Gail and Ethan have been tackling the series is to equate Firestorm with nuclear proliferation and terrorism, real world threats. Was that something you wanted at the core of the book from the very beginning?
Absolutely! From step one, that was in the pitch, that was in the discussions everybody was having. It's something that really resonated with both the characters and the direction we wanted to throw them in. It's great to take huge, fantastic ideas like the Firestorm Protocols or the Green Lantern Corps and be able to tie them back into relatable events for people, like nuclear proliferation or terrorism or just the fact that the Green Lantern Corps is a galactic police force. It's really great to explore these huge ideas through relatable concepts, because it gives it more of urgency, I think, and higher stakes for a reader.
In the past, at least under the pen of writer Jon Ostrander, Firestorm was also a book that talked about real world politics and had political ramifications. Is that something you have to skirt a fine line around now, not necessarily wanting to make it a political comic or a political statement on those events?
I would totally agree with that assessment. We live in a very tricky political world these days, and there are real conflicts that go on and are on everybody's minds. You want to find a way to talk about them, but you want to find a way to talk about them in an entertaining fashion and in a way that's not dishonest or disrespectful to them. It is a very tricky balance, so it's great having Gail and Ethan be these voices for the characters because I think we get to explore the full spectrum of the real world that way.
From an editor's perspective, how do the three of you work together? Do you guide Ethan and Gail along, or do you let them do their thing and just help them connect the dots, keeping them abreast of what's happening in the wider DCU?
That's a very good question and I never really know how to answer it. I think my job is to make sure they can tell the best story possible through their talents. I kind of just hope that I can help them focus on what they need to tell and let them tell it. Now, there's no end of big ideas coming from them, and we have these weekly meetings and we're always in contact -- it's a very thorough collaboration going on at every moment. My role is to stay informed and to make sure everybody's not contradicting each other and that's about it! [Laughs]
But it's really great, and Ethan, particularly, just loves to bring in everybody at any given moment. He wants Yildiray [Cinar] on these calls, which is a little difficult because Yildiray lives in Turkey, and he's always throwing off these big ideas and Gail really comes through with the voice. It's a fascinating collaboration. I'm really glad to be a part of it. They're really doing the hard work! And Ethan has to do the covers, too, and Gail does the scripts. It's very equal and solid collaboration, it's very exciting.
Finally, for a while there were rumors that Gail would be leaving "Firestorm" after issue seven. Right now, it seems like both Gail and Ethan have big things planned all the way through to next year -- will there be any creative team changes after issue seven?
I will just say there are huge plans, solid plans, and everybody's working on all cylinders. If there is ever anything else to announce, we will be announcing hardcore! I'm just so excited to be a part of this team, and I think issue three is going to really throw a big wrench in the works for everybody and be a really fun read. I hope people pick it up!
"The Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" issue #3 is in stores now; issue #4 hits stores December 28.