Who’da thunk that a character with such a confusing premise would have such a muddled backstory, huh? Two-people-fused-int-one-with-atomic-powers-who-is-also-a-fire-elemental is not an easy premise to swallow, and that’s even before you get to the hassles of cancelled series and unfortunate participation in muddled crossover events.
So what will we keep for our Firestorm? Let’s keep the dual natured aspect of his powers, which will be refocused more on the atomic than the fire. So no fire elemental nonsense. That was sort of tacked on in the comics after Swamp Thing made elementals cool again. Firestorm will be playing with elemental forces, however, and his hair will remain on fire, so we don’t really need to change his name.
Through the “Firestorm Matrix” our hero is tied into the elemental forces of creation and change. This explains his ability to alter matter, he’s providing the energy required to cause atoms to slip their bonds, change elemental structure, and then recombine into new molecules. He does not create matter, just the energy required to alter it. Unchecked, his power would probably cause a cataclysmic meltdown, warping the area around him into new and unstable shapes. All it would take would be one atom out of place and foom, nuclear reaction. We’ll keep the prohibition against altering organic matter, pinning the possibly deadly feedback on the problems of messing with active chemical reactions, like the sort that’s going on in a living body all the time.
So it’s a good thing Firestorm has two minds on the case. When joined, there’s an active and passive mind. The active is in control of Firestorm’s body and most of his power. The passive appears as a floating ghostly head (one of the character’s most striking imagines, I think. Flaming hair does not make you standout - floating heads do) and can control a small portion of Firestorm’s power. The rest of the secondary’s attention must be focused on the Matrix because, Schrodinger’s Cat-style, the reality of its existence depends on it being perceived.
I like the duality of the original Raymond / Stein pairing - young student full of energy and questions paired with knowledgeable scientist full of wisdom and experience, so we’ll be keeping that setup. We won’t be keeping Ronnie and Martin, though. Instead, we’ll be taking a student/professor pairing from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Lwazi Silongo, a promising young student from the lower middle class suburbs of Cape Town, will be our youthful element. Lwazi’s father was a player in the anti-apartheid movement. Once that system of oppression finally crumbled (although its ghosts remain), he settled down and became a teacher, hoping to educate the next generation of black South African leaders. Lwazi grew up in a stable, happy family. Although he avoided the despair of poverty that weighs on so many other of is countrymen, Lwazi’s father was not the sort to ever let his son forget just how good he had it.
Our professor type will be played by Dr. Martin van Riebeek, head of theoretical physics at Cape Town University. His family does not exactly have a happy shiny history, especially in relation to apartheid, and he may have done some things in his youth that he is not proud of today. He hired Lwazi on as a lab assistant and expected great things of the boy.
Well, before the accident, of course, which will be happening with Issue #1 of Firestorm (#38/52).
So it turns out back in the Bad Old Days, South Africa researched and successfully built several working nuclear weapons. When the old guard lost power, elements within the government hid some of these weapons away in order to prevent “lesser men” from gaining access to them. When one of these experimental devices is found beneath a disused lab, it causes a big to do. Worried that moving the device could set it off, it falls to Dr. van Riebeek to give it a look over before the military is comes in to decommission the device. Of course, he brings in his best assistant to help out.
That night, while Martin and Lwazi pour over the device, Something Happens. The experimental nuclear device somehow gets activated and the pair have to work together to stop it from taking out the city. Though the lab is on lockdown, it soon becomes evident that there is someone else in the building. A saboteur? Another student? Military observer? Whomever it is, it's bad news. The good guys manage to barricade themselves in the lab, intent on sacrificing themselves to stop the explosion. Of course, rather than getting radiation poisoning, they end up gaining the ability to fuse together into the hero known as Firestorm.
As for the saboteur? She's affected by the meltdown too, but in a different way. Killer Frost's atomic power is more about stasis and heat-death, the omega to Firestorm's alpha. She mainly manifests this via cold-oriented powers as she's limited when compared to Firestorm - without that second psyche keeping an eye on the Stasis Matrix (or whatever), she couldn't, like, cause the heat death of the universe. But if she could trick Firestorm into recreating the accident while she has a willing participant on hand... that would be something that Frost and the organization she works for would be very, very interested in.
When joined, Lwazi and Martin have access to each other's memories and experiences, so there will be some awkwardness when Lwazi finds out about Martin's unwise youth. Martin prefers to be the secondary personality - while staring at the Matrix he's getting access to the secrets of the universe, much more interesting than punching some chilly bitch (even if she is his niece - duh duh duhn). There will be some addiction allusions in Martin's interest in the Matrix. Lwazi will be the main character for the most part, idealistic and hoping to do good for the world. Compared to Captain Atom's Lawful Good, Firestorm will be more Chaotic Good, willing to break laws in order to do what's right. This will bring him into conflict with other elements of the Drewniverse's Africa, from old power structures to nation states torn apart my civil war. Part of Firestorm's arc will be a Spider-man like discovery of the ties between power and responsibility.
In time, Firestorm will join the Justice League, but that's a few years down the road.