If you’re a fan of both Alex Ross and Firestorm, then you’ve probably asked yourself at some point, “Does Alex Ross Hate Firestorm?” I gotta tell ya, some days it feels that way.
To be perfectly clear, this is not a bashing of Alex Ross. I love, LOVE, L-O-V-E his artwork and would be thrilled to see Firestorm fully-rendered by such a masterful artist! It’s just disappointing we haven’t had that opportunity.
Alex Ross began his professional comic book career 25 years ago. In that quarter century he’s rendered the Justice League dozens and dozens of times; and yet he’s only rendered Firestorm once. Just once. And to be specific, that one time he was painting over George Perez’s pencils, so Ross didn’t have a choice about which characters to render.
Alex Ross has demonstrated his love of the Satellite Era Justice League on numerous occasions, yet Firestorm has never crept into any of those renderings. As Firestorm was the final member of the Satellite Era League, you’d think he’d be included. Heck, Ross often includes other heroes from DC’s pantheon that weren’t even members of the Satellite League (i.e. Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, & Metamorpho).
As a fan of Firestorm (a.k.a. Match-head), you can’t help but feel disappointed.
I’ve been researching the lack of Firestorm rendered by Alex Ross for years. While I don’t have a concrete answer, I have some circumstantial evidence worth considering.
Exhibit A: We know Alex Ross is interested in the Silver Age versions of DC’s heroes. Below you’ll find an excerpt from an interview with Ross conducted back in 2004 by The AV Club of The Onion. Click here to read the entire interview.
The Onion: Looking at your work, Bruce Timm’s animated series, Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics line, and, to a certain extent, Grant Morrison’s run on JLA, there seem to have been efforts to return to a Silver Age approach. Even Superman’s dog Krypto is back.
Alex Ross: What you have is a bunch of 40-year-olds and thirtysomethings like myself. We grew up with this stuff thinking of it a certain way, and we’re rejecting what was kind of knocked around on us the last few years. Basically, what still is going on in modern continuity, especially at DC Comics, is a rejection of everything they did in the 1990s to compete with the then-hip-and-happening changes coming from the more tumultuous time of what Marvel and then Image comics did. We’re sort of in a repairing stage. Those of us who are kind of these Silver Age purists who think you don’t need to fix what isn’t broken, we’re getting our way because more of us are in control at the moment.
Exhibit B: We know Alex Ross and Paul Dini made a conscious decision about which members of the JLA to feature in their gorgeous treasury-sized, JLA: Secret Origins and JLA: Liberty and Justice. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Paul Dini printed in the back of JLA: Secret Origins.
Exhibit C: From JLA: Secret Origins, here is a preliminary sketch for a series of panels including Firestorm, followed by the final version of those panels without Firestorm. Notice the JLA Satellite panel width is expanded to accommodate the missing Firestorm panel. Most importantly, notice the Firestorm commentary on the bottom right of the sketch.
There it is Match-heads, the strongest evidence for Alex Ross’s aversion to Firestorm.
“Firestorm? No! Iris Allen is dead when he shows up”
We don’t know if that note was written by Alex Ross or Paul Dini, but regardless it played a role in their decision to exclude Firestorm from JLA: Secret Origins and JLA: Liberty and Justice. I believe I understand where they are coming from with that decision. Some people consider the death of Iris Allen to be the beginning of darker storytelling for the DC heroes. It occurred in the middle of the Bronze Age, as comics marched towards the “Modern Age”. Or perhaps Ross and Dini prefer the Flash before he suffered the tragedy of losing his wife. If Ross doesn’t want to stray into the “darker” era of DC Comics, then that’s a reasonable cut-off point. Putting this on a timeline, Firestorm was created prior to the death of Iris Allen, but he hadn’t joined the JLA yet.
- Firestorm first premiered: Firestorm The Nuclear Man #1 (cover dated March 1978)
- Iris Allen is murdered: The Flash #275 (cover dated July 1979)
- Firestorm joins the JLA: Justice League of America #179 (cover dated June 1980)
In case you are wondering, Zatanna was the second-to-last member added to the Satellite Era JLA. Since Ross typically includes Zatanna, I checked and sure enough she joined the JLA in Justice League of America #161 (cover dated December 1978), seven months before the death of Iris Allen. Though if you want to get nit-picky, Zatanna wasn’t wearing her classic stage magician’s costume while she was with the JLA during this era. I imagine Ross overlooks that fact in favor of Zatanna’s most iconic costume.
Exhibit D: We can accept that Alex Ross may only want to draw the Satellite Era JLA as they appeared prior to the death of Iris Allen. However, Ross has rendered a few modern day JLA pieces, each lacking a certain Nuclear Man. Below you’ll find team shots including latter-day JLA additions, such as: Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Orion, Lightray, John Stewart, Hawkgirl, Geo-Force, Vixen, Black Lightning, and Red Arrow. Was the exclusion of Firestorm intentional or simply a case of circumstance?
Summary of Findings: Evidence indicates Alex Ross prefers to render the Satellite Era Justice League as they appeared prior to the death of Iris West; therefore, no Firestorm. The lack of Firestorm’s inclusion in Ross’s modern day JLA work is inconclusive.
Final Verdict: Does Alex Ross hate Firestorm? I don’t think there is enough evidence to confirm or deny this statement. However, 25 years in the comics industry with a reputation for rendering the JLA and he’s only drawn Firestorm once? It certainly seems to indicate a lack of interest in the character.
I’m not the only one wondering about Alex Ross’s aversion to Firestorm. Check out Dale Bagwell’s blog post on this very concern!
Support Firestorm (and Alex Ross)! Fan the Flame!