Last time around, I celebrated the Golden Age simplicity of the Black Condor. Today, I'm here to shine a little love on a pair of Bronze Age bookends of the baroque.
Representing DC Comics, we have...
(from Fury of Firestorm #1, June 1982; by Gerry Conway, Pat Broderick & Rodin Rodriguez)
...the furious Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!
Origin: The fusion of a high school jock and a middle aged physicist.
Powers: Flight, blasty-hands, intangibility, matter transmutation.
Costume: Poofy sleeves, blazing noggin, pointy shoulders, sorta symbolic insignia, 1970s McDonalds color scheme.
Archvillain: Killer Frost, the frozen Femme Fatale.
Current status: Check out LEGENDS OF TOMORROW on the New CW!
Meanwhile, over in the mighty Marvel corner, we have:
(from Marvel Premiere #44, October 1978; by Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen & Rudy Nebres)
...the jaunty Jack of Hearts!
Origin: Got dipped in his poker-loving pa's experimental "Zero Fluid." (Also, his mom turned out to be a space alien.)
Powers: Flight, blasty-hands, super-strength, damage resistance.
Costume: What happens when a Bicycle deck face card joins the SCA.
Archvillain: Hemlock, the assassin who wields heat-seeking explosive garden trowels. (As well as any penciller, inker, or colorist who had to deal with the character.)
Current status: Man, Phase 7 on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be SO RAD.
All kidding aside, I love both these exercises in over-complicated garishness with equal measure. They were the lurid, overwrought products of a lurid, overwrought period in comics history -- one that just so happened to coincide with my childhood obsession with all things gaudy and superheroic. Their confusing powersets and convoluted origins informed my own early attempts at creating superheroes, where "too much" was "never enough" and there was always room for a bit of contra-fashionable flair.
Look, any schmoe can come up with "noble alien champion" or "spider-powered teenager." A truly imaginative child of the late 1970s would never settle for anything less than "um, he's a robot who is also part alien and the son of Zeus and he can fly and spit fire and lift a billion tons and his name is 'Mega-PowerMaster King.'"
Chuckle all you want. My mom said I was "very creative" when she hung the sketch on the family fridge.
Seriously, though: When I embarked on my Great Back Issue Buying Binge during the mid-1990s, Firestorm and Jack of Hearts appearances filled the top half of my wish list. They might be goofy, but it's a goofiness that cuts right to the nostalgic core of my comics fandom.