This month, “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men” blasts into new territory with a brand-new story arc and a new addition to the creative team. Following the exit of writer Gail Simone from the New 52 launch series, “Ghost Projekt” writer Joe Harris joins Ethan Van Sciver as the title’s ongoing co-writer starting with “The Firestorm Protocols.” Picking up after the tragic events of issue #6 and Ronnie Raymond separation from Jason Rusch, the writing team’s first story together delves into the inner workings of Zither Tech, the proliferation of the Firestorm technology and the existence of international Firestorms. In addition to co-authoring the tale, Van Sciver takes over art duties for three issues, with Yidiray Cinar returning as ongoing artist beginning with issue #9.
Van Sciver and Harris spoke with CBR News about the upcoming arc, teased their plans moving forward, spoke to the design of the international Firestorms and revealed the forthcoming role of Professor Martin Stein and his legacy.
CBR News: The first arc of “Firestorm” just wrapped, and we’re headed to issue #7 for a whole new arc with a drastically different status quo. So, what do you guys have planned for “The Firestorm Protocols?”
Joe Harris: I would just say that the tragic, shocking events at the end of issue #6 really propels us forward to the end of this first year. You’re going to see our two heroes, Ronnie and Jason, torn apart over what happened. Each of them are sort of adopting a different worldview over how they should address it.
Ethan Van Sciver: I mean, they’re literally torn apart, aren’t they? They’re separated from each other.
Harris: They are. We’re going to follow one of these characters as he begins this very determined but perhaps ill-conceived quest to make restitution and deliver vengeance upon the forces that bombed that stadium at the end of issue #6. One of these characters is going to take this very dark turn and go down this path from which he may not emerge unscathed. Our other character is going to find himself reluctantly chasing him, trying to save him from the darkness that he’s chasing. At first, it’s going to be very reluctant; it’s going to be more out of necessity. There’s a lot of different pressures informing and motivating why. Hopefully by the end of this, after we put these characters through hell, they’ll emerge with this understanding and perhaps even a new appreciation for one another — before we put them through hell, again. We have a lot of plans like that in the future.
Van Sciver: I think what’s so great about working with Joe is that he so clearly understands the differences between these two boys, and the things that make them the same, the things that bring them together and the things that could possibly make them friends if they just took a moment to listen to each other. What’s great is that in this first arc that Joe and I are doing together — and Yildiray Cinar is coming on at issue #9 — we’ll have a chance to see these boys under some extreme duress working apart from one another and with brand new Firestorms from brand new countries. I’m tremendously excited about it. It’s a chance to be creative, it’s a chance to think about these characters and this property from the ground up. We’re having so much fun with this.
Harris: We are. We really are.
One of the things set up in the first arc was the idea of these International Firestorms, something Joe teased when we last discussed his plans for the book. How will that concept continue to play into what you have planned for the title?
Harris: What we’re really going to get into is how dangerous and how harrowing the concepts of these Firestorm Protocols being out in the world really can be. We’re going to be exploring more of the countries that actually have an officially sanctioned Firestorm, and to that end, we imagined all the current members of the global nuclear arms club as having an official hero. We’re going to be getting to each and every one of them as we go. We’re going to be meeting Firestorms from Great Britain and France — wait until you see what we’ve done with India’s Firestorm! There’s some really awesome variations on the powers and the costumes and the appearance and the manifestations and everything.
With regard to the story, we’re going to see some tensions develop between countries that are natural rivals, like India and Pakistan; countries that are allies of the United States like Great Britain and France. There are going to be geopolitical pressures that inform all these characters’ decision going forward as the mutual threat begins to gather for them all. We’re going to be getting into a lot of what I know energizes Ethan and I both, which are the geopolitics of this. It’s the international, ripped-from-the-headlines scenario that will cause some countries to act on the side of the angels and other countries hold their cards close to the vest and look out for themselves. Not necessarily because they’re evil, but that’s just because of the way geopolitics and power games tend to play. Keep in mind, we have countries and governments and individual heroes determining what the mission statement, what the direction of these Firestorms is, but there’s also the element of Zither Tech, this multinational defense contractor who have their own agenda and who have more than one thing on the scale. There are a lot of intriguing angles to this concept that I’m looking forward to really blowing up.
Ethan, what was the design process of developing so many different Firestorms like?
Van Sciver: Actually, let’s give all the credit of the design work of the international Firestorms to Yidiray Cinar. It was absolutely him that did all the heavy lifting. I think early on, when we first started, I was very hands-on and I wanted to do everything. Then I started to see that Yidiray’s actually a very natural and clever costume designer. I would go over ideas with him and tell him what I thought of, let’s say, England’s Firestorm, whose name is Hurricane. We figured out a clever way to combine the classic Firestorm with things like the Union Jack. It all sort of worked together and we ended up creating these very individual but also definitely very standardized Firestorm types of characters. Yidiray’s just brilliant. He’s never let us down. What he did for India’s Firestorm that Joe just mentioned, it just blew our minds.
Harris: Yeah, I can’t wait for people to see it. We’ve got a great cast of characters we’re going to be rolling out. I think this is really where we get into what some of the absolute coolest stuff we’re going to be bringing to the table with this re-imagined Firestorm concept. The international Firestorms are — just visually, they’re spectacular. The way they represent different cultures, the different countries as well as their agendas, all just really fits into the A-storyline regarding our main characters and the core concept of the book itself; the idea that Professor Martin Stein had this creation and it hasn’t exactly rolled out as planned. Now, we’ve got this big global mess that our characters are going to have to contend with. It’s something that gets me excited every time I have to deal with this stuff and every time Ethan and I get on the phone. The internationals are just too cool.
Van Sciver: I always felt like Firestorm was a team member. He was a character who did well on his own in his own book, but he always just seemed to be a member of the Justice League. He would just be floating around. I like the idea of Firestorm himself, of the concept being much bigger and much broader and much more important. I think the internationals help to elevate Ronnie and Jason a little bit, so the story is bigger, it’s more important. It is in the DC Universe, but it’s not necessarily tied to what the Justice League is doing. They have their own world to move around in.
Joe, you mentioned Professor Stein, who we haven’t seen much of in the first arc. How will the Professor and his legacy come into play for the future of the book?
Harris: Well, his legacy informs everything moving forward. All of the characters are spokes revolving around that hub. You’ve got Jason and Ronnie, who are the last of his Firestorms; you’ve got the other internationals who have power sets and costumes based on his creations, but it’s gone through a corruption filter with Zither Tech. Then, we’ve got the Russian Firestorm Pozar who has a past with Martin Stein and all the research and work that went into discovering the God Particle and creating the Firestorm Protocol. All of this is going to factor in moving forward. With Martin Stein moving forward, specifically? I’d say stay tuned. It’s a bit of a mystery, but he is going to play a central, integral role in the resolution of the storyarc we’re going to launch.
At the end of the first arc, the Firestorms were about to receive some major media attention. With the world now aware of Firestorm, how will Zither Tech’s strategy toward handling the protocols change?
Harris: They’re going to have to put out some fires because what they don’t need is negative media attention. I think a company like Zither Tech, the more it’s able use its connections and the levels of power it amasses out of sight, the better off it is. For as big an entity as they are, its true agenda is best served if it’s out of the daylight. That presents some challenges. They are going to be one of the motivating forces as to why our two main Firestorms are out in the world as a result of what happened at the end of [issue] #6. As I said, one of them is pursuing his own half-cocked agenda to get to the bottom of this and follow a might-makes right sort of solution, while the other one is trying to be a little more finessed and savvy and careful. Each of them are going to bump into problems and motivations and such from different characters and organizations that they encounter who aren’t all working toward the same end. Zither Tech, the secrets that go into their manufacture of the Firestorm Protocol proliferation of this power around the world, is going to bear fruit in the coming arc and the arc after that. It’s like peeling and onion, and I think their fingers go pretty deep. As we continue investigating how far down their reach goes, we’re going to uncover more twists and turns.
What about further down the road, past “The Firestorm Protocols?” Joe, you mentioned a while back that you and Ethan have years of storylines plotted out — what can you tell ius about the direction of the book looking past The Firestorm Protocols?
Van Sciver: Should we talk about Pakistan?
Harris: [Laughs] After we resolve this current arc, it’s going to open things up to an even bigger threat. The way we talk about these things going forward is that each arc leads to something else. The immediate threat they’re facing might get resolved, but it really opens things up to something they have not considered. I think you’re going to see more global ramifications for this technology, the threat getting bigger and bigger — the threat without as well as within. We’ve got new characters on the horizon that are going to present a threat that only assembled Firestorms can tackle, if in fact they can get together and do so. Going forward, we’re going to see how some fractures with some of our core characters and their relationships might play out to some further tragedy and some big widescreen action intriguing stuff in the future.
Van Sciver: We’re going to see the boys come into their own and take control of the situation they find themselves in. I think the difference between the second arc and the first arc is, in the second arc, the boys are making their own choices. They’re autonomous. They make mistakes, but they’re doing things because they feel those things are right. The first arc was a lot of things happening to them and them being put into situations that they did not understand and did not control. They were growing up very quickly.
“The Firestorm Protocols” begins in “The Fury of Firestorm” #7 and hits stores March 28.