Surprise! This list has nothing to do with Frank Cho, Milo Manara or scantily-clad heroes in compromising positions. Instead, with winter tightening its icy grip and spring still months away, we thought we’d roast a few chestnuts over an open fire, using the superhuman flames provided by the hottest heroes in all of comics.
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Fire-based superheroes have been a staple of mainstream comics since the medium’s earliest days, tapping into our enduring primal fascination with fire in ways we could hardly have imagined before. However, there are literally dozens of heroes who manipulate heat to one… degree… or another. Considering this fact, it’s important to note that you’ll find no Burnouts or Farenheits or Fiery Masks here. Only the hottest of the hot made our list. Those other folks? Try the quarter bin, Toro.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories from various publishers.
15. The Flame
One of the earliest mystery men to tap into the power of fire was the Flame, who appeared alongside the original Blue Beetle and Samson in Fox Feature Syndicate’s “Wonderworld Comics” #3 as one of the publishers “Big Three.” An orphan who lost his father during a flood in China, Gary Preston was raised by a sect of Tibetan monks, who taught him to tap into the power of fire for a variety of effects, including pyrokinesis, temperature control and inexplicably, the ability to teleport via any source of fire, no matter how big or small. Upon returning to America as an adult, Gary took on the costumed identity of the Flame using his abilities to fight crime.
After Fox Feature Syndicate suddenly went belly-up in 1942, the Flame languished in the public domain, until Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment included him and his sidekick Flame Girl in “Project Superpowers”. Emerging from the forced oblivion of the Urn of Pandora, the Flame’s powers are upgraded substantially and linked to the Greek Titan Prometheus, who brought fire to the world. No longer a purely destructive force, the Flame’s Promethean fires now bring life and hope to the world.
14. Firebrand (Danette Reilly)
A popular, long-standing member of DC’s All-Star Squadron, Danette Reilly is actually the second member to take up the mantle of Firebrand. Created by Roy Thomas and a host of artistic collaborators, Danette’s brother Rod created the costumed identity of the high-flying Firebrand to fight crime and alleviate the perpetual boredom that only comes along with excessive wealth. Rod would eventually join the Freedom Fighters in fighting the Nazis behind enemy lines. Danette, meanwhile, took her place amongst the super-soldiers of the All-Star Squadron, after a dip in an active volcano gave her the ability to generate and control fire.
Danette served with the Squadron for the duration of the war, perishing during a battle with the Dragon King. Her husband, the Shining Knight, would avenger her death with the help of Stargirl and the former Stripesy, Pat Dugan. Firebrand’s legacy lives on through her godson, Al Rothstein, aka Atom Smasher. She has also inspired numerous subsequent heroes to take up the mantle, if in name only.
13. Nova (Frankie Raye)
Like her one-time boyfriend, Johnny Storm, Frankie Raye possessed the power to control and generate intense flames and heat. She even went by the moniker of the Human Torch for a brief time. Originally, Frankie gained her powers, after her stepdad Phineus Horton accidentally doused her in the same chemicals that created the first Human Torch. This caused a mutagenic reaction that granted her the same abilities as his android creation. For a time, she served alongside Johnny in the Fantastic Four, giving the already versatile team a formidable and fiery one-two punch.
However, Frankie proved a little too quick to roast her adversaries alive, so she volunteered to become Galactus’s new herald, receiving a massive power upgrade, not to mention whole planets to cook. Thankfully, Frankie eventually relocated her burned out conscience and refused to sacrifice any more inhabited planets to Galactus. This didn’t sit well with the World Devourer’s rumbling cosmic belly, so he replaced her with a cold-hearted killing machine named Morg, who murdered Nova during a battle royale with all of Galactus’s former heralds. A woman called Frances later appeared in the pages of “Heralds,” bonding with Frankie’s original Human Torch suit and creating a new Nova.
12. Inferno (Dante Pertuz)
On the surface, Inhuman Dante Pertuz appears to be just another hothead in a long line of comic book hotheads, but if we take a closer look at the surface, we find that Inferno’s powers manifest in a rather unique way. Transformed by the Terrigen Cloud into a pyrokinetic powerhouse, Dante is capable of generating and projecting intense flames and heat. So far, nothing new, right? But wait! Unlike virtually every other hero who bursts into flames to save the day, Inferno’s skin actually burns away every time he uses his full powers.
Still learning to control his powers, Inferno has shown the ability to generate modest amounts of flame and heat, when in a relatively relaxed state. He also has a tendency to spontaneously combust when agitated. Thankfully, his power set also includes a very robust healing factor, capable of completely regenerating Inferno’s skin (and even missing limbs, if necessary). Still, his healing factor doesn’t do much to address the terrible smell of roasting human flesh that must accompany his powers’ activation. Barbecue anybody?
Lorraine Reilly — no relation to Danette — was always something of a reluctant superhero. In fact, upon first gaining her nuclear powers, she appeared as an adversary of Firestorm, a hero with whom she would later partner both professionally and romantically. Lorraine gained her powers after she was kidnapped and subjected to an experimental procedure to replicate Firestorm’s creation. Not cut out for the life of a super-powered vigilante, she later gave up the hero biz altogether, choosing to follow her father’s example and seek public office as a United States senator.
Like Firestorm, Lorraine possesses a nuclear-based power set that allows her to create and project intense heat and fire, though the pre-Flashpoint version of the character showed little proficiency with the matter transmutation abilities of her former flame. Firehawk was reintroduced to the DCU during the New 52, somewhat arbitrarily, as a French national who gained all of the Nuclear Man’s powers, thanks to the global proliferation of the Firestorm Matrix. Fortunately, there’s still room for Lorraine Reilly to once again take up the mantle of Firehawk, after her French counterpart got herself blowed up real good forestalling the threat of a superhuman nuclear arms race.
The first of two original New Mutants on our list, the aptly named Magma is a veritable force of nature, capable of tapping into the Earth’s geologic properties for a wide array of abilities. Not only is Magma able to generate intense heat and flame, she can also shift tectonic plates, manipulate lava flows and stimulate volcanic eruptions. In short, she’s just about every disaster movie you’ve ever seen rolled into one lava-enveloped package. As a member of virtually every incarnation of the New Mutants, Magma was still somehow under-utilized, outshone perhaps by more popular and well-rounded characters like Cannonball, Dani Moonstar and Sunspot.
Instead, writers and editors seemed a little baffled by her blandness, electing to tie her to a labyrinthine backstory that involved transplanted ancient South American Roman civilizations, mind control and the mutant vampire Selene. With an origin story that messed up, it’s no wonder she didn’t make the cut for Josh Boone’s New Mutants movie.
9. Sun Boy
Ok, so, thanks to the unadulterated cluster-bomb that is the Legion of Super-Heroes continuity, there are at least four different versions of Sun Boy blazing across the DC multiverse. Thankfully, despite some relatively minor differences in their histories, all of Dirk Morgana’s incarnations can be boiled down to his elegantly simple superhero name. Created by the legendary Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney in the pages of 1961’s “Action Comics” #276, Sun Boy originally gained his powers during a nuclear reactor accident.
Although the source of his powers would sometimes change over the course of several reboots, the core of the character’s abilities always revolved around the creation and manipulation of nearly unlimited amounts of heat and light. In short, he’s the team’s token “fire guy.” Every team needs one if they’re to be taken seriously — at least so it seems, if our list is any indication. As such, it wasn’t until Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Legion reboot that Dirk came into his own as a respected leader of the team. Unfortunately, his renaissance was not to last, as Sun Boy became another notch on the belt of that evil multiversal bastard, Superboy Prime.
Known for her bodacious personality and provocative costumes, Beatriz Da Costa is a fiery addition to any superhero team, no matter how you cut it — and she’s been a feature player on many. First created as a character for the animated Super Friends series, the Green Flame, as she was known then, didn’t appear in mainstream DC continuity until she appeared as a member of the Global Guardians, representing Brazil. Originally, Beatriz could only breathe a mystical green flame, but a major revamp in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths gave her greater fire-based powers thanks to an experimental flame gun mishap. Now blessed with the ability to cover her body in a sheath of her signature emerald flames, Beatriz could also fly and project intense blasts of heat and fire.
Early in her career, Beatriz was little more than background dressing, but she quickly gained in popularity as a member of Justice League International, alongside her best friend Ice. She was last seen as a member of Booster Gold’s defunct New 52 JLI, once again relegated to the sidelines after a terrorist bomb put her into a coma.
Even during his days as a founding member of the New Mutants, Roberto da Costa was always what some would call “upwardly mobile” — on the rise, destined for bigger and better things. Born with the ability to absorb and store solar energy and use it to enhance his physical strength, Bobby was also born filthy rich. As his powers evolved to include flight and flame projection, so too did Sunspot mature into a deceptively brilliant and capable superhero. Overlooked by his older contemporaries due to his young age and cocksure attitude, what most people forget about Bobby is that he was groomed for the leadership of a vast international corporate entity.
He’s a brilliant strategist and unafraid to make hard decisions in high-pressure situations. Plus, he has more money than God and knows what to do with it. His unique perspective on modern superheroics was particularly well-illustrated by the way he dealt with A.I.M. Rather than engage in yet another battle with the terrorist organization, da Costa simply purchased the group and transformed it into the foundation for Marvel’s forthcoming “U.S.Avengers.” And he barely had to light a match to do it.
As the mutant solar reactor known as Sunfire, Shiro Yoshida embodies everything we’ve come to love and hate about stereotypical fire-based heroes. He’s immensely powerful, for starters. He’s also a hothead with a fiery temper that gets him into trouble more often than not. Over the years, he’s been both hero and villain, usually depending on who’s pissed him off at any given time. What does set Shiro apart from other notorious hotheads is his sense of honor. Although somewhat stereotypical of a character of Japanese origin (he obviously also knows several martial arts and hangs with the Yakuza), it does usually land him on the side of the angels.
Sunfire’s powers have fluctuated over the years from his signature solar fired plasma generation to image-inducing flares as Apocalypse’s Horseman, Famine. Most recently, as a member of the Uncanny Avengers, he showed the ability to convert his body into pure energy (whatever that means), allowing him to survive death at the hands of Kang the Conqueror. Still striving to restore the personal honor lost as Famine, Shiro was last seen in Asia, helping mutants avoid the path of the dreaded Terrigen Cloud.
A rare instance of a character transitioning from the world of animation to the world of comics, Firestar initially starred alongside Iceman as one Spider-Man’s “amazing friends” on Saturday mornings (back when Saturday mornings were still fun and cool and populated by superheroes and laced with sugary cereal). She was first introduced into official Marvel continuity in the pages of her very own solo mini-series. A mutant who generates intense heat and gains the ability to fly by generating and manipulating microwave radiation, Angelica Jones is not your typical flamethrower.
A compassionate, strong-willed young woman, Firestar served as an Avenger during Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s classic run on the title and was a founding member of the New Warriors. Unlike most other entries on our list, Firestar doesn’t enjoy complete immunity to her own powers and has suffered through breast cancer previously in her career. Although she was lucky enough to have her cancer cured through Daimon Hellstrom’s demonic intervention, she presumably remains at risk of future relapse.
One of the most colorful and arguably most popular characters to emerge out of the ‘80s, Firestorm has enjoyed a recent upsurge in prestige thanks to his critical role in the CW’s live action Arrowverse series, “Legends of Tomorrow,” in which he is currently portrayed by Franz Drameh (and Victor Garber). In the comics, Firestorm was a composite, nuclear-powered being fused together when Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein agreed that trouble was afoot. Over the years, his origin has been tweaked and twisted to include new and additional configurations of the Firestorm Matrix, the most recent combination being Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch.
As Firestorm, the pair become one of the most powerful beings on the planet, not only capable of generating intense flames and heat but also gaining the ability to affect and transmute inorganic (and in some cases organic) matter on a molecular level. Essentially, so long as he knows the elemental makeup of the matter he’s trying to affect, he can change it into whatever his little hearts desire. No wonder there was a superhuman arms race based on the Firestorm tech both in the comics and on the small screen.
Although our next entry is technically a cosmic entity rather than an actual hero, we would be remiss not to include the Phoenix Force in any list counting down comics’ hottest heroes. A child of the universe whose mandate is nothing less than guarding all of creation by burning away that which refuses to evolve, the Phoenix Force is feared throughout the cosmos, having caused genocide on an obscene scale.The Phoenix Force has appeared on Earth a number of times, most notably as the catalyst that sparked Jean Grey’s transformation into the Dark Phoenix.
Although often cast as a universal agent of destruction, it is important to remember the Phoenix Force can also be a force for positive change. After Hope Summers absorbed the totality of the Phoenix entity into her being in the climactic moments of “Avengers vs. X-Men,” she was able to restore mutantkind with the help of the Scarlet Witch. An elemental force of universal rebirth, the Phoenix is a constant reminder of the never-ending cycle of life and death. Where’s Elton John when we need him? This kind of thinking demands a weepy theme song.
2. Jim Hammond
The original Human Torch was one of Timely Comics’ most popular heroes, alongside the Golden Age versions of Captain America and Namor the Sub-Mariner. In fact, he was one of the few characters popular enough to headline his own comic and warrant an appropriately fiery teen sidekick in Toro. An android created by the same Phineas Horton who was responsible for Frankie Raye’s powers, the first Human Torch is far less hotheaded (and bloodthirsty, in the case of Raye) than subsequent bearers of his flaming mantle. He typically acts as the voice of reason in most battle situations, remaining in complete and utter control of his abilities at all times, unlike some banana hammock-wearing Atlanteans we know.
Capable of going toe-to-toe with the Marvel Universe’s toughest and surviving a nuclear explosion, Hammond, despite a long, rich history, has never enjoyed the kind of intense spotlight as Cap and Namor; something that we hope changes as he settles into his new gig as a high-ranking agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Until then, he remains a close second place to our undisputed hottest hero…
1. Johnny Storm
Our number one position was actually a closer race than you might think, but at the end of the day there was really no contest. Of course Johnny Storm had to be our number-one hottest hero in comics. Despite a long history and the fact that, without him, Johnny likely wouldn’t exist, Jim Hammond has been overshadowed and outshone by the Fantastic Four’s resident matchstick. Johnny became the Human Torch after he was bombarded by cosmic rays during Reed Richards’ historic experimental spaceflight.
Ever since, the high-flying hothead has been the first hero any self-respecting comic book reader thinks of when considering those with fire-based powers. More than that, he’s the first hero who comes to mind for people who don’t read comics — even before all of those crappy live-action movies. But let’s consider those movies for a second. In each of the major big screen adaptations, the Human Torch has been about the only positive in films overflowing with negatives. There’s just something about this good-natured flamethrower that remains oh-so cool, no matter how hot he burns.
There’s plenty more hot heroes in the greater comics universe. Let us know which hotties we missed in the Comments!
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