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Follow the Path – Firestar

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In this feature I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media, as well as characters who entirely came from outside media. I’m sure you can think of other examples, so feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you want to suggest some other examples for future installments.

Today, based on suggestions from readers Rob O. and Lex W., we take a look at how one of Spider-Man’s Amazing Friends made her way into the Marvel Universe…

For three seasons in the early 1980s, Spider-Man starred on an animated television series called Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. The “Amazing Friends” were the mutant superheroes Iceman and Firestar, with the whole ice and fire thing going on.

Peter Parker, Bobby Drake and Angelica Jones were all college students together while they weren’t fighting crime as superheroes.

Angelica was likely based visually on Mary Jane Watson, who was not present in the series as a result (contrary to popular opinion, though, she wasn’t literally a re-worked Mary Jane drawing, as Firestar was part of the series from the original pitch – this is also why it is not true that she was a “replacement” for the Human Torch, as while they may have initially considered the Torch, he was out of the running before they ever made their first pitch).

angelicajones

Here is John Romita SR’s original design of Firestar (she was initially named Heatwave) as part of the pitch to the network for the show…

johnromita

She was a key part of the series and even got a couple of spotlight episodes…

firestar

There was a comic based on the show released by Marvel…

comicfriends1

And the three heroes appeared together in an advertising supplement, as well…

comicfriends

But it wasn’t until 1985, a few years after the show went off the air, that Angelica made her proper debut in the Marvel Universe, and it happened in a somewhat surprising place for a Spider-Man character (although, I guess, not really considering her background on the show itself)…

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34 Comments

I actually just read the 4 issue Firestar Limited Series and I love it for it’s simplicity and quiet charm (well, the last issue wasn’t exactly quiet). It harkens back to a less serious, much more innocent time in comics. I gotta say, I really love these 80s comics.

I’m not liking the idea that the X-Men basically allowed Angel and James to return to an abusive teacher because it was “their choice”, which is exactly what Emma was depicted as at the time.

Started reading the article only to find I got a shout out. Thanks, Brian.

An interesting twist on Firestar bring brought into the 616 Marvel Universe is that writer Don Slott has killed off the Firestar, Iceman and Spider-man of the Amazing Friends reality (Earth-1983) in the Spider-Verse crossover.

http://whateveraspidercan.com/2014/10/11/spider-verse-kills-spider-man-amazing-friends/

Firestar might be the first comics character taken from outside media to be explicitly killed off in the parent media within the continuity of the adopted narrative.

Of course in the post above I meant the universally-loved-by-the-internet DAN Slott and not his most-hated evil twin Don.

-R

Firestar should have been incorporated into the Marvel Comics much sooner. Alas, at the time, the TV production world (Los Angeles) and the comics-production world (NYC) were considered segregated properties. They didn’t talk. There should have been a companion ongoing Spidey/Amazing Friends comic series. The staggered-out one-shots weren’t enough. For us kids of the 80s, we wanted to see the Spider-Friends in comics as a regular thing. It never happened.

After the origin mini-series, she basically went untouched until the New Warriors. She was never given a proper history with the X-Men. It wasn’t until Jason Aaron’s stint recently that she was finally made an actual member of the team.

Firestar is a better name than Heatwave; I’m glad they changed it.

It didn’t help, though, my personal comparisons between her mini series and a Stephen King Book; in my head, the mini- is called Firestar(ter).

Rob Ocelot – don’t worry, I knew which one you meant. :)

@Michael: “I’m not liking the idea that the X-Men basically allowed Angel and James to return to an abusive teacher because it was “their choice”, which is exactly what Emma was depicted as at the time.”

Especially when you consider that said abusive teacher is also a telepath (and one essentially without morals at that). Acceding to the wishes of someone with full knowledge that said wish could likely be the result of mental manipulation? Isn’t that what the Avengers did to Carol Danvers? (And didn’t Claremont specifically make something of a big deal about that? Guess it’s different when he’s doing it himself…?)

Wow, although I remember both the cartoon and her introduction to the X-Men (as well as her miniseries), I’d totally forgotten that I had that first Amazing Friends comic when I was a kid.

Green Luthor- While I agree that the end of the story was problematic, Xavier would likely have been able to tell if there was any mental manipulation going on.

I don’t know exactly why, but Firestar has been a really good character in everything she’s ever been in. And versatile too. She was a good X-character, then a good New Warrior, and then a good Avenger (whether or not you like that weird face-paint mask George Pérez gave her). She perfectly straddles that very Marvel-esque line between superhero and soap-opera romance character.

Firestar always seemed like a “fake” marvel superhero to me as a kid since she originated on a saturday morning cartoon alongside a “fake” Spider-man.

Javro- For similar reasons, I didn’t really warm up to Firestar (no pun intended) until I read Kurt Busiek’s AVENGERS run.

What made him a fake Spider-Man? It was a great series. I loved it as a kid and my kids would still be watching the hell out of it if it were still on Netflix.

I’m surprised to realize that those five issues were her only 616 appearances before the New Warriors. I would have expected one appearances in New Mutants, at least.

Regarding her return to the Massachusetts Academy, Claremont was deep into the process of revising his villains into more subtle characters, including Frost. By the time of Firestar’s mini, The Hellfire Club was being revamped into a corrupt, but not outright evil, organization.

Firestar seemed slightly ill-fitting within the larger Marvel Universe when New Warriors started, maybe because she was sort of a “fake” Marvel heroine, like Javro said, but I think the same can be said of all the New Warriors. They were all under-used, second-stringers, has-beens, etc. mostly existing in the fringes (except for Night Thrasher, who didn’t exist at all before the series started). I think that is why they really clicked as a superteam. They filled the niche of teenage superheroes that was surprisingly vacant in the MU.

Yeah that Nicieza / Bagley run was, in my opinion the Wolfman / Perez NTT equivalent. @ great runs that fell apart when one or both of the creative team left.

“(except for Night Thrasher, who didn’t exist at all before the series started)”

Close enough, but didn’t the Thor issues where they guest-starred come out before the series debut?

@Nu_D- when Angel returns, Emma manipulates her into putting a goon into critical condition, tries to send her on a suicide mission against Selene and kills her bodyguard. How can you say that the X-Men made the right choice?

Actually, it was court ordered that Xavier can’t be around teenage redhead girls.

Xavier’s sending Angelica back into an abusive situation is obviously problematic. However, let’s just look at who Xavier really is.

In his very first appearance, Xavier sends teenage kids – as young as 16 – to fight a known terrorist (Magneto) who promptly attacks them with missiles, heavy metal debris, & even a tank of rocket fuel. These are minors that HE’S supposed to keep out of danger. Does he care? No. Xavier’s practically a terror threat in his own right. He’s literally training these kids in his secret compound to wage a war for “his dream”. A number of his so-called “students” have even died on his watch.

Xavier would never be stupid enough to do that again, right?

Of course not…. Except for the fact that he DID do that again; With the New Mutants this time. More than that, he would later leave this students in the care of Magneto. Good work, Prof. No wonder Doug Ramsey later got gunned down, Illyana rained demonic hell on Earth, Rahne got turned into a Genoshan slave, and Warlock got disintegrated.

Yeah, but it’s not like he screwed up his own kid, right?

*cough* Legion *cough*

Okay. Okay. He could have been a better father, teacher, and overall person. He’s got THE DREAM. All of the pain is going to be worth it in the end, right? Sure. As long as you count his prized pupil going all Magneto 2.0 and his little group becoming a save haven for serial killers a win.

Knowing all this, what parent is stupid enough to send their kid to his spandex terror camp? I’m thinking that the parents must all be anti-mutant. They’ve probably got money on him getting them killed at some point.

“Sorry, Mr. Grey. I regret to inform you that your daughter died (again).”
“Eh. That’s okay. We knew that ginger witch was evil from the get go. No big loss.”

Oh, and are we supposed to forget that Xavier had a thing for a teenage Jean, a girl he knew since she was little? Issue #1, baby. His concern wasn’t that she was too young, but that he was confined to a wheelchair. I guess regaining the use of his legs would mean that all bets are off then, right? Talk about a class act.

Make no mistake. Xavier’s a terrible teacher, a so-so dad, a bit of a slimy human, and one lousy judge of character. Of course he’d let Angelica go back to Emma. Six of one. Half-dozen of the other. As a mutant kid, I’d take my chances in public school.

“Oh, and are we supposed to forget that Xavier had a thing for a teenage Jean, a girl he knew since she was little? Issue #1, baby. His concern wasn’t that she was too young, but that he was confined to a wheelchair.”

To be fair, he was supposed to be younger then, too.

I love that “Die mutant scum!” on the cover. So ’80s! (“Die yuppie scum!”)

Thanks for another great column!

How can you say that the X-Men made the right choice?

(1) I didn’t say it was the right choice. I said that Claremont was slowly repositioning his villains as corrupt, wrongheaded, or misguided, rather than evil. Leaving “good” characters on rival teams was part of that process. He did it with Magma too.

(2) I also think that the story’s end is intended to contrast Xavier’s respect for individual conscience and liberty with the villains willingness to deceive and coerce people. It’s obviously not 100% consistent with other stories, and it’s not 100% internally effective, but that’s the intent.

What made him a fake Spider-Man? It was a great series. I loved it as a kid and my kids would still be watching the hell out of it if it were still on Netflix.

I’d more consider most of the pre-Roger Stern Spider-Man characterizations of the 70s, minus maybe Chris Clarement, as well as David Michelinie’s Spider-Man, as “fake” Spider-Men than I would the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends Spider-Man. In-continuity comics don’t necessarily make it “real” or “accurate” to me. Same way The Incredibles was more real Fantastic Four to me than many of the in-print in-continuity versions I’ve read.

Messor –

I think that was a situation like with the Thunderbolts appearing in Hulk, right? They appeared first in Thor, but their own comic book was all set to debut?

I’m pretty sure that Firestar #3-4 took place after UXM #193.

Rene –

Yes, I believe so.

Yeah that Nicieza / Bagley run was, in my opinion the Wolfman / Perez NTT equivalent. @ great runs that fell apart when one or both of the creative team left.

Honestly, I think it was better than Wolfman/Perez because they were actually competent and able to beat villains. The problem with the New Teen Titans is that they cried too much, were way too emo, and couldn’t get clean wins over anyone unless they were henchmen or they were supervillains who were reduced to joke status. It’s a shame how it fell apart after issue #25.

I’m sorry, I meant it’s a shame how New Warriors fell apart after issue #25. New Teen Titans was problematic from inception, due to the emo, constantly-losing thing. NTT wasn’t a problem of things falling apart so much as fans realizing over time the already-existing problems.

I LOVED New Warriors up until issue 50. Once Time After Time was done it fell apart quick. My 8 year old son has started collecting comics and has fallen in love with the New Warriors also. He liked Nova from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon and saw Nova on a New Warriors cover. (Yes, I know there are different guys wearing that bucket)

Firestar was awesome (and that Amazing Friends comic was pretty well done too). There should be a movie with her, cosplay, the whole shebang. If it’s good enough for Harley, it’s good enough for her. Because no one says she isn’t real enough.

(*Sees what they’ve done with Harley*) Nevermind….

T. –

I agree with you that many “official” runs of comic book superheroes are more “fake” than stuff from adaptations. This is doubly true in the 1970s and also after the end of the Jim Shooter era, when we had weak editors or the opposite: over-controlling editors.

As for Titans versus Warriors…

Wolfman and Perez’s Titans, despite the problems, were huge in popularity and influence, and I think it’s not undeserved. There is a lot of goodness and creativity there. Definitely a high point of DC’s Bronze Age. But yeah, the problems you mention are also very evident, particularly when you conciously notice it (and then you can never un-notice it). I still love it, despite the failings.

But I also love New Warriors.

As for Wolfman’s characters being innefective, I think we already discussed this many times, but there is a sort of hierarchy of wimpiness involved. :) Not all his characters are wimps.

From more powerful to more wimpy:

1 – Bad guys created by Wolfman (Deathstroke). They kick major ass.
2 – Major bad guys not created by Wolfman (Dracula). Still very bad ass.
3 – Anti-heroes (Blade). Usually successful.
4 – Female heroes created by Wolfman (Starfire, Raven). At his level of higher, the character can still kick some ass regularly.
5 – Female heroes not created by Wolfman (Donna Troy, Rachel van Helsing). Still respectable.
6 – Guest starring heroes. Not hit as bad by wimpiness.
6 – Protagonist heroes created by Wolfman (Cyborg). Loses more often than wins.
7 – Protagonist heroes not created by Wolfman (Dick Grayson, Wally West, Frank Drake, Spider-Man). Total wimp. Total loser.

Rene, I totally agree with that hierarchy. Even Batman wasn’t immune to it. I remember when Wolfman did his infamous Batman versus Deathstroke fight and even he, as a #7 in the hierarchy, went down like a total wimp to Deathstroke, a #1 on the hierarchy.

Andrew Collins

March 17, 2016 at 5:59 pm

There’s actually 2 of those advertising supplement comics featuring the Amazing Friends. Besides the Denver one you have pictured, there was one done the same year for a newspaper in Dallas that had the trio interacting with a production of the Nutcracker Ballet that was being put on in Dallas at the time. I stumbled across a listing for it a few years ago and it instantly fell into the “must have” column. It’s wonderfully surreal in a way, but my favorite of those early comics is still the one-shot with Green Goblin.

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