Friday, August 24, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Brimstone

When I got serious as a Martian Manhunter fan in 1996, I went online to research the character, and found that there weren't very many people who had information to offer. U.S. Navy Commander (RET) Adam Benson was the best guide, as he patrolled the DC Comics Message Board under the handle "Commander Steel," but his wisdom was just a starting point in an ongoing pursuit of Alien Atlas understanding. For instance, one of the most integral elements of a super-hero is their collection of villains, among which Benson only really offered two prospects. In the late '90s, I coined the term "Vile Menagerie" in reference to the Martian Manhunter's rogues gallery, and set about filling it with even the most tangential foes, to increase awareness and initiate codification. In the early days of this blog, I put together a list of nearly a hundred such threats. In retrospect, that was quite simply too many, diluting the pool of Manhunter "owned" bad guys with more familiar but less unique adversaries.

To clear out the excess, we've been running weekly polls to keep or out characters I'd initially tagged for the VM. There's been some success on that front with the likes of Amos Fortune, Lobo, Doctor Light, Doomsday, and Libra being shown out of the circle. More recent matches have been close though, and tenuous selections like Professor Ivo have managed to hang on (by 57% of 14 votes.) I'm hoping Firestorm Fans can assist in a more conclusive repossession.

Brimstone has appeared in something like 35 comics, but at least half of those were flashbacks or tie-ins to his debut appearances during the Legends mini-series. As a colossal flaming construct of Apokolips, Brimstone battled Firestorm, Cosmic Boy, Task Force X, and the New Justice League of America (A.K.A. the "Detroit Era," though they had technically moved back to New York by that point.) In an uncommon bout of stupidity, J'Onn J'Onzz (the hero with a catastrophic vulnerability to fire) flew at the (inflamed) creature, and was swatted away. That was pretty much the end of their first battle, and it eventually fell on the Suicide Squad to destroy Brimstone later in Legends. However, Firestorm devoted an issue of his comic to an initial battle with Brimstone, was the guy who alerted the Detroit League to the threat, and proceeded to fight him some more.

Firestorm has tangled with Brimstone in four issues of his solo comic at three different points in time, not to mention all the tie-in books the Nuclear Man turned up in as part of that first battle in Legends. Brimstone appeared in the first two issues of The Ray's solo series and a Cosmic Boy mini-series. It was in three straight issues of the pre-New 52 Teen Titans book, plus a stray issue of Superman/Batman. In animation, Brimstone took on a trio of Justice League Unlimited members, soundly defeating Captain Atom but eventually being ended by Supergirl and especially Green Arrow.

I say again, Green Arrow. Heaven help you when you're fighting Green Arrow villains.

The only other appearance that I failed to mention was in Justice League Task Force #30. The Underworld Unleashed tie-in featured a Neron-augmented-but-Earthly-recreation of Brimstone. In one of those rarely seen "Martian Manhunter is a true pimp" comics, the Alien Atlas dispatched Shrapnel (primarily a Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad concern,) Sledge (a forgotten Guy Gardner foil) and the aforementioned ersatz Brimstone with the minimum amount of mercy allowable while remaining in character.

It's tough to argue a single hero's "owning" Brimstone as a solo villain, but if anyone had a case, it would be Firestorm. It would definitely not be the green guy whose total time battling Brimstone would best be numbered in panels rather than pages, much less issues. Brimstone is a leftover from a period where Vile Menagerie inclusions were set to minimum resistance and maximum kitchen sinkage. He's a scripture quoting goon in a wrestler's one-piece, and we don't need him around here.

The Irredeemable Shag further argues the case today at Firestorm Fan, but there's longstanding ammunition on the site through the spotlight Rogue’s Gallery: Brimstone and the beast's Mayfair Games’ DC Heroes Role-Playing Stats. Given that Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch have recently been forming a giant flaming monster called Fury, can a New 52 Brimstone to face the creature really be that far behind?


Outburst said...

I agree with Shag - he's got a strong connection to Firestorm.
Admittedly, you would think Brimstone would make for a great villain for Jonn since he's basically fire incarnate but you could say that about any fire-powered character. If I'm not mistaken Jonn told Firestorm to watch his proximity in the Justice League and Legends days.

will_in_chicago said...

If J'Onn only had panels with a villain, I think it probably should be strong grounds to remove said villain from the Vile Menagerie.

Omega Agent1 said...

To me Brimstone belongs to the Squad. A bad guy that could even face each member individually based on the hate he could have for them from legends. That's just me though.

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