Human beings have always had an ongoing relationship with fire. It cooks our food, keeps us warm, and lights up our lives when lightbulbs aren’t available. At the same time, we’ve learned to respect fire’s power and fear its effects when left unchecked. Naturally, and especially in the comics field, multiple characters have popped up wielding this natural and elemental force. While there are just as many bad guys who use fire for bad ends—DC’s Firefly and Marvel’s Dormammu come to mind—more often the good guys use flames to protect the innocent. Here are four fire-themed superheroes who bring the heat and for whom we’re carrying a huge torch.
The Human Torch
Have a date with the Human Torch? Bring the right kind of fire hose. Most comic fans are probably familiar with Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, who’s burned brightly as Marvel’s Human Torch since his creation in 1961 by comics giants Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Comic book science being what it is, Johnny can surround his entire body with flames without somehow immolating himself and has reached supernova-level temperatures now and again. Unfortunately, he’s still subject to fire’s usual weaknesses, namely water and a lack of oxygen.
While not as famous as DC supervillain Harley Quinn, superhero Firestar (secret identity Angelica Jones) made the switch from a TV cartoon character to a comic series regular. Originally appearing in the kids’ series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1983), Firestar fought crime by controlling heat and firing massively hot blasts of energy—and she can fly! Retconned to be a mutant, she appears mostly in X-Men-related titles.
Created by comics writers Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich and artist Mike Ploog, Ghost Rider started as a very ‘70s superhero with his racing leathers, fiery motorcycle, and flaming skull head. Likely inspired by the career of motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel, Ghost Rider was a demon named Zarathos grafted to motorcyclist Johnny Blaze’s soul by Marvel’s version of the Devil, Mephisto. The ordinarily evil Zarathos transformed Blaze into a chopper-riding vengeance demon, who’d sling actual hellfire and punish especially bad people with his soul-searing penance stare when criminality reared its head. Several other characters have also used the Ghost Rider name throughout the years.
The last of our four fire-themed superheroes who bring the heat is Firestorm: The Nuclear Man. The flame-headed hero has not one but two secret identities since a nuclear accident fused teenager Ronnie Raymond and nuclear physicist Dr. Martin Stein. Developed by comics creators Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, Firestorm served up a slew of interesting quirks and powers. For example, Ronnie remained in control of the Firestorm persona since Dr. Stein was unconscious during the accident. Nevertheless, Stein can offer advice and suggestions on how to use their shared powers. These involved nuclear flame-throwing and pyrokinesis, flight, matter manipulation, intangibility, and others, including, perhaps, the ability to toast marshmallows on his head.