Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1988 Justice League International Postcards: Green Flame

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Art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein

Once a member of the Global Guardians, Beatriz DaCosta of Brazil is able to breathe hot or cold flame, as well as create illusions with sparks radiating from her eyes as the beautiful and deadly Green Flame!

I started out reading DC Comics, but didn't keep up with them very well in the latter half of the Bronze Age. In the early '80s, DC Comics pretty much were still just for kids, and something like the Super Friends tie-in comic was for really little kids, like Spidey Super-Stories. That's where the Green Flame made her debut, joining the Global Guardians, an Up With People for the cape set. Maybe those guys would have amounted to something if the token Super Powers like Apache Chief, Black Vulkan, Samurai, Pharoh, and El Dorado had ended up there. As it was, I didn't know they existed until after Keith Giffen had begun disbanding and deconstructing them in the wake of the Justice League going International. The JLI had already lost the new Dr. Light (or more frankly, never really wanted her in the first place,) and Mike Grell was about to force Black Canary into a brief retirement. DC was light on available heroines to keep the League from becoming a total sausage factory, so Giffen and DeMatteis took the minor Global Guardians Green Flame and Ice Maiden, made them best friends, and rebranded them as the duo Fire & Ice.

Beatriz da Costa went through a few different silly origins and names, but mainly, she ran around in ugly costumes breathing fire. DC took advantage of the Invasion! crossover to amp her up into the Human Torch with a more bodacious body. Mostly, she was defined by her being a counterpart to Ice. Bea was extraverted, flirty, quick to anger, worldly and pseudo-stylish. Adopting the worst excesses of the glammed-up, hair metal decade, Fire eventually ran around in torn skintight jeans, bare midrift, denim jacket and bandana. As with many DC teams of the time, the JLI had its designated females. Bea stayed with the team through several incarnations, until her home book was finally cancelled (see also: Donna Troy, Jade, Vixen, half the cast of the Outsiders.) I don't know that people really cared all that much about Fire as a character. I know I sure didn't. You just expected her to be there and accepted it, like fries with a combo. After Ice was turned into a bitchier version of Fire, so that people actively disliked the change, she was killed off in a crossover. DC just gave Bea another, variant version of Ice that was created mostly because Giffen and DeMatteis had so thoroughly altered their Ice from her original incarnation. Fire became a thoroughly sad character, existing not of her own volition, but as someone to mourn Ice, to reject the sapphic advances of a second Ice, or to sleep with Ice's ex-boyfriend because they were so lonely without Ice. In one particularly regretable appearance, Fire devolved into Charro, fronting coochie-coo and broken English while whining about the Martian Manhunter being more popular in her homeland than she was.

One of Fire's origins involved her being a spy, so she eventually joined Checkmate and moped about the passing of happier days, a shameful past in black-ops, and being in a doomed book like Checkmate. Ice was eventually resurrected, renewing Fire's primary purpose in life as the character's "big sister," and they both joined a new JLI distinct from the old by not being distinct from any other damned second-to-third tier super-team. It suits her. Fire's been a businesswoman, a secret agent, a fashion model, a Valley Girl, a saucy Latina, a mourner... whatever the writers decided they needed, Fire got plugged into. For a while, she was supposed to be the strong female in a buddy team, but that was all heated air. If you Google "Fire" without any additional qualifiers, the character turns up eighteen pages later. That about says it right.

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