It was in just the second episode of The Flash that fans got their very first mention of yet another DC Comic superhero on their way to The CW's shared universe: Ronnie Raymond a.k.a. Firestorm - played by Robbie Amell (The Tomorrow People). As yet another victim of the S.T.A.R. Labs disaster that blessed the good - and bad - of Central City with metahuman abilities, Amell has offered the first details about what fans can expect. And from the sound of it, Ronnie's return will be a painful one.
While the hero known as as 'Firestorm: The Nuclear Man' may not be as much of a household name as The Flash or his other Justice League colleagues, the show's writers have claimed that Ronnie's role alongside Barry was conceived of from the very start. Playing the part of Caitlin Snow's (Danielle Panabaker) presumed-dead fiancé - with Episode 2 offering the first 'Ronnie' name-drop - Raymond's path to superheroics makes that of either Barry Allen or Oliver Queen seem like child's play.
In the original comic books, Raymond was caught in an experimental physics catastrophe that fused the teenager with the brilliant Dr. Martin Stein. As two men occupying a single body, it was Ronnie who controlled their physical form (and powers), with Stein merely a disembodied voice within his head; often supplying the brains needed to put his control over matter and chemistry into practice.
With that origin story to draw from, Amell explains to THR that The Flash writers aren't lightening the tone to match that of the show, but going the extra mile to make Ronnie's transformation a darker reflection of Barry's:
"You meet Ronnie Raymond tomorrow [in "Fastest Man Alive"] and then in December, you meet Firestorm. It'll take a minute before Firestorm turns back into Ronnie because when they find him in December, my character is really going through some stuff. He's schizophrenic, doesn't know what's happening, he's confused and dangerous to the people around him. You may not see Ronnie Raymond for a little while, but you'll see Firestorm.
"It's a huge difference. People will barely recognize him in December, but they'll know it's him when the fire bursts in the hands and the fire bursts in the head. The particle accelerator almost killed Ronnie and the fallout from it will definitely be seen in December... It's tough because when Firestorm comes back, it should be this great reunion but Firestorm is so far removed from Ronnie Raymond that it's not quite the reunion people will be hoping for."
Comic fans will know there is plenty of room for writers to make Ronnie's powers more a curse than a blessing; modern writers have taken that route many times, framing the fusion of two people into a single hero as a painful one. And the belief that Ronnie is "schizophrenic" speaks directly to that fusion - initially unable to make sense of the new voice inside his own head. That's not even addressing the fact that his hands and head are perpetually burning.
It's also been officially announced that role of the 'voice in his head' a.k.a. Dr. Martin Stein will be played by Victor Garber (Argo, Titanic). Beyond embracing the chance to act with the veteran Canadian actor, Amell provides a few more details on how closely the show's incarnation of Firestorm will keep to the original comics run:
"It's the best! It's so awesome! I worked with Victor Garber on a TV movie a couple years ago and he was awesome. He's so freakin' talented and it doesn't hurt that my fiancee is the biggest Titanic fan I've ever met. She's more excited about me working with Victor Garber than anything else. I gotta start watching Alias and start working on my Victor Garber impression. Sometimes Firestorm is Ronnie and sometimes he's Martin Stein, but physically it's going to be my body. I'm just excited to work opposite him because, I mean, he's Victor Garber. The fact that I get to share a character with this guy is going to be really fun."
How Ronnie/Martin will come to grips with their new existence, and whether they'll be able to separate or fuse when needed - or be forever bonded - are all questions that will likely be answered in December's episodes. But there's no denying that Amell's past work makes him a strong fit for the role (confirmed by the actor to be the "hands-on mechanic" at S.T.A.R. Labs prior to the explosion). And Garber is a talent The CW is certainly happy to have on board.
And although Amell admits to have had only a little knowledge of Firestorm when he landed the part, he has done his homework in the meantime; the showrunners made sure of it:
"I got a care package from DC with a couple comics and a couple action figures. My mom went out to a comic book store and bought out every Firestorm piece of merchandise they had, and I dove head-first into the universe. I think I'm going to do something that Firestorm fans will like.
"I hadn't seen the pilot [when I filmed that episode], but I'm glad I hadn't since the flashbacks happen at the same time as the pilot. I got to walk into it as completely blank slate. We shot the celebratory scene first, which was great; it's always exciting coming into a new project... I've only seen a couple clips; I'm excited to watch the episode tomorrow night. I've become a big fan of the show."
Going by The Flash's early ratings, he isn't alone. And if he manages to find his stride with a cast already showing off its chemistry, then Ronnie Raymond's nuclear powers will be an addition that comic fans will definitely get behind. What do you make of his casting or description of Ronnie's early arc? Does this sound like a welcome change for the show or are you more interested in seeing his human side?
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.