19 years ago - Jason Rusch is born.
2 years ago - 17-year-old Jason becomes the new host of the Firestorm Matrix, which unstably latches onto an 2nd person. He is attacked by Henry Hewitt, but his greater degree of control allows him to defeat Hewitt and send him to prison. He soon joins the Outsiders.
1 year ago - 18-year-old Jason finds Ronnie Raymond in a coma. Ronnie awakens & becomes the new secondary host of the Matrix. Firestorm leaves the Outsiders to join the new Justice League.
now - 19-year-old Jason starts college as a chemistry major. He and Ronnie Raymond join Nightwing's Watchtower.
The character of Firestorm has a very long history, but he never really achieved an iconic status, which might have something to do with the fact that his whole character idea is pretty gonzo. He had been a background character for some time when the decision seemed to come down to kill Ronnie Raymond and give the powers to someone else. Jason Rusch's new book was a success, and the character gained new prominence that he hadn't seen in decades. It was still a hard concept to put in front of people, however, and with the very specific exception of Dwayne McDuffie's inclusion of the character in his Justice League, he never seemed to be quite as big a character as he SHOULD be.
Jason's Comic History
Jason Rusch's Firestorm first appeared thanks to the limited series Identity Crisis, after the original Firestorm was killed... seemingly with a sword?
The Firestorm Matrix went hunting for a new host, and in the pages of Firestorm Vol 3, it found high school student Jason Rusch. Unlike previous versions of the character Jason was the lone host. He would bond with a random person each time he became Firestorm, which was an interesting take on the concept but I imagine required some gymnastic acts of plotting. Eventually, he started to find classic Firestorm characters to bond with, including Firehawk (with whom there was an implied romance, despite the fact that he was in high school and she was a senator), Professor Stein (who did a lot of work to redefine just how his powers worked) and eventually the original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond.
At first it was a cool inversion to see the main host be the scientist and the mental host be the person with the adventurous, heroic spirit, but the combination of Ronnie and Jason seemed to open up avenues to slowly undermine Jason's role as host. More often than not you started to see Ronnie wearing the Matrix with Jason in his head. When the New 52 happened, the new book somehow gave them both their own Firestorm identity, undermining the whole concept of the character.
Our Jason Rusch Story
Jason is a very new hero, but even in the original comics, it was very quickly acknowledged that he was far too powerful to not be an active member of the superheroic community. We've largely done the same, showing Jason quickly being taken in by the Outsiders
Of course, we did eventually want to give the Matrix a permanent second host, and we loved the idea of Ronnie being the mentor character to Jason. The fact that the person actually driving the character and making the choices is now the scientist (even though he's still a kid) while the mentor is the fearless heroic one takes the whole concept and inverts it. instead of Professor Stein telling Ronnie how to use his powers, it's Ronnie telling Jason how to face his fears and step up as a hero.
Once this new partnership is established, It makes perfect sense for Jason and Ronnie to move on from the Outsiders and join the new Earth-based Justice League. It's a perfect place for them, and much like the way Hawkgirl continues to be a member of the Justice Society and Arsenal stays the leader of the Outsiders, Jason continues to be a member of the Justice League while he becomes one of the new members of Nightwing's Watchtower, locking him in as a core part of the future of DC.
The Firestorm costume is pretty classic, but when Jason Rusch first took on the role he had a slightly modified look that had been designed by Jim Lee. It basically streamlined the costume, getting rid of the puffy sleeves and complicating his face. It was fine, but moving forward different artists were pretty quick to bring the sleeves back. it's kind of an iconic part of the costume. Moving forward, as Ronnie and Jason started to bounce back and forth you started to see more variation on the overall concept.
We like the puffy sleeve look, but we're also not against the idea of making Jason's look new and original. It SHOULD be new and original; just perhaps not so overly simplified. While this artwork with the explosions of energy from the different circles on his chest is a picture of Ronnie, not Jason, we really like the way it innovates on the original costume with it's yellow shoulders. This would be a pretty cool look.
Also, the fact that Jason is black is a big deal than it might seem at first. It's a classic DC character being taken over by a person of color, and finding a feasible way to do that is a GOOD thing. Because of that, it really should be understood that Jason is ALWAYS the guy driving the Matrix. We want to encourage this sort of thing. Trying to suggest that they are BOTH Firestorm undermines this cool moment of representation.
Firestorm is the only character on both the Justice League AND the Watchtower. He is poised to be a major player in every story moving forward, and he SHOULD be. Firestorm was always an awesome character from the very beginning, and the only reason we never got that much of him is that he's just way too powerful for writers to consistently challenge.
But of course, those same things can be said about some of the most important characters in DC. In many ways, Jason has even more interesting challenges. The Firestorm Matrix is unstable. It shifts and alters under him, forcing him to learn about it on the fly... and there is no longer a master atomic physicist built into this character but a college kid learning about chemistry. We get to watch this young kid struggle to unlock the secrets of a miracle of science, all while wielding it to protect the planet.
Jason is young of course, and his future is wide open. I've read versions of his story that subtly suggest that he is still learning about his sexuality, so that might be a really fun thing to explore in tandem with his work to understand his powers. There's a lot that can be done with Jason in the future. All it takes is a writer willing to tackle it.