July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #119: Gunfire

A DC summer crossover event intended to create new heroes. Most of them sucked.

DC Comics did a series of summer crossover events with its various Annuals, some better than others, and often with a purpose, like making minor DC bad guy Eclipso a major villain in the DCU.

In 1993, the crossover was called Bloodlines and was intended to create a new bunch of heroes and villains to hang around with the different DC heroes.  Most of them were flops.  A few got a series of their own that didn’t last long.  One such one to try out a solo series went by the name of Gunfire.

First off, let’s quickly cover all things Bloodlines.  Giant xenomorph-like aliens came through a dimensional rift to the DC Universe.  After a brief confrontation with Lobo and some members of the planetary police force L.E.G.I.O.N., they made their way to Earth.  Possessing some minor shapeshifting abilities, they could make themselves look somewhat human, but to feed, they’d assume their natural forms and suck the spinal fluid out of the base of a victim’s neck.  Most people died that way, but a select handful not only survived but gained superpowers.  There was sometimes a bit of temporary amnesia, but generally there would then be a team-up between the new character and whoever the nominal star of the annual was to fight off the parasite until the whole batch were defeated at the end of the storyline with the help of the new characters.

A parasite at work.

All but one of the new Bloodlines heroes was quickly forgotten, and I’ll get to the memorable one here before we’re done.  Part of the problem was many of these new characters were either repetitive or lame, with “cool” 90s names like Ballistic, Shadowstryke, Nightblade, and Jamm.  These were gimmick heroes with repetitive superpowers that the reading audience just didn’t care much for.  Heck, a few never really appeared again after the annual that introduced them, or disappeared not long after the Bloodlines story was over.  If there are appearances by any of them in the years since the original story, they seem to appear just to be killed.  Heck, Superboy-Prime vaporized four or five of them in a pair of panels during the Infinite Crisis as they were battling longtime DC baddie Solomon Grundy, and Grundy at least can come back from the dead as part of his regular abilities.  A couple did appear with the hero they were introduced with by the same creative team to various effects, but then if the original team moved on, the character was once again forgotten.

Such was the case of Gunfire, who may have had one of the more original power sets, but definitely had a lame 90s name.  Andrew Van Horn was the son of a successful businessman.  When one of the parasites killed Van Horn’s father and then slurped down Andrew’s spinal fluid, Andrew survived.  He realized the alien was slaughtering the company’s employees, donned a suit of protective armor, and then went off to deal with things.  He had a run-in with the annual’s title character, Deathstroke, before the two teamed up to fight the alien.

What power did Andrew, now calling himself Gunfire, have?  He could, well, excite the molecules in any object and “shoot” them off as a gun-like blast. Granted, doing this too many times with the same object would cause said object to disintegrate when it didn’t have enough molecules left to hold itself together, but that meant that anything in Gunfire’s hands could be used as a gun.

It didn’t have to look like a gun either. But, that probably helped.

So, really, that’s all there is about Gunfire.  So, you may be wondering, why pick him of all the new Bloodlines heroes to write about?  He wasn’t the only one to get his own series, though like most, his quickly disappeared due to extreme lack of interest.  Like many characters like himself, he does get drawn into backgrounds for group shots when needed.  Heck, Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis depicted him in Limbo with other forgotten heroes like the members of the Inferior FiveAce the Bat-Hound, and a few other Bloodlines creations.

But there was one successful Bloodlines character.  He got a solo series that ran for 60 or so  issues, and has popped back up from time to time with a spin-off or sequel.  That was Hitman, created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea in an annual for The Demon during their run on that book.

Here’s the thing about Hitman:  though he initially had mind-reading and x-ray vision, those powers gradually faded away and he got to barely using them as they gave him terrible headaches.  Also, Ennis never cared much for superheroes, so what Hitman the series was about was a somewhat regular lowlife guy who worked as a hitman-for-hire in Gotham City.  Generally below Batman’s radar, Tommy Monaghan had adventures that could vary from super-serious to supremely silly (though generally always violent…the humor in Hitman tended towards the dark end).  And since Ennis never cared much for superheroes in general, aside from a single issue with a guest appearance by Superman (the one hero Ennis reportedly likes), guest star heroes were treated like boobs or obstacles.  Ennis wasn’t above putting commentary on massive crossover events he may have been editorially forced to involve his work in, if he bothered to address such things at all, like when No Man’s Land was running and it seemed to have minimal effect on Tommy’s day-to-day life aside from a comment here or there about how Batman is too proud an idiot to let to his superhuman friends help out Gotham City when it really needs it.

What does Hitman have to do with Gunfire?  Well, Ennis decided to mock Gunfire a bit.  See, DC did another of it’s big crossovers called DC One Million.  The basic concept was that the Justice League of the 853rd century (AKA the time when the one millionth issue of Action Comics would drop if the series is still running in monthly format by then) switched placed with members of the original League to celebrate whatever a certain milestone made clear by the end of the series.  As part of the event, JLA writer Grant Morrison plotted every issue of every DC Comic for that month to fit into his storyline.  He made one exception:  Hitman.  He knew Ennis would mock the concept and decided not to interfere.

What happened there was that a group of computer nerds in the 853rd century wanted the totem of power of some long-forgotten superhero and decided on Hitman, a hero they knew nothing about aside from some really way off legends (like how for them, Tommy’s best overweight male friend Natt the Hat was Tommy’s love interest, the beautiful Natalie).  And then parodies of various (mostly Marvel) heroes showed up to do the sorts of things heroes do in an Ennis comic, the first being the Gunfire of the 853rd century.

This guy.

And then he accidentally injured himself with his own powers.

That sounds about right to me.