SUPER-BUDDIES: Giffen/DeMatteis on FIRE & ICE

Welcome back to SUPER-BUDDIES, an interview series at Comicosity looking at those enduring friendships that comic books have brought us over the years — how they came to be and where they are now!

Last time we looked at Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, so it’s only fair we take a look at their female counterparts (or betters even) — Fire & Ice!

And once again, bringing them into a brand new adventure are the two guys who brought them together in the first place: writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. I had the enormous pleasure of chatting with these gentlemen about how the Blue and the Gold came to be, and now we continue the conversation with Fire & Ice. But first…

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Where did it all begin?

Names: Fire (Beatriz Bonilla DaCosta) and Ice (Tora Olafsdotter)
Alternate names: Green Flame and Icemaiden
Published by: DC Comics

First official meeting: Justice League International #12 (1988)
Currently appearing in: Justice League 3000

Readers didn’t get to see the first meeting of fiery Beatriz DaCosta and timid Tora Olafsdotter, but it’s clear that the two were fast friends. Representatives of their home countries of Brazil and Norway respectively, the women who would become known to the world as Fire & Ice started off as members of an elite group of international heroes named The Global Guardians. Brought together by the mysterious Doctor Mist, the Global Guardians all had careers in their homelands and most had assisted the Justice League of America at one time or another. But as team, they were considered the elite force to be reckoned with the world over.

Everywhere except America. And once the premiere American team went International — taking the Guardians’ United Nations status and funding with it — the heroines then known as Green Flame and Icemaiden had no choice but to pursue their own dreams.

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Arriving at the doorstep of the New York embassy of the newly-christened Justice League International, Beatriz and Tora (mostly Beatriz) wouldn’t take no for an answer. Fortunately, a well-timed alien invasion and a kindly leader in the Martian Manhunter landed the two women onto the team, and so the legend of Fire & Ice was born!

Quickly becoming instrumental to the team (and foils to another pair of best friend, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold), Fire & Ice were inseparable throughout many adventures. Even after the team lost its international status, both women remained, serving during the time of Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday and right up until Tora was called home to Norway to fulfill her role as goddess of the land and defend her father’s throne from her mad brother.

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Leaving Beatriz behind proved to be a fatal mistake, as Ice soon fell prey to the mental control of the Overmaster, an invading alien seeking to destroy the world. Overcoming his power, Tora ultimately sacrificed herself to save the Justice League — and in fact, the entire earth — from their antagonist.

To say Tora’s death affected Fire deeply would be an understatement. She would continue to serve with the Justice League for some time, but found herself paired with another Norwegian hero, Sigrid Nansen, the original Ice Maiden. Sigrid’s eager-to-please nature and attraction to Beatriz combined with Fire’s longing for her lost best friend was a problematic combination to say the least. They ended their term with the Justice League and parted ways, leaving Fire still as angry and alone as ever.

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When Maxwell Lord reunited members of the Justice League International to form his new super-hero-for-hire team, the Super-Buddies, Fire was one of the first calls he made. Beatriz reluctantly rejoined her comrades, and met a new ingenue to take under her wing — Mary Marvel. Mary had many of the qualities that Fire found she needed from her best friend Ice, but it was not to be.

And then, tragedy struck again. As the team landed up in Hell as a result of a foolish accident (Booster!), Beatriz discovered the worst was true — Tora was there, suffering in the afterlife. And when the gambit to return her to the land of the living failed, Fire was once again crushed.

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Beatriz left the Super-Buddies to serve as a Knight in Amanda Waller’s Checkmate forces, partly as a result of blackmail from the White Queen herself, and partly out of grief never resolved. It was during this time that a miracle occurred — Ice was found alive in Azerbaijan by the Birds of Prey, encased in a Rocket Red exoskeleton and about to be sold to the highest bidder.

Rescued and returned to America, Ice was at last reunited with Fire and the best friends have been inseparable ever since.

It is believed that this is where history diverges for the duo. In one reality, the two rejoined their Justice League colleagues once again, this time not brought together by Maxwell Lord for good, but in order to oppose him in the wake of his return from the dead. Still unpunished for the murder of Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, Lord was able to amplify his mind control powers and make the entire planet (save the JLI) forget his existence. It is during this adventure that Tora recants a new origin to Fire, one that precludes her previously believed status as a goddess.

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In another reality (of the New 52), Fire & Ice are charter members of a Justice League International led by Booster Gold, a U.N.-supported version of the Justice League that was tasked with doing that organization’s explicit bidding. Their tenure would not be lengthy, however, as both women were injured in the team’s first extended adventure and sidelined not long before the team disbanded. It is unknown whether Fire & Ice followed their teammates Godiva (of England) and August General in Iron (of China) in helping to form a new group of heroes — the Global Guardians.

What is most certain, however, is that neither of these histories correspond with Fire & Ice’s next appearance — in the future world inhabited by the Justice League 3000. How each woman survived into the thirty-first century is still unclear, but one thing is for sure: they’ll be there together.

 
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Why are these ladies friends?

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis share their thoughts…

Matt Santori: Thinking back to Fire & Ice’s first appearances in Justice League International, why did you consider bringing in female best friends to mirror Beetle and Booster?

FireIce2Keith Giffen: I believe it was [editor] Andy Helfer that sat down with me and said, “Why don’ t you use a couple of Global Guardians?” Because we had been playing around with them a little bit in the Justice League book, using them as guest stars. Andy was really interested in that, how the Global Guardians concept played off of the “Justice League International.”

So, OK. No offense to the Global Guardians or anyone who came up with any of these characters, but we figured, let’s take the lamest characters.

Fire was originally called Green Flame. She could spit green flame. She was a human Bic lighter. That’s all she could do. She couldn’t burst into flames. She could spit on you and a little flame would come out.

And Ice was an ice goddess. And that’s all they ever said about her.

Fire. Ice. OK, we’ll work with that. We were thinking more in terms of opposites at the start, but again, the characters decided they didn’t want to go in that direction. They became… sort of the female version of Beetle and Booster.

J.M. DeMatteis: It was nice to have someone like Ice, whose personality wasn’t actively in your face. Someone who held back and was reserved. And who can stand out. And that’s why she worked so beautifully with Guy Gardner. You take the most obnoxious character on the team and this very reserved woman, and put them together. That was from Keith.

KG: You know what it was? I based Fire, somewhat shamelessly, on this actress who would show up every so often on David Letterman and would get him truly flustered. Her name was Iris Chaćon. Very fiery Latina.

 

When it came to Ice, I knew I had to play against Fire, so I went with a very shy, reserved character. I also kind of liked the idea that between the fiery, outgoing one and the shy, reserved one, it’s the shy one that’s really calling the shots. That kind of appealed to me.

Eventually, the characters took off on their own, and I was just following them around, curious to see what they’d get into next.

MSG: You also had an opportunity to write them apart, in I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, where Ice was dead. How did that narrative work for you?

KG: We did not kill Ice. Ice was killed by somebody else. We inherited “Dead Ice.”

All I could think was, “She’s an ice goddess. She can’t die. She’s a goddess.” That was when we came up with the idea that she died, and there was a bureaucratic mistake in Hell. They thought they had Fire, so she was living in Fire’s Hell.

If I had been allowed to, I would have reversed it. I would have brought her back to life, and I would have gotten Fire and Ice back together again much earlier.

But, at that point, we had Mary Marvel in the book. She was almost fulfilling that innocent character role. If we had brought Ice back, it would have meant having two characters with the same personality beats. And we were having too much fun with Mary Marvel at that point.

JMD: That particular story is another great example of what we did. People are always saying that it was all funny, but it really wasn’t. There was a lot of drama in there. It had one of the most heart-breaking moments in any of our stories. The team is trying to get Ice out of Hell, and they’re told not to look back, but Fire can’t help it. And then she loses her. It was a very powerful moment.

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We always liked to do that. We would set up gag after gag after gag, but then hit the readers with something very powerful and very emotionally real. I thought that was a wonderful sequence and Kevin Maguire drew it so beautifully too.

That’s something we’ll continue to do with Justice League 3000, too. It’s not just Bwah-ha-ha and it’s not just super-heroics. It’s a mixture and balance of everything.

KG: We used to call it “being punched in the stomach while you’re laughing.”

JMD: Yep. Shows like M.A.S.H. and All in the Family were always able to do that so well. You’d be laughing at one scene and then, on a dime, the thing would turn and you would be floored by something really deep and really emotional.

KG: By the way, just for the record: my original plan was not Beetle and Booster. My original plan was Fire & Ice.

JMD: What do you mean?

KG: Originally, it was going to be Fire & Ice found in the cryogenic chamber in Justice League 3000. But then I thought, well, if you’re going to go, go all the way. In the back of my head, I just keep thinking, for years and years when we were doing Justice League, fans were practically begging us to do a Blue & Gold book. And DC , for whatever reason, never did. They discussed it seriously with me at one point, but it never happened.

So, I figured, it should be the Blue & Gold. I should satisfy those fans at last.

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MSG: With Ice’s reappearance in today’s Justice League 3000, will we be seeing her and Fire in similar roles or will it be an entirely new dynamic?

JMD: It’s going to be a different dynamic, yeah. We don’t want to give away too much, particularly with what’s going on with Fire. It’s going to be a little while before we see that. But, with Ice being a goddess, she’s been around all this time. A thousand years later, people change. And she has changed.

She’s the Ice Queen now and she’s seen her share. She’s not the same little demure ice goddess that we’ve seen in the past. That will change the dynamic quite a bit.

KG: Then again, I know this sounds weird, but we’re not really going to know until the characters tell us who they are.

I mean, everyone is looking at Ice right now and thinking, “Oh, they’re doing Frozen.” OK, think what you want.

JMD: Ha. That didn’t even occur to me until you just said it.

139476-102719-ice_superMSG: Yeah, not for me either.

KG: So I told Howard Porter, “Aww, screw it. Give her a braid.”

I love the fact that when we do stuff like this, fans will start to speculate about it. And I also love the fact that nine times out of ten, they are so spectacularly wrong. I get such a kick out of that.

JMD: That’s the fun of it. You want to surprise people.

MSG: Thank you both so much. Well, I’m going to have to wrap this up by being super-unprofessional for a minute and tell you just how much it means to me to be able to talk to the two of you. You were my heroes growing up. I’m so excited to see you writing together and so excited to see these characters.

JMD: Thank you, Matt! I really appreciate it.

KG: Thanks a lot! We’ve always thought of what we do as like Vaudeville, with the baggy pants and the seltzer bottles. And if people think it’s funny or great, then we get to continue doing it.


“Sure, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were the big stars way back when, but I always had an even softer spot in my heart for Fire & Ice. Neither one ever worked quite as well without the other, and when combined, they formed the perfect team.

Call me old school, but I long for the days when the Green Flame just breathed fire and Icemaiden threw snowballs. Because it was never about the powers with them. It was their friendship and perseverance as heroes that made them endearing to 12 year-old Matthew.

Also, what gay boy in-the-making wouldn’t love a sassy lady with green hair?”

Matt Santori, Comicosity

 

Where can I read more?

  • Justice League International #12-24 (1988-89)
  • Justice League America #26-60 (1989-92)
  • Justice League America #89-91; Justice League Task Force #13-15; Justice League Europe #65-67 (1994): Judgement Day
  • JLA Classified #4-9 (2005): I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League
  • Justice League: Generation Lost #1-24 (2008)
  • Justice League International #1-7 (2011-12)
  • Justice League 3000 #12- (2015)

 

Stay tuned to Comicosity for future editions of Super-Buddies, but don’t miss our previous edition: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis talking all about their other famous pair of best friends — Blue Beetle and Booster Gold!

 

 

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