Growing up in the ‘90s, I would’ve killed for surge of comic book movies we have now. Over ten X-Men related films, an actual Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s 22 movies deep, I wouldn’t have been able to even conceive of that when Marvel’s only theatrical feature was Howard the Duck. But at the same time, I gleefully accepted what we had. I was a very grateful young fan. I didn’t need films when I had a surge of Marvel cartoons, all in their own vaguely connected universe. But other than the two Pizza Hut tie-in videos of X-Men: The Animated Series, my Marvel home video library consisted almost entirely of cartoons from several years before I was born. From the Spider-Woman and Spider-Man 1980 cartoons, the Human Torch-less Fantastic Four, and my most favorite of all, a single episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends called “The X-Men Adventure.”
This episode was the thing that made me fall in love with Spider-Man/X-Men crossovers. It was also my introduction to Firestar. As a kid already eating up comics by that time, it frustrated me that I never seemed to pick up any comics with her in them, only later realizing that she’d been created for the cartoon before making her way into the comics. This is obviously not unheard of, as it happened with both Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series and even another X-Men character, Laura Kinney AKA X-23, who made her first appearance in X-Men Evolution.
I don’t know what it was exactly about Firestar that made me so fascinated by that first exposure to her. It might very well be the fact that she was the only character I was seeing who I didn’t already know. It could also be that Firestar was the one driving the plot of “The X-Men Adventure.” She’s the protagonist of that episode, with even Spider-Man taking a bit of a backseat as she sets out to stop the nefarious Cyberiad after realizing the cyborg is her former lover, Nathan. It’s extremely silly, but at the time, watching it when I was five or six, it was incredibly engaging and I empathized with her deeply despite having no frame of reference for absolutely any of the things she was experiencing.
Every now and then, I’d catch a few episodes of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on TV, but they were rare in the days of my much more beloved X-Men and Spider-Man animates series of the ‘90s. At one point, I did catch her origin episode alongside the origin of Spider-Man that was completely reworked for Amazing Friends. But for the most part, my exposure to Firestar was limited to one episode of one show and she was still a character I was fascinated by. When I was lucky enough to see her pop up in a comic, it’d be in the background of a crossover event like Maximum Carnage.
As I got older and got deeper into comics, though, I’d be delighted every time I came across Firestar and actively set out to learn more about her, leading me to her original solo miniseries, and that’s when I really fell in love with the character. Everything you need for the making of a great X-Man is in there without… actually making her a member of the X-Men.
The comic involves Angelica Jones as a budding mutant trying to keep her powers a secret from a father who pretty much abhors mutantkind. Hers is at the onset a classic, always relatable story. She doesn’t want this, she wants to go to high school, she wants to have friends and date and it’s not that she’s necessarily ashamed or even afraid of her powers. It’s just that she doesn’t want her life to change. Eventually, though, it becomes clearer and clearer that something will need to be done as her powers grow stronger and stronger.
One of the best things about this miniseries, though, is that it takes into account all of the different factions of mutants in the Marvel Universe and shows what happens to the people that the X-Men don’t reach in time. It’s a story about them being too late to recruit a girl and kind of thinking nothing of it, so she’s indoctrinated into Emma Frost’s Hellions instead. While that really doesn’t seem like that big a deal now, as Emma’s been reformed for over twenty years, she was once the White Queen of the Hellfire Club and in her early appearances was portrayed as a fairly evil woman. In the Firestar miniseries, she is very much a villain, but there’s a cunning and a sharp wit present even in this portrayal that continue to define her character to this day.
It’s the relationship between Firestar and Emma presented here, though, that really make me wish Angelica played a bigger role in the Marvel or even X-Men universe at large. After all, Emma has become one of the most prominent X-Men over the past twenty years, largely thanks to her joining the team in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and being a mainstay ever since.
In the miniseries, she’s a mentor to Firestar and just about the only mentor she has. We’ve seen enough from her home life to get that Angelica was raised without a mother, and it’s easy to make the connection that—spoken or not—that’s the relationship she finds with Emma. And Emma so clearly recognizes this and leans into it because she sees so much potential for destruction in her, sees so many different ways she can use her, and over the development of their relationship that’s exactly what she does.
It’s such a sad, manipulative, abusive relationship between the two women because one thinks she’s gaining a mother and the other thinks she’s gaining a weapon. Emma goes to insane lengths to assure Firestar stays devoted to her cause, to the point of ensuring she has no friends so that she has no distractions and stays focused, and even murdering her goddamn horse.
At the end of the miniseries, she confronts and—after realizing her full potential—easily defeats Emma. She turns down the offer to join the X-Men because it’s not like she was going to walk away from all of that without trust issues. Even now I can’t help but think that that one miniseries has the perfect grounds for a feature film. Its three act structure is off the charts. Even if the dialogue can get silly as it often did in ‘80s Marvel, the emotional resonance is so, so strong.
More than that, though, there’s no reason for Firestar not to be a regular part of the X-Men books just for everything set up in this series alone. While it might be a little much to throw Emma and Firestar on a team together, at least have them interact sometimes, because there’s so much wasted potential when that keeps not happening. Firestar, if used right, could be a constant reminder for Emma of the person she used to be. She puts a face to some of the worst things Emma’s ever done. Joss Whedon kind of used Kitty Pryde for this purpose in Astonishing X-Men and the complicated relationship there was very strong, because Kitty was abducted by Emma in her very first comic book appearance. But kidnapping the X-Men is kind of just a Tuesday for the average super villain. She didn’t kill Kitty’s horse.
The mini-series also laid to rest a major reason you would maybe not include Firestar in comics all the time, which is that the Marvel Universe is chock full of fire-based characters. Even on the X-Men side of things, you’ve got Sunfire and Pyro and Sunspot and countless others. But the explanation for her abilities in that original solo series really helped to clear some things up, because it established what made her power different. Firestar isn’t just a fire-powered character, her abilities are actually radiation based. She’s essentially a human microwave. And that allows for a lot of different ways to play around with heat and radioactivity so that she’s not just a lady Human Torch.
Unfortunately, after her dynamic solo mini, Firestar didn’t appear again until she was drafted into New Warriors, the only comic she’d appear in for a long, long time. Admittedly, I didn’t always keep up with it and when I would read it, it would only be because Firestar was in it. Guardians of the Galaxy proved without a doubt that there’s really no such thing as a D-List series because any book or team can rise to prominence if there’s the right story to tell, but at the same time, New Warriors is at least C-List. And it’s not that great stories can’t or haven’t been told featuring the team, but only that Marvel was clearly never all that invested in the book or its characters. This was made abundantly clear in the mid-2000s. New Warriors didn’t have a lot of eyes on it at the time so a choice was made to use this group to kick off an event that would last at least a year’s worth of comics and would affect every single title. That event was Civil War and because of it, the New Warriors will probably always be best known for accidentally becoming domestic terrorists. Unlike Scarlet Witch’s accidental bomb blast in the movie, it was the superhero Speedball who wound up leveling a small town, killing thousands and leading to the immediate push for the Superhero Registration Act.
Marvel wouldn’t have risked the Avengers or X-Men or any, well, non-disposable team on kicking off a story like that. The New Warriors were kind of treated like a forgotten joke team, which would make their horrific, inept actions all the more shocking. It’s not the best team for Firestar to be associated with, at least in the cosmic sense, even though the title often saw some pretty integral character development for both her and her teammates.
Firestar’s only other solo appearance is a one-shot from 2010, which I went into somewhat hesitantly because I hadn’t read the character in a few years. So, things that likely weren’t meant to be surprises or twists in that issue definitely felt that way to me because I was completely unaware of the latest development to her character, which was the fact that Angelica had cancer at the time. It is such a dynamic, powerful image to see Firestar out stopping crime, doing her thing, looking a little weak but not saying why, and then returning home when all is said and done, running a hand through her iconic red hair and then removing it because it’s a wig and she has lost her hair.
In the 1980s, we got four issues that were powerful and strong and should have led to a solo series. In 2010, we got one issue that was powerful and strong for completely different reasons and absolutely should have led to a solo series because how do you not write that book. A comic about a superhero who is continuing to fight the fight while battling cancer is so dynamic. That’s a story worth telling. While we’ve got Deadpool, who is also a cancer survivor, I think Firestar’s story is entirely different and it truly should have played out in her own series or at the very least in the pages of a main X-Men title. It’s not just that great things can be done with the character. Great things have been done with the character, but every time they happened, no one wanted to keep the ball rolling. Every time, it just dropped with a thud and damn if Firestar doesn’t at least deserve more than that.
Angelica is a character with a unique perspective who has had experiences unlike anyone around her, she brings a different voice to the table, or at least she would if she were ever invited at all. Sure, she was a member of Amazing X-Men for a while and that was nice. But other than that, recently, if you wanted to see Firestar in a comic you’d maybe find her in the background of an X-Men crossover event or getting killed off in a single panel alongside her Amazing Friends co-stars in the pages of Spider-Verse.
Firestar’s been through a lot. Her story is emotional, she’s been manipulated, she’s had a lot of trust issues, she’s a cancer survivor, and her story deserves to be told beyond fragmented, often cancelled arcs and brief glimpses here and there. That, if anything, is how she continues to live up to her unfortunate high school moniker of “Miss Angelica Jinx.” Because even after thirty plus years of publishing history, the poor girl still hasn’t come close to catching a break.