Rod Reilly was the son of rich steel tycoon “Emerald” Ed Reilly
. Bored with his life of perpetual leisure as a millionaire playboy Rod Reilly created the masked identity of the Firebrand so he could experience the thrills and adventures that had been so sorely lacking in his life. His secret was known only to his best friend, "Slugger" Dunn
, an ex-heavyweight boxer who helped train Reilly for his new role. Not even his fiancée Joan Rogers
new his duel identity. Firebrand’s calling card became a “ flaming torch of justice
” he would leave at the scene of one of his victories.
The Firebrand took on a villainous crime syndicate that had virtually taken over the city, only to find himself mistakenly accused of being the syndicate's leader. The criminals planted his flaming torch of justice at the crime scene, implicating him. Though wanted by both the police and the mob, Firebrand continued to fight crime until the early days of World War Two.
Firebrand was one of many heroes created for Quality Comics
by Eisner and Iger Studios. Eisner and Iger Studios, sometimes abbreviated as Eisner & Iger, was an art syndication company founded by comics greats Will Eisner
and Jerry Iger
. During the years 1936 to 1940, this company produced a large amount of stories and strips for both comic books and newspapers. Firebrand was created by Jerry Iger
himself, together with artist Reed Crandall
, who also created the Blackhawks
Firebrand first appeared in Police Comics #1
, published by Quality Comics in August 1941, alongside other heroes such as Plastic Man
, Human Bomb
, Phantom Lady
, and the Mouthpiece
. Firebrand starred in Police Comics for the next 13 issues, taking cover placement for the first four issues, before he was beat out in popularity by Plastic Man. During this run, artwork responsibilities were taken over by Lee J. Ames.
Silver Age and the End of Quality Comics
In 1956, Quality Comics, the original publishers of the Human Bomb, closed shop. In 1957, DC Comics
purchased the right to publish the Quality stable of characters, which included characters like the Firebrand, Blackhawks, Plastic Man, and a host of others. Unlike Plastic Man or the Blackhawks, Firebrand sat on the shelf for many years.
In 1976, DC Comics launched an ongoing series highlighting the exploits of six Quality Comics characters under the name Freedom Fighters
. Writer Bob Rozakis
wanted to infuse the Freedom Fighters with some new blood, so he went back into the pool of Quality Comics characters owned by DC and picked up Firebrand. Firebrand was introduced as just a hand in Freedom Fighters #10, and ended up joining the Freedom Fighters by issue #12. Firebrand remained a member of the Freedom Fighters until its cancellation with issue #15, and then dropped back into obscurity.
The Freedom Fighters were slated to guest-star in the Secret Society of Super-Villains
after its cancellation. However, the Secret Society of Super-Villains was also cancelled. SSSV issue #17 was released as a part of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2
, and the issue hints of a surprise tying together Firebrand with the Freedom Fighters’ arch-enemy, the Silver Ghost
. Unfortunately, the end of that story arc was never published.
Bronze Age and a New Firebrand
As DC Comics entered the Bronze Age, writer Roy Thomas
took ownership of DC’s stable of golden age heroes. Thomas sought to revitalize the golden age heroes, and retroactively created a new wartime super-team called the All-Star Squadron
. Thomas wanted all of the golden age heroes to be part of this group. However, Thomas also wanted to create some fresh heroes. He sidelined Firebrand in favor for a new version of Firebrand that he created. This new Firebrand, Danette Reilly
, was patterned after Thomas’ wife Danette Thomas. Unlike the golden age Firebrand, this second Firebrand was a female and had super powers (she could generate flame). Firebrand was retired, and has since only appeared in occasional flashbacks, though Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #6
confirms that Rod Reilly is dead through unrevealed circumstances.
Key Story Arcs
Firebrand’s Early Adventures
Rod Reilly, under the guise of Firebrand, fought during Earth-2’s World War II. He fought against the dictatorship of the island Republic of Libertad, a crime boss named Slade who was selling oil to the Nazis, the evil Dr. Kruger, and a secret cult called the White Gardenias. To help support the war effort, Firebrand and “Slugger” Dunn joined the U.S. Navy for a time, where he fought maritime threats from the Axis powers.
Rod's Sister: The Second Firebrand
Rod Reilly, now an Ensign, and “Slugger” Dunn were stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese sneak attack happened. Slugger and Rod were badly wounded in the attack. Little did Rod know that his sister, vulcanologist Danette Reilly
, was researching the unusual readings on one of the nearby Hawaiian Islands. Danette discovered that the island served as a hidden base for Per Degaton
. The newly formed All-Star Squadron
rescued Danette and defeated Per Degaton and his allies Professor Zodiac
, Sky Pirate
, Solomon Grundy
, and Wotan
. Danette was returned to Pearl Harbor, only to find Rod in a coma.
While Rod was in a coma, his sister Danette developed the ability to generate fire from her time as a captive of Per Degaton. To honor her brother Rod, Danette adopted the Firebrand mantle. She became a core member of the All-Star Squadron over the course of World War II. Eventually, Rod came out of his coma. However, with his sister having made such a name for herself, Rod retired from super-heroics.
Traveling Across the Multiverse and Joining the Freedom Fighters
During Earth-2’s World War II, American symbol Uncle Sam
discovered another world. On this parallel world (later named Earth-X), Uncle Sam discovered that the Nazis had gained the upper hand in the war. Uncle Sam recruited two separate sets of Freedom Fighters
to travel from Earth-2 to Earth-X to fight the Nazis on that world. Still falling behind, Uncle Sam called a larger group of heroes to travel from Earth-2 to Earth-X permanently. Rod Reilly came out of retirement and joined the other heroes on Earth-X.
However, even with this influx of heroes, the Nazis proved too powerful. On Earth-X, the Nazis conquered Europe and later America. A large amount of these heroes, including the Earth-2 Blackhawks
and Plastic Man
, died fighting the Nazis. The remaining heroes from Earth-2 organized under Uncle Sam under the name the Freedom Fighters. Reilly continued his motif from Earth-X: he acted as a Nazi sympathizer as Firebrand, all the while feeding information to the rebel fighters as Rod Reilly. Reilly got tired of the fighting, though, and found a way to Earth-1, where he went into hiding.
After the Freedom Fighters, with the help of the Justice League
and Justice Society
, finally defeated the Nazis on Earth-X, the Freedom Fighters also travelled to Earth-1. Firebrand thought they came over to hunt him down for running away, but found out the truth from the Ray
. Firebrand aided the Ray in breaking out a captured Doll Man
, and joined the Freedom Fighters. Firebrand fought alongside the Freedom Fighters against their arch-enemy the Silver Ghost
, and the Secret Society of Super-Villains
The Crisis on Infinite Earths
In the wake of the Crisis
, the DC multiverse was condensed into a universe. Because of that, the Firebrand’s history changed. With a single Earth, there was no longer an Earth-X or Earth-2. Firebrand’s exploits took place during the unified Earth’s World War II. Firebrand died either during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, or at some point shortly after.
Powers and Abilities
In his prime, Reilly was an Olympic-level athlete and superb hand-to-hand combatant. Reilly possesses no super-powers, but he was personally trained by ex-heavyweight boxer “Slugger” Dunn to the height of physical perfection.
185 lbs Eyes:
Firebrand was just one of the hundreds of golden age heroes featured in James Robinson
's four-issue Elseworlds
series Golden Age
. Firebrand is only seen as one of the myriad of heroes that fights Dynaman
in the series’ ending.