The man who would become Effigy was born Martyn Van Wyck. His mother died when he was young, so he was raised by his alcoholic father. Martyn's poor upbringing made him a bitter and angry person and led him to constantly be in conflict with authority figures. Growing up, he wished to pursue a career as a musician, but he could never get a good start and wasn’t even able to get small time work in the music business. One day, outside Seattle, Martyn was abducted and experimented on by aliens known as the Controllers in their attempt to make superhuman beings with the capability of replacing their current enforcement team, the DarkStars, and overcome their rivals' team, the Green Lantern Corps.
Believing their experiment to be a failure, the Controllers decide to return Martyn to Earth. Typical of an alien abduction, Van Wyck only retained vague memories of the ordeal, remebering only dim bits and pieces. Six days later, Van Wyck was found in the middle a road, naked and confused. After a trip to the hospital, where he was told there was nothing wrong with him, Martyn met up with his friends at a coffee shop, telling them everything he could remember and what the doctor said about his health. When the owner of the coffee shop tells them to leave, Martyn lashes out at the man with a flame construct of an animal. Shocked but amazed with his newfound powers, Martyn comes to the conclusion that he can now do whatever he pleases with his newly manifested powers.
When Martyn uses his powers again to assault a cab driver, he finds that he has transformed completely. He finds that his skin is now white, his hair has changed to an open flame and he had somehow conjured a red uniform from nowhere. He also finds that he has the power of flight. While talking with his girlfriend, Trace, she describes the images Martyn made in the flames as burning effigies. Martyn ,liking the word, takes the name Effigy and decides to leave Seattle and Trace behind. Tired of being pushed around and believing his powers were his way of pushing back, he considers his life as Martyn Van Wyck now over, with only Effigy to take his place.
Martyn then traveled to Hollywood, wreaking havoc where ever he could, just because he could. Catching the attention of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, the two soon battle. After fighting and an almost assured victory for Kyle, Effigy is once more abducted by the Controllers, finding that he is, in fact, a success and continue their experimentation upon him. The Controllers continue experimentation upon Martyn and others makes them completely obedient to the Controllers, but leaves them mindless soldiers, lacking in individuality, imagination and will, meaning they are no longer much competition for the likes of heroes like Kyle Rayner.
Eventually, Martyn made his way back to Earth and even started a brief relationship with Louise Lincoln, the second Killer Frost. The two conspired to take down their common foe, Kyle Rayner. The relationship was doomed to fail, as Louise felt that she knew more about taking on superheroes and felt that she should be in charge and Martyn still apparently had issues with authority. Their relationship ends when Louise becomes buried under her own ice and Martyn decides to run away instead of help her escape.
Martyn is next seen when is discovered by the original Green Lantern Alan Scott's daughter, Jade, and is shown to have developed schizophrenia. Due to this new condition, he develops three new personalities, named Torch, Blaze and Ember, who manifest themselves in the form of Martyn’s flame constructs. After Kyle Rayner and Jade defeat these personalities, Martyn agrees that he should go back to prison and receive help.
Effigy was one of the villains stranded on planet Salvation. He would choose to join the Joker's Camp at Salvation. The Spectre killed him for his part in the death of the Martian Manhunter by melting him into oil, trapping him in a Green Lantern-like lantern and then setting fire to his now oil body. He was still alive in this state and aware of what was happening.