Rusty was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a sailor who died in combat before his birth. As if losing one parent wasn't bad enough, his mother soon followed and her dying wish was simply that her son would grow up to be just like his father. Orphaned from that point on, Rusty was placed under the guard of his uncle who made no effort to conceal the fact he strongly disliked him and, in a bid to get rid of the boy, helped an underage Rusty enlist in the Navy at the age of 16.
Not long after, the sailor Rusty found himself being forced to go out drinking with his naval buddies and was pressured into a sexual encounter with a woman named Emma. Obviously shy and inexperienced, Rusty tried to resist Emma's advances and in a cruel twist of fate, he accidentally burst into flames - discovering his own latent mutant power. Having horribly burnt and disfigured his would-be sexual partner, Rusty was arrested by naval authorities and his superior officer, who knew Emma personally, swore revenge on Rusty and mutants in general.
Imprisoned by the Navy, his superior officer soon attempted to exact his sworn revenge and prepared to shoot the captive Rusty in cold blood. In fear for his life, Rusty ignited and fled, inadvertently setting half the naval base ablaze in the process.
Rusty Collins first appeared in X-Factor #1 in 1986 and was created by Bob Layton and Jackson Butch Guice.
Starting out as a trainee of X-Factor, the instantly likeable Rusty went on to lead the short-lived X-Terminators and briefly join the New Mutants, although the most-defining and memorable aspect of the character was his incredibly strong romance and relationship with fellow mutant Skids. He was later captured and brainwashed by the Mutant Liberation Front for a time, before being cured and joining with the Acolytes until his death.
Major Story Arcs
Afraid that Rusty would report the attempted execution, his superior officer hired X-Factor (who at the time were posing as mutant hunters) to track him down. The members of X-Factor intervened and managed to save Rusty from the military. Afraid of Rusty ever going to the police, his superior allowed X-Factor to keep Rusty as their charge. X-Factor explained to Rusty their intention of locating mutants like him and helping them understand their powers. They offered Rusty a chance to join the team as a trainee which he accepted.
Like pretty much every other mutant, Rusty began harboring feelings towards X-Factor member Jean Grey, although he never acted on his crush. However the combination of his feelings for her as well and his nervousness on account of his powers and the mutants around him led to him storming out of X-Factor's HQ after insulting Artie. After Frenzy unsuccessfully attempted to recruit the fragile Rusty to the Alliance of Evil, Rusty soon returned to X-Factor, apologized to Artie and continued his training.
While assisting X-Factor in one their missions, Mystique's Freedom Force team attempted to arrest Collins, who was still wanted for criminal charges for having burnt Emma. Rusty was saved by the teenage Morlock known as Skids, and he was instantly smitten with her. The two pursued an adorable relationship together, although neither could truly control their mutant powers hampering the romance.
However, Rusty still felt guilty about having disfigured Emma and in a reckless attempt to find some redemption he made a deal with Masque - a Morlock who could twist and alter flesh and who just so happened to dislike Skids and wished to hurt her through Rusty - to heal Emma in exchange for disfiguring him. Having tracked down Emma and discovering she actually forgave him and was thankful for the disfigurement as it had allowed her to appreciate her life more, Rusty found some solace as Emma wished not to be "fixed". However Masque still attempted to disfigure Rusty, leaving it to Skids to force Masque to restore him to normal.
Rusty and Skids soon befriended fellow X-Factor trainees Boom-Boom, Rictor and Artie and Leech and the group engaged in several light-hearted adventures together. After saving New York from Apocalypse, X-Factor and their trainees were regarded as heroes which caused trouble for Rusty who was still a wanted fugitive. After a brief period of wearing a mask to conceal his identity, Rusty eventually unmasked in public in protest against the Mutant Registration Act and turned himself over to the authorities to face his criminal charges.
X-Terminator - New Mutant - Mutant Liberation Front
Rusty had hoped his surrender would provoke anti-MRA protests but soon discovered that he would not receive a fair trial and instead an example would be made of him. After a brief imprisonment, Rusty was broken out of naval prison by Skids and the other X-Factor trainees because they needed Rusty's help to rescue Artie, Leech and other mutant children from the demons who were descending on New York amidst the Inferno event. The trainees, along with their new ally Wiz Kid, formed the short-lived superteam the X-Terminators.
Not long after Inferno, the X-Factor trainees were folded into the New Mutants and Rusty was given a slight reprieve until his trial for naval desertion could be arranged. Freedom Force sought to again arrest Rusty, this time for supposedly starting fires (which had actually been started by the Asgardian Hela). Skids attempted to try and help Rusty however she found herself taken into custody as well as an accomplice.
While held by Freedom Force and the government, the couple discovered experiments on mutants and were held indefinitely so that they could never tell anyone of what they say. During Acts of Vengeance, the two shared a short-lived escape and a battle with the Spider-Man foe Vulture and the future Civil War instigator Nitro, however they were recaptured by Freedom Force and Mystique decided it might be best to have the two executed. Before any such thing could happen, the Mutant Liberation Front (MLF) were ordered by Stryfe to free them so they would not face death.
The two lovers were brainwashed by the MLF to be devoted and loyal to their cause. As agents of the MLF they battled against Cable, the X-Men, X-Force and Havok's X-Factor team. After a rescue courtesy of X-Force from the Friends of Humanity, the team sought a way to cure the two wayward mutants of their mind control, leading them to Magneto. Magneto at the time was on his orbiting Avalon base and after successfully freeing the duo from Stryfe's control, the two joined with Magneto's Acolytes out of gratitude.
Although they had wanted to develop a warm and accepting community for mutants on Avalon, they soon found themselves coming into conflict with the X-Men, Quicksilver and, again, Cable. Sharply regretting their alliance with the Acolytes, the two sought to leave when the mutant known as Holocaust attacked and destroyed Avalon. Although Skids survived the attack, Rusty was unfortunately killed, having had his life force drained from him by Holocaust.
During the Necrosha storyline, Selene reanimated many dead mutants as techno-organic zombies to attack to X-Men, among them was Rusty. He was seen fighting against Hellion, Surge and his former friend Boom-Boom. He was later slain by Wolverine, who stabbed him through the chest with his adamantium claws. Once the event was over and Selene was defeated, he and the rest of the "zombies" returned to death.
Rusty is a pyrokinetic. Rusty is able to ignite oxygen in the air and direct it as pyrotechnic blasts. He can also start fires anywhere in his line-of-sight up to 20 feet. Rusty can also erect shields completely of fire. The intensity of heat in the shield is strong enough to melt most physical attacks and disperse many energy attacks.
In the Marvel Zombies Universe, Rusty is among the survivors on Asteroid M. Docking into Earth to locate their leader, instead they encountered one of the few survivors Black Panther. Rusty, cautious, suggested the Panther was trying to trick them and tried to attack the Panther. The Panther responded by throwing the zombified head of the Wasp at Rusty as she began devouring Rusty.
In the reality where Xavier and Magneto set their differences aside peacefully, Rusty marries his longtime girlfriend Skids and they have a baby they name Sean Collins. Beast runs tests on the baby and finds that Sean had something special in his genetic make-up. Rusty and Skids' son was the next step in human evolution. When the baby grows up he will be capable of choosing and altering his mutation and powers at will. He would be classified as Homo-Ultima. Word would spread and alien races would find out. Finding the child to be a potential future threat, they mentally manipulate Rusty and Skids to kill their baby. They leave, turning their backs on the Acolytes and Magneto forever.
A sad twist is that the baby was actually nothing more then a regular human. Magneto had faked the tests to give his followers something to unite with.
Age of X
Rusty is briefly seen as a mutant prisoner rioting against the Avengers in the Age of X reality.
X-Men: The Animated Series
Rusty (along with Skids, Boom-Boom, Rictor and Wiz Kid) are featured in a Season 3 episode entitled "No Mutant is an Island". Here he was an orphan, adopted from an orphanage by a man only known as Kilgrave, who is later shown to be The Purple Man. Purple Man hoped to use the young mutants to help himself secure a position as governor, however Cyclops was able to free the mutants from Purple Man's control.