Flamebird

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Flamebird
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceSuperman #158 (January 1963)
Created byEdmond Hamilton (writer)
Curt Swan (art)
CharactersJimmy Olsen
Ak-Var
Bette Kane
Lois Lane
Kara Zor-El
Thara Ak-Var
 
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Flamebird
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceSuperman #158 (January 1963)
Created byEdmond Hamilton (writer)
Curt Swan (art)
CharactersJimmy Olsen
Ak-Var
Bette Kane
Lois Lane
Kara Zor-El
Thara Ak-Var

Flamebird is the name used by six different fictional comic book characters who have appeared in books published by DC Comics, specifically from the Superman and Batman mythos.

The primary character to use the Flamebird name is Bette Kane, who was the pre-Crisis hero Bat-Girl. However, the original pre-Crisis Flamebird was Jimmy Olsen, who was later succeeded by a Kandorian scientist. Post-Crisis a Kryptonian hero used the name Flamebird, and in a "One Year Later" storyline, so has Kara Zor-El.

Flamebird characters are also often associated with characters who use the name Nightwing.

Pre-Crisis history[edit]

Jimmy Olsen[edit]

Superman as Nightwing (left) and Jimmy Olsen as Flamebird (right) in the bottle city of Kandor. Art by Curt Swan.

In pre-Crisis continuity, Flamebird was an alias used by Jimmy Olsen in adventures shared with Superman in the city of Kandor, a Kryptonian city that had been shrunken and preserved in a bottle.

In Kandor, Superman had no powers and was branded an outlaw due to a misunderstanding. To protect themselves, Superman and Jimmy created vigilante identities inspired by Batman and Robin; however, as neither bats nor robins existed on Krypton, Superman chose the names of two native avian species: Nightwing (for himself) and Flamebird (for Jimmy).[1] At one point, Nightwing and Flamebird teamed up with their inspirations, Batman and Robin, for an adventure in Kandor which would prove especially important to the young Robin.

In Superman #166 (January 1964), the imaginary sons of Superman go to Kandor, and take on the Flamebird/Nightwing personas in order to combat a Kandorian villain by the name of Gann Artar, after finding the costumes used by their father and Jimmy Olsen.

Ak-Var[edit]

While in Kandor, Nightwing and Flamebird met Van-Zee, a Kandorian scientist who looked strikingly similar to Superman. At one point, Van-Zee himself donned the Nightwing costume in order to rescue a captured Superman. After Superman and Jimmy's departure from Kandor, Van-Zee took up the role of Nightwing full-time.

Ak-Var, Van-Zee's lab assistant and husband of his niece Thara, later assumed the mantle of Flamebird.[2] The two shared several distinct adventures, once teaming up with Superman and Jimmy.[3]

Post-Crisis[edit]

Bette Kane[edit]

Bette Kane as Flamebird and Dick Grayson as Nightwing, from JLA/Titans #2. Art by Phil Jimenez.

For a brief time in the 1970s, the young costumed adventurer Betty Kane had joined a west coast version of the Teen Titans, Titans West, under her original moniker of "Bat-Girl". After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, "Bat-Girl" did not exist, though her team did. Secret Origins Annual #3 (1989) established the official post-Crisis history of Titans West. Instead of Betty Kane as Bat-Girl, fans were introduced to a similar character called Mary Elizabeth "Bette" Kane, also known as Flamebird.[4]

The Krypton connection[edit]

Nightwing Secret Files #1 tells the post-Crisis tale of how Dick Grayson became Nightwing, but retroactively erases the notion that Superman and Jimmy Olsen ever held the titles of Nightwing or Flamebird, respectively.

The connection between Bette Kane's "Flamebird" and Grayson's "Nightwing" was conjectural until 2001's Superman: The Man of Steel #111, wherein Superman and Lois Lane travel to a version of the Kryptonian past and assume the names themselves. This once again associated Superman with the roles directly, and he revealed to Lois that he had indeed related tales of both Kryptonian legends to Dick and Bette.[5]

Kara Zor-El[edit]

Kara Zor-El as Flamebird. Art by Ed Benes.

In Supergirl #6, Kara Zor-El has assumed the Flamebird identity to fight crime in the city of Kandor, along with Power Girl as Nightwing.

Thara Ak-Var[edit]

In 2008, "Superman: New Krypton" has Superman coming to terms with the death of his adoptive father while also dealing with 100,000 Kryptonians now living on Earth as a result of the Brainiac story arc. At the end of the fourth issue of the arc, a new Nightwing and Flamebird appear to stop two of General Zod's followers (who were living on Kandor) from releasing the Kryptonian General from his Phantom Zone imprisonment. While guarding the projector in order to prevent any Zod loyalists from freeing him from the Phantom Zone, both Flamebird and Nightwing exhibited powers that are not inherent to normal Kryptonians, Flamebird shooting fire from her hands and Nightwing employing telekinesis to dismantle his attackers' weapons. Furthermore, unlike in previous portrayals, Flamebird appears to be the dominant partner. It is later revealed that her real name is Thara Ak-Var, chief of security for New Krypton, whom Alura partially blames for Zor-El's death. Thara also apparently freed Chris Kent from the Phantom Zone, making him the new Nightwing. Thara's name is a reference to the pre-Crisis Flamebird and his wife.[6] The Flamebird identity is based on a mythical Kryptonian creature, whose existence is intertwined with that of its partner beast, the Nightwing. Thara possesses a connection to the Flamebird, having had dreams and visions involving the creature for most of her life.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Superman #158, January 1962
  2. ^ Superman Family #185, September-October 1977; first appearance as Flamebird in #184
  3. ^ Superman Family #188, March-April 1978
  4. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008). "Flamebird". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 128. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017. 
  5. ^ Schultz, Mark (w), Mahnke, Doug (p), Nguyen, Tom (i). "Return to Krypton, Part Three: The Most Dangerous Kryptonian Game" Superman: The Man of Steel 111 (April 2001), New York: DC Comics
  6. ^ Action Comics #875 (May 2009)
  7. ^ Action Comics Annual #12 (2009)