The 80s were a very curious time in superhero comics. Sales were going through the roof on a continuous basis and the sagas were so powerful that the authors were stringing together successes, allowing themselves to do things that nowadays would be banned by hundreds of committees. For example, Len Wein, Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart created an unofficial crossover between Marvel and DC in the pages of ‘Strange Adventures’, ‘Justice League’ and ‘Thor’ in which they themselves (and Englehart’s wife) were talking to the superheroes.
Englehart, by then, was already a name of his own in comics: his are sagas such as The Celestial Madonna or The Serpent Crown in ‘The Avengers’, for example. But little did the scriptwriter imagine that at the age of forty he would create the strangest character of his entire career… or that this macabre story would have a twist three decades later: this is the story of Snowflame.
Feel the warmth of Snowflame!
Some people don’t realize how much publishers copied each other in the 80s. So much so, that DC had a group called Guardians of the Universe before Marvel came up with their galactic namesakes. This team was born in 1960 and was united with the Green Lantern Corps until a crossover changed everything (or so they thought): ‘Millennium’ began in 1988 and lasted eight weeks, in each of which a comic book from the main collection was released.
Throughout this crossover, Herupa Hando Hu, a Guardian, and Nadia Safir, a Zamaron (really, we understand you don’t read comics, it doesn’t seem simple at all) chose different heroes from around the planet to form a new team: The New Guardians. An Australian woman who became a cosmic force, a Peruvian man who was one of the first gay superheroes in history, a Chinese woman, a man-plant…
The eight members of the New Guardians were DC‘s way of opening up to a more diverse world. Characters ended up as everything from cosmic entities to robots to being bitten by white supremacist vampires with AIDS. No, we’re not making this up: The Hemo-globin was the first villain ‘The New Guardians’ faced. But the one that changed everything and made the series go down in history of infamy was the one in its number 2: Snowflame.
What a delight, what a pleasure, to be on cocaine
The comic began directly in the jungle with the group facing an enemy dressed in red with a white aura around him, who claimed “Cocaine is my god, and I am the human instrument of his will”. Subtlety flew out the window and the comic was just getting started: Snowflame was getting stronger and stronger as he snorted the power of the cocaine plant he was fighting over.
The villain’s mansion, in the middle of the jungle, had a swimming pool, girls dancing in their underwear and the character himself saying phrases like “Do you know how many bags we have to sell to the dealers to buy a Rolls-Royce? Ten, Manuel!”. In the background, characters appeared snorting straight away – in a DC comic! Think of the sheer lunacy of it all! What’s more, Snowflame himself was doing it to confront our heroes, no plants involved, claiming that he was in for “The ultimate exhilaration, the divine ecstasy, the euphoria of electricity now surging from every molecule in my body.” My goodness, ‘Vicious Bear‘ in muscle version.
Finally, the fire that enveloped Snowflame made him explode… And that was the end of his story. Well, a priori, or don’t you know that in superhero comics nobody lives or dies? They just transform. Let’s move 32 years into the future: September 2020. Society was secluded in their homes, afraid of the Covid. It was the perfect time for Blake Northcott and Sean Murphy to bring back the kids’ favorite supervillain.
He wasn’t dead, he was on a spree
Issue 23 of ‘Catwoman’ volume 5. Selina travels to Nevada Island (subtle she certainly isn’t) to attend an auction hosted by – exactly – Snowflame, who explains how she got off years ago: “The key to faking your own death: explosions. If you blow enough people away, no one’s going to look through the mess to identify body parts.”
Mind you, he was far from reformed: he was still taking drugs (which he even offers to Catwoman), acknowledging that he’s “never quit long enough” to know whether the self-confidence is natural or cocaine-induced. Of course, Catwoman has to take down the entire drug cartel by confronting her old flame, Snowflame (because yes, they do let it slip that they were involved for a small period of time).
And indeed, power still comes from sniffing uncontrollably. Some things never change. The last we see of him is how a giant panther appears from the shadows to eat him, with his superpowers eliminated thanks to an antidote from the people of Isla Nevada. Since then, we haven’t heard from him again, but it’s possible that, seeing as he’s not even a worthy rival for Batman‘s girlfriend, he won’t be back in the pages of DC other than to be comic relief from time to time. Honestly? He won’t be missed much.