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Firefly - DC Comics - Batman / Creeper / Outsiders pre-Crisis enemy - Origin

Firefly

(Pre-Crisis Garfield Lynns)


Context

Firefly is a minor, obscure DC Comics villain. He first appeared in 1952, yet had but a handful of appearances.

If you’re not familiar with DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths 1985/86 event, we recommend that you read our Ages of DC Comics article before this one.


Background

  • Real Name: Garfield Lynns.
  • Other Aliases: Fearsome Firefly, The Human Firefly, The Man Of 1,000 Lights, “Fruitfly”.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Nope.
  • Base of Operations: Gotham City, then Los Angeles.
  • Height: 5’11” Weight: 167 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: White (black temples).


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Powers & Abilities

Mr. Lynns is a particularly accomplished stage lighting technician. He could achieve sophisticated theatre effects using hand-operated coloured projectors.

(Even if you move his origin from 1952 to the 1970s or early 1980s, stage lighting was still mostly low tech. Usually the lighting director had to switch their projectors on and off in real time using a switches board. It was kinda like a keyboard player, but playing lights instead of music. More involved effects, like a tracking spotlight, was done by hand by operators in the rigging.)

In 1952, Firefly was accompanied by three stock gunmen. As was the style of the day.

1952 tech

The costume has protective goggles against bright lights.

The cowl also features a short-wave antenna. What it does isn’t demonstrated, but I’ll assume that Firefly can listen to radio transmissions (such as the police’s).

The light belt was an impossibly small array of powerful searchlights, most having coloured or otherwise modified lenses. Applications included :

  • An invisible “bleach light”. It makes what it’s shone upon appear black and white. This is selective – it could affect paintings, yet exclude the wall behind them.
  • Blinding searchlight beam. It’ll overpower unprotected human eyes. It is also bright enough to impersonate a lighthouse’s beacon.
  • An area-of-effect blinding lightshow of strange colours, the “cyclops light”. This could make it impossible to see over an entire, major intersection of Gotham City.

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1975 tech

By 1975, the Firefly is using more advanced tech.

The “laso-lighter” is a jury-rigged compact device. It focuses ambient light. So it can pick the light of a full moon to become a cutting torch that melts steel (!). It can also serve as a flashlight, torch and laser pistol.

The light belt also demonstrated new beams :

  • The molecular disassembler light. It can dematerialise a person for maybe 12 hours, making them disappear. This is reminiscent of the Exterminator (Philip Sterling)’s T-Ray invention. However, this takes time to work. So it relies on surprise and confusion – so the target stays in the beam.
  • The electro-lighter is an electrocution beam. The light burns the nervous system and locks muscles in place.
  • The magnesium light beam blinded even the superhuman Creeper (Jack Ryder).
  • An unnamed concussive light beam could hurl a man back.

There presumably were more.

1986 tech

A sort of energy grenade. It can leech colour from everything in the blast. The effects presumably last for a few days, but his pistol can cancel these.

He now used an energy pistol instead of his old light belt. Two effects were demonstrated :

  • “Black light”. It apparently froze Halo (Gabrielle Doe) and Looker (Lia Briggs) as blank, dark grey statues for a time. Somehow, Looker could break this effect through telekinesis.
  • A “color hold” beam. This cast Looker and Halo into a haze of primary colours. It *may* have been some sort of vivid otherdimensional  prison dimension. Somehow, Halo could absorb these colours to break the effect.

1987 tech

The equaliser beam. This pen-like device makes him blend with the background. However, this chameleon-like invisibility seems to weaken if he moves.

He again uses his light belt. Perhaps Looker disarming him in ’86 made him realise a pistol couldn’t be relied on. Demonstrated uses :

  • An illusion light ray. It causes those exposed to it to see reality in a frighteningly deformed manner.
  • Blinding, floating red spheres over a large area. Same thing as the 1952 area-of-effect lightshow.
  • An area of effect that prevents all electrical lights from functioning.
  • A light that drained Halo’s light powers and gave them to himself.

His costume also had plenty of hidden pockets with tech gizmos. They presumably did nifty light-based things.

His base also had some sort of huge light-based booby trap. The effect seemed to be mostly heat and light, but it’s hard to assess.


Soundtrack

Some characteristic 1952 US music for atmosphere… mmm… Patti Page ?

Available for download on Amazon .


History (part 1)

Garfield Lynns was a superb lighting technician.

However, like many 1950s Batman villains, he was embittered. He hated that the idle rich were rich (and idle) while he wasn’t paid all that much despite his achievements.

(Ironically, financial inequality in the US was at a low point  back then.)

During the “Aqua-melodies of 1952” exclusive stage show, Lynns abruptly switched to special red, yellow and orange lights. This made it look like the theatre was on fire.

Fire in a crowded theatre

During the ensuing panic, two accomplices disguised as ushers grabbed jewels from the posh audience.

Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Richard Grayson) responded, capturing the ushers. Lynns shot one of his accomplices who was about to talk, then drove away.

To prevent Batman and Robin from breaching his speeding car, Lynns swerved too hard. He crashed.

While looking for Lynns in the dark, Batman and Robin were lured away by the light of a firefly. This allowed Lynns to escape.

It also inspired him to take on a new criminal identity as… the Firefly !

Yes, the Human Firefly !

Lynns hid in a cave under a barn, outside of Gotham. He had previously used it to run lighting experiments.

Firefly - DC Comics - Batman / Creeper / Outsiders pre-Crisis enemy - Cyclops lights in action

Using the equipment therein, he devised his Firefly costume and weapons.

As per tradition, he soon had a gang of thugs and attempted to dramatically rob museums. As per tradition, the Dynamic Duo foiled him. But Lynns managed to flee.

The Firefly then had his men attack and shut down a lighthouse. Using his light belt, Lynns tricked a freighter ship into crashing into reefs. But before they could pillage it, Batman and Robin came in and dispersed them.

And it would have worked, too…

Lynns turned the table by trapping our heroes in the lighthouse basement.

He then left behind his “cyclops light”. It shone an extreme level of couloured lights on the Dynamic Duo. The batteries would allow for three days of this torture.

However, Batman managed to alert the cops. The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder thus were rescued.

… if not for this meddling bat

Meanwhile, in their helicopter, the Firefly and gang then intercepted an airplane carrying gems. They shot at it to force it down.

(The helo resembles a good old S-48 . Though the captions insist that it’s an autogyro.)

However, Batman and Robin intervened. They shone the cyclops light at the helicopter, forcing the pilot (who lacked protective goggles) to land. The Firefly and gang were thus arrested.

Gotham Pen

In prison, Lynns was a hardcase, getting into many fights. He was thus still locked up by 1975.

By that point nobody in corrections remembered what he could do. Lynns thus managed to scrounge some optical parts.

With his “laso-lighter”, he escaped. Even the Creeper (Jack Ryder) failed to stop Lynns.

(The story shows the likes of Two-Face and Scarecrow imprisoned in this vaguely Gothic, island prison. It could be retconned as Arkham Asylum, which had appeared but a few months before.)

Burning diamonds

The Firefly visited a dive to recruit thugs. But his aged, prison-worn looks and garish 1950s costume led to laughter. However, one of his super-science beams cowed some thugs into subservience.

Firefly - DC Comics - Batman / Creeper / Outsiders pre-Crisis enemy - 1975 Ditko appearance

(Batman books had entered the Bronze Age  years before. The first such tale featured the Muerto spouses. Mind, not every story became grittier as if flicking a switch. But by 1975 the shift was well-established – and a Silver Age villain like Firefly now looked silly.)

Using smoke charges and his old lighting tricks, the Firefly made it look like the top of a diamond exchange skyscraper was fiercely burning. This would give him hours to loot it.

But the Creeper again intervened… and was defeated.

Lights out

The Creeper then deduced that the Firefly would repeat his old lighthouse scheme. He intervened in time, and wrecked the Firefly’s light belt.

Lynns switched to his laso-lighter, but the Creeper grabbed a piece of reflective glass. The Firefly was thus hit by his own beam.

This knocked him off the tall lighthouse, to his apparent death.


Crisis on the Crisis of Infinite Crises

First – the simplified, but technically wrong, version.

The version of Firefly (Garfield Lynns) we’ve been discussing is the pre-Crisis one. Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths occurs, all Earths are destroyed, and New Earth is created.

New Earth also has a character called Firefly (Garfield Lynns). But this post-Crisis version is different. He’s a much more menacing villain, using incendiary weapons.

But there’s a glitch

Several appearances of the “pre-Crisis” Firefly actually take place *after* the Crisis. And the post-Crisis version doesn’t appear until 1993.

My stance — which you greatly respect because I’m old and wise, and I even wore a tie at some point — is that it ain’t no big deal.

More specifically, that the Crisis on Infinite Earths’ effects do not have a clear endpoint.

Penumbra

This is the “Crisis penumbra ” idea. It acknowledges that during the post-Crisis era (mostly 1986/87) there were continuity glitches. Fragments of the old reality were still floating in the new reality’s minestrone .

The pre-Crisis Firefly thus was still around. Because it had not yet been decided that there would instead be a post-Crisis Firefly, with the exact same name. Making Garfield Lynns a fine example of the Crisis penumbra.

The Crisis penumbra is more an acknowledgment than an explanation. It’s the “embrace the suck  approach.

If we accept the Monitor, the Anti-Monitor, the anti-matter, the collapse of infinite Earths, the recreation of reality, etc. then the notion that there was some reality dither afterwards isn’t that big of a pill.

Nonumbra

If you don’t want to use the Crisis Penumbra approach, there are alternatives.

The simplest is to declare that it wasn’t Firefly (Garfield Lynns) in 1986/87. But Doctor Light (Arthur Light). Or Crazy Quilt. Or the Rainbow Raider (Roy G. Bivolo). Or Doctor Spectro (Thomas Emery).

(Crazy Quilt works best.)

Or you could make something up with the Firefly who fought Batman in 1959. But this is getting nerdy.


History (part 2)

The Firefly survived his clash with the Creeper. Though he kept his weapons, he now operated in the shadows as an industrial saboteur.

He was forgotten. His 1975 return hadn’t produced much exposure, and zero footage.

In late 1986, Lynns was paid to sabotage a fashion show. He lobbed a colour-draining grenade at the exhibition clothes racks. But he randomly ran into Looker (Lia Briggs) and Halo (Gabrielle Doe).

Delighted to fight super-heroes again, Lynns switched to his Firefly costume. However, the has-been villain was soon defeated.

Man of a thousand lights !

Lynns still considered that his fight with the two Outsiders was a sign from fate. He jury-rigged an equaliser beam, and used it to escape during a prison transfer.

Firefly - DC Comics - Batman / Creeper / Outsiders pre-Crisis enemy - Warping light effect

He then attempted to place a classified advertisement to challenge the Outsiders to a big public fight. The ad was refused, but the Outsiders were still warned.

The Firefly could thus challenge them in a packed stadium. He used his tech to kill all the lights across the entire stadium. He then made odd threats about stealing all light nationwide.

The public thought that it was pre-match entertainment. And the Outsiders treated the fight as a joke. They obviously outgunned the Firefly… until he shone a special light upon Halo.

A little light in the dark

This stole her powers. Not only were the tables turned, but Halo started dying.

The Firefly took off to practice with his new abilities. He would likely keep Halo’s powers once she’d be dead.

The Outsiders located the Firefly’s hideout. But he had just left… for the heroes’ base. Lynns had realised that Halo was being medically stabilised, and that he needed to kill her.

The Outsiders got back just in time, yet found Firefly too powerful to handle. However, Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) tricked him into using several auras at once. His powers fizzled out long enough to conk him out.

Dr. Helga Jace then used experimental equipment to transfer the powers back to Halo.

Identity Crisis on Infinite Earths

The Outsiders had been shaken by nearly losing Halo. The defeated Firefly gloated about that. He claimed that no matter what, he’d always remember how the Outsiders had come to fear Firefly that day.

Incensed, Looker used her telepathic powers on Lynns. Implicitly, she removed his memories of his two encounters with Outsiders.

This version of Firefly (Garfield Lynns) was never seen again. Two hypotheses :

  • He faded away from the universe as an aftereffect of the Crisis.
  • Looker actually made him forget his entire Firefly career.

Description

Lynns’ brown hair became white when he had the accident that inspired him to become the Firefly.


Personality

Originally, a stock bitter early 1950s villain. His spectacular crime wave was supposed to make him a great man, he was cruel and ruthless, he sought dominance, etc..

In 1975 he already came across as a weird relic from a goofier age. People laughed at him, but he could still bulldoze his way to dominance through sheer power.

In 1986 he was a pathetic has-been. He longed for an imaginary world where :

  1. The Golden Age hadn’t ended.
  2. His Firefly identity still was impressive, credible, dangerous.
  3. Fate would still come to elevate him to greatness by vanquishing superheroes.

The latter implies that he knew that it was a dream. He therefore toiled in the shadows as an industrial saboteur. Rather than trying to make his dream a reality by fighting, mmm, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) or somebody like that.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

The Firefly (1952)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Power
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 03 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 03 Wealth: 006
Init: 009 HP: 015

Skills:
Accuracy (Light beams): 09, Artist (Climbing)*: 03, Gadgetry: 04, Thief (Stealth)*: 03, Vehicles (Land)*: 03, Weaponry (Firearms)*: 03

Advantages:
Expertise (Lighting effects), Headquarters (Expansive).

Connections:
Underworld (Low, if that).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.

Equipment:

  • COSTUME [BODY 03, Shade: 04, Radio coms (receive only): 04].
  • BELT [BODY 01, Colour: 04, Flash: 08, Fog: 06, B&L:
    • Color is done by projecting a light. Therefore it cannot, say, colour the far side of an object.
    • Flash can have an 1 AP Area of Effect.
    • Fog is done using bright lights. Shade therefore works as a defence.
    • Fog has a +13 Special Volume Bonus. It stacks with the usual +5, so that’s a Volume of 23 APs.

Holding back the years

The above are his 1950s stats.

By 1975 he had gained two further APs of Gadgetry, and Genius (Light-based devices only).

By 1986 his Accuracy had degraded to 07.


1975 equipment

  • COSTUME [BODY 03, Shade: 04, Radio coms (receive only): 04].
  • Laso-Lighter [BODY 01, Flash: 04, Laser beam: 09, R#04].
  • BELT [BODY 01. May have the old capabilities, and demonstrated the following :
    • Molecular disassembler light [Dimension travel (Banish): 05, Limitation: Only to a light dimension, only for 12-ish hours, and needs the target to remain relatively unmoving for an entire Phase].
    • Electro-lighter beam [Lightning: 08, Snare: 09, Bonus: Lightning and Snare are Combined, Limitation: Snare only against targets with an electrically-powered nervous system, Limitation: Range is likely but a 03].
    • Magnesium light beam [Flash: 10].
    • Concussive light beam [Attraction/Repulsion: 07, Limitation: Repulsion only, Limitation: Range is likely but a 03].

1986 equipment

COSTUME [BODY 03, Shade: 04, Radio coms (receive only): 04].

The grenade-like device… look, just say Color: 08, always affects 8 APs of Volume without a roll, always considered to get 16 RAPs without a roll. It’s not worth making it complicated.

The pistol presumably has BODY 01, and can be Taken Away.

  • The black light might be Paralysis: 09 (selective Area of Effect 1 AP). But all sorts of telekinetic powers, and maybe some other mental powers, can be used instead of STR/STR to break the RAPs.
  • The color hold likely works as a Dimension travel (Banish): 07, only to a light dimension, only for 12-ish hours, Area of Effect 1 AP.

1987 equipment

  • COSTUME [BODY 03, Shade: 04, Radio coms (receive only): 04].
  • Equaliser beam [BODY 01, Invisibility: 03, R#02, Limitation: Invisibility’s APs are lowered by (current movement speed +1) APs]. Only used to escape from prison.
  • BELT [BODY 02, EMP: 07, Flash: 08, Fog: 06, Colour: 04, Mind blast: 06, Power drain: 09, B&L:
    • Color is done by projecting a light. Therefore it cannot, say, colour the far side of an object.
    • EMP has a 4-APs Area of Effect, but it only affects electrically-powered illumination devices.
    • Flash can have an 1 AP Area of Effect.
    • Fog is done using bright lights. Shade therefore works as a defense.
    • Fog has a +13 Special Volume Bonus. It stacks with the usual +5, so that’s a Volume of 23 APs.
    • Mind blast has a 0-APs Area of Effect.
    • Mind blast is a bright light effect so Shade, blindness, etc. all protect.
    • Mind blast is also a fear effect, so Iron Nerves and the like protect.
    • Power Drain’s Range is limited. 04 APs or so.
    • Power Drain is limited to certain Powers derived from being a light-based lifeform.
    • Power Drain takes no Multi-Attack penalties when Draining Powers that are Contingent Upon the Power being attacked.]

Light house

In 1975, Firefly’s hideout was retconned  into having been an abandoned lighthouse. So he could fall off to his seeming death, but vanish in the sea.

In 1987, his hideout was under an abandoned industrial plant. Perhaps it was the same site as the 1952 barn. The farmland might have been industrialised during the late 1950s, then gone bankrupt 20 years later.


Design notes

Yeah, his stats aren’t the grooviest. Benjamin Jacob Grimm’s aunt Petunia might be able to take him.

Low APs of Radio Communications. It’s Receive Only, so APs don’t play much of a role. Except to resist EMP, Neutralise and similar attacks.

Using Fog is a small hack. The idea is to keep the small-AoE and big-AoE-but-less-powerful bright light applications separate. So the Powers are clearer to read.

Note the high AV, via Accuracy. Shining a searchlight in about the right direction isn’t hard, but in game terms he still has to roll vs. some elevated OVs from Batman or the Creeper.

More design notes

For the Laso-Lighter, it seems that Firefly rolled a double to take down the Creeper.

Said Laso-Lighter could be retconned as having charged up on ambient light for months, building an Ammo score of 09 or so. It’s easier on the suspension of disbelief.

The Power for the disassembler was inspired by the comparison with the Exterminator. It also can align with his unclear 1986 weapon effect.

Colour isn’t demonstrated in the 1987 belt. But it seems to have been the Golden Age one with some new lights.

I am assuming that he put all his Hero Points into maxing Power Drain against Halo (who has a Vulnerability toward that). He then left, the adventure ended, he earned a bunch of Hero Points, and fought the Outsiders again using those HPs.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Comics in crisis.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 28th of April, 2020.

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