“Nuclear Family Values” opens with a nuclear power plant under attack. As the workers frantically evacuate, Batman is up in the Watchtower trying to find a superhero who can help.
He names off a list of the usual suspects, none of whom are available. Superman’s in the next galaxy. Wonder Woman is beating up Lex Luthor. Flash and Green Lantern are unavailable, and Martian Manhunter is “well, he’s on Mars.”
Luckily, a new hero named Firestorm shows up. He’s working out his catchphrases and, as Batman says, “he’s a teenager. And he talks to himself.”
It turns out Firestorm was created in this nuclear power plant when terrorists previously attacked it. A high school student was on a field trip, met up with the professor who built the place, and the terrorists threw a belt full of grenades at them.
Super nice, guys.
Anyway, they merged together, and so Firestorm was born. He meets up with the villains who invaded the place this time.
They’re a group of 50s-themed androids called the Nuclear Family. It’s kind of Leave It To Beaver meets Terminator. Meets Fallout.
The Family manages to knock out and capture Firestorm. They like the kid, but they need to do what they need to do. And what they need to do is cause a nuclear meltdown.
They seem to come into this with the hope that Firestorm will join them, because he’s a fellow nuclear-powered dude.
So they tie up Firestorm and toss him into the reactor coolant tank. Eventually, Firestorm manages to trick the dog into jumping into the water with him, which causes him to short out. That frees Firestorm, and the heat is on!
After some back-and-forth banter and some pounding, Firestorm defeats the Family. Rather than destroying them, he traps them in a simulation of a perfect 1950s America.
The Justice League is impressed with his mercy, and so they offer him a spot in their ranks.
So, who the heck is Firestorm, and especially who the heck is the Nuclear Family?
Voice actor (Ronnie Raymond) P. J. Byrne, who currently plays Principal Nippal in Big Little Lies. He was also Bolin in The Legend of Korra.
Voice actor (Professor Martin Stein) Stephen Tobolowsky. He plays Jack in Silicon Valley, Marc in The Mindy Project, Stu in Californication, and plenty of other live action roles.
Info & Trivia
- As shown in the episode, Firestorm is a fusion of two individual people. High school athlete Ronnie Raymond and nuclear physicist Professor Martin Stein were merged together in a nuclear accident.
- When Sis calls him “The Nuclear Man”, she’s referencing the title of his first comic book: Firestorm, the Nuclear Man, published in 1978.
- Unlike the Firestorm who appears in TV’s Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, this incarnation of Firestorm is true to the comics. In addition to flight and the power to blast flames from his hands, he can transmute any substance into any other, just like Metamorpho.
- Professor Stein exists purely as a voice in Firestorm’s head, despite the unusual representation here. In some versions of the character, the pair can separate at will. It’s not clear if that’s the case here.
- “The heat is ON!” – Ronnie Raymond
- “Yes, I would be saying that, except our combined physical form has been unconscious for hours and by now we must certainly be their prisoner.” – Professor Stein
- “He’s a teenager, and he talks to himself. A lot.” – Batman
The Nuclear Family
Voice actor (Dad) Kevin Shinick, a regular on Robot Chicken (where he also writes), and a slew of other animated projects.
Voice actor (Mom and Brat) Melissa Disney, who last appeared in the DCAU as Blade and Curaré in Batman Beyond.
Voice actor (Biff) Jason J. Lewis, the voice of Superman on Justice League Action!
Voice actor (Sis) Rachel Kimsey, who plays Wonder Woman on this very show!
Info & Trivia
- This is a deep pull for Justice League Action. The Nuclear Family first appeared in 1985 as opponents of The Outsiders, a “dark and edgy” superhero team formed by Batman.
- The group was quickly defeated, and reappeared again during the Battle for Blüdhaven event of 2006. Again, they were quickly defeated, and haven’t appeared since.
- The origin story given in the episode doesn’t match the comics. Originally, they were intended as a weapon to destroy Los Angeles.
- Each member of the family carries one aspect of a nuclear bomb’s power. There’s a small reference to this when Biff explains that his “power is thermal pulse.”
- The name is a reference to the stereotypical American family unit consisting of a mother, father, several kids, and a dog. Like Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet.
- The way in which Firestorm deals with the Family is reminiscent of the Bottle City of Kandor, and leaves the possibility open for them to return in a later episode.
- (Taking offense when Firestorm calls them robots) “We prefer ‘automated-Americans!’”
- “Good one, Sparky! Can I call you Sparky? Okay, Sparky!”
- “Howdy doodle, youngster!”