Most people who know me know that I love Pyro. I vividly remember seeing the cover of X-Force Volume 1 #5 nearly 30 years ago and immediately falling in love with Pyro’s design before I knew anything about him. Five years ago, I started this column with Pyro in mind and even dedicated an article to him a month later. For the D-List’s 5th anniversary, I decided to bring this column full circle.
Simon Lasker began as nothing more than a mysterious blonde man wearing a famous costume. Nearly all of his appearances are limited to one series with one writer, but at least this writer tried to give some depth to the character before Simon was seemingly forgotten. The D-List is on fire this month as we welcome Pyro II.
Created by Marc Guggenheim and disgraced, anti-Semitic artist, Ardian Syaf, Simon first appeared in X-Men: Gold Volume 2 #1 in 2017. A newly formed Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was attacking the United Nations in New York City, and someone dressed as Pyro, albeit without the kerosene tanks, stood alongside the villains. The X-Men arrived and the two teams fought, but the Brotherhood escaped.
I remember this new Brotherhood being teased in previews and excited at the prospect of a new Pyro. Sure, Allerdyce had always been my favorite mutant, but there was no reason to believe Marvel was resurrecting him (but he has since risen from the ashes). Some people even wondered if this was a resurrected Rusty Collins, but why resurrect Rusty and not St. John? Kitty Pryde confirmed that this Pyro and someone in Avalanche’s costume sounded different and could not have been the originals. Eventually, the new Pyro and Avalanche were captured, along with their field leader, Mesmero, and taken into custody. This is where Simon was properly introduced.
Mesmero planned to break out of prison and get revenge on his benefactor, mutant-hating bigot, Lydia Nance, who had set up the Brotherhood to fail. Simon went along with the plan, but couldn’t bring himself to kill the woman. He was also angry that Mesmero was working for a bigot, so he quit the Brotherhood, regardless of the money he was offered (would’ve burned a hole in his pocket anyway). A flashback revealed that Simon was attending a community college in Brooklyn when his power first manifested and the aftermath looked like an explosion had occurred. Charles Xavier greeted Simon and offered his help, but this was Mesmero in disguise.
So not inherently a criminal, Pyro II was manipulated into joining a team of villains and seemed to have a moral compass. This certainly is a trope and was executed in a pretty predictable fashion, but I was excited to learn more about Simon. Then he showed up at the X-Mansion!
Simon explained to Iceman and Rogue that he wanted to atone for the wrongs he committed. After a brief, tense exchange, he was welcomed onto the team. Simon accompanied the X-Men on a mission to stop a destructive Inhuman who was using large vines to destroy city streets, so it was up to Pyro II and Magma to burn some of them away (they were a perfect match). Somehow, Simon recognized that the vine growth appeared similar to a tumor, and the X-Men confirmed the Inhuman actually had cancer and was lashing out in anger. Apparently, Simon’s mother had cancer, but this was never explored.
I enjoyed seeing Pyro II in an updated version of the classic Pyro costume and trying to help the X-Men. Surely Simon would not be the focus in a lineup of characters including Iceman, Rachel Grey, and Kitty Pryde, but the hint at his past was interesting. But it was upsetting that Iceman tried to bench Pyro II on a mission because he was the least trained of the group; his teammate, Magma, could have trained with him and it would have been awesome to see those Danger Room sessions. This duo had so much potential but the opportunities were wasted. Regardless, Pyro II helped destroy bioweapons that would’ve eradicated mutant kind, so that was great!
Later, a quick flashback showed that Simon and Bobby had a one-night stand (a romantic song of ice and fire). Simon is gay, and this was a welcomed revelation, but his night with Iceman never developed into anything more (Simon can always try tinder). Sure, the two didn’t need to become a couple, but considering there are not many openly gay characters in Marvel Comics, stories exploring Simon’s dating life would have been nice, because certainly plenty of heterosexual X-Men have been featured in relationships. He and Iceman did have another one-night stand after Iceman’s birthday party, but that is the last story in which Simon Lasker was involved, and he just barely was. More than a year later, Simon appeared in one panel at a superhero Pride parade, which was great, but no other writers seem interested in using Simon Lasker in a story.
I genuinely liked Simon Lasker, but it’s likely because of my affinity for St. John that I found myself rooting for him. Simon wasn’t given much development, but the allusions to his backstory, though not written very well, piqued my interest; I wanted to learn more about Pyro II. Furthermore, the inclusion of a new, homosexual character was welcome. LGBTQIA+ characters deserve just as much recognition, conflict, experiences, and growth in stories as any fictional characters, and one of the biggest disappointments is that Simon has barely been used since X-Men Gold.
I believe it is because of the likeness to a well-known villain who has recently been resurrected and is currently utilized in an ongoing title that other writers have generally ignored Simon Lasker. Also, there are already so many established characters in X-Men lore, and in the current run of X-Men titles, even the deceased can return and the depowered can regain their powers. It is sad that a potentially interesting new character premiered not long before this shift in X-Men comics, but there are many characters who have historically appeared in one writer’s run of a comic, or even a scant few issues, never to be seen again (some characters just burn out quickly). I hope Pyro II doesn’t fall into these categories, but another writer would have to be willing to expand on the character.
Simon Lasker has not appeared outside of Marvel 616 continuity nor do I think he will. I am extremely happy that St. John has been resurrected and is currently featured in Marauders, but I don’t see a reason that the two characters cannot coexist (don’t be cold Marvel, turn up the heat). Their personalities and backgrounds are certainly different enough, and although I wouldn’t mind if Simon kept the same codename and costume, a different writer could always change them. Either way, Pyro II could easily still burn bright in the Marvel Universe.