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- "Now I want your honest opinion on this, what do you think of the name Inferno? I like it, but I don't love it. Firestarter, well, feels a little nineties, and Burning Man, well, that would have been perfect if it wasn't for some bloody desert hippy-fest."
James Slade was an Inhuman who was taken to Afterlife under Jiaying's leadership, but was expelled from the community before undergoing Terrigenesis for trying to steal from its archives. After he finally gained his Inhuman powers with the intervention of Hive and Daisy Johnson, he started calling himself Hellfire.
James Slade was born in Brisbane, Australia, eventually becoming a mercenary and a demolitions expert. Over the years, James was identified as an Inhuman descendant, and he was brought to Afterlife by Gordon. However James never fit into the community of Afterlife as he became more frustrated about not being granted Terrigenesis. When the leader of Afterlife, Jiaying, caught James stealing a Kree Orb which had some connection to Hive, she banished him.
Asked for Help
- "Why don't you tell us what you found?"
"Why? I don't really do things out of the kindness of my heart. Haven't really understood that behavior, to be honest."
- ―Daisy Johnson and James
While living in the middle of South Dakota alone in a house built with wire fences and protected by land mines, James was visited by Lincoln Campbell and Daisy Johnson, whom he ordered to leave before they regretted it, stepping outside with his rifle. Johnson took another step and accidentally stood on a mine; James reminded her that he had warned her not to take another step. While Campbell tried to help her, James commented on how he always knew Jiaying would send somebody for him, although he had assumed it would be Gordon instead of Campbell.
Johnson revealed herself to be an Inhuman and created a shockwave which kept the mine in place before she allowed it to safely explode. Furious at the incident, Johnson then sent a massive shockwave through the ground, causing all of the mines James had planted to explode at the same time. James grabbed his rifle and prepared to shoot Johnson but Campbell fired a blast of electricity from his hand which sent James flying backwards against the wall, knocking him out before Campbell and Johnson took him inside and waited for him to awake so they could begin questioning him.
When James awoke, he found that Johnson had stolen his knife as they demanded to know what he had stolen from Afterlife and what he knew about Hive. James mocked Campbell about the idea that Jiaying had granted him powers before being told that Jiaying was dead, Afterlife had been destroyed, and Campbell was now working for S.H.I.E.L.D., although James remained skeptical. When James demanded something in exchange for the information, Campbell offered him one of the Terrigen Crystals which would finally grant him the powers he so desperately desired.
James agreed to help and handed over the Kree Orb, which he explained that Hive had stolen while battling the Kree Empire with his army of Inhumans, telling them that he believed that Jiaying had no right to keep this information from them. James then demanded to have the Crystal so he could finally undergo Terrigenesis, but Campbell betrayed him and threatened him as he took both the Orb and Crystal. Furious, James reminded Campbell of how he had nearly killed his previous girlfriend in a car accident before the pair left his home while James continued to yell at them both.
Under Hive's Control
A few days later, James was alone in his home drinking beer and watching television when he was visited once again by Daisy Johnson, who asked how he had been; James however just made joking comments about whether or not she had broken up with Lincoln Campbell. James then saw that Johnson was with another man who she revealed was in fact Hive, whom she thought he should meet.
James recommended to Johnson that although he knew she was attracted to danger, the idea of working with Hive was a bad idea, noting that if Jiaying was afraid of him then it was likely for a good reason. Hive then told James that he knew that the Kree Orb he had given her was missing its companion piece, but James denied any knowledge of it. When James began talking too much, Johnson dropped one of the Terrigen Crystals, filling the room with Terrigen Mist while James yelled out in pain as he was engulfed by his cocoon.
James eventually came out of Terrigenesis and felt as if his entire body was burning from the inside, discovering that he had the power to force an object to explode, although he had no control over this gift. As James begged for help, Hive sent dust into his eyes which allowed James to control his gifts and made him instantly loyal to Hive. James then revealed that the other half of the Kree Orb was hidden under his home, allowing Johnson to uncover it. Hive then ordered James to place C-4 around his house for S.H.I.E.L.D. to find.
Under Hive's orders, James traveled to Romania to assist them in the kidnapping of Holden Radcliffe, with James being given the task of distracting S.H.I.E.L.D. while Johnson found and took Radcliffe away. James went straight to the bar where he annoyed the bartender by stealing drinks while discussing the cyborgs that were attending the bar. James then demonstrated his own powers by lining up some drinks and causing them to explode, making everyone in the bar run in fear while he claimed the barman started it.
James was then confronted by Alphonso Mackenzie, who demanded to know where Johnson was, causing James to comment on how many men were out looking for Johnson. James then began throwing boiling items at Mackenzie and making them explode upon impact. While Mackenzie took cover, James asked his opinion on several potential codenames for himself, including Burning Man, which he claimed would have been perfect if it was not taken. Mackenzie managed to cause an explosion between them and escaped.
Regrouping with Hive and the rest of the Inhumans, James told Alisha Whitley that he had settled on Hellfire as his codename, despite worrying that it may be too on the nose. Hellfire then listened as Hive told the captured Radcliffe that he wanted him to use his expertise to recreate the Kree experiment that had created him all those centuries earlier. Looking around at their location, James asked Hive if he had bought them a house, but Hive explained that he had bought the entire town using Gideon Malick's money.
Being a Blowhard
- "I like a decent drink, a decent meal and an indecent lass and not necessarily in that order. And you are?"
"Nauseous, and wondering what you're doing here."
- ―Hellfire and Melinda May
Enjoying his downtime at Union City with the other Inhumans, James played pinball and drank beer, commenting on the great taste of the free American alcohol to Daisy Johnson, who asked him why he had decided to live so far away from civilization. James explained that he had never liked people and was not well liked himself, before admitting that he did become very lonely.
Changing the subject, James invited Johnson for a dance which she quickly refused and suggested they keep their friendship to pinball. James questioned if Johnson was still pining for Lincoln Campbell which offended her so James apologized. James questioned why Johnson was keeping ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. as they were trying to stop what they were doing in Union City, but Johnson insisted that it was not their fault as they did not understand their goals, but James noted that they were on opposite sides and it would not end well.
While playing pool by himself, James was approached by Melinda May, who claimed to be a member of HYDRA and demanded to know why he was there. While James attempted to flirt with May she appeared to be annoyed that HYDRA had bought in new workers since Gideon Malick had died, but James insisted that this was not the case and then demonstrated his Inhuman power to her by causing a ball to explode by her feet. May apologized and James offered to get her a drink to atone for the misunderstanding.
As they got a beer together, James discussed how Hive had chosen him to join his Inhuman army and explained that going through Terrigenesis had not changed his personality as May suspected, boasting about how awesome he claimed to be. James went on to explain that Hive had a plan to transform humans into Inhumans by recreated the original Kree experiment, offering to help May go through the change. The pair then moved to the pool table as James ranted about how great Hive was, comparing him to Ziggy Stardust.
May claimed that she would be interested in meeting Hive so James offered to try and set up a meeting between them in an attempt to impress her, however May was less impressed when James explained that Hive may be busy that night. In an attempt to win back May's favor, James insisted that Hive was only busy currently as he using the Kree Orb in an old mining facility on the outskirts of the city. With his information May knocked out James with the pool cue before regrouping with her S.H.I.E.L.D. allies.
James was ordered by Hive to set a trap for the Watchdogs in order for them to be used in their Kree experiments to transform them into Inhumans. Leaving a cafe with his hood covering his face, James allowed himself to be followed by the Watchdogs' van until he ran down an alleyway and let them follow and corner him, where they drew their weapons and told him it was the end of the line, preparing to kill him.
Reminding confident, Hellfire grabbed a chain and informed them that they could still go to hell, before turning the chain red hot and using it to whip the guns out of the soldiers' hands while mocking their efforts and their uniforms. As the Watchdogs attempted to escape, Hive revealed himself and informed them that he was the one who had invited them, although he had claimed to be with the ATCU. As Hive told them they would become what they hate, Hellfire proceeded to drag Pete Boggs across the ground with his burning chain.
Hellfire took the Watchdogs back to Hive's secret compound where he pushed them into a large shipment container ready for Holden Radcliffe's experiments. As one of the soldiers called the Inhumans abominations, Hellfire hit him across the face before locking the door as he told them they were about to join the evolution before Hive had Radcliffe fill the container with Terrigen Mist. When Hellfire eventually opened the container, they discovered that the Watchdog soldiers had undergone Terrigenesis and transformed into hideous Primitives who gained superhuman strength and were loyal to Hive's every order. Hive then ordered Radcliffe to create more of the Primitives.
Taking some time away from the base to collect some beers, Hellfire returned to discover that Lash had entered the base and had attempted to kill Hive. Hellfire charged at Lash, who had his back turned onboard the Quinjet while protecting Daisy Johnson and freeing her of Hive's control. Hellfire stabbed Lash through the back with his flaming chain, fatally wounding the beast before Johnson managed to launch him back with a powerful shockwave and escaped with Lash dead and his leader needing help.
Launching the Warhead
Following the orders of Hive, Hellfire joined Giyera in taking control of a missile silo where they killed many of the staff and took the rest hostage. Hive asked Hellfire if the men were willing to launch the missile for them which he confirmed while Giyera assured him that it would be near impossible for S.H.I.E.L.D. to reach the island without being spotted by the radar scanners.
However despite their best efforts, S.H.I.E.L.D. stopped the launch and Hellfire listened as Hive ordered Holden Radcliffe to fix the mistake with his Primitives while they attempted to kill their attackers. While searching for their enemy, Hellfire and Giyera found Hive, whose mind had been damaged by the Theta Brain-Wave Frequency Machine, as he began yelling out random orders which made little sense. Despite Hellfire being horrified by Hive's state, they eventually got their orders to disconnect the warhead.
As part of Hive's plan, James and Giyera flew in a HYDRA plane above the Playground where they activated a Terrigen Mist bomb which had been sent into the base. This caused several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to be transformed into Primitives who freed Hive from the Suspension Gel he had become trapped in. They continued to attack the surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. agents while James and the other HYDRA agents flew the ship onto the base and took control of Zephyr One alongside their leader Hive.
Attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D.
- "So erhm, when we blow this thing, three continents of people are going to end up looking like these buggers yeah? Even the ladies? Look I don't want to seem ungrateful, you know, pumped to be changing the world and all that, but, down the road, can we still look at tweaking the formula?"
- ―Hellfire to Hive
James and Giyera flew their ship into the Playground where they regrouped with Hive, who had defeated Daisy Johnson in a fight. Once Johnson had been loaded into the Containment Module onboard Zephyr One, James asked how they had taken control only to learn that it was due to the work of the Primitives. James asked Hive if Johnson was back on their side, but Hive explained that she was there to ensure they were not shot out of the sky.
While speaking with Hive, James learned that he was capable of flying the ship due to the combined knowledge of both Grant Ward and Will Daniels' training locked inside his head. With the ship in the air, Hive confirmed that he was collecting his thoughts and James began questioning him over his plans, asking about how they would escape themselves to reconnect with the Inhumans before being destroyed in the explosion, but James reassured him that they would have escaped in the Containment Module before the explosion.
As Hive let the final coordinates, James questioned him about the fate of the women of the world, as he became worried that they would also become turned into ugly Primitives, as he requested that they one day tweak Holden Radcliffe's formula to improve the look of the Primitives so he found them to be more attractive. Hive ignored his requests but when he ordered that they move forward, he learned that Giyera had been shot and killed by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who had snuck onboard the ship to stop his plans.
Hive ordered James to find the stowaways and he soon came across Lincoln Campbell, who had managed to get onboard by using a Quinjet. James ambushed and attacked Campbell, knocking him into a corner; however, Campbell's training allowed him to defeat Hellfire with a blast of electricity before Melinda May knocked him out with a solid punch. However, James left Campbell with a bomb which fatally wounded him before Campbell sacrificed himself and Hive as he knew he was already dying because of James.
Helping the Watchdogs
Six months after Hive's death, James began to hate of what he became and since he studied on what Lash had been doing, he decided to pick up on his footsteps and make an alliance with the Watchdogs.
Eventually, James was released from prison by a cell that worked for the HYDRA Empire. Gaining their trust, James
- "Were you like this before you got your powers?"
"What? 101% Awesome? You bet. Becoming Inhuman doesn't change your personality."
- ―Melinda May and Hellfire
James loves to hear the sound of his own voice. Maybe because he has spent so much time alone or because he does not like people enough to be talkative to them, James tries to get his point said as fast and as unsubtle as possible. He does not keep the slightest thought to himself, including throwing insults to Lincoln Campbell and openly mocking whoever he meets, including Hive.
This lack of self-control caused Jiaying to deem him unworthy of Terrigenesis, causing him to hate her and other Inhumans associated with her and Afterlife. After gaining powers, James himself admitted that nothing changed about him; thus, Melinda May was able to manipulate him for her own means during an undercover mission.
Powers and Abilities
- Explosion Touch: Hellfire can cause items he touches to explode.
- Heat Manipulation: By simply holding onto an object, Hellfire can increase the temperature to the point where it bursts into flames. These flames don't appear to consume or damage the object unless he wills it. The fire is hot enough to cut through solid objects.
- Explosives Mastery: As a demolitions expert and mercenary, Hellfire would likely have had extensive experience with explosives. He clearly knows how to install land mines safely, given that he mined his front yard, and he also had access to C-4, which he used to booby-trap and ultimately destroy his home under Hive's influence. This knowledge proved vital when he gained the ability to turn any given object into an explosive.
- Chain: James Taylor used a steel chain as his weapon of choice after undergoing Terrigenesis. While being chased by Watchdogs into an alley, he grabbed this item off of a dumpster and infused it with his flames, using it to threaten and disarm his assailants. Later, upon seeing Lash attack Hive, James used this chain to impale and kill Lash.
- Remington 700: James Taylor kept a Remington 700 by his side while he lived in a caravan in South Dakota, carrying it when he saw that Lincoln Campbell and Daisy Johnson came to his hideout. When Johnson detonated all of his landmines, James prepared to use this rifle to neutralize the intruders but was unable to fire after Campbell knocked him unconscious.
- Land mines: James Taylor surrounded his home in the Badlands with these explosives planted in the ground to keep out unwanted intruders. Daisy Johnson accidentally stepped on one of these but managed to step off and detonate all of the mines in the ground.
- C-4: James Taylor used these explosives to booby-trap his home in the Badlands. Before leaving to Romania with Hive, James planted these bombs throughout his trailer and activated a timer in order to eliminate the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that came to apprehend him.
- Carter Slade † - Great-Great-Grandfather
- Lincoln Slade - Great-Great-Grandfather
- Hamilton Slade - Brother
- Jaime Slade - Niece
- Taylor Slade - Nephew
In chronological order:
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- In the comics, James Slade was an American store clerk and alleged descendant of western hero Carter Slade, with the ability to control supernatural flames. He was a member of the Secret Warriors and a romantic interest of Daisy Johnson, until he betrayed the team for HYDRA and is later killed by Nick Fury.
- In The Singularity, James states that he considered "Firestarter" as an alias, but that he decided against it because it "felt a little '90s". This is a reference to the song "Firestarter" by The Prodigy.
- He also considered "Inferno" and "Scorch", both of which are common codenames for pyrokinetic individuals in the comics. Unbeknownst to him "Scorch" had previously been used.
- James Slade is a Leo with a "little bit" of Scorpio.