Cliff Carmichael was a rival of Ronnie Raymond during his school years. He was well-known for his intelligence but his abrasive personality left him with few friends. Cliff was a constant source of irritation to Ronnie, often ridiculing him in front of others because he was jealous of the attention Ronnie was getting as a new, good-looking student. The two contended for the attention of Doreen Day, who turned out to be a long-term love interest for Ronnie. At times, Cliff seemed to be close to discovering Ronnie's identity as Firestorm. His attitude often caused Ronnie to lose his temper.
Eventually, Cliff's hatred of Ronnie grew into more and more of an obsesssion. He slit a strap in a football helmut that he thought Ronnie was going to use, presumably hoping that Ronnie would get hurt. Instead, his cousin Hugo used the helmut. When it failed during a football game, Hugo became paralyzed. The guilt from this event caused Cliff to become unstable. He contemplated suicide by leaping from the top of a building, but a storm forced his hand by knocking him off the top. Ronnie, who witnessed the event, quickly became Firestorm and saved his life. Cliff's unstable condition was recognized by the authorities and he was institutionalized. Even as his fate was being decided, he continued to blame much of his problems on Ronnie Raymond.
A few years later, Cliff was discharged from the mental institution. He volunteered for an experiment being conducted by the Institute of Metahuman Studies. They were trying to see if the original Thinker's thinking cap could be used to improve the mind of an unstable person. During the experiment, the Cliff collected data on the thinking cap and replicated its technology in smaller chips. He manipulated the scientists overseeing the experiment into inserting the chips into his brain. This enhancement turned him into a "cyberpunk" genius with limited mind control abilities.
Shortly after his escape from the IMHS, Cliff joined the Suicide Squad and worked with that group for a brief time until he betrayed the team. He escaped and started a relatively quiet life.
For a time, Cliff was content to live in obscurity while working on his research projects. One day, he received a call from Killer Frost, who shared with him that Ronnie Raymond was actually inside of the new Firestorm. Cliff used two of Ronnie's old foes, Multiplex and Typhoon and set a trap for Firestorm, determined to take part in Ronnie's death this time.
In a final confrontation, Cliff tormented both Ronnie and Jason with his mental powers. It took all of their willpower to escape from him. Ronnie began to dissappear inside of the Firestorm matrix due to the exertion. Despite this, Ronnie insisted that they return to end Cliff's threat. They managed to liquify Cliff's implanted chips and render him powerless before Ronnie finally faded away.Character Milestones