Irene Merryweather-Cronin was a strong willed, hard working, independent, smart and highly capable women. Her prime years coincided with Astro City emerging as the world's showcase metropolis for super-heroes. It was a time when the best and the brightest took on the world with vigor, hope and the promise for something new, great and wonderful.
Irene's mother went to work for Hillman Holdaway Aircraft during the second World War. Her father was killed in the Pacific Theater and when the war was over, Irene's mother lost her job to the returning men. Bitter and depressed, her mom took to drink and it would seem, drink took her before her time. But she always talked about big times for Irene, and once she was an adult herself, Irene made the big move back to Astro City, where she planned to have the perfect job and to get the perfect man.
Irene joined the mayoral campaign for a newly minted candidate named Morton. She worked tirelessly and her jockeying in the factory district, an area that was supposed to go to the other candidate, helped push Morton over the edge and into office. Not wanting to lose her, Mayor-elect Morton offered her a steady job in the secretarial pool. Irene politely demanded a job as an aide, pulling bluffs along the way. Morton decided to take a chance on Irene and she rewarded that risk with hard work. She gained the reputation in political circles as a "fireball in pearls."
Within a year. things got even more interesting. The mayor's office was raided by a terrorist group called the Balloon Bandits. Irene was taken hostage, and then immediately rescued by a new super-hero called Atomicus. He was a product of the times. A disembodied alien presence trapped in the energies of a nuclear reactor and due to some freakish accident he took on human form. The chemistry didn't stop there. Irene and Atomicus felt sparks too, and they hit it off instantly. Irene continued to assist Atomicus with cases in anyway she could. As the two became closer, they talked more and more about their feelings. Atomicus was worried about the dangerous life he led. He felt that if there was to be a woman in his life, she would have to understand and accepts those dangers as well. Irene misread Atomicus' concerns, reading them more as a challenge, that she somehow, in some way needed to prove herself to be worthy of him.
At the same time, Atomicus, started using a civilian identity of Adam Peterson, working alongside Irene in the Mayor's office. At first she dismissed Peterson as a neophyte screw-up, until she realized that whenever Atomicus showed up, Peterson took a powder. Soon, it became her mission to prove that Peterson was Atomicus, thinking that was the challenge that Atomicus had talked about.
After one ruse, in which Irene found out Atomicus could make atomic duplicates, she lost it and publicly exposed Peterson as Atomicus in front of the entire mayoral staff. This was the final straw for Atomicus, revealing that it wasn't a game. He was just trying to learn how to be human and wanted to be near Irene because he liked her, but she just kept going after him to the breaking point. Irene later realized that he needed someone to help him grow and handle his challenges of adapting to being an adult human.
Frustrated and fed up, Atomicus burst off into space, never to be seen in this solar system again. He expressed his anger before leaving, feeling that if Irene's actions were typical examples, then he wanted nothing to do with being human.
Irene was fired, for costing the world a hero, a nigh powerful one at that. Like her mother, she sank into depression and drinking. Eventually, she hit bottom and mustered the emotional strength to rebuild her self-image and her life. Her career gravitated back into politics. She found an older, single gentleman named Cronin (First name unknown), an alderman in the outer boroughs, who needed help with his election. He was gentle, patient, and could look past her faults. Eventually, he became her husband and a state senator.
Her daughter is secretly the modern Flying Fox.