Saturday, August 17, 2013

Marvels: Strange Tales #101

"The Human Torch" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(October 1962)

The Human Torch was, I guess, the breakout character from Fantastic Four, hitting square at the teenage audience. So he was given his own solo stories as the new lead feature in Strange Tales. Like Thor and the Ant-Man, the Torch will have shorter adventures, with the rest of the book devoted to short stories with a science-fiction twist.

The Human Torch's solo series is no Fantastic Four, but it has fun moments. It's pretty silly; even though it's years too early, it tends to remind me of your average episode of Scooby Doo.

Johnny Storm, when he isn't at the Baxter Building, apparently lives and goes to high school in Glenville. And, to see the way this series unfolds, Glenville is apparently one of the Eastern seaboard's high traffic areas for crimes, shenanigans, and spy nests.

In this story, Johnny faces someone calling himself The Destroyer. He repeatedly sabotages an amusement park that's under construction. The Torch saves people from the deadly sabotage a few times, tracks down the Destroyer, figures out that he's destroying the amusement park because (seriously) people at the top of the roller coaster will be able to see a Soviet sub parked out in the cove, and then unmasks the Destroyer as the editor of the local paper.

And that's the end.

Not much to it.

Hey, I said it was fun, not exciting.

A couple of notes:

:: Much of Johnny's difficulties here stem from him trying to hide when he turns into the Human Torch, because no one in Glenville knows who he is. (The narration assures us that four of Johnny's high school friends knew his identity, but they've all graduated.) I don't know exactly whose mistake this is, since the Fantastic Four are clearly well-known celebrities. Readers will point this out to the bullpen and there will actually be an in-canon explanation for this in a future issue of Strange Tales. Nice touch.

:: There's another one of those neat Jack Kirby diagrams explaining Johnny's house.

Interesting that Johnny's reading up on pyrotechnics. I guess it pays off, as his powers develop. (In this issue, he turns his flame white hot to weld metal. He can also make a flame duplicate of himself which he can manipulate. Not bad for a guy who, last month in Fantastic Four, forgot that there's no oxygen in outer space.)

Note that his bed is asbestos. In another panel, we see his bedspread, carpet and wallpaper are asbestos, and his furniture has been chemically treated to be fireproof. So, clearly, Johnny Storm has some pretty bad cancer.

:: There's a cameo by the Thing. Just thought I'd mention it.

Next: it's the Ant-Man's turn to fight commies.


Roger Owen Green said...

At the time, I understood expanding the brand, as it were, but I never much understood the POINT of the HT stories. Were there comic-reading girls crushing on Johnny Storm?

SamuraiFrog said...

Not that I've been seeing in the FF letters pages. Most people talk about Namor or the Thing. But... maybe? In 1962 Marvel was still doing a pretty brisk business with Millie the Model (and spinoffs), Patsy Walker (and spinoffs), and one or more romance titles. Superheroes are still the minority there so far.