Why the Human Torch’s Run In Strange Tales Is Not a Solo Title
Journey Into Marvel – Part 51
Even two issues into his run, in the failing Strange Tales line, Stan Lee relies upon crossovers to cover the dramatic deficiencies of everybody’s favourite flamer.
The Human Torch can’t function without the other heroes.
As I discovered in the last article Torch is inept without his team. He’s rash, is an illogical thinker and this makes him mentally weak in comparison to the other members of the Fantastic Four. This is made clear in the final panels of this issue.
This second issue shows a wider perspective on Torch’s hometown; Glenville. Under it’s iconic small town facade exists, in classic Marvel fashion, a den of a megalomaniacal genius bent on the destruction of the Human Torch. The megalomaniac is named The Wizard. He excels at everything he dips his fingers into. Wizard is an accomplished chess master, an inventor of nutty furniture: i.e. the ‘Cloud Chair,’ and is a well known magician. Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby don’t spend much time establishing why Wizard wants to destroy Torch, but I don’t think it is important. Torch needs archenemies so the creatives give him an angular cheap redux of Dr. Doom.
Just like Doom, the Wizard concocts some extraordinary tricks to get under the Torch’s skin. Among them is trapping him in an asbestos lined cell. This is where the power discrepancy that rears its head countless times in these Torch tales first appears. Torch uses his supernova power to melt through the asbestos. In later stories, and depending upon who is writing, Johnny is often crippled by that cancerous fluff. Because of the conveniences Strange Tales had fluctuating popularity by those who faithfully read the Fantastic Four.
As I said last article, this is not the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. For one thing, Torch has become a secret alter-ego of Johnny Storm. It’s the lack of subterfuge in the Fantastic Four that makes them so groundbreaking. Torch’s secret identity is central to the plot.
Wizard threatens to decipher who lies beneath the flames. Torch, for no reason that makes any character sense beyond a Lee/Lieber convenience, is concerned with keeping his identity secret. Maybe, Torch’s solo appearances are a primer for the solo Spider-Man title. For a time Torch resembles Pete in nerdiness, sardonicism, and rebelliousness.
Torch — even weirder than his character change — doesn’t defeat the Wizard. His sister Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, uses her whiles to fool the Wizard into thinking her younger brother is all powerful. When the Torch stares down the Wizard, in the final panels, his sister grabs three pictures showing that the Wizard was behind all the crimes in this comic and makes it look like Johnny can manipulate objects with his mind. Torch couldn’t defeat the Wizard without the help of his sister. This is telling. Torch needs the better minds of his partners to defeat his opponents.
As Earth-616 progresses the cameos and the cross overs become the main attraction of issues. Torch’s stories, from this point forward, always feature a cameo.
Torch’s solo title never finds its own legs.
It’s an appendix to the Fantastic Four line.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “Prisoner of the Wizard” (Strange Tales #102 Nov. 1962)
Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: After all is said and done, the Wizard is one of the better villains. I love the kitschy inventions and achievements of the Wizard. The character creation of the Wizard is pretty well drawn; even if he does look unfairly ugly. I love the fact that Sue is the smartest person in this story.
Cons: Just about everything involved with the Human Torch. The story is a rehash of old used stories. All the discrepancies.
Previous Review: “The Human Torch” (Strange Tales #101 Oct. 1962)
Posted on May 23, 2014, in Comics, Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged Fantastic Four, Human Torch, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Stan Lee, Strange Tales, Torch, Wizard. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.