Thursday, January 30, 2014

Readers' Write (17): Face-Off! The Original Human Torch vs. Johnny Storm


While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Face-Off is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, Face-Off is for two singers, comic characters, bands, films, etc. to go up against each other.  For example, we've run a post that asked readers to choose between Captain America's two main partners:  Bucky Barnes and the Falcon.We've also discussed Medusa and Crystal as replacement's for the Invisible Girl.

Thanks for holding it down for us -- we really do appreciate it.  This weekend Karen and Doug will be back "live" with new material.  We're going to start you off with two discussions on essential reading material you would tell a new comics reader to seek out if trying to learn about the history and general awesomeness that is (was) Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  Make sure to stop by and join the fun!

Matt Celis would like to discuss the Original Human Torch and Johnny Storm.

27 comments:

Matt Celis said...

I'd recommend Showcase Presents Superman Family and Essential Spider-Man as primers.

Doug said...

Great! Be sure to bring those suggestions back this weekend.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

Face-off: Original Human Torch vs. extra-crispy Human Torch.

Doug said...

Matt --

I don't mind that one, but before I put it on the main page and Twitter, can you explain what "extra crispy" means? I want to make sure I get your intent correct.

Thanks,

Doug

William said...

Yeah, I don't know what you mean by "extra crispy", is that Johnny Storm?

Also, is it "Who would win in a fight?" or "Which character is the better Human Torch?"

Garett said...

I think a human who bursts into flame is more thrilling than an android that bursts into flame. I haven't read much of the original Torch though--if he had Vision-type human emotions, that would be interesting.

mr. oyola said...

I think Matt was just making a Kentucky Fried Chicken joke.

Humanbelly said...

Yes, yes-- thank you, Mr.O! Matt was being wryly tongue-in-cheek. It did indeed give me a chuckle, too (although I can well imagine that Doug's teacher-persona may be struggling w/ MattC-as-smart-alec-kid-in-the-back. . .heh. . .)

Me, I've almost always find Johnny immature and tiresome. Even back when he was older than I was, I wanted him to grow up and get some direction and depth. He was at his best when used as a rotational feature in Marvel Team-up (used pretty darned well, in fact). In FF, I honestly liked him the most throughout his whole (awkward) getting married/omigod-she's-a-skrull run. For better or worse, he GREW and had some interesting bigger issues to deal with as a person.

I do like the Original Torch-- and would LOVE to have seen him used better and more in the modern MU. I think we had a post here awhile back that went through his origin, is that right? A cool parallel with he and the Vision is that they both "awoke" fully sentient, and after a brief, initial outburst of amoral activity, they both made a conscious choice to side themselves with the good guys. IIRC, Jim was always incredibly easy-going and friendly-- a much more genuine "person" than someone like Namor, even.

HB

William said...

I like them both. I always thought that the android angle of the original Torch was very innovative for it's time. I wonder what made Carl Burgos think of that? Seems kind of out there for 1939. I wouldn't have even thought they knew what an android was back then. Personally, I always really liked his "no face" look when he was flamed on. I guess John Byrne had some fondness for old Jim Hammond as well, because he brought him back during his stint on West Coast Avengers, and then used him again for an Invaders reunion in the pages of Namor (which was one of my favorite story arcs of that series).

Of course, I am much more familiar with Johnny Storm. I always liked the little "Hot Head". I thought his brash, arrogant personality was a nice contrast to Peter Parker's more humble and reserved demeanor. So, it was always interesting when they would team up.

Doug said...

An aside:

Did any of you know that Batroc is in the Winter Soldier film? Is Crossbones, too?

Here's a link to some production stills and three UK movie posters.

Doug

Pat Henry said...

Hard to say in a matchup. Original Torch was much more vicious and prone to really burning his opponents alive. No more Mister Nice Guy. FF Torch has nova burst, which I don't think we ever saw in the original.

I'd have to give it slightly to FF Torch, as the variations and varieties of the uses of his powers are more advanced than the original Torch. ...But the latter was able to go toe-to-toe with Subby. *Shrug*

david_b said...

Not much to say here on the original Torch, although besides the golden stories, you saw him both in Invaders and later on in the West Coast Avengers.

From what I casually read in both those venues, I didn't see the 'original Torch' having much of a personality. Aside from the virture of having Toro by his side, he really doesn't register as a character.

As for Johnny, I liked what I saw from the late Silver to mid-Bronze, but I didn't find writers really knowing what to do with him, I'm talking consistently here. I liked him during the Reed-Sue marital breakdown, but other than that and his earliest attempts to be with Crystal, I believe writers just phoned in his personality as Johnny, aside from him being the 'Human Torch' team member.

At least his rapport with Spidey and Ben Grimm seemed to best define him as a character; with Crystal, he just seemed a whiney love-sick teenager, for the most part.

I didn't read much FF during the Byrne tenure, but I do recall Byrne giving him (and us to look at...) that TERRIBLE '80s butch haircut during Jennifer's membership. Ecccch.

Karen said...

Regarding Doug's Winter Soldier post -I didn't realize Batroc was in the film. I think that's both cool and goofy. And he gets to wear purple! If he can wear his comic book colors, can we please let the Falcon have some red in his costume?

As for Crossbones, it's my understanding that actor Frank Grillo has the same civilian name as Crossbones, but I've yet to see any pictures of him as Crossbones, or be referred to as Crossbones. He looks like a SHIELD agent. maybe he becomes the villain later on?

Anonymous said...

Have nothing against the original Torch, but I like extra-crispy, I mean Johnny Storm better. He worked well in most iterations of FF that I've read, and I liked his friendship with Spidey - and the fact that initially they were more like frenemies.

Edo Bosnar said...

Er, sorry anonymous above is me...

Greg said...

I had heard that, about Batroc being in the film. And Crossbones too- yes he apparently starts as a SHIELD agent, and is in the elevator scene (I think, not sure?). I'm pretty geeked about both of them. Yeah Batroc's silly but kinda like him. I think this is going to be a fun movie.

Bruce B. said...

Not only is Batroc in the upcoming Captain America movie, but he will be played by UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St-Pierre.

As a fan of both GSP and "Batroc Zee Lepair," I think that's a pretty inspired bit of casting!

Matt Celis said...

As a lad Johnny was my favorite FF member, but now that I'm older I prefer Ben. In fact he's the only FF member I like at all. I dig Johnny in team-ups with Spidey but mostly find him annoying. Much prefer the Thing as a character.

I like the original Human Torch. Love that his name is an outright lie. Enjoy his wild adventures and weird villains...wasn't the Parrot one of his recurring foes?

mr. oyola said...

Except for his origin in Marvel Comics #1 and perhaps a now mostly forgotten appearance in the Invaders I know little to nothing about that weirdo the Original Human Torch. I still think of his as the proto-Vision regardless of what later continuity says.

On the other hand, I love all of the Fantastic Four (except Reed - I even like Herbie better than Reed!) and so have a soft spot for Johnny, esp. when he was separated from Crystal in those Kirby days. Didn't he steal the Evil Eye to try to break down the barrier Maximus had put up?

Like Matt - I also love his team-ups with Spidey. Dan Slott's Spider-Man & Human Torch series from a few years back is FANTASTIC by the way and captures the feel of different eras perfectly.

Garett said...

GSP as Batroc! That's perfect. I'll look forward to that.

Fred W. Hill said...

Johnny had the benefit of being a Silver Age character, which meant however poorly developed he was by Stan & Jack and the gang, he still had a lot more depth than the Golden Ager Jim Hammond android torch. If anyone else remembers that 8 issue run of The Human Torch in the mid '70s, reprinting G.A. & S.A. Torch stories together, while they weren't without a bit of charm, they weren't exactly stellar examples of sequential 4-color art either. And in the G.A. Torch tales I don't recall any mention ever being made of the fact that Mr. Hammond was in fact an android and not human at all. In the Invaders, Roy remembered to bring it up from time to time and I seem to recall a romantic triangle involving the Torch having the, ahem, hots for Spitfire, who was smitten with Cap, who seemed not to notice. Personality wise, Roy portrayed the android Torch as entirely human, except that all his body parts were manmade (and at least through my comics reading history, I don't recall anyone ever seriously pondering how Phineas Horton could have manufactured such a being, apparently all by himself; what if Dr. Doom or the Mad Thinker stole his notes and started manufacturing armies of "human torches" under their control?)
As for Johnny, I find it interesting that in the early Silver Age he seemed like the golden kid compared to Peter Parker. He was admired, had no money problems, rode around in fancy cars, had a steady girlfriend, didn't seem to have any serious problems. The only thing they had in common, aside from being teen-agers, was they were both orphans, but while Johnny had an older sister and her genius finance to act as parent figures, Peter was increasingly having to take care of his elderly aunt, who was his sole parental figure after his uncle was murdered. Shift into the Bronze Age in 1973, Peter still has plenty of problems including the trauma of his girlfriend being murdered, but Johnny seems to be going nowhere, a college dropout, his girlfriend's left him, and he can't seem to get it on with anyone. And that can't really be blamed on Gerry Conway or Roy Thomas -- Stan & Jack seemed to steer Johnny into that direct during their latter years on the strip (moreso Stan after Jack left). Roy & Gerry just made Johnny's problems more explicit. I quit collecting before Johnny married Alicia so I can't comment on that, but continuing the trend for both Peter & Johnny, they both got married in the mid-80s,and then their marriages were dramatically torn apart, Johnny's in a way he likely wishes he could forget, while Peter's in a way that only the devil knows he was ever married!

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed the relationship between Peter Parker and Johnny Storm. Complicated!
My take was, Peter regarded the Torch as a spoiled brat punk showoff, and Johnny considered Spidey a whiny, neurotic, self-righteous jerk who only thought he was funny.
I think there was a little truth there on both counts!
It was always fun to see them trade insults, especially after they had worked together a few times. It was like a buddy-cop movie. I got they actually liked each other, sort-of, at least on some level. Not much,though.

Matt Celis said...

Liked each other well enough to have a regular meeting place (statue of lib) and Spidey came to Torch for driving lessons. I'd say they were best buddies of the Marvel super hero set, sort of a teenage World's Finest. Always liked them together.

Redartz said...

Haven't read much of the original Torch; just a couple reprints from Fantasy Masterpieces and some barely-remembered stories from the Invaders. I do plan to hunt down some Torch vs. Namor battles; the stories featuring Johnny Storm and Sub-Mariner were always fun.

Echoing the fondness for the Torch/Spidey team. Matt makes a good metaphor: they really are Marvel's "World's Finest". There was a rather moving tale a couple years ago in Amazing Spider-Man: Dan Slott wrote about the relationship between Johnny and Peter in an issue (657) following the "death" of the Torch. There were several amusing vignettes of previously untold meetings. One that comes to mind was when Johnny and Pete teamed up to pull a practical joke on the Thing. Actually, Peter seemed to have been adopted as part of the FF family. They all have quite a bit of history together (stemming from ASM number one!). If you get a chance, this is one of the better stories from Spider-Man's more recent history.

Anonymous said...

You can't help but like Johnny Storm. When Dr. Doom got the Silver Surfer's cosmic powers, Johnny went after him with both barrels, instead of fleeing in mindless terror like Doom suggested he should do.
I remember Fantastic Annual #4 (I think) where he squared off against the original Torch. It was interesting to see how Kirby drew both Torches differently. The original Torch was portrayed as somewhat bigger and more powerful. Also the vertical lines on the new Torch didn't appear on the old one. An interesting thing Kirby threw in there.
Johnny was talking smack (as per usual) to the old Torch, while privately thinking, "I may be in trouble here."
That was a great comic!

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Redartz, I enjoyed that Dan Slott Spidey/Torch mini also -- one of those I read a positive review of elsewhere and was intrigued enough to order the collection. I really liked how he expanded on their relationship while they were building the Spider-Mobile, having Johnny talk about Crystal leaving him, and then Spidey mentioning that his girlfriend was gone -- permanently. One of those scenes where I really felt they were seeing each other as genuine human beings to relate to than as simply superhero rivals.

Rip Jagger said...

I've always preferred the original Human Torch to the later Johnny Storm version. His costume was cooler (save for that short time when Johnny wore red) and his back story is richer. An android in a human world, what a potentially vivid source for stories. Too bad Marvel didn't do more with it.

Oh...they did. With the Vision. Hmmm. Good point.

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