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Five Goofiest Moments in the First Five Human Torch Features in Strange Tales

Every day this month will have the five goofiest moment from a five-issue stretch of a particular comic book run. Once a week it will be the ten goofiest moments of a ten-issue stretch. Here is a list of the moments featured so far.

Today we’re looking at the first five issues of the Human Torch lead feature in Strange Tales (#101-105), written by Stan Lee (plot) and Larry Lieber (script) and drawn by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks).

As always, this is all in good fun. I don’t mean any of this as a serious criticism of the comics in question. Not only were these writers certainly never imagining people still reading these comics decades after they were written, great comics often have goofy moments (Kirby/Lee’s Fantastic Four is one of the best comic book runs of all-time and there were TONS of goofy stuff in those 100 plus issues!).

Honestly, you’d be surprised by how relatively ungoofy these first five Torch stories were. They were so straightforward that they were almost more boring than anything else.


In #102, we meet the Wizard. We see some of his past exploits, including beating a computer in chess. I love how the chess-playing computer is drawn…

In #103, Lieber decides to set up the plot in one of the clunkiest ways possible, with a bunch of teenagers talking about a local house builder…

“How can you say Bentley is the best house builder? I know 20 better house builders!” “You take that back!” Teenagers do love to talk about house builders…

While very badass, I found it amusing that the opening panel in #101 is never addressed again in the comic.

We don’t know WHY Torch is racing an atomic guided missile, we don’t know where the atomic guided missile is heading. It is just never mentioned again.

In #104, we meet Paste Pot Pete. I’d feature him on his own as a goofy moment, except he is MEANT to be goofy, so that wouldn’t be fair. That said, the following phrase by Pete is certainly goofy..

Ah yes, what else but paste could be the supreme weapon?

5. Maybe you have a little too much trust in Johnny, Reed…

In #101, we see a diagram of Johnny’s room in Glenville.

I reeeeeally don’t think Johnny having a lab where he experiments with different chemicals is really the best idea. I can only imagine how scientific those experiments would be. More like Johnny just splashing random chemicals on himself…

4. Poor planning by the bad guys…

As you saw from #103, someone is sinking houses. As it turns out, it is an alien race from another dimension. However, you would think that…

A. They’d do a better job hiding their actions and

B. Johnny Storm would not be the first person to come up with the idea of “hey, why not hide and see what happens at night.” It is not like Johnny is even doing any special type of hiding. No one thought to do that when repeated houses kept sinking at night?

3. We all make mistakes like that…

In #104, Johnny (who is trying not to let anyone know he is the Human Torch) almost makes a silly mistake…

How do you almost write “Human Torch”!? Now I want Dan Slott to have an issue of Amazing Spider-Man where Peter almost writes “Spider-Man” on his deposit slip.

2. REALLY poor planning by the bad guys…

In #101, someone is sabotaging rides at the local amusement park. Johnny is wondering why when he figures out…

You have to love the idea of “people riding tall rides at the amusement park” being the only way that anyone would notice a communist submarine off the coast of Long Island.

1. Putting the genie back into the bottle…

One of the problems with the set-up for Strange Tales, which was to be Johnny working as a typical teen superhero (like Spider-Man), complete with a secret identity, was that Johnny pretty clearly did not have a secret identity.

Check out these panels from Fantastic Four #4…

This was not a guy who was hiding his identity. But they figured they wanted his I.D. to be a secret for this series. So Stan and Larry have one of the all-time great text box explanations in the beginning of #101…

I’m just impressed that they didn’t just say “but they all died in a car accident.”

Well handled, well handled…


Of course, it doesn’t take place in the five issues you mentioned, but eventually the whole “secret identity” thing just went away, with Sue and all the people of Glenville basically saying, “Yeah, we knew who you were all along, but you obviously thought you were fooling us, so we humored you!”

In fact, isn’t the super-hero bank account issue part of Spidey’s origin? He gets a check for performing made out to “Spider-Man” and finds he can’t cash it?

I’m just impressed that they didn’t just say “but they all died in a car accident.”

Well handled, well handled…

Unfortunately James Robinson, Brad Meltzer or Dan Didio weren’t around back then and working for Marvel. They’d have made sure they died in the most gruesome way possible.

By the way, this was one of the best ones you’ve done yet. Great goofiness.

I have a question about the house sinking comic….WHY exactly were the aliens sinking houses, and why only that guy’s particular house? Were they just practical jokers? I really can’t see what they get out of it.

Man, it’s a good thing Johnny has a whole alcove set aside for a flare gun. Because if there’s one guy who really needs a flare gun, it’s the Human Torch.

All kidding aside, I imagine Reed gave that to Johnny in case he lost his powers, the same way he probably keeps a bunch of “You Are Johnny Storm” tapes around in case he loses his memory.

It’s funny how hard Marvel seemed to be pushing Johnny to be the breakout solo star of the FF. The solo adventures in Strange Tales, alternating with Spider-Man in the early issues of Marvel Team-Up, the planned solo cartoon that led to the creation of H.E.R.B.I.E. to fill his slot in the animated FF…

I wonder if he ever was popular enough to warrant all this, or if Marvel just thought he SHOULD be, because he was the teen idol type, “the cute one.” It’s all the funnier because the much more successful breakout star turned out to be the Thing.

I’m sorry, my favorite thing in #2 is that Johnny is standing while in human torch mode…..on a wooden Roller Coaster.

Can you say disaster?

I’m surprised the FF’s maid hasn’t sued Reed for mesothelioma due to having to change and wash asbestos sheets.

This is why they went to using robots for everything, Morgan.

HEY! Really not cool to speak ill of the dead! How can you do a whole column about the Torch being goofy when he’s DEAD!
Show some respect … and wait six months until they bring him back… :)

Michael M Jones

May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

So he has a small lab for splashing chemicals on himself, a book case full of books on pyrotechnics, a closet full of FF costumes, multiple file cabinets with supervillain case histories, an asbestos bed, star charts, undersea charts, and a TV screen table top … and the only thing he bothers to keep secret is a flare gun?

Johnny never got that secret identity thing down, did he?

Or have girls over. “Nice asbestos bed, Johnny!” “It helps me sleep.”

Michael M. Jones: Take it from someone who grew up in the nerd lifestyle. A guy whose bedroom has a chemical laboratory, star charts, file cabinets full of research and a shelf stocked with science books doesn’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about what to do if a girl ever shows up…

“I’m just impressed that they didn’t just say “but they all died in a car accident.””

Don’t be silly! They all died in a fire. Well, there were four separate fires. On the same night. All completely accidental, you understand.

If your evil house-sinking plan is so dumb that the Human Torch can see through it… you’re probably in the wrong line of business

I have a question about the house sinking comic….WHY exactly were the aliens sinking houses, and why only that guy’s particular house? Were they just practical jokers? I really can’t see what they get out of it.

That swamp was the entrance from their dimension to ours, so they needed to keep the entryway clear for their impending invasion of our dimension.

Man’s cruelty is reflected in how large they made the chess playing robot’s hands. Nice allegory Lieber.

I love how Johnny’s wondering why only the “tall amusements” were targeted instead of the merry-go-round and Ferris wheel, while in the background we can see that gigantic Ferris wheel towering over the other rides.

Now we know that the Zen La-ians were going to use paste on Galactus.


Why does Johnny need asbestos bed sheets? Is he supposed to be some kind of flaming ‘bedwetter’ or something?

My guess is that they tried to push Johnny as a breakout star because Spider-Man genuinely WAS a breakout star, and they figured it was because of the teenaged-hero background. Not to mention that the original Human Torch had been a successful headliner, so the notion that Johnny could too probably didn’t seem all THAT outlandish at the time.

Not just an asbestos bed. A DOUBLE asbestos bed. Coz Johnny was a playa from Day One.

As deformed and MODOK-esque as the chessputer is, he’s a real looker compared to the rest of the room. Check out the skull on the guy on the far right. I bet his Cro-Mag paws are even less suited to gripping a pawn than those vintage bending units Chessbot is sporting. Wizard himself is straight outta Nantucket Brown Roasters.

Inb4 frenzy of Swamp Castle jokes. Or were those deleted by editorial command?

Steve, I’m wondering the same thing myself. Where are all the Swamp Castle jokes?

And we call ourselves geeks!

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