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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Flames = Super-Strength? Of COURSE they do!

Every day this August I’ll be spotlighting strange but ultimately endearing comic stories, one a day (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of past installments of this feature.

Today we look at an issue of Strange Tales (#115, by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers) where we discover one of the strangest “out of nowhere” powers that the Human Torch has ever had!

So, after Torch treats us to one of the goofiest expressions ever, we see a recap of the goofy first victory Spider-Man had over Sandman from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man…

Then we learn why Reed wants Johnny involved…

It is too true, all teenagers need to be dressed down occasionally, whether they do anything wrong or not.

Yes, lucky that you work on dodging obstacles for some reason!

Then the kicker…

Flame power?!? What the hell?!!? That is insane! Someone should really use that power again if/when the Torch returns to the Fantastic Four comic!

31 Comments

I’m pretty interesting in reading the adventures of MR. FANTASTIC: Master of Karate & Judo now, too.

While that is extremely goofy, as well, it was at least referenced in an issue of Fantastic Four before this comic.

It’s not just “I have flame powers, so I am also tougher than the average joe,” but it’s that goofy comic logic of that Johnny has more residual heat in his body therefore he has greater strength. Is that a thing? Does getting real hot really give you that much of a competitive edge? If so I’m gonna toss on a couple of sweaters and knock over a bank.

I also enjoy Reed’s tough love approach. It is common knowledge that teenagers need a good yellin’ at to develop into responsible members of society. That’s what’s wrong with today’s youth. Too much positive reinforcement.

I demand at least a training montage.

So before his escape, no one thought it might be a bad idea to have open windows in a cell for a guy who can change his body to a moving pile of sand?

Is it really that goofy? I think it has some merit, in the crazy mixed up world of real physics and comic book physics.

I have a theory, actually: Notice that Johnny doesn’t THINK that, he just SAYS it to Sandman. What is he actually thinking? He’s thinking about the fighting training he had from Ben and Reed – which likely included how to use an opponent’s own strength against them, as well as how to plant in their mind doubt and fear.

So Johnny wasn’t ACTUALLY using “heat-powered” super strength. He just wanted Sandman to think that as he applied judo/karate training to best his opponent physically while instilling fear in him emotionally.

Damn, kids, I think I just earned a No-Prize. Get Stan on the horn.

Johnny lifted Sandman over his head and easily twirled him around before tossing him across the room. That’s not a judo move, that’s super-strength.

Oh no, Cronin, you won’t ruin my logic here!

Sandman weighs less than the average man his size because he is less dense — unstable grainy molecules and all.

SEE?

YEAH!!

(Notice he “stretched his muddy molecules.” Dummy that he is, he didn’t realize the molecules didn’t stretch – just there were spaced further apart!)

COMIC BOOK SCIENCE.

To be fair to Johnny, with his career, setting up some kind of homebrew obstacle course in his backyard does make sense.

This kind of thing happens a whole lot in the early Silver Age Marvels, as a consequence of the so-called “Marvel Method”. The artist draws something that seems, to him, perhaps hyperbolic but a fair exaggeration for the sake of dynamic imagery, and Stan, rather than having it redrawn, dreams up some sort of explanation, just in case the reader happens to question the drawing. I really don’t think the typical reader would have had much problem with Johnny’s unlikely strength if Stan hadn’t drawn attention to it with this ill-advised justification.

Pj – You are my hero. Excellent logic being displayed.

A man-sized mass of even “stretched” mud would still be absurdly heavy. But really, it’s not too great a stretch to say that a guy who can actually generate and absorb heat as a standard power can boost his strength somehow. Is it so different than Sebastian Shaw’s power to absorb kinetic energy and convert it into super-strength, or the various life- and superpower-energy vampires out there? Johnny may not know the mechanism of his ability to use heat energy to boost his strength somewhat, but he can still use the power.

Or maybe he’s just creating the same updrafts that somehow allow him to fly.

How does this fit into how he becomes “lighter than air” when he flames on? Wasn’t that the explanation in FF1?

Maybe the cosmic rays gave him super strength or resilience of some sort, and Johnny, dummy he is, thinks it cuz he get hot. Like, he flames on and doesn’t, y’know, burn to death each time, so maybe his molecules got some compactedness, which gives him great strength. Not Ben strength, but he am stronger than the average bear.

Or maybe Stan has no concept of science…

I think it’s funny how even almost 50 years later we’re still coming up with explanations for Marvel’s goofs.

I don’t think it’s particularly weird that Reed knew karate and judo. He was a genius and a renaissance man, so why wouldn’t he study martial arts at some point in his life? I assume he learned judo and karate before he got his super powers, in fact I’d bet he studied in Japan right after the end of WWII.

“To be fair to Johnny, with his career, setting up some kind of homebrew obstacle course in his backyard does make sense.”

The funny part is that he attributes it to luck. Blind, simple, stupid, doo-dah luck.

What I found funnier was “You forgot sand doesn’t burn!”

Um, how many times has he been fused to glass? (Dust too, for that matter)

Try taking a look at Strange Tales #121 where the Beetle (in his 1st app) stops the Thing by pouring soup on him. I kid you not!

How about the comical science that says a sprinkler can put out the Torch’s flames for minutes? He can generate nova-level heat and flame from within his body, but a thin sheen of water disables him?

How about if he towels himself off…does that restore his power faster? Maybe Reed could bring a nuclear-powered hair dryer when they battle evildoers to reduce the Torch’s recovery time?

Or here’s a thought: a waterproof costume of unstable molecules. That way, no substance ever touches the Torch’s body. And he isn’t disabled by every fire hydrant or extinguisher in existence.

@ Rob S.

While you are correct about the Torch as he would be, early on his power level was much less. i do agree that Stan’s science & logic often make no sense, but at least this concept is pretty consistant. i would think that Reed would be able to do something with all his smarts, but again, when you’re being written by a silver age writer, your actions aren’t going to be well thought out!

Plus it got us the great visual of Johnny running around half-flame, half-normal. If they could make that a Halloween costume, i would wear it!

Torch was worried about “muddying up his pink little fingers??” What a mugwump…

This actually makes a lot of sense. If Torchy can produce energy as heat he can also produce plain old energy which can be used as power.

“Sandman bided his time, waiting for the right moment, and oozed through the jail cell bars”
Why did he bide his time? Why wait til before daybreak? He could slip through the bars at any time, since they were stupid enough to put him in a room with just bars that he could ooze through to prevent him from escaping. Did he bide his time to wait til the guards weren’t paying attention, so they wouldn’t shoot him with the bullets that would have just gone harmlessly through his sandy body? How about, “As soon as Sandman saw the open window he oozed out of it IMMEDIATELY”?

it always bugged me how the Sandman doesn’t just increase his density or something and force his way out of the vacuum cleaner in his fight with Spidey…

If Johhny Storm can absorb heat and a create a field of incredibly high-energy plasma ( because thats what his “flames” are made of , supposedly… according to wikiMarvel ) around his body without the use of a particle accelerator or a cyclotron, then absorbing heat and redirecting it as kinetic energy (super-strength) isn’t such a stretch ( oops! Reed Richards pun…) Just the fact that the Human Torch doesnt vaporize himself everytime he ” flames on” means his body is somehow exponentially more durable than the average human body.

Isn’t “comic-book science” great?

If Johhny Storm can absorb heat and a create a field of incredibly high-energy plasma ( because thats what his “flames” are made of , supposedly… according to wikiMarvel ) around his body without the use of a particle accelerator or a cyclotron, then absorbing heat and redirecting it as kinetic energy (super-strength) isn’t such a stretch ( oops! Reed Richards pun…) Just the fact that the Human Torch doesnt vaporize himself everytime he ” flames on” means his body is somehow exponentially more durable than the average human body.

My assumption is that somehow the entire Fantastic Four have some kind of psionic control or manipulation of their bodies’ molecular composition that expresses itself as “super-powers” for each individual .They got all hit by the same “cosmic rays “. Why didnt they all turn into “Things”, or “Invisible People”, or ” Human Torches”, or ” Fantastics”? Somehow Johnny Storm shields his body’s molecules from combustion, but make everything around him combust into flames.

Isn’t “comic-book science” great?

I hope the next FF writer will remember this little known power of Johnny. As well as Namor’s ability to mimic the abilities of marine life as demonstrated in another Strange Tales issue.

E=MC2, right?

That ol’ formula of Einstein’s is sometimes called “the mass/energy conversion equation.” Perhaps, in an application of that theory, the Torch can convert the energy he absorbs into mass, thereby doubling his strength?

*shrugs*

R.M.Carpenter

May 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

If this were an X-Men comic, that power would now be canon, and the Torch would be an Omega level character.

Well Reed was an OSS agent during WW II (no longer canon, of course) so it’s hardly surprising he got some combat training.
This isn’t as nutty as one story I vaguely remember where the Torch distracts everyone with a flaming duplicate so that nobody will guess his secret identity, which of course he doesn’t have.

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