By Andy Frisk
May 22, 2009 - 23:14
The Human Torch Comics special, another in a line of specially designed one-shots produced by Marvel celebrating the 70th anniversary of some of their Golden Age heroes, contains two tales, both set in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. The first is an original composition written for this special by Scott Snyder with art by Scott Wegener, and the second is a reprint of a tale from the Fall, 1940 Human Torch Comics issue #2 by Carl Burgos. The Snyder tale carries all of the Marvel social-racial commentary hallmarks of the most progressive of their tales from the 1970’s and 1980’s where Marvel consciously began to embrace the identity and racial equality issues that were prevalent in America at the time, and the decades just prior.
Human Torch Comics is a tale of the Original Human Torch in which he struggles to overcome his android/cyborg look, and the prejudicial rejection he receives at the hands of his once adoring public when they get a look at his true face when he is forced to venture out without his skin. The whole theme of acceptance, identity, prejudice, rejection, and final acceptance is an oft used theme in Marvel’s X-Men titles as “mutant” is often metaphor for “other,” seen by bigoted types to be those of the other sex, race, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion. Back in the days of the Original Torch’s first printed tales though, these themes were not prevalent, and comics weren’t seen as a vehicle for social commentary. This updated tale of The Torch breaks new ground for the character, and shows how he can be used interestingly and creatively from a standpoint of his “otherness” to tell stories that fit in with Marvel’s, once pretty commonplace, progressive type storytelling. Perhaps there’s an interesting future in revitalizing the character since Marvel has shown now that he can be a relevant character? Hmmm…could be interesting?
Perhaps the idea for a progressive, for its period setting, tale involving The Torch which is themed much like the old X-Men stories along the lines of God Loves, Man Kills and the like, had its germination in the reprinted tale from 1940, which introduces Toro, The Torch’s young sidekick. Toro doesn’t know how he can withstand and control fire, igniting his whole body like The Torch, and The Torch doesn’t seem to find a reason compelling enough to investigate the origin of the kid’s power stronger than any reason not to simply take him under his wing as a sidekick. Now, its completely possible that Toro’s powers were explained somewhere along the line, to my very obvious ignorance, but considering the information in his first appearance reprinted here, and the new story’s theme, which is similar to many of the themes of the mutant stories, might Toro be the first mutant character to appear in a Marvel Comic? It’s an interesting idea even if I am in error here.
Golden Age Human Torch
Scott Wegener, creator of Atomic Robo, uses pencils and inks in the first story, that coupled with Pattison’s colors, create a period feel with their many neutral tones, (mostly beige and yellow shades) reminiscent almost of faded newspaper, like the type one would commonly see in existing newspapers from the period. Wegener also creates a pretty distinct steam-punk feel with The Torch’s android body being devoid of typical industrial type looking android and modern cyborg stylings that we see so often in sci-fi these days, think The Borg and Terminators. The Torch also appears to have vacuum tube ligaments and a brownish/tan hue, perhaps reminiscent of copper plating or piping, although he must be composed of something akin to primitive adamantium since he can generate such high temperatures with his “flame on.” Also, he obviously doesn’t operate on steam or mid to late 1800’s tech, which is the hallmark of steam-punk fiction, since he is active in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s but the look is a nice touch giving him a unique period-piece look and feel.
Overall, The Human Torch Comics #1 is one of the better 70th Anniversary one-shots Marvel has produced thus far. All of them measure up to each other pretty well and are well composed and drawn, but something about The Human Torch Comics #1 stands out, perhaps since we modern readers really haven’t seen much of the guy. As already stated, if he can prove to be a vital character then would a “resurrection” be such a bad thing? Surely, The Original Torch’s return would have to be better, and full of more potential that Jason Todd’s (aka fan-killed off Robin) untimely return was.
Rating: 9 /10