Fantastic Four annual #4
Issue(s): Fantastic Four annual #4
The Thing reads a fan letter asking about the relationship between Johnny and the Golden Age Human Torch. This letter is conveniently timed, as the original Torch will be appearing in this issue.
Lockjaw teleports in Johnny and Wyatt, who have been trying to convince the Inhuman dog to teleport them into the sealed Inhuman city.
They give him a big Kirby bowl full of milk (which subsequently causes him to explode because "Lockjaw converts the food he devours directly into raw power!").
Frustrated at his failure to get to Crystal, Johnny heads out again, but bumps into the original Human Torch...
...who was revived by the Mad Thinker.
I like how Kirby draws the original Torch in more of the style of Carl Burgos, with wilder flames.
Johnny is continually one step behind the android Torch throughout this fight, emphasizing the original's experience and greater raw power. But the android resists killing his successor in the end as his humanity asserts control over the Mad Thinker's re-programming.
The Mad Thinker has also developed a super-computer named Quasimodo, who longs to be a real boy.
The Thinker doesn't treat his creation very well.
Lockjaw teleports the rest of the FF and Wyatt to the Thinker's lair and they chase the Thinker away. Johnny and Wyatt teleport away with Lockjaw again, and the rest of the FF clear out as well, leaving Quasimodo abandoned and alone.
Kirby's artwork seems a little sketchier and not as grandiose as it is in the main series at this time, but it's still fine. In fact it was apparently good enough for Rich Buckler to swipe a panel for Giant-Size Avengers #1 (see the comment on that entry from Shar).
This is a fun issue, but from a creator rights perspective, there's something a bit sinister about it. This issue was published 28 years after the publication of Marvel Comics #1, and therefore renewed the copyright on the original Human Torch, preventing ownership from reverting to Carl Burgos. According to Sean Howe's Marvel: The Untold Story, Burgos' daughter found him destroying his collection of comics after this issue came out.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place in between Fantastic Four #56, where Johnny and Wyatt are trying to coax Lockjaw into teleporting them into the Inhuman city, and the arc in Fantastic Four #57-60 where Black Bolt frees his people.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Fantastic Four #189
Inbound References (15): show
The Golden Age Human Torch gave a lot of censorial types hives during his publishing life. In the early 1940s DC put out a list of restrictions on story content to its writers and prominent among them was "We shall not show people being roasted alive"; an outright Torch reference. The Comics Code supposedly played a major part in the cancellation of the Torch's 1950s series because they found his throwing fireballs at people objectionable. When the FF started in 1961, Stan Lee literally had to promise the CCA "No fireballs".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 6, 2011 12:15 AM
One of the biggest continuity questions has always been the difference in age between Reed and Ben. After all, they went to college together. But in issues like this, Reed seems so much older.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 15, 2015 2:00 PM
What is Erik Beck talking about? "One of the biggest continuity issues HAS ALWAYS BEEN the difference in age.." what do you mean, it 'has always been'?! This is the first time I've ever seen someone suggest this or pose confusion over it. They went to college together, they've never ever been displayed as having an age difference- poor writing perhaps, but never has the continuity ever suggested otherwise. I kind of resent E Beck suggesting that this has been some kind of ongoing debate amongst fan for years.
Posted by: Rob Granito Lives | March 5, 2015 9:03 PM
Rob, you seem to be overreacting. It's fine to disagree, but please be civil to other commenters.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 5, 2015 9:16 PM
fnord, I don't mean any disrespect whatsoever and I am respecting your rules. At the same time I can't tell if Erik's comment is a joke or sarcasm or whatnot because I've just never seen or heard that brought up as "one of the biggest" continuity issues ever. Maybe he misremembered something? Or I never heard of this? Either option is possible.
Posted by: Rob Granito | March 5, 2015 9:28 PM
That's fine, Rob. "Can you please cite your source!" is a perfectly valid request. ;-) It's the way your first comment was phrased that got me a little alarmed.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 5, 2015 9:41 PM
You got it fnord. Thanks!
Posted by: Rob Granito | March 5, 2015 9:43 PM
I don't mean to suggest that it's a largely debated issue. But it seems to have been a continuity issue since the very beginning. While Reed and Ben are often described as having gone to college together, have they ever seemed like they're the same age? Have they ever been written to be the same age, other than writers describing them as having gone to college together? At the time when Ben has been human has he ever been drawn as if he's the same age as Reed? It's one of those things we're always told but never actually shown (I don't mean literally shown - obviously they are shown as roommates in college) - if you hadn't been told that they were roommates would you think they were the same age?
I was amused though that you seemed to resent my suggestion, as if the question was a personal affront. Unless you're Stan Lee is disguise - then that would make sense.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 5, 2015 9:59 PM
Erik I didn't resent it at all, it was said in excitable but respectful bombast, because I appreciate banter and discussion. I wish I were Stan Lee in disguise, I'd get better press online. As for what you said, I think it's Reed's greying temples which maybe give an older age but no, I've always seen them as roughly the same age, Ben looks like a guy in his late 30s/early 40s, as much as an illustrated character reasonably can.
Posted by: Rob Granito | March 5, 2015 10:05 PM
Wasn't this Torch later retconned to be Toro?
Posted by: kveto | March 6, 2015 1:32 AM
Rob Granito is a very funny online handle if you recall the controversy about three years ago.
Posted by: Lyron | March 6, 2015 2:29 AM
Ah, because I use my actual name when I post I don't think about the idea that some people use a name as a handle. After googling "Rob Granito" I now know that if I had really been offended by your bombast (which I wasn't), I could have just called you a tracer and see if you reacted like Jason Lee in Chasing Amy.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 6, 2015 6:03 AM
@Kveto, have you been letting Ann Raymond bend your ear? That's what she thought when she learned that the Vision wasn't really the Golden Age Torch, but when the West Coast Avengers investigated they did find the Torch's body, which as far as i know confirmed that it was the Torch in this story.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2015 7:36 AM
By the way, i'm not making this official site policy, but i have been a little uncomfortable about the Rob Granito handle. What the guy did was wrong but it seems mean to rub it in forever. Just my personal opinion, i guess.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2015 7:41 AM
I feel I was respectful to E. Beck again but he seems kind of ill intended towards me. Anyway fnord I respect the site but what should I do, change my name? Evry time I post its about the content I never post controversy or about myself so Im not sure what to do unless I adopt the alias
Posted by: Rob Granito | March 6, 2015 10:23 AM
I also don't want to extend this subtopic but the fact that Eric Beck casually mentions he googles people?? Why? Because they had a minor disagreement or misunderstanding about something he posts, he googles them for what exactly- to find something to use against them? Its vaguely creepy and supports my then-small suspicion that a healthy amount of his posts are intended to provoke response. What other poster needs to link to his name and advertise himself? If you want me to leave I will fnord but again, I have really only discussed the issues and content at length. I never google searched then dropped snarky remarks about people and what they may have done in their past. I never link my name. I just talk comics
Posted by: Rob G. | March 6, 2015 10:27 AM
Ok, i tried to give the benefit of doubt, but at this point obvious troll is trolling and he's been banned. For what it's worth, he's commented here under several different user names, usually reserving this one for his confrontational stuff. You'd think people would realize that i can see that, but i guess not. Sorry it was directed at you, Erik.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2015 10:42 AM
Re:Kveto- I think he might be thinking of the scene in Avengers West Coast 61 when "Toro" of the Legion of the Unliving claims that he was the Torch in the original Legion of the Unliving story.
Posted by: Michael | March 7, 2015 11:25 AM
Fnord, does this issue make it clear what the Golden Age Torch was "revived" from? Where was he and what state was he is when the Thinker found him?
Posted by: JP | May 12, 2015 2:15 PM
The Human Torch in this story remembers nothing beyond his origin. He recaps his origin and then says "Beyond that, I remember no more". The Mad Thinker has located him "after years of searching... planning... computing". He's already in the Thinker's lab when we see him.
At the end of Saga of the Human Torch #4, he suddenly flares up in an atomic fire and buries himself to wait for it to burn off, and it's after that that the Mad Thinker finds him. I'm not sure if that's new information or based on a real comic, but it's not from this FF annual.
The Torch/Toro thing is from Byrne's West Coast Avengers run. After it comes out that the Vision wasn't really made from the Human Torch, Ann Raymond, Toro's wife, hopes that the news somehow means that the Torch that appeared in this story was really her husband. But that's not the case.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 12, 2015 4:06 PM
And according to SAGA, the Torch buried himself after his 1950's revival with the atomic bomb?
Posted by: JP | May 12, 2015 4:36 PM
Confirmed that the sequence where he buries himself is after the 1950s revival. Now that i think about it, his atomic fire may have been a belated reaction to that bomb, but i didn't re-read the entire Saga series to check.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 12, 2015 4:57 PM
Posted by: JP | May 12, 2015 5:23 PM
Fnord mentions how Sean Howe's book talks about the timing of this annual in relation the expiration of the copyright date on the Human Torch. But there's a slight problem with that. Howe writes "Cover-dated October 1968, it appeared exactly twenty-eight years after Marvel Comics #1 - in other words, exactly as the initial twenty-eight year copyright was expiring."
Now, I have a galley of Howe's book and that quote might not reflect the published book, but he talks about Burgos burning the comics in 1966, which this comic is actually dated. Yet, neither of them would have been 28 years - Marvel Comics #1 had a cover date of October 1939, so October of 1967 would have been the right date. It seems, either way, that Howe is incorrect in his claim that it was exactly 28 years.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 29, 2016 5:41 PM
Reading this review I had the same thought as Kveto's comment above, I'd remembered the Human Torch of this story as being Toro... on checking it turns out I'd confused it with Roy Thomas' Sub-Mariner 14 where Toro impersonates the original Torch, not sure if that was what Kveto was thinking of too.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | August 29, 2016 6:14 PM
@Erik Beck: Yes, that line is in Howe's published book, at least in the hardcover edition (the edition I have).
Not only was FF Annual #4 published in 1966, but it's very clearly cover dated November 1966...though both Marvel Comics #1 and FF Annual #4 evidently would've been on sale in August of their respective years.
Posted by: Shar | August 29, 2016 6:55 PM
Reed Richards is prematurely graying, but he could still be younger than Ben. I'd go with Reed being the younger of the two if I had to guess.
Other artists aside, Jack Kirby often drew Reed with a boyish face ('though not in the earliest issues). Ben is almost always drawn with a used face, furrowed over time with the scowls and frowns he so frequently presents.
Since Reed's supposed to be a child prodigy, he likely might have taken proficiency tests and skipped over a few grades.
Stan is younger than Jack, if one buys the argument that Stan and Jack used themselves as character models for Reed and Ben, in any way or at any time.
Street-talking Ben acts jaded and disillusioned at life much of the time, whereas sheltered Reed acts spoiled and pampered, like your basic absent-minded professor straight out of college.
Two different body types, two different backgrounds and personalities. Guessing people's ages is hard, especially when you don't know their families. At their age a few years doesn't really make much difference.
Posted by: James Holt | August 29, 2016 11:55 PM
Okay about the age difference between Ben and Reed. I'm about to mess up everyone's thinking on this. Reed as the genius he was made it into college at a younger age the most. He was 16, this is according to some of the retcons in later stories. Ben was not a genius (although far from stupid) and did not get there until 18 or 19 so although Reed being prematurely gray and looking older is actually 2 or 3 years younger than Ben. Some of this is from the FF vs. the X-Men mini-series and the later retelling of the college days of Reed, Ben and Doom from I forget which story in the FF.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 8, 2016 10:06 PM
Bobby, I also thought that Ben must be older than Reed due them being at college together and Reed being a genius.
Posted by: Benway | November 9, 2016 12:31 AM
Comments are now closed.
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