Strange Tales #101 (Human Torch)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #101 (Human Torch story only)
The next morning on his way to school, he and his friends pass the new amusement park that is under construction. Meanwhile, the publisher of the town newspaper reads one of those notes composed of words clipped from brightly colored pieces of paper. It is signed "the Destroyer." The note indicates that if the construction of the amusement park is not halted, the Destroyer will strike. The publisher loudly proclaims "Bah! It's just a crank note! Probably some nut who's got a thing against people having fun!".
The Destroyer does strike a number of times over the next few days, and each time Johnny Storm has to save the day without giving away his secret identity.
I was surprised to learn that Johnny kept his identity a secret. It must have been a very difficult secret to keep, considering that everyone knows that his sister is the Invisible Girl, he doesn't wear a mask, he can only flame on for short periods of time, and the Fantastic Four frequently show up in public places, but the citizens of Long Island don't seem to know any better so he must be doing a good job.
The Thing shows up briefly to offer the Torch help against the Destroyer, but Johnny wants to go it alone.
Eventually Johnny figures out the secret of the Destroyer. He is a commie spy (of course) who wanted to prevent the construction of the tall amusement rides so that no one would be able to see the beach where the commie sub was docked. The Destroyer turns out to be the newspaper publisher.
This was terrible.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Johnny's FF costume is mentioned so this takes place after FF #3. There is a discrepancy in that in these early Strange Tales Human Torch appearances, he puts some effort into keeping his secret identity while in the Fantastic Four, even the earliest issues, he goes around without any such concern, standing in front of police and cameras while flamed-off, etc. My only thought (other than making up something like Reed having a device that scrambled photographs or something) is that when Johnny was in his home town it occurred to him to try and keep things a secret so that the locals didn't hound him, but when with the rest of the FF in Manhattan he didn't worry about such things. Chris Tolworthy (see comments below) indicates that the whole town was basically playing along with Johnny, as revealed in issue #106.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales annual #5
Regarding Johnny keeping his identity secret, as I'm sure you noticed in a later issue, his friends DID know, but he just thought they didn't. They didn't mention it because they thought he wanted it to be a secret. Johnny was really new at this superhero game and pretty self centered, so it's a nice touch.
Posted by: Chris Tolworthy | January 4, 2011 6:53 PM
The solo Torch series never really got much better, and as a result was one of Marvel's first cancellations.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 31, 2011 12:55 AM
"The Destroyer turns out to be the newspaper publisher."
In that case, you'd think he wouldn't have been so dismissive of his threat note.
Like, I get the idea that he was brushing it off to cover up his own guilt, but he still could have been like "Man, these threats sound serious, it would be irresponsible for them to go ahead with the amusement park while a nut like this is on the loose!" without immediately convincing everyone that he was involved.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 22, 2014 10:44 PM
Regarding Johnny's secret identity, there's a curious bit on the first page where he thinks to himself that everyone in town knows his sister is the Invisible Girl but nobody knows he's the Human Torch. In the next panel there's an Editor's Note explaining that four of Johnny's friends did know but all four have moved away and are "sworn to secrecy." My first thought was Stan realized Larry made a goof and, rather than simply change that, he added the note instead. I haven't yet read the later issue that attempts to fix the whole town not knowing but, in this issue, there was already a weak attempt to patch it up.
Posted by: Robert | January 25, 2016 5:23 PM
The note about Johnny's friends may have been due to the sequence in FANTASTIC FOUR #4, where his auto shop friends know it (although I only count three of them).
STRANGE TALES #101 came out the week after FANTASTIC FOUR #7, in which the FF attend a dinner in Washington.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 26, 2016 2:39 AM
The Destroyer apparently never appeared again. I'm surprised he survived the Scourge purge of the eighties.
Posted by: Rick | February 3, 2016 9:33 AM
IMO, The Scourge wouldn't waste one of his awesome bullets on The Destroyer. He's not worth a "Pum Spak".
Posted by: clyde | May 31, 2016 3:48 PM
Horrible continuity error. Torch is publicly known. Think of FF#1 when he flames on and burns the red auto he's working on. Think of the Washington DC event. Think about not wearing a mask. Everyone knows Sue is the Invisble Girl but not Johnny in that small town?
Posted by: Oomaga | January 11, 2018 3:07 PM
Just guessing Larry Lieber didn't give too much attention to much of the pre-established Fantastic Four continuity when he wrote this. Marvel Age continuity was a young science, still in its infancy. I bet Stan Lee just gave him a simple plot, and he wrote a standard full script based on that and little else. Besides the confusion about his "secret identity" mentioned above, much of this story is inconsistent with Johnny's character in the FF.
Like an amateur Sherlock Holmes, boy genius Johnny has 3 file cabinets full of super-criminal case histories to study during those leisurely moments when he's not too busy experimenting with chemicals in his personal mini-lab. Standard formulaic boilerplate adventure character for that time period, reads a lot like a Hardy Boys mystery story.
Posted by: Holt | January 11, 2018 5:45 PM
@Oomaga and Holt
Posted by: Benway | January 14, 2018 1:22 AM
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