Strange Tales #106 (Human Torch)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #106 (Human Torch story only)
The leaping idiot up there is the Acrobat, and he has a rather complex scheme to play upon Johnny's insecurities, getting him to quit the FF and join him for a "torrid twosome", only to immediately turn on him after tricking Johnny into burning through a bank vault. The Acrobat has a liquid asbestos gun and a murderous streak.
The rest of the FF turn up to help out...
...but of course the Torch gets to be the one to finish him off. Johnny keeps saying that he knew all along that the Acrobat was manipulating him, but that didn't stop him from destroying an expensive bank vault door or getting shot in the arm and nearly killed, so i don't know if we're meant to believe him or if he even truly believes it himself.
It's amazing how bad the Torch looked when not drawn by Kirby at this point.
After designing his nifty Twosome costume, we get an extended explanation about unstable molecules.
Between that and the secret ID thing, this felt a bit like a "we answer the fans' questions" sort of issue.
The Acrobat wasn't much of a threat so it's interesting to see the FF actually helping in the battle.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this story during Fantastic Four #11, between the first and second stories. I'm not sure why that's necessary but i'll place this issue directly after that entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Human Torch
"The Acrobat has a liquid asbestos gun and a murderous streak."
He's pretty much HAVE to have a murderous streak, considering how toxic asbestos is.
"You may have beaten me this time, Torch, but come 20 years from now, you're SO TOTALLY going to get cancer!"
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 23, 2014 12:41 AM
In the letter's page of Fantastic Four #10, Stan Lee says that this issue of Strange Tales will attempt to explain the paradox between Johnny's identity being secret here while being public in the Fantastic Four.
While Johnny's surprise is unusual (after all, how could he think that the entire town did not know who he really was?), interestingly enough, even today, some small towns do respect celebrities desire to maintain a private life.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 30, 2015 1:36 PM
(does a double take) Wait, sure that the Acrobat isn't just Paste Pot Pete? The facial hair, the beret...why the heck did he just copy another of Johnny's foes!? Well considering he does dress up as Cap later, maybe he's just a master of disguise and thought that "Pete" was on to something.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 30, 2015 5:23 PM
In looking over this story again, there are two aspects of it that are probably taken for granted, but are very much part of the revolutionary approach Kirby and Lee took:
1.) The Torch's leaving the Fantastic Four is not an idle threat. He really means it, and if the Acrobat had not been dishonest, the Torch probably would have remained away from the FF for a time. If this story was taking place at DC at the time, the hero leaving the group would have been an elaborate plot to catch the crook, to avoid portraying the hero in a negative light. In this story, it plays to Johnny's established personality, making the story not just plot driven, but also character driven.
2.) Sue is the FF member who takes a proactive role and leads the team towards a solution, which helps catch the Acrobat. Without the FF showing up, the Acrobat would have probably escaped. Kirby and Lee get heavily criticized for their portrayal of Sue -- despite how often she actually plays a major, helpful role in their stories and how progressive she actually was for the time and culture in which the stories were created. Had Byrne done this story during his run, people would be talking about how it helps build Sue up as a character.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 30, 2015 8:08 PM
As I mentioned in the entry for Strange Tales #101, Stan had already tried addressing the obvious secret identity problem with a blurb about some of Johnny's friends knew he was the Torch but all had moved away. So he knew from the start that this was at odds with what was going on in the FF book at the same time. I wonder why it took an additional five issues before putting the matter to rest? Maybe he waited to see how much fans would notice before he could be bothered with it. To his credit, he does at least address it and come up with a solution instead of ignoring it.
Posted by: Robert | January 27, 2016 6:54 PM
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