Characters Appearing: Asbestos Man, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Thing
Strange Tales #111 (Human Torch)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #111 (Human Torch story only)
An Asbestos Man was inevitable. The Golden Age Torch had to contend with an Asbestos Lady, but more importantly, the entire town of Glenville seems to have been made of Asbestos, with half the villains Johnny went up against pulling out an asbestos something or other when things got rough for them, not to mention the fact that according to a diagram in his first solo story, Johnny slept in an asbestos bed.
So i was expecting a bad guy to cobble together an asbestos suit and go a few rounds with the Human Torch before Johnny figured out that he could melt the floor around him or something. Asbestos is so known as a toxic substance to us that it's just absurd to see it used so casually in these early issues, so i thought this would just be worth an ironic chuckle that i'd subsequently feel bad about, and that'd be the end of it. There's an added element if you consider the Marvel Sliding Timescale; this guy first appeared around 2000?!?
(It seems that the problems with asbestos were known early enough that even at this point authorities should have known better, but of course the average person wouldn't have been aware of that and we continued to use the substance into the 1980s. It's terrifying, really.)
But this story turned out to be much more than just a way to grotesquely mock the tragic ignorance of our elders, which i admit i originally had every intention of doing. Because the guy who eventually calls himself Asbestos Man just doesn't seem... all that into it.
As a scientist, Professor Kasloff invents a solvent that will melt any metal.
He also invents (or actually, just thinks to himself that he could invent) a forgery device, a counterfeiting device, and chemical gases that would allow him to raid Fort Knox.
You can almost hear him sigh and say, "I guess i have to be a super-villain now." With all that, however, he's still confounded the first time he comes across a burgler alarm, and he gets it into his head that he has to contact "a member of the underworld" to help him with alarms.
Inspiration hits when he sees the Human Torch rounding up some criminals. The robbers are flunkies of a Blackie Barker, King of the (Glenville?) Underworld (pictured here with his cartoony-looking right-hand man).
If Kasloff can only impress Blackie by defeating the Torch, burglar alarms will never trouble him again.
Kasloff puts together his own super-asbestos formula...
...and becomes... Asbestos Man.
Rather than hunt down the Torch, he just sends him a letter. You can almost hear the bored tone in the follow-up phone call: "I presume you received my letter and are, at the moment, filled with the sensation of fear, etcetera etcetera. Meet me at the old castle, etcetera etcetera. Let's try to get this done without a lot of hassle, ok?"
Johnny was never the smartest member of the Fantastic Four, so he has to look up asbestos in his chemistry book and he provides us with a definition.
I appreciate the educational value of comic books, but we've been hearing about asbestos since the first Torch story in Strange Tales, so it's a little late for exposition. Anyway, despite what he reads, he shows up at Asbestos Man's castle completely unprepared, and is quickly defeated, humiliated, photographed by the press (who just kind of jump in out of nowhere), and dumped into the moat.
After moping about a bit, Johnny is reminded by the Invisible Girl that he doesn't have to attack directly with his flame, so he flies back and does better in the rematch (including, indeed, melting the floor around his foe)...
...before depriving the Asbestos Man of oxygen, a state that he'd better get used to once his mesothelioma develops.
The poor guy just wasn't cut out to be a super-villain. He invented a solvent that could melt any metal. What was he doing in an asbestos suit working for some low level thug? He just didn't know what to do with himself, and now he has cancer. I hope you're happy.
Brief cameo by Mr. Fantastic - who helpfully tells Johnny that the Asbestos Man's letter "looks genuine enough" - and the Thing.
Asbestos Man bided his time waiting to return, finally resurfacing in Fear Itself: The Home Front #6, fighting the Great Lakes Avengers (and yes, dragging around an oxygen tank).
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between FF #15-16.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales #14
Professor Kasloff was probably inspred by old-time monster actor Boris Karloff.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 12, 2012 12:32 AM
gotta give credit. Asbestos man's costume is kinda cool in a gladiator type way.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | November 13, 2012 7:10 PM
Letterer S. Harold is long-time pro Sam Rosen. This must be one of his first credited Silver Age jobs for Marvel.
Posted by: haydn | March 9, 2014 1:16 PM
"and is quickly defeated, humiliated, photographed by the press (who just kind of jump in out of nowhere)"
Considering his entire goal was to defeat and humiliate the Torch, one assumes Kasloff himself called the press and told them where the fight was taking place, so they could be ready to take pictures and see THE AWESOME POWER OF THE ASBESTOS MAN!
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 24, 2014 12:04 PM
If you want to see how utterly ludicrous this whole thing is, the cover is one of those "we declare this the Marvel Age of Comics!"
So...the Marvel Age includes the Asbestos Man!? (cracks up hysterically)
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 23, 2014 6:45 AM
I do give the story credit that it takes into account that just because you're a super-genius who can invent ultra-high-tech stuff, that doesn't automatically turn you into a criminal mastermind.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 2, 2014 1:14 AM
Didn't Spider-Man cover himself in asbestos in an issue? I can't remember what one, unfortunately.
Posted by: JSfan | September 4, 2014 11:20 AM
LOL! I gave it 4 stars just for the laugh it gave me! 'We ought to get a bonus for this scoop', sure you did morons! You all have cancer now.
Posted by: Leves | April 13, 2015 12:03 PM
I place this one between FF#15 and 16.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 24, 2016 7:58 PM
Comments are now closed.
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