Essential Human Torch—Volume 1

essential human torch volume 1 cover trade paperback
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10

Classic characters from the classic period of Marvel

Old comic style with mostly stand-alone issues

Comic Info

Comic Name:  Strange Tales (Volume 1)

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Writer:  Stan Lee/Larry Lieber/Robert Bernstein/Ernie Hart/Jerry Siegel

Artist:  Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers/Carl Burgos/Bob Powell

# of Issues:  35

Release Date:   2003


Strange Tales (1) #101

Reprints Strange Tales (1) #101-134 and Annual #2 (October 1962-July 1965). When not adventuring with the Fantastic Four, the youngest member of the team Johnny Storm just wants to be a teenager. Being the Human Torch and a teenager doesn’t always mix, and Johnny finds himself in conflict with a host of villains including the Wizard, Paste-Pot Pete, the Sub-Mariner, the Eel, Plantman, the Beetle, and Captain America?!?

Written by Stan Lee with plots by a few other writers, the Human Torch makes the jump from the Fantastic Four to his own solo magazine taking over the reins of Marvel’s Strange Tales. Essential Human Torch—Volume 1 reprints these stories (some of which were also collected in the short-lived Human Torch series in the ’70s). Like all Marvel Essential titles, the series is reprinted in black-and-white.  The Human Torch ended up sharing the title with Doctor Strange and then later it became a team-up book with the Thing.

I was always surprised that they picked the Human Torch to spinoff into his own series when the Thing seemed like the most logical choice. Johnny does turn out to be entertaining, but obviously Lee ended up realizing the popularity of the Thing because he becomes an official co-star around Strange Tales (1) #123 (he’s actually listed as a guest-star until #125). The team-up even works better than the Torch solo which goes to show that the Fantastic Four really has two dead weights in Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman (more so Mr. Fantastic in my opinion).

Johnny forms a kind of flipside to Peter Parker.  He is outgoing and somewhat cocky in both his regular life and when being a superhero as the Human Torch.  These early issues are a bit different in that the Fantastic Four tried to maintain secret identities for a bit, but eventually began living as celebrity heroes.  It is odd to see Johnny trying to cover his identity as Human Torch and it does not necessarily fit with the character.


Strange Tales (1) #114

The comic has a lot of fun with guest-villains. Characters like Paste-Pot Pete (aka the Trapster) and the Wizard make their first appearance here but then become regular Fantastic Four villains. Other characters like the Eel, Plantman, and the Beetle end up branching out more and became enemies of other Marvel heroes. The Captain America appearance in Strange Tales (1) #114 (November 1963) is interesting because it isn’t Captain America (it’s an impersonator) and it is used as a test for a potential return of the Golden Age character (which happens in Avengers (1) #4 (March 1964)). Other guest-stars include Ben Grimm and Johnny meeting the Beatles in Strange Tales (1) #130 (March 1965) complete with shaggy hair.

Essential Human Torch—Volume 1 is a fun title. I’m not exactly why they called it Essential Human Torch—Volume 1 since there is not really anything to collect as Essential Human Torch—Volume 2. It is a must for Fantastic Four fans, and I think it is a fun stand-alone for fans of classic Marvel by showing a teenage flipside to Spider-Man (who does get a fun team-up with Johnny in the Annual). Check it out, and Flame On!!!


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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