EP0060: The Torch

The Torch is dead, but he’s an android so how does that work? It’s the best Mad Thinker story ever as Toro and the Torch return.

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Transcript below:

Graham: How can an android be dead? Get ready to flame on as we take a look at The Torch by Mike Carey, straight ahead.

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.

Host: Most people know Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four as the Human Torch. However, he was not the first character in Marvel Comics to bear that name. Actually, the original Human Torch, presented first on the front cover of Marvel Mystery Comics number 1, was an android. An android named Jim Hammond. During the Golden Age of comics, he fought crime in a wide variety of different Marvel magazines and he also made a brief comeback along with Namor and Captain America in the mid-1950s. The 1970 series, the invaders told of how Namor, Captain America, and the human torch along with other heroes, such as the Union Jack Nazis during World War Two. The torch came out of the Avengers Invaders mini-series which featured the death of the Human Torch. However, as the villain of this story, the Mad Thinker, points out how does an android die?

During the Golden Age, the Human Torch had a sidekick known as Toro and this is been fleshed out so his full name is Tom Raymond who also had flame powers and he joined forces with the Torch in his fight against evil. Tom Raymond died but when Bucky Barnes got control of the Cosmic Cube for a while, he undid that. Unfortunately for Toro, his wife had moved on and he has no place in the world as the story opens. Both Toro and the body of the Human Torch are set to be examined by the Mad Thinker who has been hired by Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) in order to build a weapon and his idea involves building a weapon involving flame and so he has the Torch’s body stolen and kidnaps Toro but he’s got his own planes and mind.

I’ll go ahead and discuss this kind of in segments. The main characters of this, Toro is an old character. He’s got a lot of reason to be sympathetic. He’s kind of lost in this new world and doesn’t really know his place in it with nowhere to go and just nothing to do. You do feel for the guy. At the same time, while his present is very uncertain, what he thought he knew about his past is challenged. He definitely goes on a journey and I think at the start of the story I didn’t much like him but as the story goes on, we really get to know him better and also see the type of the impact he makes on the Torch. The Torch, is part of the experimentation by the Mad Thinker, has many of the emotions and values, sort of, thought centres in his programming neutralized and so he actually starts out when he awakens, being just really a machine and he has to really rediscover what it was that made him seem so human-like as the Human Torch. And as the book goes on, really the relationship between Toro and the Torch becomes a lot more interesting.

I also have to say I love the Mad Thinker in this. He is just a superb villain. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this well written. He’s devious, he’s got plans within plans and he even though he’s at first in the early part of the book, he’s hired by Advanced Ideas Mechanics and later on he is hired by a group of Nazis, who are running an underground city where the third rock continues to thrive, dominated by android citizens in New Berlin but the Mad Thinker really has his own agenda and there’s an intelligence, a cunning and a ruthlessness about him that makes him formidable as a villain. I think he’s almost written as practically Dr Octopus standards though not quite that over the top in the ego department but really he is just incredibly well written. In addition to that, you get some guest stars, Fantastic Four appear with Reed Richards in particular landing a role. Namor shows up and he’s under some mind control so he ends up fighting the Torch, which was a really big thing during the Golden Age.

The art in this, I think, is really good. The book has Alex Ross’s name on it but he just co-plotting this and he did the covers. He did not do the interiors. The interiors were done by Patrick Berkenkotter and I think he does a good job. They don’t have a full-on painted feel to them but the characters have a lot of life to them, some really nice details, everything is done pretty well. If I had one complaint, it would be that he drew Reed Richards, in some cases, with these really thick muscular arms, which is not part of Reed Richards design at all. And I think the story is really good. It provides some entertaining moment. The villains are always double-crossing each other so you never quite know what’s going to come next. You have some really good setups as well as some good turns with probably a couple sections in this eight issue story. If there was any concern, it’s mainly just the obscurity of the Torch. I think you can read this book with very limited knowledge of the Torch just from say what we’re describing in this podcast episode and you’ll be fine but you’ll get more out of the story, the more that you like the Torch and the more that you’re aware of the character.

Overall I think this is a nice book. It really shows what can be done when a comic book company looks to some of its less well-known characters and really gives them a story that showcases their potential and that’s what The Torch does so I will give The Torch a rating of classy. It’s got really good art, some good riding and some pretty interesting character moments.

Alright, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email to me classic classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and follow me on Twitter at classycomicsguy and be sure and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.