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Comic Book / Human Torch (1939)

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The Human Torch (no, not that one) was a character and ongoing anthology story created by Carl Burgos in 1939 for Timely Comics, which would become Marvel Comics, anthology Marvel Mystery Comics. He debuted in the first issue, and would go on to have his own comic series, cross over with Namor: The Sub-Mariner and Captain America, and join The Avengers. He is still appearing in comics in 2019.

This page can serve as both the character and the stories in Marvel Mystery Comics.


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The Human Torch provides examples of:

The character:

  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Sometimes it's thought that he's a bad guy or even actually behind what he's trying to stop.
    • Justified in that, not only is his power inherently destructive, but his first appearance in the world resulted in quite a lot of destruction, almost certainly the deaths of innocents, and definitely the deaths of criminals, and he killed his creator and has been known to act contrary to the police.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Torch does not especially shy away from killing his foes.
  • Never Given a Name: The Torch's creator never gave him a humanlike name, he was just "the Torch". He eventually, several stories in, takes the human alias Jim Hammond.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The Torch is an android, but no one seems to know that who wasn't told.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: In early installments, at least, the Torch is still using his power for good, but that doesn't mean he has any problem committing wanton destruction of property, escaping (and destroying) jail, resisting the police, letting bad guys die... His mindset is that because he's right and going after the real bad guy, the actual law doesn't matter.
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  • Think Nothing of It: He seems to do heroics for the sake of themselves, and tells grateful people not to mention it.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: In the first issue, The Torch desired to return to the scientist who created him, but turned his back on him and goes it alone once he realizes he just wanted to exploit him like the mobsters he just dealt with. And then apparently promptly and unapologetically kills him.


His powers:

  • Elemental Armor: When flamed up, his fire is so hot that, sometimes, bullets melt before they can reach him.
  • In a Single Bound: The Torch can't fly (at this point in time, not even Superman could fly), but he might as well. He leaps at times over small mountains.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Nothing really seems to harm him.
  • Playing with Fire: Control of fire is his primary ability. Not just that he can create and throw it, but fire appears to actively obey him. His most impressive feats include not just melting but sublimating sheets of steel.
  • Super Speed: He ran-slash-leapt a two day car journey in a day or less.
  • Super Strength: He can lift steel beams and catch hurtling boulders.


The comics:

  • Artistic License – Physics: He is a robot who spontaneously combusts when in the presence of oxygen. Until he learns about nitrogen and then doesn't. Also, flames apparently obey him. And he can carry fabric sometimes while he's on fire, while at other times he's melting steel.
  • Funetik Aksent: Many bad guys are written with phonetic "Joisey" accents.
  • The Mafia: Many of his foes are generic mobsters — supervillains hadn't been invented yet.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Even in stories where it starts with the Torch on the wrong side of the law, by the end he is usually forgiven and right all along.
    • Enforced, more or less, by the era; it would be difficult to find comic books before the '70s where this isn't the case, unless they are presented as a villain. Namor: The Sub-Mariner is an interesting aversion.
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