Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Man Who Has (Almost) Everything

It's hard to imagine there was ever a time when the flamboyant Johnny Storm wanted to keep his status as the Human Torch under wraps. Yet, around the time the Fantastic Four were facing Kurrgo (the "Master of Planet X"--who else?) in late 1962, Johnny and his sister, Sue, established a residence in Glenville, to coincide with the Torch being given a feature of his own in Strange Tales. And Johnny Storm, of all people, took a shot at having a secret identity.

Apparently the good folks of Glenville aren't all that swift at putting two and two together. Johnny's face is already well-known as the Torch; in the FF mag published the same month as this story, he's even joining his partners to attend a high-profile dinner engagement in Washington, complete with news and television cameras. And while the Torch has yet to reveal to anyone else his name as Johnny Storm, he's been overheard referring to Sue as his sister. Regardless, whenever he powers down around anyone in Glenville, Johnny is careful to keep his face obscured in flame. The whole setup here is a head-scratcher, for sure.

To add to the confusion, let's hear how Johnny thinks of his life as the Human Torch as he enters Sue's pretty fab residence:

If you're shaking your head in astonishment at the Torch's admission here, join the club. Didn't you always have the impression this kid thought his power was *ahem* fantastic?

And speaking of his partners, we have Mr. Fantastic to thank for providing Johnny with possibly the most toxic bedroom in existence:

And if the Torch thought his stay in Glenville was going to be all play and no work, his room at Sue's could be mistaken for an office/lab if it weren't for the bed:

I'm not sure if NASA had "detailed star charts" in 1962, much less a teenager; and why would a guy with a secret identity need a high-tech device to screen visitors?

But since we're on the subject of high tech, let's jump to the following issue where none other than the Wizard makes his first appearance. Unlike the deadly menace we know the Wizard will one day become, our budding villain in this story has pretty much everything he could want--fame, wealth, and, it goes without saying, intelligence. Why would this man seek out a life of crime?

(Chessmasters pitting their skills against mere computers must be a little envious of the Wizard right about now, who manages to find one with arms and legs. And, say, why didn't Charles Xavier snag one of those air chairs, if they were put on the market?)

So the Wizard seems to lack for very little. But in Glenville, word gets around--and with the Human Torch making waves with the locals, it seems the one thing the Wizard doesn't have coming his way often is a challenge:

And so the Wizard arranges a meeting with the Torch, by fabricating a phony crisis and tricking the Torch into rescuing him. The Torch is as impressed with the Wizard's achievements like anyone else, and thus walks unsuspectingly into a trap:

(Johnny must be thinking, "Whew! I'm sure glad a dousing chemical wash doesn't include a person's head!")

You'd think capturing the Human Torch would have satisfied the Wizard's need to prove himself against this character. But he plans to take his scheme a lot further:

The Wizard's plan succeeds brilliantly, as he proceeds to rob banks, free prisoners, and cause enough general mayhem as the Torch to make his foe a hunted man. Eventually, the Torch manages to burn his way out of his cell, and, finding that he's now wanted by the law, races to confront the Wizard, who tantalizingly holds in front of the Torch the proof he will need to clear himself:

Sure, there are any number of ways for the Torch to use his speed and his flame to force the Wizard to release those pics without threatening his life. But you probably never thought he'd come up with a new super-power to do it:

To clear up this mystery, Johnny had arranged for Sue to invisibly lend a hand here. And it looks like, at this stage of his new criminal career, the Wizard folds his cards pretty quickly:

And so the Wizard is about to get his first taste of prison life, and we know in hindsight that he'd better get used to it. But a prison cell isn't likely to hold a guy with the smarts of the Wizard--and when we catch up to him again, he'll make a stand at that high-tech estate of his and set his sights once more on his fiery foe.


Anonymous said...

I love that chess-playing electronic computer with the metal hands!
The Wiz would soon be back, to become one of my favorite super-villains. Him and those anti-grav discs of his.
Toss one of those on Ben Grimm and he goes flying.
I think the Wizard was the inspiration for the Monarch on the Venture Brothers. Another one of my favorites. A lot of similar traits!
You'd think Johnny could turn off his flame when giving a statement to the cops, though. If they'll tell your mom to put the frying pan down, they would probably tell him to "flame off."

Rick said...

Where the heck does his costume disappear to when he flames off his hands? This kind of goofy stuff always bothered me as a kid. And the whole secret identity thing, just nuts. But fun.

Colin Jones said...

In the diagram of Johnny's bedroom there's a heat-resistant doorknob but when he's in the Wizard's house he un-flames his hand to hold the photos and the phone so what does he need a heat-resistant doorknob for ? And as well as star-charts he's also got undersea maps - to remind him of the position of Atlantis ?

Colin Jones said...

Come to think of it - where exactly on the sea-floor is Atlantis anyway ? I don't think it's ever been explained but I'm guessing it's about three miles off New York as it's always NY that gets invaded by Namor or Attuma :)

Comicsfan said...

Colin, regarding that doorknob, I can only assume that, since Reed was so concerned with Johnny flaming on while he was asleep, he decided to expand the protection for the house in case Johnny decided to walk in his sleep! ;)

Rick, nice catch on the disappearing uniform--that went right by me!

George Chambers said...

I kind of liked how Johnny called in Sue for the victory; but I think Johnny had the ability to control flames from a distance, so he could have doused the fireplace, then raised the air temperature of the room and made the Wizard pass out. I guess Spider-Man was the one "smart" teenage character Marvel allowed themselves.

Comicsfan said...

I dunno, George--from the layout of that bedroom, it seems that Johnny is quite the lab rat! :)

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