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The Human Torch

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Flame on!
I'm gone!
I'm so sweet like a nice bonbon!

Mutagenically transformed by cosmic rays into the heroic Human Torch, Johnny Storm is the hothead of the Fantastic Four. Often impetuous and immature, the Torch has a talent for tormenting his teammate, the Thing. The Human Torch, who possesses the mental ability to control ambient heat energy, can transform his body into living flame upon command. In this state, he can fly and expel bolts of fire in varying intensity, up to a super-charged nova-blast. His uniform and clothing consist of unstable molecules, enabling him to "flame on" without damaging them in any way.

The Fantastic Four are Marvel Comics' first family - they're the oldest of the modern age of Marvel, first seeing the light of day in 1961. The product of Stan Lee's love of the noble scientist and the era's race for the moon, the Fantastic Four are more superfamily than superfriends.

The Human Torch is a fairly simple design - he's a guy on fire - and he's made his way far enough into pop culture to warrant a mention in a Beastie Boys song. The "flying fire guy" has become a regular on many superteams, all taking their visual cues from the FF's Torch. Who, of course, followed the original Human Torch, an over-powered volatile robot.

There have been a few Human Torch figures over the years, varying in quality from a Silver Surfer painted red to a half-transformed Johnny Storm. Marvel Legends, however, has given us the hottest one yet.

Based on the Spider-Man Classics Daredevil body, Johnny stands 6⅜" tall. He's painted all in red (with lighter orange highlights), like his comic counterpart, with the thin black stripes that have been part of his look since the very beginning. Random flame textures have been sculpted onto his surface and are painted a nice distinct yellowish orange blend. He's got 34 points of articulation, which puts him right up there with the best Spider-Man figures.

In the comics, Johnny looks nearly bald when he's burning. Sculptor Phil Ramirez has given the figure firey "hair" that does a good job of simulating the halo that otherwise surrounds his head. Ghost Rider, scheduled for Series 3, has a similar look that has never really been pulled off successfully. ToyBiz did a good job here, so let's hope this bodes well for the Spirit of Vengeance. Sad thing is that Johnny's got a better likeness of Bruce Campbell than McToys' Ash does.

The Fantastic Four's seem to have developed around their personalities; Johnny was a brash hot-head, Ben was rough and surly, Reed was somewhat mercurial, and Sue was quite shy. We've gotten two of the quartet in this series, and I hope there are plans for the rest - I'm just not sure how well Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman will translate into action figures.

Like the rest of the Marvel Legends, Human Torch comes with a detailed base, though his is a bit of a cheat. Simply a reused mold from the wildly unpopular Marvel's Most Wanted X-Man figure, the base still looks quite nice and suits the figure, but it doesn't account for his scale. It does not clip around his waist as it did for X-Man, and his hand does not plug into place. The plastic used seems a bit more pliable than before, and the paint detailing isn't as good. There is a plug on the bottom, however, which allows Johnny Storm to be wall-mounted, and that looks pretty cool. It's like he's just come bursting through a wall into the lair of Puppet Man or the Thinker.

Torch comes with a reproduction of Fantastic Four #233, part of John Byrne's legendary run. The story focuses on the Human Torch looking to avenge the set-up of someone he knew from school. It's okay, and shows off Torch's powers and personality, but there are other Torch-centric issues which might have been better.

-- 11/19/02

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