Monday, February 1, 2010

21: Strange Tales #102

Strange Tales #102
August 9, 1962

  • Sadly, the Torch's second solo outing is a bit of a dud. Here we meet the supersmart Wizard, who in a few years would team up with some other villains to become the leader of the Frightful Four. Here, he's seen as a mini-celebrity in his own right, who is a genius chess player, a master escape artist, a brilliant inventor, and more - but one who challenges the Torch because he can't stand the thought that someone else is his superior. As opposed to, say, targeting Mr. Fantastic, who's clearly much more on his level. And yet what most strikes the reader is the guy's bizarrely long face, and incredibly wild chin fuzz.

  • And yet, for all his claims of genius, the Torch's master stroke is so transparent we're agog at how dumb the Wizard is. After challenging Johnny one final time, he's thunderstruck when the Torch demonstrates the ability to raise some photographs into the air without touching them ... and so the Wizard admits defeat and gives himself up. Even before the reveal, we've figured out that Johnny called in the help of his sister, the Invisible Girl. But that's the catch, isn't it? The story counts on the reader knowing who Sue Storm is, so we'll be in on the joke when the twist is revealed ... and yet also asks us to believe that someone who might be one of the most brilliant minds on the planet doesn't know that The Human Torch is part of the Fantastic Four, and is brother to the Invisible Girl. Can't have it both ways, you know.

  • In Fantastic Four #2, alien Skrulls posed as the FF, and committed crimes in their guise in order to discredit them. In the second issue of Johnny's solo title, the Wizard poses as the Torch, and commits crimes in his guise in order to discredit him. (Although one of these includes using his flame to write DOWN WITH LAW AND ORDER in the sky, which is just hilarious.) One hopes this kind of blatant copycatting was just a one-off....

    The Wizard looks just as disappointed in this story as we are.