Fantastic Four #285 (1985): Secret Wars II

Why didn't he just illegally download it?
Why didn’t he just illegally download it?

A Very Special Issue of the Fantastic Four, in which a kid lights himself on fire to emulate Human Torch. 

It’s a little strange to do this, especially given all the false rumors several years prior to publication that Human Torch didn’t appear on the FF TV show because they were afraid kids would play with play with fire if they saw a cartoon about a guy made of flames.  Again, these rumors were NOT true. Also, while we’re addressing ’80s rumors, Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials did not die from swallowing Pop Rocks.

1980s Marvel was fond of having stories about kids who read comics getting picked on and bullied by other kids/grown ups who just don’t understand how cool comics are.  But this kid cries about it in class, so he kinda deserves to be beaten up after school.  Actually, I shouldn’t joke because this issue is really, really dark.

The kid loves Human Torch so much that after he gets punched out, he covers himself in gasoline and sets himself on fire.

The self-immolation happens off-screen, but Human Torch finds out and decides he can’t be Torch anymore because of it.

It’s pretty damn tragic

This is a tie-in to an event designed for broad mainstream appeal. Very gutsy move by John Byrne to make this the source of the conflict.

After Torch quits, Beyonder kidnaps him and basically does a “Ghosts of Christmas Past” with him.

This is one of the strongest Secret Wars II tie-ins, because it really plays with the notion of Beyonder-as-God.  But there’s some flaws in it.  We just saw, in Secret Wars II #3, that Beyonder didn’t understand basic things like eating, having sex, and the meaning of power—yet here, he is wise enough to teach Johnny about the meaning of life?

Still, if Beyonder’s goal in SWII is to understand the human experience, this is a solid step in his development as a character.  I think the real problem is that Jim Shooter hadn’t really figured out what he wanted to accomplish with Secret Wars II (other than sell books via tie-ins), and therefore couldn’t communicate it to the creative teams of individual books—who he was relying on to keep the saga moving.

1 thought on “Fantastic Four #285 (1985): Secret Wars II”

  1. Actually, the story in this issue was WAY overdue. Marvel should have tackled the issue of ‘FF’ readers potentially immolating themselves to be like “their hero” the Human Torch as far back as 1962, in order to avoid any potential tragedies. ( or at least a lawsuit ) Creating a superhero who can become a Human Torch DOES have certain pratfalls. I have never heard of any cases where this actually happened to anybody, but I HAVE heard of several cases of children who tried to maim and/or blind themselves back in the 1970’s in bids to acquire bionic limbs like the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman! Series stars Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner reportedly had to visit these poor fools in their hospitals to point out to them that cybernetic people were still just the stuff of make-believe. ( but we still appreciate your support! ) Around the same time, the manufacturers of ‘Spider-Man Vitamins’ had to discontinue the product after some kid downed a whole bottle of them at one sitting in his bid to become Spider-Man! A very sad epitaph on his headstone. “Flintstones” vitamins were also discontinued at the same time, just in case some other kid wanted to try to turn him or herself into Bamm-Bamm! SO: The possibility of a similar tragedy involving the Marvel Comics ‘Human Torch’ character is, potentially, a very REAL possibility! “Hero” was not the only ‘FF’ story to tackle the issue- it was actually revisited in a later issue several years later. ( I can’t quite recall the actual issue number ) Both of these issues could stand a periodic reprinting simply to reinforce the point that the Human Torch is a character of pure fantasy, and we should not try to destroy ourselves in becoming one. I do NOT believe that a third story concerning this issue is necessary- simply reprinting the existing two on a fairly-regular basis, say, maybe, twice a decade, should be sufficient. If the House of Ideas is going to continue to treat us to stories about their various ‘Human Torch’ characters, then I’m afraid this measure is a necessity. Flame on!!


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