Comic Review – “Essential Human Torch Vol. 1”

Marvel’s original hothead had his own series 40 years before his
Tsunami run. This is all of it.

General Information

Title: Essential Human Torch Vol. 1

Credited to: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and friends

Original Publication Date: August 13, 2003 reprint of material
published from 1962-1965

ISBN: 0-7851-1309-6

Cover Price: $14.99 US, $24.00 Can

Buy from:


The youngest member of the Fantastic Four had some
adventures without
his teammates, and others with just one or two of them.

This collects the Human Torch portions of Strange Tales
101-134, and
Strange Tales annual #2.

High Point

The first story, at the amusement park. This one showed some
thought and planning when it was being originally written, but that
trend does not continue.

Low Point

The Torch seems to have various fire-related powers that appear
they’re needed by the story, as well as some fluctuating
about his old powers (such as the amount of time before his
dies, the amount of time before his flame returns, whether or not
can fall through a trap door, etc.) I got the distinct impression
that Marvel wanted to cash in on the success of Spider-Man as a
hero title, and did so by haphazardly grabbing another teenage
character and giving him his own title rather than developing a

The Scores

While I have to admit that villains like Paste-Pot Pete don’t
anywhere else but Silver Age Marvel, that doesn’t go far enough
in the
originality. This reads like any other Marvel title from
era. I give it 3 out of 6.

The artwork is usually pretty good. Strange Tales
Annual #2
wasn’t well reproduced, but otherwise I have no real complaints.
give it 4 out of 6.

The stories told were often contrived and simplistic. I
don’t understand why so many villains felt they could prove they
unbeatable by tackling one member of a team instead of the
team; if they were really that confident, why didn’t they just go
after the entire Fantastic Four? Even if they’d tried to go after
FF and just run into the Human Torch, it would have been easier
swallow. The plots could have worked, but the scripts just feel
rushed. I give it 3 out of 6.

The characterization of the Torch was fairly well
done, if
lacking depth. The villains had only two personalities; Paste-Pot
Pete felt inadequate, and was always trying to prove himself to
everyone, while all the other villains felt remarkably superior, and
were always trying to prove themselves to everyone. (Yes, it’s
same outcome, but at least Paste-Pot Pete had his own set of
motivations.) I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was often in
There is some fun to be had with these stories, but if you’re
expecting the kind of quality we saw in the other Essential
you’ll be disappointed. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow was well done within each story, although
often was little connection to the previous stories (apart from
flashbacks, where the hero conveniently reminds himself of the
time he fought a villain just before that villain resurfaces.) I give
it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s still got some fun points, but I’d put a
priority on picking up the other Essentials if you haven’t already. I
give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Human Torch Vol. 1 receives 25
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

This was solicited as the last of the silver age Marvel superhero
lines to be collected as an Essential. The next Essential volume
out is Essential Tomb of Dracula on October 29.
Marvel has
announced plans to release Essential Spider-Man Vol.
Essential Punisher Vol. 1, and Essential
Vol. 5
next year. The next time I pick up a copy of an old
Essential to review, it’ll be Essential Howard the Duck
Vol. 1
, by

5 replies on “Comic Review – “Essential Human Torch Vol. 1””

  1. Not cashing in on Spidey

    A kind poster (WRH Bill) responded to this review when I posted
    the URL to rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe and pointed out that the
    first Human Torch solo adventure came out only two months after
    Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man’s debut issue. They wouldn’t have
    had the sales figures on AF15 back then, so it couldn’t have been an
    attempt to cash in on Spider-Man’s success. WRH Bill suggested that
    they were both part of the same plan to reach a teenage audience, and
    CBoldman suggested that the Human Torch might have been given a
    shot at a solo title because the original Human Torch was such a
    success back in Marvel’s Golden Age.

  2. Marvel’s original hothead?
    The original Human Torch was a robot who fought in WWII, not this guy.

    But since they’re calling this volume 1, what would they call it if they ever did an Essential volume on the one who came first?

    • Re: Marvel’s original hothead?

      The original Human Torch was a robot who fought in WWII, not
      this guy.

      But since they’re calling this volume 1, what would they call it if
      they ever did an Essential volume on the one who came first?

      They might use an adjective, like the Essential X-Men and
      Essential Uncanny X-Men lines, but the truth is, I doubt we’ll see
      any of Marvel’s Golden Age as Essentials, as much as I’d like

      As for the “original hothead” comment, that’s what they’ve been
      calling him, partly because of his powers as well as his attitude.

      • Re: Marvel’s original hothead?
        I’d be willing to bet cash money we won’t see any Golden Age Essentials. (There was a Captain America Golden Age bonus strip in volume 1 of his Essential, but that’s it.)

        It looks like the best we can hope for is some kind of reproduction in the Marvel Masterworks – although that, too, is amazingly unlikely.

        Anyway, love the Essentials (fantastic cheap way to read loads of old comics), and therefore also enjoy the reviews. Can’t wait ’til they’re all up. Great job. Only a handful to go…

        May I request Marvel Team-Up when you’re finished with Howard?

        • Re: Marvel’s original hothead?

          May I request Marvel Team-Up when you’re finished with Howard?

          Sure thing. It may be a few minutes due to my upcoming cash flow, but
          those two will be the next two “old” Essentials I’ll buy. (The only other
          Essentials in print that aren’t reviewed yet are Avengers Vol. 3, Conan
          Vol. 1 (which is damn near impossible to get at a reasonable price),
          and the two Captain America volumes.

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