And then, FIVE YEARS LATER… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Human Torch #36 awaits!
Writer: Joe Gill
Penciler: Dick Ayers/Carl Burgos
Inker: Dick Ayers/Carl Burgos
Letterer: Dick Ayers
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Atlas Comics (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5400.00
Previously in The Human Torch: The early days of Marvel/Atlas/Red Circle Comics is really the story of managing editor Martin Goodman chasing trends and trying to see what would move the biggest number of issues. When the superhero genre started to wane after the war, the adventures of Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch went by the wayside, with the Torch’s number being taken over by a romance book, ‘Love Tales’ in 1949. (It’s only fair, his book took over Red Raven’s number back in 1940.) But, five years later, Goodman got an inkling that the supers might be making a comeback, and so revived their big three heroes, with a few important changes.
The first tale of the Human Torch and Toro involves buying toys for unfortunate children, including a toy “atomic blaster” that the android gives to a young man named Billy. It quickly turns out to be a REAL atomic weapon, hidden among a shipment of toys by enemy agents, only to fall afoul of the flames of justice! The oh-so-1954 atomic theme continues in our second tale, as an archaeologist discovers a heretofore-unknown sub-species of Tyrannosaurus Rex, including a perfectly untouched egg.
The bummer is, his dig is on an atomic testing range.
The explosion serves as an impromptu incubator, somehow activating the dinosaur within and imbuing it with atomic power, like you do. In case you’re wondering if Joe Gill was just knocking off a certain Japanese movie, remember that this book has a cover date of April 1964, with a likely street date eight to ten weeks earlier, while Ishirō Honda’s first ‘Gojira’ film wouldn’t be released until November of that year. Regardless of the monster’s pedigree, the end-result is the same: Giant Atomic Lizard!
Interestingly, though this issue is drawn by Dick Ayers, best known for drawing the cowboy Ghost Rider, the Human Torch figures were re-drawn and pasted on by the Torch’s creator, Carl Burgos. I’m not sure why, save for perhaps perfectionism on Burgos’ part, but it doesn’t last much longer. Next issue is almost all Ayers, and #38 is all Ayers’ pencils. As for our proto-Godzilla, The Torch eschews his regular fire to defeat it, instead commandeering a submarine and defeating it with water!
Speaking of submarines, there’s an 8-page Sub-Mariner story in the middle of the issue, featuring some really subtle art by Bill Everett, closing out the issue with the flaming pair versus a villain called The Ape.
The Human Torch takes care of the kidnapper by setting his apartment building on fire and throwing his into the basement to burn to death… which is harsh and oddly Golden Age in its fatality. The Human Torch #36 is relatively unremarkable comic on most fronts, albeit one well-drawn by Ayers, ending up with a middle-of the-road 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. The Human Torch’s return to the spotlight only lasted two issues after this one, and it’s pretty easy to see why: These stories are old-school Golden Age silliness, unlike the books that would revitalize comic books and start the Silver Age of Comics just a couple of years later. Even so, these mid-40s Marvel/Atlas books are kind of fascinating, coming across as artifacts of the lost age of atomic power, communists under every bush and confusion about whether the superhero was still a viable concept.
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THE HUMAN TORCH #36
For a big revamp/revival issue, it's oddly business as usual, and even some lovely Ayers art can't overcome the by-the-numbers stories, making it kinda dull.