That Time Everyone Pretended to Not Know Human Torch's Secret Identity

In every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively retconnng away the previous story. Feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

The Fantastic Four are one of the most famous examples of superheroes whose identities are public record. In fact, they're probably the most famous example of this particular phenomena, as it is not a common one in superhero comics (although in recent years, more and more superheroes have gone this route for whatever reason). When the Fantastic Four started, though, it was not clear whether their identities would be public or not. In fact, when their costumes debuted in Fantastic Four #3, Jack Kirby actually drew their costumes as having masks on them (if you want to see what they would have looked like, just check out the Comic Book Legends Revealed I wrote about it...ten freakin' years ago! Man, time flies, huh?). In any event, either Stan Lee or Jack Kirby (or perhaps both?) decided that they would instead keep their identities public.


This was demonstrated clearly in the following issue (after Johnny Storm quit the team in a huff at the end of Fantastic Four #3) when Johnny is just hanging out with some buddies, using his powers to work on cars when the Thing shows up to bring him back to the team...

So they were definitely public figures now, but to be frank, it was early enough where Stan and Jack still had some wiggle room. As you may or may not know (I figure you would, but hey, who knows?), the very first comic book that Marvel publisher Martin Goodman ever did was called Marvel Mystery Comics and it featured the introduction of a superhero called the Human Torch. He was an android who fought crime by becoming, you know, a human torch. Of course, since he was an android, you would think that Android Torch would have been more accurate, but much less cool-sounding. Anyhow, when Goodman had Stan Lee come up with a new superhero team, he told Lee to include the Human Torch in the team, as the Torch had been so popular in the past. So Lee and Kirby had a new Human Torch (actually human this time) be on the team. The Fantastic Four was a big hit. So much of a hit that Goodman then told Lee (paraphrasing here), "Man, the Human Torch is like my good luck charm! Go give him his own feature!" So Lee and Kirby gave Human Torch the lead feature in Strange Tales starting with Strange Tales #101 (this was really early on in Marvel history, as Fantastic Four would only have had about six issues published by this point).


Lee and Kirby (with Larry Lieber as scripter and Dick Ayers as inker) decided to go with stories starring Johnny Storm living back in his small Long Island city of Glenville, having adventures in the town and having a secret identity again. I love, though, that Invisible Girl is still known to the world as Sue Storm and Johnny doesn't wear a mask and lives in the town where he grew up with Sue as his sister and yet he thinks he could keep his identity a secret. It's so bizarre! Anyhow, they try to explain it by saying that all of those guys from Fantastic Four #4 were gone now and they all pledged to keep Johnny's identity a secret


How funny would it have been if they had just gone with "Oh, yeah, they all died. The Thing throwing that car around hit a load-bearing wall and it crushed them all."

We see Johnny trying to hide his secret identity in that issue...

Honestly, this, already, counts as an abandoned comic book plot, right? But anyhow, wait until you see how they get out of this one!

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