Fantastic Four: Human Torch snuffed out — but for how long?

Jan. 25, 2011 | 8:31 a.m.
The Fantastic Four became the Fantastic Three on Tuesday...

The Fantastic Four became the Fantastic Three on Tuesday when Marvel Comics snuffed out Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Our Geoff Boucher caught up with Jonathan Hickman, the writer of the story that is making national headlines.

torch Fantastic Four: Human Torch snuffed out    but for how long?

A page from the new issue of Fantastic Four (Marvel)

GB: “Fantastic Four” has 50 years of publishing history and the weight of names like Kirby, Lee, Buscema, Byrne and so many others. Did you find yourself hesitating between keystrokes?

JH: No. You can’t really think about it like that. In addition, this was my first big job at Marvel and I was pretty hungry, so I probably would have said yes to the adaptation of a sequel to “Apocalypse Now.”  Thank goodness it was this, and that I had a pretty solid plan.

31 Fantastic Four: Human Torch snuffed out    but for how long?
GB: As you listened to fan chatter over recent weeks it must have been even more interesting. Was there a funny moment you can recount? Did you go for silent mode or did you engage?

JH: Very occasionally, I’ll engage, but I’m of the belief that once someone pays their money they’re entitled to both their interpretation and opinion, so I veer away from interaction on the message boards and such.  I did see where someone wrote that I had a contract with Marvel saying I had first refusal on anyone resurrecting or using the Human Torch for the next three years. That was pretty funny.

GB: There’s a well-earned cynicism among fans about major characters being snuffed — Superman died and came back, Captain America died and back, the Flash died and came back, etc. What do you say when confronted with that reaction?

JH: I think it’s fair. I think it’s both well-earned and well-deserved, but, ultimately, these things are judged by whether or not the story feels genuine. The question is: Are we trying to have an honest, resonating beat within the telling of a story, or are we trying to shock the reader and score cheap points?  I think, in this instance, we did the former. We’ll see.

fabulous fantastic four back Fantastic Four: Human Torch snuffed out    but for how long?

Vintage image of the Fantastic Four (Marvel)

GB: The Human Torch name goes back to the very earliest days of Marvel Comics, but in the golden age it was an android hero. Random stab here: Any chance we might see Reed Richards or someone else try to replace their fallen friend with a synthetic version?

JH: Err, everyone will have to stick around to find out the answer to that one.

GB: The Fantastic Four brought an unprecedented thing to comics — a family with love, arguments, weddings, child-rearing issues, etc. That adds some wonderfully complicated layers to the sort of story you’re telling doesn’t it?

JH: Of course. And the plus is this: When it’s family, everyone can relate to it. We all have parents, or siblings, or children and, regardless of the situation, we know that there is no ‘easy out.’  You have to truly deal with things, which is where the gold is in characterization.

GB: A death scene is a profound challenge — it can easily veer into the clumsy or the maudlin. What did you see as the biggest challenge with the death of Johnny Storm? What did you need to be sure you avoided?

JH: I find that almost all problems in delivery in comics comes from pacing. We’ve got 22 pages every month, and, unless you have a special dispensation — extra pages in our case — it’s very difficult to deliver a prolonged, pregnant moment. So, again, fortunately, we had the pages this month.

GB: Be honest: Did you pick Johnny just so you could title a future issue “From the Ashes”?

JH: Ha! I would never do that.

— Geoff Boucher


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32 Responses to Fantastic Four: Human Torch snuffed out — but for how long?

  1. David says:

    Ummm spoiler alert?
    Thanks a lot pal.

  2. Devin Faraci says:

    That's pretty douchey to spoil the death in the headline.

  3. Dave Ubanks says:

    Why put the spoiler in the headline? I googled "fantastic four" and the book was spolied for me.

  4. Joseph Tages says:

    Give him around three years and Johnny will be back as Galactus' herald or something. In the meantime, I'm curious to see if the Golden Age Human Torch replaces him and who the other new members will be. I'm just glad that Ben Grimm made it safe!

  5. Geoff Boucher says:

    I have to apologize to everyone for the story's headline. You're absolutely right. We should have put a vaguer headline on this. I'm crazed this morning with Oscars stuff and this Metallica story I wrote and I was just moving too fast. I've changed headline on home page.

  6. Tyles says:

    Thanks for spoiling the suprise, jerk.

  7. Bayushi says:

    Chris Evans Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Johhny (Five) Storm is Alive :P

  8. Geoff's #1 FAN...not says:

    Geoff Bucher's journalistic integrity snuffed out – but for how long?

  9. Raul Chuletas says:

    Cheap points scored, Hickman. Now can we move on to the next marketing-generated news event?

  10. Steve says:

    What are these people whining about? Many other websites did the same thing EVEN EARLIER than this site's posting. MTV posted it two hours earlier than the Times:

  11. waynebeamer says:

    Geoff: No apologies necessary. Knew about this at least two before your post from the AP story and CA. Besides, if the story is a compelling one, it won't spoil anything. To my fellow funnybook fans, please get a a serious grip…

    • ohplease says:

      It's okay, waynebeamer, Geoff can still apologize to me, thanks. Apology accepted, Geoff. Thanks for realizing you were wrong and having the courtesy to say you're sorry.

  12. hahaha says:

    I get it he died so he could come back as Captain America just like in the movies!

  13. Motorsheep says:

    So the Human Torch joins the club of "dead comic book super heroes"… probably because he was one of the few who hadn't already. Considering both the major comic companies currently have series populated with resurrected "dead" characters who really cares. They killed Superman once too… he got better (although it crippled the industry for almost a decade). At least the headline spoiler saves me having to drop any money to see that I guessed who among the 4 will get to be temporarily dead for the next couple of years. The last time I remember having to guess "who will die this issue" it was Guardian of Alpha Flight in the 80's… since then he has come back from the dead… THREE TIMES. See you back in the funny pages in 2013 Johnny Storm… and welcome to the most non-exclusive club in comic-dom.

  14. Cal Godot says:

    Spoilers? you people are a joke! The death of the Torch has been headline news for weeks now. Idiot fanboys. Why the hell aren't you morons being weeded from the gene pool by a war?

  15. MARVEL FAN 1 says:



  16. BUTTERFLY says:


  17. Ahavah says:

    That's a pretty dumb storyline. How many superhero characters come back to life within a few story arcs of their demise? How will killing off a title character and ending a book's run help put the Fantastic Four "in the center of the Marvel Universe"?
    Just out of curiosity, though: Will Spider-Man show up at the funeral? Their friendship/rivalry was legendary! :P

  18. Comic Fan says:

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz… Who cares? It is ONLY a cheap ploy to sell comics and create publicity on Marvel's part. It is an insult to comic book fans who have seen this trite and tired gimmick employed again and again over the many years. The bean counters and PR staff at Marvel and Disney dreamed this up and went out and found an overly eager new writer willing to sell his dignity to put it over. The death of "good" comics that made you want to read them regularly can't be found in generating dishonest PR events. It takes a genuine love for the medium and some how that died when the collecting mentality took over back in the 80s. So much boring predictable work generated in comics today is just damn lazy in all areas of creativity and production but it starts in editorial. Smart KNOWING editors have disappeared for the most part leaving just traffic cops to plead and beg the swell-headed prima donna talents to get work in on time.

  19. hiyoupeople says:

    fantastic 4 have always been pretty dull. who cares

  20. Scotty says:

    Shoulda' been Aquaman…just sayin'.

  21. Ron Burgundy says:

    First, the human torch was denied a bank loan, now he is killed………What is this world coming to!

  22. Clueless says:

    I bet that's the next FF movie….

  23. Boss Jock Spydee says:

    "Comic Fan" hits the nail on the head. The book has stunk since Kirby left in the 70s!

  24. Andrew Zar says:

    Thankfully I didn't care, but this article seriously wins the "WORST SPOILER EVENT IN HISTORY" – I bet Marvel's efforts to put the comic in plastic and to keep this secret seems a bit wasted when the very headline of this article spills the beans… hehe.

    As for the subject matter – it is now too common practice to kill and resurrect heroes. What would be news is for a major character to actually die.. like really die… and never come back.

  25. Brett says:

    Give it a rest, complainers. Marvel released the book on Tuesday; it was in the stores Tuesday morning; I haven't read it yet and it was all over the Internet as soon as the books were delivered to the stores.

  26. Dousch says:

    I forget which alternate reality it is, but doesnt HT have kids? Would this affect it any?

    Its the same reality as May Parker aka Spider-Girl

  27. John Rose says:

    Does anybody know the The Flame was "snuffed out"?

  28. Snowdog says:

    Who cares?

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