Johnny Storm, Human Torch and Member of the Fantastic Four, dies at 50

human-torchDear Mr. Tom Brevoort, Senior Vice President for Publishing, Marvel Comics:

Are you kidding me with this? Surely you are joking.

I have been reading comic books since I was a little kid – the first time I read a comic book (it was an issue of Captain America… I think 294, back in a day when the cover of a comic book was actually an accurate representation of the content within, but I digress…), it captured my imagination in a way that few things have since. In the passing decades, I’ve fallen in and out of love with comics, and right now, I’m nearing one of those stages where the infatuation dims back to a flicker. It’s mostly due the exuberant amount of Batman related titles released by DC, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, but Marvel isn’t far behind on my shit list.

I understand that comic books are, by definition, violent melodrama – a visual method of conveying stories that often do not translate mediums. It’s part of their charm. Story telling, layouts and art all come together to push the reader down a stream of fantasy that can’t be experienced anywhere else. I’m with that.

What I’m not willing to champion is the pathetic use of death as both a plot device and an excuse to sell more books. The idea that Johnny Storm is dead and is never coming back is as ridiculous as the notion that Steve Rogers is dead and never coming back… which brings me to the crux of my argument. Stop fake killing people! If characters are dead, then leave them dead. Don’t kill them and bringing them back. Now again, I do understand that comic books are melodramas, and what could be more melodramatic than coming back from the dead? But this is getting ridiculous. Getting? OK, it is completely atrocious! Look, I know you guys have a business to run and comic books to sell and your new masters over at Disney don’t want to hear that profits aren’t up this quarter, but get it together and reign it in a bit. You remember the whole Jean Gray/Phoenix thing and how she was dead, then she wasn’t dead and she did all those horrible things and then she was dead again, but then she came back again but it turns out that the one who did all the bad stuff wasn’t really her and… ugh. Just ugh. And then years later, you killed Captain America (well, not you, Tom, but you know what I’m saying) – this would not stand. You can’t kill Steve Rogers! He’s survived everything Marvel has thrown at him (including Hitler) since the 1940s, including the ill advised Captain America: Commie Smasher series from the fifties. But I guess Cap also wasn’t really dead, he was lost in time or something… (not to be confused with Batman being lost in time just a few months later… very creative, DC) and then he returned, or was reborn, or whatever. If you’re always going to bring everybody back, what’s the point of killing them in the first place? I remember a line from somewhere in volume one of Captain America where he asks himself, “Why is it that when the heroes die, its for good, but the bad guys always come back?” Well, the answer back then was that the writers were too lazy to come up with new bad guys, but these days, they’re too lazy to come up with new heroes as well. In the last decade, Marvel Comics have brought back long dead characters from the Golden Age, like James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Jim Hammond, aka the Original Human Torch and his partner, Thomas Raymond, aka ‘Toro’. All of these moves were unprecedented, but not as stale as what happened with Jean Gray or Steve Rogers – yet still lame. Just like what you’re doing with Johnny Storm, and consider this – given that Jim Hammond and Thomas Raymond have already died before, this makes Johnny Storm the third and final human torch to have died! Are you guys at Marvel just making sure you didn’t miss anybody?

I’ve never been a Fantastic Four fan, although the characters are likable at their basic levels. The movies sucked, but that’s not your fault. (Right?) I guess what I’m saying is I could care less what you do with these characters, but don’t do some far reaching repercussions throughout the Marvel Universe death of Johnny Storm nonsense and then just write him back into the funny papers in a year. This is the reason I’m going to drop my Batman titles – it’s overkill (sorry, no pun intended) and it’s better for Marvel’s longevity if they keep the fake deaths to a minimum.

Jamie Insalaco


I know a lot of folks that ended up on this page were just trying to find out how Johnny died, and initially, I didn’t provide that information – my bad.

Apparently, there was some kind of tear or something in the negative zone (I read comic books, and I have no idea what that is, so don’t feel bad) and the only way to close it was from the inside, so Johnny sacrificed himself.  Now in my Star Trek the Next Generation thinking mind, it seems perfectly logical that Johnny is still alive and trapped in the Negative Zone (or whatever) – the problem is getting him out.  I’m sure that’s how they’ll bring him back… find some way to tear a hole, take him out and seal it from the outside.  Right.  Anyway, I read that Marvel said there will not be another issue of the Fantastic Four…  Fine, get ready next month for ‘Fantastic Three’… or maybe ‘The Fantastic Richards Family, Features Ben Grimm’ or something.

What do you think?  Is it OK to kill off a character when you know it’s only a matter of time before they return from the grave?  Comments are welcomed!

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on January 25, 2011, in comic book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. While I agree to some extent, it is a given that they’re going to do this in comics. Just accept it and move on. Characters don’t stay dead…just like they don’t really age. They change with the times, or at least try to, and they produce countless good stories (along with an equal amount of bad ones) with the same characters that are 50+ years old.

    I thought Johnny’s “death” was a good one. Heroic. I say that even with the obvious ways he could’ve been saved in the story…most notably Franklin Richards could’ve bent reality or whatever to pull him out. But it was a good death. He’ll be back, but that doesn’t take away from it for me. The only people to not come back have been Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man. Everyone else has been back or will be back. “Death” is just another plot device to be used these days.

    If anything is going to kill Marvel, it is the return to bagged edition comics, charging $3.99 for the majority of their books, and the number of variant covers/printings. They’re aiming their sights right at the hardcore collectors on these and I’ve always been of the belief that you should cater to those type of people because they’re the ones keeping the titles going during the rough years. Alas, they’ll keep doing it because money is the bottom line, not the story telling. You’ve got to go to the indy titles for the truly innovative stories these days…and they ARE out there, if you look hard enough 🙂

  2. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for commenting!

    I guess I didn’t mean it was going to ruin Marvel the company, just my own personal experience… although I do tend to stop buying comics that get too silly. But what I AM saying is that if he’s not dead – and I guarantee you that he is not – why pretend he is? Why couldn’t they just say that he’s trapped (which I’m sure is what the explanation will be), and at this time, we don’t have the means to save him, so for now, it’ll be LIKE he’s dead. I think that makes a lot more sense. I agree with you – these sorts of moves are about money, not good story telling.

    as for indy titles, I don’t know if House of Mystery by Vertigo or Incognito by Icon count as indy, but I sure do love both those titles. in fact, I wrote about House of Mystery here:

    Thanks again for commenting! Drop by any time!


  3. Jamie,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Ryan, I do appreciate your comments and agree that ‘death’/’resurrection’ is a given in comics and that I do just need to move on. (I also liked your comment regarding how heroes don’t age. Steve Rogers is what, 85 years old?) Having said that I must voice my frustration(s) regarding the resurrections of heroes. I have been a Cap fan since I was a kid; that was in the 70’s. I was shocked when he was killed off. But as much as I loved the patriotic, idealistic Steve Rogers I wish that they had left him dead. Of course, he wasn’t really dead but lost in time. (THAT plot made no sense either; the Skull killed him only to raise him to inhabit his body? Whatever) The point is, as much as I would have ‘missed’ Steve’s character, I would prefer that Marvel have the literary “integrity” to live by their decision. You killed the guy. Move on. Pick a new cap. ( I had some ideas for how to get a new Cap, but that is irrelevant). Live by your decisions regarding characters. Knowing that Marvel will bring them back cheapens their death.

  4. Good call, Mark – it’s a complete and total lack of literary integrity; they just can’t stand by any decisions.

    thanks for commenting!

  5. Only an idiot would whine and bitch about comic book characters coming back to life. That’s the point, they’re comic book books and a chance to get away from reality. To sit there and complain because comic books aren’t realistic speaks volumes.

    • Realism isn’t the issue here – the problem is that a fake death takes away from the drama. If the danger isn’t real, then the drama is sucked out of the moment, and the story is less effective. It’s just bad story telling.

  6. i do agree but you have to be pretty dumb to be mad at them

  7. Well, killing a super hero always brings disgust among fans , especially wen they kill coolest of’ em (not literally)
    Bt if as per wat u hv informed is true(dat there won’t b any further edition of fantastic 4) I think killing a superhero is the best the marvel comics can do to get the best (profits offcourse) from their last edition of a classic

  8. And now, Johnny Storm is back.

    If you paid $8 for Fantastic Four #600, you know Johnny Storm didn’t really die in the Negative Zone – or rather, he didn’t stay dead. I didn’t read it, I don’t really care, and I’m glad I didn’t let Marvel trick me out of $8. Anyway, as of last Wednesday, Johnny is back!

  9. Charles Richards

    I was reading a graphic Spider Man and found out that the Torch died. While I won’t get into the argument about whether it is “right or wrong” to kill characters off and bring them back. I will say that Marvel, as well as other companoes have been around a LONG time. How are they going to keep the characters new, attract new readers and keep coming up with plot idea’s w/o change? ? ?
    This is simply evolution in the art form.
    In jazz, there was Pop’s, bebop, fusion, ect.
    Evolution in the art form.
    Enjoy the ride.

    • You make a good point.however,i would argue that a good writer can reinvent an old character by looking back at the past and reflecting it to today-love what Ed Brubaker has done with Captain America

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