Apr 29, 2017

The Human Torch and Toro: Gay Subtexts in World War II Comics

I never had much time for Marvel Comics, but there's something to be said for the Human Torch, a blazing, naked humanoid who bursts onto the scene to rescue his rather buffed (and also flammable) teenage sidekick.

In his first incarnation, premiering in Marvel Comics #1 (1939), he was an android villain who burst into flame whenever he was exposed to air.  But he quickly learned to control his flaming, reformed, and became a superhero, single-handedly ending World War II by assassinating Hitler.






After the war he joined the New York City police force under the alter ego name Jim Hammond.

In Human Torch Comics #2 (fall 1940), the Torch encounters a teenage boy named Toro, who is impervious to fire.  The two become the standard 1940s superhero-sidekick romantic partners, with Toro requiring rescue from a horrifying fate on nearly every comic book cover.




I'm not sure what's going on here.  A cage of women and children is being lowered into flames, and Toro is somehow attached to the chain.

The Human Torch and Toro both faded into obscurity after the War.  They were resurrected recently for the dark, ultra-convoluted, and intensely heteronormative plotlines of contemporary Marvel comics.  Apparently Toro marries, then dies, then gets resurrected, but his wife has begun canoodling with the Torch, and...






You're probably more familiar with another Human Torch, this one actually human, named Johnny Storm.  A founding member of the Fantastic Four, he premiered in 1961 with no connection to the World War II android.  He had a heteronormative plotline, with no teen sidekick, and "died" in 2011.


















He was played by Chris Evans in two Fantastic Four movies (2005, 2007).  The gay subtexts were completely gone, relics of the distant past.








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