Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why the Human Torch?


With Thought Balloons currently 2 of 4 on members of Marvel’s First Family - last member showing up over two years ago - it seemed as though we were well overdue for member #3 to make an appearance.

So here we are with Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch. The team member that readers can probably relate to the most.

Oh sure, Ben Grimm may be the everyman who everyone can relate to, but how many of us could really imagine a depressing existence as a man stuck in an orange rocky skin?

Reed Richards? He may be at the top of Marvel’s IQ list, but that’s operating at a level of intelligence few readers can really comprehend. Not to mention aloof, has trouble connecting with his family at times, and if alternate universe versions of him are anything to go by, he may not be as mentally stable as he first appears. His wife Susan, meanwhile, is stuck with the responsibility of being the team adult.

Then you have Johnny Storm, who is the one that most readers would probably take after if they themselves really had superpowers. He uses his powers for fun as much as for fighting crime, relishes the attention that comes from the Fantastic Four’s status as celebrities, and isn’t above using the publics knowledge that he’s a superhero to pick up chicks.

As much as dead relatives and emotional guilt may make for classic origin stories and powerful motivators, the fact is that one of the real joys of superhero comics is getting to see them use their superpowers. Because superpowers are cool, and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, is fully aware of this.

He’s also one of the few parts you’ll probably be able to get people to admit was well done in the live action Fantastic Four movies. As played by future Captain America actor Chris Evans, no less.

Go figure.


  1. 1
    The Fantastic Fours' kitchen in the Baxter Building.
    A very modern looking room (but with that retro-futurist feel). Lots of white and chrome.
    Somewhat recognisable kitchen appliances adorn the room, sci-fied and Kirbified by Reed's improvements.

    REED RICHARDS is in the bkg - his back to us. He has stretched a number of stands from his torso which hold numerous books, charts and electronic equipment. His four hands type, turn pages, press buttons, scratch his head.

    SUE RICHARDS stands at a counter [panel right, in mid bkg] pouring a coffee from a normal (but expensive) looking coffee machine. She is dressed in a white dressing gown and has her hair in a towel. A Mr. Fantastic enhanced coffee machine stands beside it containing a cracked mug. Coffee stains the white counter front where it leaked out some days ago. There is a piece of paper taped to the machine which reads "Reed, please *don't* fix this!"

    Sue pays no attention as:

    BEN GRIMM bursts through the door [panel left], fuming, and points at:

    JOHNNY STORM [seated at a table, centre of panel], who was eating cereal out of an oversized mug that would fit Ben's massive grip (and reads "World's Greatest Thing"), arcs up from his seat, still holding his spoon, spitting out cereal as he speaks - his bottom half just igniting into flames.

    We can see some burn marks on the back of Ben's right shoulder but cannot make out much about it.

    Thing: I'm gonna put you out for good this time.

    Johnny: Flame on.

    Ben takes a swing at Johnny in mid air. Johnny dodges, smiling widely, loving it. He is in full flame now except for one hand which still holds his spoon.

    In the bkg, Sue has taken her coffee to the table and picked on a copy of the Daily Bugle.

    Reed's head has stretched into the shot... annoyed by the distraction.

    Ben: What's it say, Matchstick?

    Reed stretches in between them, holding each at bay with a giant hand.
    One of his eyes stretches from his head off panel.

    Sue is in the bkg, hidden behind her newspaper.

    One of Reed's hands and his stretched-away eye are in the bkg, still diligently working.

    Reed: Please, not in the lab.

    Sue (small): We're in the kitchen honey.

    OTS shot. We can see Ben's burned shoulder and can now make out the following image has been burned in relief...

    If the readers go to the trouble of translating the Braille they will see that it reads: "I love Yancy Street!"

    Reed stretches his second eye back toward Sue (which gives him a ridiculous alien appearance). We see stretched strands of his many varied appendages crisscrossed on the floor.

    Johnny is taking advantage of Reed's blockade and is hovering over his cereal bowl reaching for another spoonful. He sticks a fiery tongue out at Ben.

    Reed: Yes, yes, kitchen. I'm...

    Reed (linked, small): some of me is in the lab too.

    Ben: I'm gonna braille your face in.

    NOTES: My idea of the FF may be many years out of date. Is Alicia still even around?

    1. This page was a JOY to read, from the little details you've added in to the way you have two scenes going on at the same time and manage to make them both work so naturally.

    2. Mk is bang on, this was a pure joy. Each panel pushes both your little stories forward and adds new layers, great comic writing. Not to mention that you leave one of your best gags (the braille) up to your readers to figure out, that is bold confident writing. Really impressive page sir.

    3. This has a great 'timeless' aspect to it. It gets to the core of the FF as family, but more than that it focuses beautifully on the antagonistic (but loveable) relationship between Johnny and Ben.

      The dialogue is what sells that relationship here. Good stuff.

  2. Oh, man. I hope you guys are familiar with the TV show Arrested Development. I don't have pictures. Sorry!


    Panel 1
    Wideshot. Interior. We are inside a theater, focus is on the stage. TOBIAS FUNKE is a little bit left of the center-stage and is striking a 'heroic pose' (he's supposed to be center-stage, but he's a bad actor). He is wearing his terrible The Thing costume but without the helmet so we see his balding head, pervert 'stache, glasses, and pedo-smile. Also in the stage, in the front lines, is DEBRIS (a woman with a long blond wig wearing the classic Blue FF suit, standing feet wide apart, and looking really stiff with her eyes wide open), EMMET RICHTER (who is Andy Richter's identical quintuplet brother, he wears the FF suit, a hat made of cardboard box designed to be fire and carries a cardboard box fire prop, also his face should be pixelized), and ARGYLE AUSTERO (an old man wearing glasses with long (for men) brown and white hair, he also wears a FF suit and underneath it a muscle suit). Emmet is just standing in the stage with his prop while Argyle is feeling up Tobias' arms. Behind them are 5-7 more people (also druggies) doing whatever and dressed in whatever (it's a really messy musical) and they're all huddled up together.

    TOBIAS: I think my Thing is finally hard again!

    Panel 2
    We turn focus now to the audience. The theater is mostly empty. BEN, JOHNNY, SUE and REED are sitting together watching the horrible musical. They are all in civilian clothes. Ben is faceplaming himself (SFX: FACEPALM!). Johnny has his jaw dropped. Both Sue and Reed are just disgusted by the musical.

    BEN: That's it. I'm out.
    JOHNNY: What?

    Pannel 3
    Same. Ben, Sue, and Reed are standing up and are leaving the theater.

    BEN: That's the last time I sign ya my film rights.
    JOHNNY: Oh c'mon! It's not that bad.
    SUE: It's terrible, Johhny!
    REED: Yeah. Even I know its bad.

    Panel 4
    Move a little bit to the right. JOHNNY has slunk down his chair, his arms crossed, and is miserably continuing to watch the musical. A few chairs back and to the right, we see DEADPOOL and SPIDER-MAN with their masks half-open, eating popcorn and very delighted.

    DEADPOOL: Goldmine!
    SPIDER-MAN: This is amazing!
    JOHNNY: Shut up.

    Panel 5
    Same. DEADPOOL threw his popcorn and is running away, towards the departing Fantastic Three. Johnny glances back at Deadpool, he looks very alarmed.

    DEADPOOL: Wait! Does this mean I'm in with you guys now?
    Fantastic Three (Off-shot): NO!!!

    1. I think the inclusion of Spider-Man and Deadpool at the end are what really 'make' this script. It's good on it's own even without them, but the way you've added and used them really pushes it up to another level.

    2. I'm now reading all these crazy parallels into the Bluths (Reed going around trying to get the rest of the FF's signatures) and the FF.

      Comedy gold.

  3. Hi Arby,

    This is a fun script. I love Arrested Development.

    Reed's "voice" sounds a little off to me, and I think you need to show the F3 leaving in the last panel rather than having them OP.

    Otherwise, funny script. I chuckled when you cut back to Spider-man and Deadpool.


Feedback is what every good writer wants and needs, so please provide it in the white box below
If you want to play along at home, feel free to put your scripts under the Why? post for the week.