Strange Tales #102 has several short features in it but the only one that matters in the Marvel 616 continuity is the one starring Johnny Storm fighting a villain called The Wizard.
The issue starts with a recap of what happened in the last issue when Johnny defeated a villain who was trying to destroy an amusement park. While he and his pals are reminiscing and marveling over the feats of The Human Torch, a man named The Wizard overhears them. He is an inventor and a showman, already world famous in his own right. He decides the only way he can really prove to the world he has the smartest brain on the planet is to defeat… The Human Torch? Yeah, you read that right.
I think every Marvel fan gives a bit of a groan when reading this. No disrespect to Johnny Storm but he’s not known for being brilliant. However, Reed Richards most certainly is. But this story stars Johnny so he gets the spotlight.
What’s The Wizard’s brilliant plan for trapping Johnny? Simple, he is going to build a machine that is supposed to dig to the center of the Earth. Then, he’s going to fake getting stuck, knowing a.) he actually built this machine with plenty of air so he’s not in any real danger and b.) The Human Torch is definitely going to come rescue him. After all of this, he’s going to invite Torch over to show off his super cool modern house. Then, while Torch is in the house he’s going to ask Torch to have his picture taken with some special cameras he invented. Those cameras are not cameras though, they’re actually water cannons which will douse Torch, but not his face so he can keep his secret identity, and then put him in an asbestos lined room so he can’t escape. Easy right? And does it work? You bet.
That is not all though, oh no. The Wizard has also built a suit which mimics Torch’s powers. He uses this suit to commit crimes in order to sink Torch’s reputation with the public. That also works. To top it all off he skywrites in flames, “Down with law and order” just to make the point really clear.
Here’s the thing though. As smart as The Wizard thinks he is, he’s not smart enough to realize Johnny can get hot enough to burn out of his prison. Johnny also knows how to defeat The Wizard so he makes a quick phone call. The Wizard lures Johnny back to his home where he holds photographs that will prove Torch’s innocence. For a smart dude, this guy is making a lot of really obvious mistakes. Torch tells him he has greater powers than The Wizard could imagine. At which point the photographs float out of The Wizard’s hands.
The Wizard is convinced Johnny does have some kind of otherworldly powers. Torch then calls the cops and saves the day. If you guessed the obvious then you have a smarter brain than The Wizard does. Of course, Johnny called Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Girl. And if you can’t even be bothered to know who is on the Fantastic Four can you actually be in the running to be a supervillain at all?
This really was one of the most ridiculous of the stories in the continuity so far but I suppose it gave Johnny Storm something to do for an afternoon.
Next on the reading list get your purple pants out because we’re going back to see the big green guy in Incredible Hulk #4!