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Monday, April 04, 2011 

CBG's sensationalizing of Johnny Storm's pedestrian death

Comics Buyer's Guide has published a pretentious column scheduled for print in the May 2011 issue (#1677), that does little other than to puff-piece the whole subject of Human Torch's demise. It gives 5 ideas of why this was done, but doesn't ask if this is the right or wrong way to go about it. For example:
As to why, how about ...

II: To shake things up
Like most businesses, Marvel likes money. And Fantastic Four wasn’t making much.
While Spider-Man, X-Men, and (especially) Avengers have become quite the franchises lately, poor ol’ Fantastic Four — Marvel’s first and once-most-important title — languished in ignominy. In January 2010, Diamond reported Fantastic Four selling a measly 41,284 copies. It came in at #35, below even Dark Wolverine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But what a difference a year (and a death) makes! Fantastic Four #587 was January 2011’s top-selling issue, with numbers that will continue to rise as orders for variant covers and additional printings come dribbling in, followed by more ka-ching from trade paperbacks and the like. Death is boffo box office!
Cynical? Yes. But also a successful publishing strategy.
Yawn. I guess they haven't seen the sales charts lately, have they? They certainly haven't cited any receipt numbers. The issue with the death scene sold only 115,000 copies, and the following one dropped like a stone soon after. And valuing variant covers, trades and multiple printings over story quality? Short-lived strategy, and not something deserving of such sugary praise. It doesn't get any better with the following:
III: Johnny needed a vacation
Let’s put aside cynicism for a second and consider that Hickman might have thrown Johnny under the bus for a good story. [...]
No, you put aside the cynicism and contempt that you happen to have for the audience and consider that your argument bears no more weight than the idea Marvel and DC threw a considerable number of characters under the bus this past decade for a "good" story, Scarlet Witch being one of those. In fact, "throwing under the bus" has a negative meaning to it, like betrayal and apathy, exactly what's driving the people in charge. If they hadn't relied so heavily on death and demonization in the past 2 decades, whether to get rid of major/minor characters who were supposedly a burden, or as a sales ploy for short-term bucks, this might not have seemed so cynical. But this almost all they've been doing lately, becoming increasingly vile and vulgar as they go along, and there's no impact in it anymore.

Plus, if they wanted to, they could find an excuse to send Johnny on sabbatical without "killing" or being even the slightest bit sensational.

The excuse they seem to have for why Johnny must go is:
Every member has been absent for lengthy sabbaticals, where he or she was formally replaced on the team — every member, that is, except for Johnny Storm.
And that justifies even a faux killing? Please. Then they admit down the line that:
Johnny Storm has left the team on occasion, notably in Fantastic Four #3-4 (Mar-May 62), when he found the amnesiac Sub-Mariner in New York’s Bowery district, and in 2007, when he was hospitalized during “Civil War.” And Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Wolverine briefly replaced the whole team (Fantastic Four #347-349, Dec 90-Feb 91), but that turned out to be a hoax.
Well gee, then he has left the FF at times. It may not have been for an especially long one, but he has taken some R&R on occasion. Regarding faux killings of the FF members, it only really began with Mr. Fantastic's going MIA in FF #384-412 between 1994-96, at a time when Marvel's story quality was beginning to deteriorate, and later the Thing died briefly in 2003 in Mark Waid's run, and Sue Storm might have gone through vaguely similar circumstances in J. Michael Stracynski's far more disastrous run in 2005. Their mistake: they could've spared Johnny these missteps, and instead of this publicity stunt, they could've written a story where he meets a girl who for better or worse, could've come from a wacky background not unlike Frankie Raye, and written that he wanted to take some time off to be with her before discovering her amazing power. Sadly, they didn't.

The whole argument really begins to unravel, however, when they say that Human Torch was sent into death-land because:
And if those aren’t reasons enough, let’s address the giant village idiot in the room ...

V: Johnny Storm is a full-blown moron
Of all the Torches, Johnny Storm is obviously the dumbest. His career is punctuated by bad decisions, puerile behavior, adolescent temper tantrums, and just plain stupid moves. There are so many head-slapping Johnny moments, a comprehensive list is out of the question.
Well what have we here but bad example one million of idiots who criticize the characters instead how they're written, and instead of telling unambiguously what they thought of the quality of the stories he starred in. If they think any particular story effort by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, et al, was a botch job, just say so! There's no need to reduce the whole issue to a juvenile notion of how to "critique" the books. After giving a list of stories that weren't Johnny's fault no matter the quality, including FF #99 from 1970, we're even told about how:
Johnny Storm is the only member of the original Fantastic Four who has never been accepted as an Avenger. The Thing joined in West Coast Avengers #9 (Jun 86) and the Richardses in Avengers #300 (Feb 89). Heck, even most of the substitute members mentioned above — Ant-Man II, Black Panther, Crystal, Luke Cage, She-Hulk — are Avengers, but not Johnny. And this is a team that accepted Demolition Man!
When you add it all up, the question isn’t why Marvel is benching Johnny Storm — the question is why it took so long.
I guess they don't want him to ever be a member of the EMH, or to even learn what it takes to satisfy the Avengers leadership, whether his becoming an Avenger or a Defender is a good idea or not, because they really think it's his fault for being such a clown. What can be said is that under the contempt-ridden reign of Quesada, Bendis and Alonso, Johnny Storm being an Avenger would never work. Mainly because it would likely be more of a sales stunt like it was by adding Spider-Man and Wolverine to the cast.

If they think there's a problem with Johnny's personality, what they'd really do is ask that it be modified and matured, just like Claremont and Byrne did with Wolverine in the late 70s/early 80s. Instead, they beclown themselves by justifying Johnny's demise at all costs, and all because they don't want to irk Quesada and Alonso and lose the chance to get all those review copies they don't need. Johnny Storm is dumb, a moron and a giant village idiot? They should really take a mirror check.

And with the gazillionth crossover from Marvel, Fear Itself, soon to debut, that's another sign to suggest Johnny Storm's termination wasn't done for good storytelling.

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gotta love the victim blaming.

Why is there a Comic Buyers Guide when nobody buys comics?

Wow. Talk about a load of crap. All they whine about is Johnny's faults (as depicted by writers) and not his virtues, which deserve attention too. What a demolition job on a deceased character.

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