The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of the Fantastic Four
Johnny Storm, known as the "Human Torch" is a founding member of the Fantastic Four, the foundational comic book series of the Marvel Universe.
The character of Johnny Storm was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby (both of whom were Jewish), and appeared in the first issue of The Fantastic Four in 1961.
An interesting recent aspect of Johnny Storm's history is that he went to Heaven and met God. This occurred after Johnny's brother-in-law Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) was forced to shoot and kill their long-time friend and partner Ben Grimm ("The Thing"), who was possessed by the consciousness of Doctor Doom and was about to kill Johnny. Reed Richards rebuilt a machine that Doctor Doom had created many years before for accessing the afterlife. Johnny Storm accompanied Reed Richards and his sister Susan Storm Richards as they journeyed to Heaven where they were able to find Ben and get him to return to life on Earth with them.
This story arc was told in the following issues:
- Fantastic Four #509 (March 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Death of Ben Grimm"
- Fantastic Four #510 (April 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Journey to Heaven"
- Fantastic Four #511 (May 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: A Glimpse of God"
As far as we know, this is the first time that God (the God, the Supreme Being - not some powerful demigod or mythological pantheon member) has personally intervened in the lives of mainstream Marvel Comics characters in such an explicit way. In the history of the Fantastic Four, which began as and has always remained a series rooted in science-fiction (with emphasis on science), this is apparently the first time that God has been explicitly depicted in any way.
From: "At DC Comics, Diversity Is No Laughing Matter", published on AOLTimeWarner.com website, 1 November 2001 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/atdccom.htm; viewed 20 December 2005):
"The original creators of comics, 60 or 70 years ago, were almost all Jewish and Italian kids from various parts of New York," notes DC Comics Executive Vice President and Publisher Paul Levitz. "And the characters they created were pseudo-whitebread Episcopalian. It was almost de rigueur back then to paint people in this idealized American image."
From: Jeff Christiansen, et al., Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 6: Fantastic Four, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York, NY (2004), page 104:
The second of two children born to physician Franklin Storm and his wife Mary, Johnny and his sister Susan grew up comfortably in suburban Glenville, Long Island. Despite the fact that his mother died in a car crash when he was nine, Johnny developed an interest in automobiles at an early age. He passed much of his leisure time in the company of automobile enthusiasts, and learned to totally overhaul a car's transmission before he was fifteen years old. For his sixteenth birthday, his father bought him his first "hot rod."
While still fifteen, Johnny had a crush on Susan's friend, Cammy Brandeis. When Cammy's father was killed under mysterious circumstances, Johnny and Sue became involved in a mystic plot involving the legendary St. Germain and the demon Zarathos.
Johnny later went to California to visit his sister, who had moved there... and had become engaged to Reed Richards. Richards was working on a starship that would make possible travel to other solar systems through hyperspace. When the government threatened to cut funding on the project, Reed planned an immediate emergency test flight, and Johnny and his sister insisted on accompanying Reed and pilot Ben Grimm. The ship encountered intense radiation, which proved to be too much for the ship's shielding to block out. As a reult, the four people in the ship was exposed to cosmic ray bombardment.
Upon landing, Johnny found that the rays had mutated his entire body, enabling him to create fiery plasma all about his body without harm. Storm called him the Human Torch... Johnny joined Richards and the others to form the Fantastic Four...
From: Christiansen, page 144:
Recently, ...Reed led the FF [Fantastic Four] in again defeating Doom... With Doom gone, Reed led the FF to Latveria to take over the country and make certain that when Doom returned, he would not find his arsenal of weapons waiting for him to pick up where he left off. Secretly, Reed intended to place Doom within an impregnable prison and remain there with him as his jailer. But Reed did not share his plans with the rest of the FF, and they accidentally let Doom free when he entered their bodies. Doom took possession of Ben, and threatened to crush Johnny to death in his arms. To prevent this, Reed slew Ben with one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s energy cannons.
Reed... quickly rebounded by rebuilding the machine Doom had made to access the afterlife so that he could bring Ben bck, having detected a faint signal from Ben's corpose. Sue and Johnny joined Reed in journeying to Heaven itself, and ultimately, Ben chose to return with them out of friendship. On the way back to Earth, God Himself restored Reed's face to normal.
From: Christiansen, pages 113-115:
Susan Storm was the daughter of Dr. Franklin Storm, a respected surgeon. When Susan's mother died in a car accident, Dr. Storm became a shell of a man, and wound up in prison. Susan, still a teenager, had to take care of her younger brother Johnny Storm herself...
After losing the funding needed for this rocket flight, Reed became determined to make the flight himself with Ben as his pilot... Susan insisted she accompany Reed, and Johnny demanded to follow her. Because of the rocket's ineffective shielding, Susan and the others were exposed to cosmic radiation during the flight, and crashed back on Earth. Susan was the first of the four to demonstate superhuman power by turning invisible. As the Invisible Girl, Susan joined the other three in forming the Fantastic Four, to use their powers for good...
When Mr. Fantastic led the Fantastic Four to Latveria to dismantle Dr. Doom's arsenal... he did not allow [Susan], Ben, or Johnny to know what his ultimate goal was. Reed's withholding of information ultimately cost Ben his life... Reed and Susan reconciled once more when Ben was restored to life by God Himself.
Susan continues to live a busy life raising her two children, trying to keep [her brother] Johnny's life on track, continuing in her efforts to have Reed treat her as an equal in their relationship, and exploring the unkonwn as the Invisible Woman.
From: Christiansen, page 194:
Sue and Johnny's father, Franklin Storm, was a famous surgeon before a car accident took his wife's life. Distraught, Franklin gambled his life away, eventually killing a loan shark in self-defense. After many years in jail, Franklin escaped, but surrendered so that he could perform drastic surgery on his injured daughter [Susan Storm]. Franklin was kidnapped by the Skrulls, who sent the Invincible Man to impersonate him. After the Invincible Man's defeat, Franklin was returned to Earth with a bomb strapped to his chest. Selflessly taking the full blast himself, Franklin savided his children but lost his own life.
Excerpts from: "Are Superheroes Religious?" forum page, started 13 May 2004, in "The John Byrne Forum" section of the Byrne Robotics website (http://jb.24-7intouch.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=3&TID=558&DIR=P; viewed 9 January 2006):
13 May 2004
Others: U.S.Agent (Southern Baptist?), Windshear (Protestant Christian?), Human Torch and Invisible Woman (Protestant)... Wolfsbane (Presbyterian), Jean Grey (?... shown attending church at some point), Storm (worships a goddess of some sort), Cannonball (? ...some branch of Christianity)
Mostly Marvel, I know... BTW... some of these were revealed during the Infinity Crusade.
From: Barry, "For Barry" page, posted 26 March 2006 on "Theo-Dongs" blog website http://theopeckers.blogspot.com/2006/03/for-barry.html; viewed 8 May 2006):
Why are all the cool characters [expletive] Episcopalians? What the hell! Like every hero with a descent power is all rich and beautiful. Look at that list. The Invisible Woman and the Human Torch (multi-millionaires), Warren Worthingtion - the Archangel (also a multi-millionaire), Captain Britain (millionaire and ruler of another dimension), Psylocke (Captain Britain's sister, so, yes, a millionaire), Henry McCoy - the Beast (not really a millionaire but a genius geneticist who lives in a mansion with Charles Xavier who is a millionaire), Jean Grey - the Phoenix (also not personally rich, but is a cosmic god who, when she's living, lives in a mansion with millionaires), and of course Bruce Wayne - Batman (who is not a millionaire, but is, in fact, a billionaire). So, yes. There's you're proof. All Episcopalians are lazy rich people.
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
Date: 21 Oct 2004 21:06:41
From: Matt Deres
At the risk to my sanity, I've dug out that series [Infinity Crusade] to investigate...
Some other notes (please don't make me peruse this again!):
- Johnny Storm is perplexed that he wasn't taken, as he "Always felt [his] beliefs were as deep as Sue's".
From: "Atheist superheroes?" thread, started 21 September 1999 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/e8d686f0b20944a6/92a1d043ac0625de; viewed 23 June 2006):
From: Jamie Coville
Date: Wed, Sep 22 1999 12:00 am
...I remember [in Infinity Crusade] the Human Torch wondering why he wasn't chosen as one the believers, and then worried if he wasn't a devout enough Christian. He also seemed to be surprised that Sue was a "stronger" beliver than he was.
David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 2007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems... along with characters who, via circumstances far too involved to relate here, came to meet God Himself...
From: Visconde Carlo Vergara, "The Faith of Heroes (Superhero Religious Trivia)", posted 14 May 2006 on "Carver's House" blog website (http://carverhouse.blogspot.com/2006/05/sony-buys-us-rights-to-iranian-comic.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Rogue is Southern Baptist, Multiple Man is Buddhist, and the Thing is Jewish (as opposed to Human Torch and Invisible Woman, who are Episcopalian). The site also cites the comics issues where the religious affiliations were suggested or revealed.
More heroes are presented in a table on this page [link to: http://adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html]. If you want pictures, look through this other page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html].
From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...
So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?
You could get a slew of answers from Marvel's "Infinity Crusade" series. The Goddess only selected religious heroes to assist her, not all are Catholic though... Sue Storm and Johnny Storm are though. The Goddess didn't choose Johnny to assist her though cause his beliefs aren't as "deep" as Sue's. Hope that helps.
From: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 10 March 2007 on "Brian Michael Bendis" part of "Comic Creator Boards" section of "Jinxworld Forums" website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/archive/index.php/t-106242.html; viewed 6 June 2007):
An ASTONISHINGLY detailed site that delves into the religions of superheroes. Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.
03-10-2007, 10:54 AM
Not a lot of atheists.
03-10-2007, 11:07 AM
Yeah, its kind of hard to be an atheist when you encounter gods and abstract entities on a semi-regular basis.
Even hard in the DCU, which is why I thought Mr. Terrific was a dumbass.
I mean c'mon. Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman draw their powers from ancient Pantheons, Raven is a daughter of a demon, the Spectre is the Spirit of God's vengeance, things like Etrigan, Zauriel, not to mention the various characters actually, you know, going to Heaven and Hell for whatever reason.
03-10-2007, 11:14 AM
All those people could just get their powers from a really powerful person, who got them from another really powerful person, etc. making Reed Richards:
1: the smartest man ever...
03-10-2007, 11:17 AM
But the gods physically appear in front of these people. Heck, freaking Thor and Hercules are superheroes. Zauriel is a superhero who happens to be an angel, and the FF have actually met God (who appeared to them as Jack Kirby, heh).
From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
12-02-2003, 02:28 PM
Can anybody help me? I've been looking for years for a Spider-Man Christmas story written by Kurt Busiek from his "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" period. I believe the story was published in some kind of Marvel Holiday Special, and has Spidey and J. Jonah Jameson trapped in a warehouse, pinned under a beam or something, and forced to spend Christmas night together...
12-02-2003, 03:11 PM
There was a Spider-Man Holiday Special published in 1996.
I don't specifically remember the story you mention, but it had a tale about Spidey and the Torch meeting on the statue of liberty each Christmas day to exchange presents.
Some very touching moments.
slug N lettuce
12-04-2003, 10:05 AM
...Marvel also has some good Holiday comics, even Ghost Rider gets into the holiday spirit of things. It's nice to see Franklin Richards [the nephew of the Human Torch] learn a holiday lesson. To see Spidey stop crooks from taking off with a truck full of toys that are intended for those who are less fortunate. To see Captain America and Diamondback decorate a tree together.
I don't know what it is but they just make me feel good. They stop the pain from the real world from beating my spine for a little while. They bring out the type of character in Super-Heroes that they had in the Golden years. I know its cheesy but I love 'em and I'll keep searching back issue bins for any and every comic that has a holiday theme. Thank You Stuart Moore, I know you didn't intend on this but I consider this a great Christmas present. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! EVERYONE!!!
From: Brad Meltzer, "Jewish Superhero Website Listing", posted 28 June 2007 on his official MySpace website (http://www.bradmeltzer.com/labels/Comics.html; viewed 9 July 2007):
Thanks to Jack G. for this. And I so admire The Acidic Jew [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/AcidicJew.html].
Webpage created 10 December 2005. Last modified 9 July 2007.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.