The convoluted history of Captain America and Human Torch’s comic book reunion involves multiple retcons.
Several conflicting meetings were revealed between the two heroes, leading to a disappointing actual reunion.
John Byrne ultimately provided fans with a true and meaningful reunion between Captain America and Human Torch.

“Our Lives Together” is a feature where I spotlight some of the more interesting examples of shared comic book universes. You know, crossovers that aren’t exactly crossovers. Today, we look at how Captain America and the Golden Age Human Torch had a retroactive reunion following their actual reunion.

The comic book friendship between Captain America and the original Golden Age Human Torch, like that of Cap and Namor (a bit I did on Cap and Namor’s friendship is the origin of most of my bits on Cap and Torch’s relationship, as well), is an amusing mixture of retcons contradicting other retcons.

Captain America, Namor and the other Timely heroes all had their first big team-up together in 1946’s All-Winners Comics #19 (by Bill Finger and Syd Shores)…

However, Marvel continuity later revealed that the Captain America in that story was not Steve Rogers, but was instead a different patriotic superhero known as the Spirit of ’76 (as Cap and Bucky were thought to be killed before the war ended, as revealed in Avengers #4). So that couldn’t be their first meeting.

Okay, so 1953’s Young Men #26 (by Don Rico and John Romita) also see a meeting between Captain America, Human Torch, and Namor…

But again, Marvel continuity later revealed that the Captain America in that story was William Burnside, not Steve Rogers.

Finally, in 1969’s Avengers #71 (by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger), we see that Captain America, Human Torch, and Namor were hanging out together in 1941. So that was definitely Steve Rogers, and not any of the replacement Captain Americas…

That appearance later led inspired an Invaders comic book series by Roy Thomas…

So by the 1970s, it was established that Captain America and Human Torch (Jim Hammond) were very good friends. So why did Marvel’s reunion of the two heroes end up so disappointing that John Byrne did a whole new retroactive reunion between the two heroes?


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How did Captain America and Human Torch initially reunite?

Okay, as you all know by now, Captain America was revived from suspended animation in Avengers #4 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and George Roussos)…

As for the Human Torch, he was thought to be destroyed, and his body used to create the synthezoid known as the Vision, but that turned out not to be true, and after the Vision’s body was taken apart, and put back together, it was evident that the Vision WASN’T actually made out of the Human Torch’s body, and so the original Jim Hammond was discovered in Avengers West Coast #50…

Jim joined up with the West Coast branch of the Avengers, although not really as an official member, per se. However, right after this point was the Summer Annual crossover, which was called Atlantis Attacks. Amusingly, one of the key plot points early on was that Namor was seemingly killed off in the first part of the event. So only Captain America could reunite with Human Torch.

However, when the reunion happened in Avengers Annual #18 (by Michael Higgins, Ron Wilson and Mike Gustovich), it was…uhm…let’s just say less than enthusiastic…

Yep, that’s it. They’re just at a meeting together, with nary a reference to the fact that they were two old friends who both thought that the other one was long dead. Then the reserve Avengers show up, they break into teams, and Cap and Torch not only don’t talk to other any further, but they’re not even on the same team!

Now, this can’t really be blamed on Higgins, because he had to write this without knowing what was going on in the Avengers titles those months. There was a famous mistake made when John Byrne gave Higgins a list of Avengers to use, and Byrne forgot that Tigra wasn’t going to be available for use at the time, so she was on the team despite the fact that she SHOULDN’T have been.

Okay, in the final part of the crossover, in Fantastic Four Annual #22 (by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Tony DeZuniga), Namor is revealed to be alive to all of the other heroes…

When the heroes finish saving the day, Namor heads off with his cousin, Namorita, to start a new life (thus setting up the then-new Namor series written and drawn by John Byrne), and so the Invaders reunion was SUPER brief, but at least Thomas ended the story with Cap and Torch talking about Namor, so that was SOMEthing…

This, though, wasn’t enough for John Byrne.


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How did John Byrne show Captain America and Human Torch’s TRUE reunion?

In Avengers West Coast #56 (the same issue Byrne apologizes for the Tigra mistake), Byrne does a back-up story set during the first chapter of Atlantis Attacks, showing Captain America and Torch having a REAL reunion…

The two heroes pay their respects to each other for the fact that each of their respective sidekicks has died (both Toro and Bucky would turn up alive in the future), and right when they suggest having an Invaders reunion with Namor, though, Iron Man comes in to say that Namor is dead (Iron Man’s Annual kicked off Atlantis Attacks).

As noted, Byrne then launched a Namor the Sub-Mariner comic book series, and Byrne made sure to continue Jim Hammond’s story in that comic book, and there was even an Invaders reunion (the Namor cover was adapted into a cover for the second volume of Byrne’s Namor Visionaries series)…

What a nice thing for Byrne to do to give the fans a true reunion of the two classic Golden Age heroes.

Okay, folks, if you have a suggestion for another interesting piece of shared continuity, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

“}]] In their spotlight on interesting shared comic universe continuity, CSBG shows how Captain America and Human Torch had a retroactive reunion  Read More