- That's real funny matchhead. If it wuzn't for a guy like me providin' a good example, you'd probably be out stealin' hubcaps somewhere!
Appearing in "Burnout!"
- Alicia Masters (Secretly the Skrull Spy Lyja)
- Tommy Hanson (Only in flashback)
- Mr. Fantastic (Only in flashback) (Continuity Error)
- X-Factor (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "Burnout!"
Following their return to what they believe is their reality after spending time in the future, Johnny Storm is morose following their adventure. Ben and Sharon notice this and try to talk to him, but Johnny brushes them off. Ben remarks that the last time they saw Johnny like this was a short time earlier when Ben was still the Thing and still lead the Fantastic Four....
Johnny is helping out his friend Chuck at his auto garage along with his wife Alicia Masters, using his flame powers to do a welding job for his friend. Suddenly there is a radio report about a young teenager named Theodore Bannon who immolated himself to death. Upon hearing the the boy's suicide note was about how he wanted to imitate the Human Torch, Johnny becomes upset and suddenly flames on, causing the car he is working on to explode. As Alicia, Chuck and his crew flee for their lives, Johnny realizes what he has done and quickly flies outside of the garage. There he quickly absorbs all the flames from the now burning building. Johnny quickly lands and flames off, apologizing for losing control, promising the Fantastic Four will pay for all the damages. Chuck is pretty much in shock seeing his entire life almost go up in smoke. Johnny decides it is time for him and his wife to leave. He is about to flame on and fly awawy with her but suddenly decides to walk instead.
Alicia tries to console her husband, telling her that he must not blame himself for the boy's death, pointing out how responsible he acts as a Human Torch. Johnny then reminds her that this isn't the first boy to light himself on fire while trying to imitate him. He reminds his wife about the sad case of Tommy Hansen, who lived a lonely and bullied life. Having an obsession with the Torch, Tommy lit himself on fire with fuel. Johnny recalls how he almost quit being a super-hero until the Beyonder appeared and showed him the great error in doing so would be.
Johnny explains that while it help him get through that experience he hasn't entirely gotten over it, saying that his recent marriage, the reorganization of the team, and their recent adventures have kept his mind off the reality of how his powers might be viewed by easily influenced children. Alicia suggests that maybe Johnny should go to the boy's high school, as perhaps the media had blown the entire thing out of proportions.
Soon Johnny is off to the small town where Theodore Bannon lived and pays a visit to Floral Ridge High School. There he is instantly recognized by the students, including Theodore's sister who is angered, upset, and insulted that the Human Torch would show up at her school after her brother's death. One of the other students pulls Lois back, reminding her that the Torch is a hero, but she is not willing to listen and storms off in tears. The young man introduces himself as one of Theodore's friends and explains that Lois never truly understood Theo like they did. He then takes Johnny to meet Theodore's other friends. They then invite Johnny to their hideout, the "Baxter Building", a wrecked transport truck in a nearby junk yard. Inside the poster strewn cargo area, Johnny learns how all these teens are nihilistic and believe that if they could "flame on" like Johnny they could incinerate themselves and end all their misery and suffering. This clearly upsets Johnny, who tells them -- in tears -- that he doesn't intend to flame on ever again.
Meanwhile, Teddy's uncles get the news that the Human Torch has been in town causing grief. As it turns out, these uncles are also the armor wearing super-villains known as the Seekers. Finding the Torch personally responsible for Theodore's death. At that moment, Johnny is back in Manhattan on the roof of the Four Freedoms Plaza. Filled with disrepair he briefly contemplates the idea of walking off the edge of the building and allowing himself to fall to his death, remarking how easy it would be but cannot believe that anyone could bring themselves to do it. When he goes down below, he walks in on Crystal, Ben and Sharon in a training session and almost gets crushed under some smashed machinery. Johnny manages to dodge out of the way and when the others ask why didn't he just flame. Seeing how upset Johnny is over this, Ben tries to talk some sense into him as well, but it doesn't work and Johnny decides to go out for a walk instead.
Later in Central Park, Johnny is approached by a young boy named Rusty Collins who tries to tell Johnny that he is a real inspiration. Unaware that Rusty is a mutant with flame powers of his own, Johnny angrily snaps at the youth telling him to get lost. Feeling instant regret, Johnny calls the boy back, apologizing for snapping at him. When Johnny explains to Rusty why he snapped, Rusty tries to explain to the Torch about his unique situation. Suddenly they are attacked by the Seekers and Rusty quickly pushes Johnny out of the way of foam filled projectiles. Chain quickly detains the Torch, by wrapping him around a tree, while Grasp tries to choke him to death with one of his removable gauntlets. Rusty quickly uses his mutant powers to melt the gauntlet and start a fire to make Chain retreat. Johnny gets loose and runs off with Collins, thinking that he must have used his own powers to save himself. Suddenly surrounded by a wall of flame, the Seekers are held back as Johnny and Rusty flee.
The pair manage to stop a cab and Rusty uses his flame powers to chase the cab driver out so that they can make their escape. Realizing that Rusty has flame powers as well, Johnny hears how he once accidentally hurt someone with his flame powers, but after he was found by X-Factor they had begun to teach him how to control his abilities. Suddenly, Johnny is doused with fire retardant foam which also strikes Rusty in the eyes. They pull over and Johnny, pulls the youth into a nearby warehouse. Johnny leads Rusty into the basement. Unable to flame on, but needing to keep Rusty's powers a secret, Johnny directs the boy in burning out the fuse box plunging the room in darkness. When the Seekers fly down after them, Johnny has Rusty use his flame powers on them, pretending that he is using his own. Over heating their armor, the Torch convinces the Seekers to remove their armor and surrender.
Once the three crooks are turned over to the authorities, Johnny takes Rusty back to the Four Freedoms Plaza. There Collins manages to convince Johnny that he is a great inspiration and that it would be a injustice to not use his powers for the good of others. Convinced that Rusty is right, Johnny flames on again, burning off his street clothes and revealing his costume underneath. Sometime after Rusty leaves, the Torch is visited by Spider-Man who had just recently heard the news. Spider-Man also provides some of his own advice, he tells Johnny how early on in his career he almost gave up after being defeated in battle by Doctor Octopus, however a speech by the Torch at his school inspired him not to give up. This inspires Johnny and soon after he is before the students of Floral Ridge High, where he has a frank discussion about the senseless waste Theodore committed when he killed himself. His speech begins helping Teddy's sister Lois come to terms with her loss, and some of his friends to reconsider their nihilistic lifestyles. Johnny doesn't know if his speeches will help prevent another tragedy like this from happening again, but how he has to try.
- The Fantastic Four think they are back home on their native Earth-616 however as revealed next issue they are actually on Earth-9061.
- Johnny is presently upset because he has fallen in love with Nebula after she took possession of his mind in Fantastic Four #337 until her apparent destruction in issue #341.
- The events of this story and others after it occur between pages 6 & 7 of Fantastic Four Annual #21. These are:
- Some facts about the period of time this story had taken place:
- Ben was the leader of the Fantastic Four after Reed and Sue decided to take a leave of absence to spend more time with their son Franklin in Fantastic Four #304. Ben was put in charge and Reed and Sue eventually left in Fantastic Four #307, they eventually returned in Fantastic Four #326.
- During this period, Ben was mutated further (along with Ms. Marvel) after being exposed to more cosmic rays in Fantastic Four #310. Ben was reverted back to his human form in Fantastic Four #326 and will remain human until the events of Fantastic Four #350.
- Sharon has a more lizard-like appearance in the flashback instead of her rock-like appearance in the present day. The lizard like form was how Sharon first appeared when she was mutated by Cosmic Rays in Fantastic Four #310. She eventually evolved into the rock-like form circa Fantastic Four #322. This was not unlike what happened to the Thing between Fantastic Four #1-10. Marvel Two-in-One #50 explained that Ben continued to mutate after his initial transformation.
- Crystal is depicted as a member of the Fantastic Four, she rejoined the team circa Fantastic Four #305 but was force to return to her fellow Inhumans in Fantastic Four Annual #21.
- The woman claiming to be Alicia Masters in this story is actually the Skrull spy named Lyja, as revealed in Fantastic Four #358. Lyja has been posing as Alicia since Fantastic Four #265.
- Johnny's recounting of how Tommy Hanson immolated himself is a reference to Fantastic Four #285.
- The suicidal teens of Floral Ridge High named their hideout the "Baxter Building", named after the Fantastic Four's original headquarters which they resided in from Fantastic Four #3 until it was destroyed by Kristoff Vernard in Fantastic Four #278.
- The Seekers appear here between Iron Man #214 where they battled Iron Man and Spider-Woman and Amazing Spider-Man #355 when they ally themselves with the Secret Empire.
- Rusty's tale about burning a woman and his rescue by X-Factor occurred in X-Factor #1. Rusty has been secretly training with that group since.
- Spider-Man mentions how after his first defeat at the hand of Doctor Octopus he considered giving up costumed heroics until he listened to a speech that Johnny was giving to his high school which was an inspiration to him. This is a reference to Amazing Spider-Man #3.
- In Johnny's flashback about Tommy Hansen, it depicts Johnny watching over Tommy with Reed. This is an artists error as Johnny was actually witnessing Tommy at home alongside the Beyonder.
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