Technically, the Human Torch already exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – just not the Fantastic Four‘s version (yet). Along with Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards, the Invisible Woman/Susan Storm, and The Thing/Benjamin J. Grimm, the Human Torch aka Johnny Storm is on his way to the MCU. The rights to the Fantastic Four were finally acquired by Marvel Studios after Disney’s purchase of Fox, which means Marvel’s First Family will be in the same universe as the Avengers in the next few years.
There has already been a tease of the Fantastic Four’s arrival: Spider-Man: Far From Home contained a sign outside the former Avengers Tower with a countdown that read: “We Can’t Wait to Show You What Comes Next,” along with the numbers, “1-2-3-?” Of course, perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Fantastic Four’s arrival into the MCU for fans is being able to see the heroes done properly. Under Fox’s banner, the Fantastic Four have starred in three live-action movies but none of them hit the mark with moviegoers or hardcore Marvel fans. As for the Human Torch, the youngest member of the Fantastic Four has been played by two different actors, Chris Evans in director Tim Story’s cartoony Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and Michael B. Jordan in Josh Trank’s grittier Fant4stic (2015). Both Evans and Jordan have graduated to the MCU – as Captain America and Erik Killmonger respectively – leaving the role of Johnny Storm open for someone brand new.
However, the Human Torch was already glimpsed at in the MCU about 80 years before Johnny Storm’s pending MCU debut because the original Human Torch was an Easter egg in Captain America: The First Avenger. When Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) meet their dates and visit the 1943 Stark World Exposition of Tomorrow in Queen, New York, they drop by the Modern Marvels Pavillion to see Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) demonstrate his faulty flying car. In their zeal to get a look at the handsome billionaire inventor, Steve, Bucky, and their dates pass right by an exhibit called Dr. Phineas Horton Presents The Synthetic Man, with a humanoid figure wearing red encased in a glass tube. The Synthetic Man is an Easter egg nodding to the original Human Torch aka Jim Hammond, Marvel’s first flaming hero.
One of the first Marvel superheroes from the comic book company’s Golden Age, the original Human Torch was an android built by Professor Phineas T. Horton in 1939. The first Torch became a member of the Nazi-smashing superhero squad called the Invaders alongside Captain America, Bucky, and Namor the Sub-Mariner, and he also acquired a similarly flame-powered sidekick named Toro. The Human Torch also had a legendary rivalry with the Sub-Mariner, and they battled all over New York City in the 1940s. In 1961, Stan Lee revived the Human Torch concept when he and Jack Kirby invented the Fantastic Four, making the young Johnny Storm Marvel’s new fiery hero – but Johnny was technically the third Human Torch in the Marvel Universe after the original and Toro.
The inclusion of the original Human Torch in Captain America: The First Avenger was a clever and subtle reference to the fact that Chris Evans was the movies’ original Human Torch. However, Dr. Horton’s Synthetic Man wasn’t seen again in the MCU outside of this brief appearance – not even in Agent Carter, which is set in the same era – so it’s unclear if the Synthetic Man actually did have the power to burst into flame as the Human Torch. Still, the original Human Torch’s existence was one of the MCU’s earliest references to the “bigger universe” Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) told Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about in Iron Man. Soon, Johnny Storm’s Human Torch will “Flame on!” in the MCU and perhaps he could even face his predecessor, the Original Human Torch, one day.
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