Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who remembers the Torch of Liberty? Show of hands...

I swear, it's like a Crisis retconned him right out. And I'm only half joking!

The Torch of Liberty was John Byrne's Captain America-homage character, appearing in backups in Danger Unlimited and later his own special. The special is pretty light, featuring the Torch and his sidekick Radio Girl facing the menace of Lenin's Ghost in the fifties. I do seem to recall his origin in Danger Unlimited as being a bit more heavy, however; and I might have to see if I still have that series somewhere. (It wasn't bad, even if my main recollection is "obvious Human Torch analog wakes up in the future, forms new team to fight his Doctor Doom." Pretty sure it was better than I'm making it sound, too.)

But the Torch is probably better known to longtime Hellboy readers, as being on the scene when Hellboy was first discovered by Professor Bruttenholm and a division of American soldiers. Later, the Torch would teach Hellboy to shoot (or at least try, he never would be a very good shot in the comics) and gave Hellboy his trademark pistol. Remember, in the first Hellboy series, creator Mike Mignola wasn't sure of his scripting skills, and called in Byrne to help out.

However, I'm not sure if the Torch of Liberty hasn't been retconned out of Hellboy: after all, Mignola wouldn't own that character, and might have to pay for his use. Hellboy has since lost that gun (prior to the Island, off the top of my head) and I don't think the Torch appears in the group shot of Hellboy's birth anymore. (I have to look that one up.) Still, this could just be because as the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe progressed, I don't think they had costumed heroes there. (Except in crossovers.)

This reminds me of when Image started, and everyone used each other's characters; partly to give the feel of a big, fully-formed universe; and partly to hype up each other's books. In the original origin of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, Al Simmons was killed by Rob Liefeld's Chapel, of Youngblood. When Liefeld left Image, Chapel was retconned into another character, Jessica Priest. That's the trouble with playing with toys that don't belong to you: eventually, they might ask for them back...

Still, the Torch of Liberty doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page, so I couldn't say for sure why he's on the outs. Probably nothing to it...probably. Panel from The Torch of Liberty Special, story by John Byrne, art by Kieron Dwyer.

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