Haw haw haw! Time to put all the naysayers to shame! I will review the Human Flame, and not on my deathbed, unless of course it turns out that this chair reclines more and also I end up dying in it.
Dateline: Detective Comics No. 274, December 1959. On the cover, some crazy old dude shoots lightning at Batman - I haven't read the story yet, but I'll bet that he's got some sort of ingenious robbery-related hoax under his belt... yep, turns out. At the back, nestled behind Roy Raymond and Casey the Cop, we find a Martian Manhunter yarn entitled:
Now, this is not a fascinating tale. Nor is it exceptionally ridiculous, Silver Age or not, so no exhaustively broken-down plot for you. Instead, here are the highlights:
1. The Villain:
The Human Flame does not get off to a grand start, frankly. Purple is not a terrific colour for a flame-themed dude, and white is not a fantastic choice for a secondary colour. The goggles are good, but I only forgave Firestorm his puffy sleeves because his head was on fire, so those are out too.
2: The Plot:
Still, after seeing so many super-humans running around with astonishingly complicated facial hair, there's something (retroactively) refreshing about a simple moustache. While Ra's al-Ghul spends his mornings trimming individual chin-hairs and Green Arrow takes an extra half hour before bed to get his beard-curlers just right, ol' Mike there is getting the full night's sleep that he needs in order to plan really effective crime sprees. Though I suppose that if he had no facial hair at all he might have slept just a bit more and been clearheaded enough to consider pulling crimes in a town that wasn't infested with costumed crime-fighters.
The blonde guy is interesting, by the way. I can't decide if he counts at the Flame's partner, as his lone henchman or as a good friend that he brings along to keep him company on crime sprees.
Let it not be said that the human Flame is a one-trick pony, no sir. In addition to having flame-thrower nipples on his suit, he has special energy-projecting nipples as well (urgh... I just had a disturbing thought: what if the purple on his costume is an attempt to simulate nipple colour? Fond as I am of the things, I find myself staunchly opposed to their use as a costume theme).
Where is all of the power and fuel for these nipples coming from, anyway? Mike's handing out some serious punishment with these things, and sure doesn't look like a wee lad. I suppose that he might have forgotten to eat a few meals whilst focusing on crime-suit construction - maybe he lost enough weight to stuff a propane tank and a 12-volt battery under each armpit? Or maybe he managed to create some ammo-less weaponry that he should have sold to the military for big bux instead of robbing armoured cars?
4: A Mighty Wind:
"Gosh, Martian Manhunter! Thanks for saving our armored car from those crooks! It sure would have been a shame if they'd managed to steal all of these Faberge eggs and Ming vases! Someday, you'll have to tell us how you ever saved out incredibly fragile cargo from that multi-nippled madman! Welp, we're off to the museum - thanks again!"
Not that being able to blow an armoured car around isn't great. I'm just sayin'.
Here's where the Human Flame gets his big shot:
5: Is this the End?
6. Seriously, is it?
Well! Not only has Mike triumphed, but he's completely vaporized J'onn J'onzz! And similar sarcastic remarks. In all fairness, The Manhunter hasn't been operating openly for long, so Mike might not know about the fact that he can turn invisible. Of course, he could just be an idiot.
Turns out, he's an idiot. But, as this panel illustrates so clearly, he's an idiot that can shoot fire from his many nipples, which at least puts him a special category of idiot along with 60 or 70 percent of his fellow Silver Age villains.
8: Flying Free:
a) That's really cohesive sod.
b) Seems like Mike and friend would have trouble breathing up there.
c) That's a horrible way to get around. The neck cramps alone...
9: Clean Up After Yourself:
You know, I just have to assume that the Manhunter is putting that sod back because (holy crap, look at the huge chin on that policeman!) this comic came out in the early days of the Comics Code. Which is good, because society would have crumbled by now if our super-hero role models hadn't shown proper concern for lawn maintenance.
Now, Mike ends up doing some time for this one, leading me to believe that he had a terrible lawyer (heck, maybe it was the blonde guy). Eight years for foring a weapon that there likely isn't any legislation on (this is the electric nipple I'm talking about) and then getting into a very brief scrap with someone who is demonstrably non-human and therefore not technically covered by the law? Sheesh, for any decent shyster this should have been a piece of cake. Perhaps the DCU wised up early and there are tough super-villain laws on the books as of Mike's trial? Don't know.
One last thought: you know how in a movie or tv show when there's a guy wielding a camcorder or whatever he's frequently characterized as a total dick, like the act of filming constantly, especially in a moment of tragedy, is a sign of a bad human being? Well, upon reading Final Crisis No. 1 I realized this: it's a hundred times worse if you're doing it with a cell phone.
Great Stars! The Human Flame is NOT APPROVED