Later in his life, Burgos tried to present a legal challenge to Marvel and reclaim his intellectual property, but he was far too poor to mount an effective effort and the suit wilted on the vine, abandoned. This is usually the way of things when regular folk try to struggle against corporate power. The one who can throw the most money at the courts wins by default.
While Goodman was not as hands-on as some publishers, he did send down his wishes through his proxy, Stan Lee. You can tell from the publishing end of things that he must have wanted the Human Torch as an ongoing character to protect what may have been a problematic copyright. To that end, the Torch was, for several years, featured prominently in his own adventures as the cover feature every month in Strange Tales. He was also frequently popping up in stories that featured the Amazing Spider-Man. It was obvious that they were trying to create a star, forcing the matter and trying to make the readers adore a character who was actually just a co-star, at best.
Of all of the characters that Kirby wrote on a regular basis, the Torch always seemed to me to be the weakest of them all. I can almost hear the editor constantly nagging. "Make him a teenager. Make him hip. Make him all Rebel-Without-A-Cause. Make him like hot rods. Make him go through girlfriends." Blah blah blah. I think Kirby obviously tried to comply, but to no real success.
The only time the character seemed to click with readers was as part of a kind of comedy team, serving as the hot-head foil for the otherwise stoic Ben Grimm. In the sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic, sometimes heart-warming exchanges between the two, the character worked well. But outside of that combination, the fans just didn't seem to give a damn about the Human Torch.
I think the last time Kirby tried to consciously push the matter and to force the readers to embrace the Human Torch as an upper echelon character for Marvel was during the period when this cover appeared, for FANTASTIC FOUR #54. It's almost as if Kirby was saying, 'Okay, guys. Here it is. I'm going to give it one last shot.' And he tried. And he failed. The Torch was just not first flight material in the Silver Age.
|My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #54.|