The Torch Man from the Fantastic Four admits that Daredevil is one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The worlds the two travel in are very different, and when the Torch Man tries to walk a mile in Daredevil boots in Daredevil #261 of 1988, he fails miserably. This experience gives Johnny Storm a deeper understanding of what Daredevil regularly endures. The issue was written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by John Romita Jr.
The audacious and impulsive Human Torch is part of the cosmic Fantastic Four, regularly protecting the planet from Galactus and Annihilus. Despite the fact that Daredevil has faced several major criminals during his career, he usually deals with street crime, protecting Hell’s Kitchen from criminals such as Kingpin, Bullseye and Typhoid Mary. In Daredevil #260, Nocenti and Romita Jr. depict a sharp contrast between the two heroes’ different worlds; when a heat wave caused by a riot breaks through Hell’s Kitchen, a Human Torch flies overhead. Watching the carnage below, he decides to help calm the crowd, but eventually leaves it to Daredevil and the police, flying away to respond to the Fantastic Four’s last distress call. Later, under the influence of Typhoid Mary, Daredevil goes missing, and Hell’s Kitchen continues to plunge into chaos.
In Daredevil #261, the Human Torch agrees to help Karen Page in the search for Daredevil. Torch almost immediately ingratiates himself with Page, trying to cheer up after a bad situation; In the end, Page apologizes, admitting that he feels a sense of fear about the whole thing. Later, the Human Torch and Paige take to the streets, but not before the Torch dresses up in a ridiculously pretentious tough guy costume, wearing a shirt that literally says “bad” in bold. The duo tracks Daredevil through bars and eateries of Hell’s Kitchen; The Human Torch eventually provokes a bar fight and tries to fight without his powers, surprisingly managing to overpower a man twice his size.
When the Torch tries to leave, the crowd throws bottles and food at him. After getting enough, the Human Torch pounces on its own, causing the bar to rise in smoke. The Human Torch, realizing that his constant presence will aggravate an already bad situation, refuses to search, but not before coming to the conclusion that the Daredevil must have something “special” in order to successfully operate in the harsh conditions of Hell’s Kitchen. He apologizes to Page and flies away.
Some elements of the story, such as the trashy outfit of the Human Torch, are played out for laughs, but Johnny’s realization that he will never be able to successfully act in Hell’s Kitchen and take the place of a Daredevil is a strong character moment. So much of the character of the Human Torch was based on his youth and self-confidence, but his experience of searching for a Daredevil humbled him and showed him a side of life very different from wandering through the Negative Zone or courting an alien princess. This experience traumatizes him so much that he bows before the Daredevil is found flying away with his tail tucked between his legs. His newfound admiration for Daredevil is born out of the realization that these two operate in different worlds, and what works in one does not work in the other.
The story also serves as a stark reminder of how diverse the Marvel universe really is, that high-concept science fiction heroes like the Human Torch and the Fantastic Four exist alongside harsh street-level heroes like Daredevil. When their two worlds collided, this experience led the Human Torch to conclude that Daredevil was one of Marvel’s best characters.