Fox's The Flame and the Dawn of the Atomic-Powered Menace, at Auction

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Fox Features Syndicate founder Victor Fox was one of the most notorious publishers of the Golden Age of comic books — and that's saying something.  Through lawsuits over copying characters from other publishers, two bankruptcies, and tangling with the War Production Board over violating paper quotas, Fox was a man who wasn't afraid to get in the mud to achieve success.  Somehow through all that, he put out some excellent and historically important comic books by foundationally important writers and artists.  The Flame is an example of Fox Features Syndicate at its best. The Flame series itself is an excellent starting point towards collecting the character, and there are copies of the first three issues of The Flame series, The Flame #1 CGC Apparent VG+ 4.5, The Flame #2 (Fox, 1940) CGC Apparent FR/GD 1.5 Slight (C-1), and The Flame #3 CGC Apparent GD 2.0 Slight (A) up for auction in this week's 2021 July 25-26 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122130 from Heritage Auctions.

The Flame #1 "Atomic Generator" story (reprinted from Wonderworld Comics #11).
The Flame #1 "Atomic Generator" story (reprinted from Wonderworld Comics #8).

Given Fox's reputation, it is often assumed that the Flame is little more than a Human Torch rip-off, but… yes and no.  The character first appeared in Wonderworld Comics #3, months in advance of the Human Torch's debut in Marvel Comics #1.  However, his Flame-based powers were limited to being able to sort of materialize himself within a flame in his initial appearances.  It's not until Wonderworld Comics #11 — which appears a few months after Marvel Comics #1 — that the character's flame-control abilities become more defined with an origin reboot moment.  The Flame #1 expands upon that origin a little more.

Nevertheless, throughout its lifespan, like many Fox characters the Flame combined superheroics, super-science, and sometimes horror to great effect.  The spectacular "Atomic Generator" story in The Flame #1 (reprinted from Wonderworld Comics #8) is a great example of the character at its best.  It dramatizes the impact that unleashing atomic energy would have on the world well in advance of such stories becoming commonplace in the wake of the first uses of the atomic bomb.

It can often be tough going to be a Fox collector. Virtually all of the line is tough to find, and the competition to get them is fierce. The early The Flame run is a good entry point to Fox though, and there are copies of the first three issues of the series, The Flame #1 CGC Apparent VG+ 4.5, The Flame #2 (Fox, 1940) CGC Apparent FR/GD 1.5 Slight (C-1), and The Flame #3 CGC Apparent GD 2.0 Slight (A) up for auction in this week's 2021 July 25-26 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122130 from Heritage Auctions.

The Flame #1 (Fox, 1940)
The Flame #1 (Fox, 1940)

#1 (Fox, 1940) CGC Apparent VG+ 4.5 Slight (P) Off-white to white pages. Origin of the Flame. Lou Fine art. CGC notes, "Restoration includes: spine splits sealed to cover, tear seals to cover, cover and centerfold reinforced, staples cleaned." Overstreet 2020 GD 2.0 value = $400; VG 4.0 value = $800.

#2 (Fox, 1940) CGC Apparent FR/GD 1.5 Slight (C-1)Cream to off-white pages. Lou Fine art. Edd Ashe cover. Wing Turner story by George Tuska. CGC notes, "Restoration includes: small amount of color touch on cover. (Spine of cover completely split and re-attached with tape. Tape on cover, interior cover and interior)". Overstreet 2020 GD 2.0 value = $158.

#3 (Fox, 1940) CGC Apparent GD 2.0 Slight (A) Off-white to white pages. First appearance of Dr. Ivan and Taho. Dr. Fung and Tex Dawson appearances. Will Eisner story and art. Bob Powell and Charles Nicholas art. CGC notes,"Restoration includes: cover re-attached with glue." Overstreet 2020 GD 2.0 value = $119.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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