The Human Torch Easter Egg You May Have Missed In Captain America: The First Avenger

One of the fun things about Marvel having over eight decades of comic book pages to flip through is that provides the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an abundance of stories and characters to mine when coming up with new stories for the films and shows. Even after a dozen years and counting, there's still plenty to explore in depth. In fact, there's so much rich mythology in Marvel Comics that sometimes the MCU just likes to breeze by its own canon without taking a major pitstop, providing a treasure trove for Easter eggs hunters. 

Eagle-eyed Marvel fans will spot things like Thanos' helicopter in "Loki," or the reference to the "616 Universe" in "Thor: The Dark World." And now they're on the hunt for any possible reference to "Fantastic Four" that they can find. But did you know "Captain America: The First Avenger" holds a reference to the very first Marvel comic? 

A Burning Man

In an early scene in "Captain America: The First Avenger," Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are escorting a couple of ladies through the World Exposition of Tomorrow. The camera pans across the Expo, showing the crowd gazing at several exhibits. One of them is a mannequin-like figure in a glass tube wearing a bright red jumpsuit, labeled as "The Burning Man." This is none other than a direct reference to the character of Jim Hammond, the first Human Torch.  He debuted in "Marvel Comics #1," in October 1939, AKA the first Marvel comic. A near-mint copy of the comic sold in 2019 at auction for $1.26 million. 

It's a pretty subtle and quick nod at such a major piece of Marvel history. Hammond was an android created by Professor Phineas T. Horton, making him a prototype for other characters that would come later in the Marvel comics, like Johnny Storm and Vision. At first, he was kept in the glass tube for everyone's protection, but an accident destroyed it, and the oxygen rich air made the Human Torch incredibly dangerous (via Marvel Database). He went into hiding after causing major fires in Manhattan until he was able to control his powers and learn about humanity. Eventually, Hammond would become a frequent companion to other heroes like Captain America and Bucky in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis as World War II bled from reality into the pages of fiction. In fact, in the comics, he's responsible for killing Hitler by burning him alive. 

Later, when Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four came along, the Human Torch mantle was recycled, and Storm is who most people think of to this day when they hear the name. That's what makes this inclusion a bit cheeky, as Chris Evans played the live-action version of Johnny Storm in 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four" movies, only to come back to Marvel and take pick up Captain America's shield as Steve Rogers. 

Kevin Feige almost didn't offer the role to Evans due to his connection to Storm, feeling as though he was already too associated with the "Fantastic Four" films. Worse yet, Evans almost didn't take the role, turning it down twice as his anxiety increased over what it would mean to take on the role that would eventually have him featured in ten Marvel films. Both men changed their mind, and the rest was Marvel Cinematic Universe history. 

It's yet to be seen if either Human Torch will be making their way onto the screens any time soon. Phase 4 is in gear already, though delayed by the pandemic, and that's several years of shows and movies that are still in production without any on-screen hints of either the Hammond character or the "Fantastic Four" joining the fun yet. However, like Easter eggs, characters are notorious for popping up in unexpected ways, so anything is possible.