In 1978, an animated adaptation of The New Fantastic Four was released on television, only in this adaptation the character Johnny Storm (alias 'The Human Torch') was omitted in favor of a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E.

Was a reason ever given for this choice?

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  • 1
    Because robots are cool
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 2:24
  • 3
    @Valorum- watch a couple episodes of this show and you might rethink that position.
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 6:58
  • @Valorum this one was stupid. It was from the time of, "Small cute robots are a great way to include comic relief when they do stupid things" days. He was one of the super-uncool things in superhero cartoons of the time. How uncool? Four words: "Wonder Twin powers activate!" Yeah. That uncool.
    – Tango
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:04
  • He was in the original comics. So it's not like they made him up out of whole cloth
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:15

2 Answers 2


From https://comicvine.gamespot.com/herbie/4005-23720/

“In 1978, when the Fantastic Four was being made into an animated series, the character of the Human Torch was unavailable. Though a popular urban myth contends that the Human Torch was replaced out of fear that children might have attempted to emulate him by setting themselves on fire, the reality was that the Human Torch was one of the characters that Marvel had licensed to Universal Studios for a solo film (which never materialized). Universal was unwilling to allow NBC to use the Human Torch in the show, so that a replacement was needed.”

  • 9
    That urban myth part reminds me of a SCTV skit about a maker of dangerous toys, whose idea of a Human Torch Halloween costume was oily rags and a lighter.
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 6:49
  • 1
    @Nu'Daq wasn't that an SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd (from the infamous Charles Grodin ep), or did both SCTV and SNL do similar ones?
    – bertieb
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 13:45
  • 1
    lol, that was quick: found archive.org/details/… -- I clicked a few times and got 21:42 -- enjoy :D
    – bertieb
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 13:47
  • 4
    HERBIE is a direct callback to the original Human Torch from 1940s, the android Jim Hammond. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 14:12

According to comic book writer, Mark Evanier, Marvel had licensed the rights to use the Human Torch in television to Universal Studios at the time, as part of the same deal which led to the 1978 The Incredible Hulk live-action series.

Universal Studios never actually made anything with the Torch in it, but nevertheless, they wouldn't allow NBC to use him in their 1978 The New Fantastic Four animated series.

Mark Evanier: “In 1977, Marvel made a deal that licensed a number of their characters to Universal Studios to be developed as live-action TV-movies and potential series. The Incredible Hulk TV show (the one with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno) came out of that deal, as did TV-movie/pilotss of Dr. Strange and Captain America that never became regular series. The Human Torch was one of the characters that Universal wanted to develop, and a teleplay was written but never produced.”

“This meant that, the following year when NBC wanted to buy a new, animated Fantastic Four series, the rights to the Torch were encumbered. Universal - which was not to be involved in the cartoon show - would not make a deal that would allow the Torch to be included. Therefore, he was replaced by a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E., conceived and named by Stan Lee and designed by Jack Kirby.”

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #16!

  • 3
    Makes me think about what a live show would even be able to look like at best. Maybe a cross between 1980s Automan's in camera light effect and 1950s Superman flying. But in reality it would just be translucent film of flame overlaid over an actor. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 4:14
  • 1
    @lucasbachmann Imagining what a live-action Human Torch movie would look like in 1978 - pre-CGI... it would either be incredibly cheap-looking or extremely dangerous for the actor... Probably just as well that never happened. Even the low-budget Roger Corman movie wasn't made until 1994, when CGI was available... Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 13:59

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