Asbestos Lady

Asbestos Lady
The comic book history of Asbestos Lady, an enemy of the Human Torch, from Marvel Comics.

That girl is (not) on fire. Thanks to all the asbestos she was wearing!

When you name your son "Killer Murdock" I'm not saying that they're definitely going to be a criminal. Probably not going to become a pediatrician, though. I'm not sure if Killer Murdock was his real name or just like a street name or something, because no one ever addressed him. In his first panel, he's at the actual gallows, about to hang for his crimes because I guess the 1940s was the old west. Along with the Human Torch, a machine that can burst into flames but not in the bad way like a Tesla, Victoria Murdock, killer Murdock's twin sister was in attendance. It was because of the Human Torch, not her brother's extensive history of doing crime that led to him getting captured by the Human Torch, that led to her brother's execution. She would have her revenge... draping herself in asbestos.

A...what of crime, exactly? Image copyright Marvel.

Yeah. She linked up with her late brother's criminal friends and revealed to them that she had an asbestos suit.

Now, if you're not familiar with asbestos, it's a fireproofing material that was used a lot. If you're not familiar with daytime TV, it's been outlawed in many parts of the world because the fibers can lead to lung failure and cancer. And in the 1940s this was not new information. People had died in their 30s after working with Asbestos fabric and there were already regulations on the books when these issues were written. That being said, there was still a vast cover-up on the part of the asbestos industry, trying to convince people that things were safe.

Regardless of what the college-graduate Victoria Murdock knew or didn't know, this was just going to be a one-time thing for her...that is, until it wasn't a one-time thing. The first time out she kidnapped a movie star to lure the Human Torch to a cabin in the woods to shoot him.

Now, you might be thinking that not a great superpower. Like, it protects you from the Human Torch's fire, but not from his flying or punches. You'd be right. Both of those foiled Asbestos lady the first time, but she managed to drive away in her car. Yeah. Supercrime was simpler back then.

Of course, Asbestos Lady knew her problem when going up against a super flying android: she needed more asbestos. She needed to clothe her goons in asbestos, and, most of all, she needed to explore the criminal possibilities of asbestos, which, in real life, actually turned out way more mundane and destructive than using it to rob banks, with employers hiding the presence of asbestos from workers and those workers getting fatal illnesses.

But, to do supercrime with asbestos, she required asbestos scientists.

Her goons call her A-Lady? Like, she's not wearing a mask. Just call her Ms. Murdock. Image copyright Marvel.

Ok, so, the Human Torch was an android made by the scientist Phineas Horton and, fun little callback, remember when I said in the Kang the Conqueror episode that Kang got up to time hi-jinks before settling down as Pharaoh Kang? Well, he went back and founded the town of Timely in the 1900s Wisconsin under the pseudonym Victor Timely. Yes, the time traveler who was obsessed with winning and conquering called himself Victor Timely. Kang was a lot of things...a lot of things except creative.

Anyway, he trained Phineas in superscience, Phineas created a sentient flammable android, and then died of asbestos exposure.

The Criminal Possibilities of Asbestos

Well, his lab assistants moved on, married, and had a child they named Toro for...reasons? None of his origins mention why, but, because his parents had been exposed to so much asbestos before they conceived him, he was born fireproof.

Real quickly, and I know this doesn't need to be said but I'm going to say it to avoid legal liability, don't regularly huff asbestos particles with the hope that they'll give your future child superpowers they will only give you mesothelioma.

Asbestos Lady's history is convoluted even by comic book standards, so this somehow takes place before she killed Toro's parents. Image copyright Marvel. the case of Toro's parents, a nemesis. Asbestos lady showed up with a gun, trying to convince them to work for her. They refused, and she took her extremely focused revenge on the family when she crashed their train.

Toro, though, thanks to his fireproofing, survived...and was recruited to join the circus by an extremely enterprising ringmaster with no concept of the phrase "too soon."

Some other stuff happened, and when the Human Torch saw an advertisement for Toro, the fireproof boy, he remembered the former lab assistants/his creators who had a kid named Toro who couldn't catch fire. Wonder if that's the same kid.

It was, and when he arrived at the circus to save Toro from Asbestos Lady finishing the job she started with a tree on the train tracks, a couple of things happened.

  1. The people who were freaking out about the subtext of Batman and Robin probably fainted when, quote, the Human Torch's body heat ignited the latent powers of Toro, causing him to burst into flame himself and
  2. The police arrested Asbestos Lady when the human torch melted her boots to the asphalt of the parking lot. She never did figure out how to fight the Human Torch.

Toro joined the Human Torch as his ward after that. And also he never wore a shirt or any bottoms longer than hotpants.

Supercrime. So Hot Right Now.

I think she just used real guns, even? Asbestos really was her only superpower. Image copyright Marvel.

Victoria Murdock, though, had learned why her brother was so into crime, and it became impossible to resist the siren song of asbestos, which started as a means of revenge against the Human Torch, but morphed into a full-on supervillain identity. She would set buildings on fire and then walk in to rob them while everyone was fleeing. Victoria Murdock, Asbestos Lady, had a bright and burning future in front of her...

...for about five or ten years.

Yeah. Turns out that the comics that involved, specifically, a time-traveling psychopath who taught a man superscience enough that he could create a fireproof android that could erupt into flames and fly, and whose lab assistants gave birth to a fireproof kid who could also burst into flames and fly...decided to go hard into the realm of realism for the end of Asbestos Lady. Based on her near-constant exposure to asbestos in her completely-asbestos bodysuit and hood...she developed, and died from, mesothelioma at the age of 45.

Want more of the most ridiculous villains in comic book history?

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