The Human Fly #1

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Writer, Bill Mantlo. Artist, Lee Elias.

Issue #1, so purchased as an investment back in the day. Recently I came across some issues of The Human Fly selling at a comic shop for $6.00 each. If I could get that for this one I’d make 2000% on my investment. I should have bought 100 copies.

This is an interesting comic. First of all, while the Human Fly is the main character, it’s really about his team. And as you may recall from a previous review featuring The Challengers of the Unknown, I love this kind of team–just regular folks with a collection of specific skills that make them awesome. There is, obviously, the Human Fly, the team leader. Nearly killed in a auto accident that took the life of his wife and child, he is patched up by doctors who expect him to be bedridden for the rest of his life. But at night he sneaks out of bed and exercises against doctor’s orders, building his body into a lean, mean, stunting machine.

After making remarkable recovery, Fly visits the future members of his team, offering them the encouragement they need to overcome a major obstacle in each of their lives, get back on track, and join the Human Fly team. Both of these stories are told in flashback at a time when the team member is struggling to complete a task. Just remembering their inspirational meeting with Fly strengthens the resolve to do what needs to be done. A fun narrative tool.

The story opens with Fly preparing to do a stunt to raise money for charity. It’s then they get word that the jet full of reporters there to cover the stunt has been kidnapped by The Mercenary and his band of terrorists demanding 5-million dollars. The Fly’s team springs into action, and attempts to lower the Fly in his magnetic suit onto the hijacked plane to rescue its occupants.

The first team member we meet is Ted Locke, a Vietnam vet. Remember when every ragtag team had at least one Vietnam vet on it, if not a whole van full. Locke is trying to secure the metal rod/ladder that the Fly is climbing down from their chopper to the jet. Locke can’t seem to control the device, the Fly nearly falls. It’s then that we learn how Locke came to be on the Fly’s team. Locke thinks back to the explosives accident that cost him his hands. Sitting in the army hospital, having given up all hope to live a productive life, Locke is visited by a bandaged man who inspires him to join him. This memory gives Locke the strength he needs to use his robot hands to secure the device and keep the Fly safe.

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A similar story unfolds in the cockpit of the Fly’s plane as the pilot, Blaze Kendall thinks back to when when she crash landed a plane, and then couldn’t emotionally function as a pilot. It was the Fly that paid her an inspiring visit, and his faith in her that enabled her to rise up out of her funk and become the amazing pilot she had always been. The memory helps her to fly a steady course in harsh weather, keeping the fly safe during their rescue attempt.

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The fly manages to blow off the door of the plane and save the hostages, at least those that didn’t get sucked out of the cabin due to sudden depressurization. (That didn’t happen, but it could have.  The Fly should be more careful.)

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It’s while the Fly is beating up the hostages that one of the reporters does something stupid. That reporter’s name? Peter Parker. When you are on a plane with a limited number of people, and after the day is already almost saved, is not the time to turn into Spider-Man. But he gets dumber. As the Fly and the boss terrorist go out the door in a struggle, Spidey goes after them. This is good for the Fly who, when the bad guy goes off in a jet pack, finds himself being rescued by Spider-Man with a web parachute (that falls as fast as a man without one). But then Spidey’s all, well I better go get on that plane before they notice Peter Parker’s missing and put 1 and 1 together. First, no doiy! Second, I’d love to see how you do that Spider-Man, get back on a jet that is probably making an emergency landing right now, without being noticed.

And they’re all happy except the snotty reporter, Harmony Whyte, who obviously being set up as the foil.  She will find out what the Human Fly is all about.  Who risks his life just for charity?  She’s determined to find out.

I liked it. I liked the clever introduction of the team. I liked the lack of superpowers, something that I’m realizing that I could mostly do without.  I liked the Human Fly kicking some terrorist butt.

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The story was fun, even with Spiderman horning in. But what was best is that this comic is based on a real guy. It says so right on the cover. I didn’t notice it. But for some reason I read the editorial in this issue, something I hardly ever do. And there Bill Mantlo explained that the Human Fly is based on a real person who after the aforementioned car crash, built himself up to become the world’s greatest daredevil.

I did some research. And I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble. But it may be more accurate to say this comic is based on a guy whose story is based on some things that may or may not be matters of fact. But the real Human Fly did ride the outside of a big jet through the rain and visit the hospital later with rain related injuries. And he did attempt to break Evel Knievel’s bus jumping record of 12 buses by jumping 26 on a rocket-powered motorcycle. There’s an interesting article about it in the British Esquire magazine. And an interview with him on Canadian television. Where is he now? No one knows.


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