Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Chronicles of the Human Fly
Chapter Three


It used to be, back in the Paleolithic era, that every new Marvel title used to feature a guest-appearance by Spider-Man. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not really. Considering how long Spidey has been at or near the very top of Marvel’s totem-pole, it only makes sense that they would use their most recognizable character to boost new and sometimes dicey prospects.

Those who criticize the late 80s and 90s for relying to heavily on the “guest-star” syndrome needs to reexamine their comic book collection, in order to see how many mainstream Marvel superhero titles from about, oh, 1975 on upwards, did not feature a Spider-Man appearance in the first six issues or less. You will find this a surprisingly hard thing to do.

Anyway, the first issue of The Human Fly also features a Spider-Man appearance, but it is probably one of the least interesting Spider-Man appearances in the history of Spider-Man appearances. He practically sleepwalks through the entire issue - and he wouldn’t guest star in Sleepwalker for another fifteen years.

As I’ve mentioned before, the structure of the Fly’s adventures did not leave a lot of room to maneuver. He didn’t fight supervillains - a point the editors repeatedly stressed in the letters pages - so he was limited to fighting, um, un-supervillains. Banalvillains. He was also limited to whatever adventures he just happened to come across. Thankfully, the folks who put together the first issue of The Human Fly were not worried about being subtle. They had to get the Fly, Spider-Man and a villain together, and they weren’t squeamish about it.

Deus, meet ex machina. Sing along if you can guess who’s on that press-plane.

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The Fly is a man of action!

OK, as of this point there are two important facts that any careful reader will have noticed:

  • One: The Mercenary is quite possibly the least imposing villain of all time. His utilitarian name belies a banal worldview. While this commitment to a more . . . naturalistic adventure story (at least by comparison to, say, The Avengers) was admirable, it also made for very boring menaces. Chances are this guy won’t be getting the revamp treatment in Runaways anytime soon.

    The green jumper is sooo Coco Chanel. The Death’s Head racing-helmet reminds me of the kind of headgear you see on special children. The Mercenary is a special man.

  • Two: The man in the green sweater should be very familiar:

    I applaud the editor’s restraint in not including a caption directing us to the identity of the mysterious green-sweatered photographer. It must have taken an almost Herculean force of will to keep the readers in suspense.

    But eventually they had to let the cat out of the bag. As the Human Fly sets his plan into motion, the identity of the mysterious green-sweatered news photographer is finally revealed!

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    OMG!!! It’s Spider-Man! I did
    not see that one coming!

    You will also note that the Mercenary is blowing a hole in the side of a commercial jet, meaning that the entire cabin should be experiencing explosive decompression.

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    Apparently explosive decompression does not exist in the Marvel Universe.

    Ah, the dialogue he is classic - and by classic, I mean vintage. They’ve been using these same word balloons since Superman crawled out of the Precambrian muck.
    Goon: Who -- who is this guy?!

    Human Fly: The name boys, is the Human Fly! Remember it -- you’ll be hearing it again!

    The Mercenary: Can’t you idiots stop him? He’s only one man!

    But, as if on cue, the narrative caption puts a rest to the Mercenary’s specious statement:
    But the Mercenary is wrong! The Fly is the embodiment of the hopes of many men! He will not be stopped, lest he let those others down!

    Meanwhile, what’s Peter Parker up to?

    The Human Fly deserves his own intercontinental press junket? The Marvel Universe sure is weird . . . I mean, I just don’t see why the Bugle couldn't have just used the AP or Reuters’ clippings on the Fly. Would have saved a lot of money.

    So, let’s examine the logic here: it’s a bad idea to change into your Spider-suit in front of a planeload of reporters, but as soon as those reporters aren’t looking directly at you, it’s A-OK. Because, of course, given the fact that there were probably only a few dozen people - at most - on the press junket no one will notice that the photographer in the green sweater just happened to disappear around the same time that Spider-Man showed up. Because, of course, the New York-based Spider-Man just happened to be chilling in the cargo hold on a random flight to Houston.

    Will the combined forces of Spider-Man and the Human Fly be able to defeat the villainous Mercenary? Um, you tell me . . .

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    Authentic 1977 advertisement, undoubtedly the source of much confused fascination on the part of the era’s pubescent male homosexual comic book readers.

    Chapter One
    Chapter Two
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