Monday, 31 July 2017

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 20: The Human Fly #7.

Marvel Comics #7, the Human Fly stuntman leaps of a snowmobile to fight a grizzly bear that is menacing a terrified child
One of the seminal activities of my youth was watching The World of Sport every Saturday, which, when it wasn't giving us clinically obese men, in overly tight trunks, falling over on top of  each other in Preston Guild Hall, in the name of wrestling, would often give us sporting events from around the globe.

Thus would we get such sights as hawk-flying from the Middle East, elephant polo from India, alpaca shearing from South America and a whole plethora of other events unlikely to ever be staged in our own back yards.

From America, we'd get the esteemed sports of  tree felling, fence painting  and suicidal recklessness. The suicidal recklessness usually involved men in outlandish clothing leaping over things.

Obviously, the most famous of these daredevils was Evel Knievel who mostly made it onto British television by nearly killing himself on what seemed like a regular basis.

But there was another man who strived to make a crust from dangerous stunts - and that man was the Human Fly.

To say the Human Fly was a man of mystery would be an understatement. I can only recall him ever appearing once on British TV and that was when he was standing on top of an airborne Jumbo Jet in order to prove a point whose purpose not altogether unevaded me.

Who was the Human Fly?

What was his true identity?

If World of Sport presenter Dickie Davies was to be believed, that was the greatest secret on the planet. One that could only be revealed if he was ever defeated in combat. Obviously, by that, I mean if the Human Fly was defeated in combat, not if Dickie Davies was defeated in combat. I happen to have faith that no man could defeat Dickie Davies in combat.

But. Oh. No. Hold on. I'm thinking of the wrong man. The being-defeated-in-combat thing was about Kendo Nagasaki, the enigmatic, master-of-the-martial-arts, wrestler from the Far East who, upon being unmasked, turned out to be a man called Peter from Stoke-on-Trent.

Nonetheless, the Human Fly's secret identity was seemingly just as guarded.

Given that we were allowed to know nothing about him, and that he seemed to have no powers other than standing on top of things, he seemed a strange candidate to get his own comic but, with the abandon that distinguished Marvel in the 1970s, he did indeed get his own mag. And, Reader, I had one issue of that book.

I think it was the one pictured at the start of this post but I'm not sure. So memorable was his mag that I can't even be sure which issue it was that I had. However, that bear looks familiar, so I'm guessing it's this one.

Sadly, I can find no panels from any issue of his comic online, apart from one of him lounging around playing a guitar - in full costume - so I can reveal nothing about his adventures or how Marvel managed to make a hero of him.

Sadly, and possibly predictably, the anthropomorphic insectoid's comic only lasted nineteen issues before being swatted flat by poor sales, which suggests the public at large failed to take to the strip. But, at least before he went, he had the honour of teaming up with Ghost Rider in one adventure.

Bafflingly, he doesn't seem to have ever teamed up with Spider-Man, despite the obviousness of such a move. Perhaps the fact that the webbed wall-crawler already had an enemy of that name who was famous for appearing in Hostess ads was deemed to be too potentially confusing for readers?

It does strike me that, in being cynical about his book, I'm being somewhat unfair to the man. For all I know, he may well be the greatest stunt man who ever lived and also a thoroughly marvellous human being. I just wish I could recall his comic well enough to pass judgement.


Anonymous said...

You managed to get through that without once mentioning Frank Robbins, Steve. Well done, although I suppose he's been discussed enough in the comments over time.
The greatest superhero... because he's real! What a joke - even Kendo Nagasaki would have made a more entertaining comic character than the Human Fly, and he's from Stoke!

I tend to assume the jumbo jet thing was some sort of update of the jazz-age novelty of barnstorming for the 70s.


Anonymous said...

Didn't the real-life Human Fly strap himself on top of an airplane, or something like that? Before it took off, that is. (because otherwise it wouldn't work)
I mean, it's been done, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea.
And it doesn't automatically give you crime-fighting powers.


Steve W. said...

Sean, I was tempted to mention Frank but worried that the poor soul had had enough criticism lately.

MP, he was indeed strapped to the top of a plane in a publicity stunt by some billionaire or other and then flew around over the Mojave desert. Apparently, he'd wanted to do it hanging upside down from the plane but was advised against it.

Anonymous said...

That was good advice, in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I picked up a complete set of The Human Fly, for one pound, at a Westminster mart. With hindsight it was a rubbish deal.


Comicsfan said...

Well, Steve, you had one issue more than I did!

Steve W. said...

DW, I still think that's a bargain. After all, it only needs Marvel to make a Human Fly movie and those comics'll suddenly be worth a fortune.

Comicsfan, I would tell you that you don't know what you missed out on but I don't know what you missed out on either, thanks to not being able to remember anything about the comic.

Blair said...

I'm sure Human Fly plays a role in the Ghost Rider origin story - which has never been mentioned again anywhere - I'm convinced it happened!

Steve W. said...

Well, Ghost Rider does show up in The Human Fly #2, so it's possible. And, thinking about it, they're both stunt men, so perhaps it makes sense for them be entangled, fate-wise.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I am pretty sure I bought #1, because it was #1. Back in the day, #1 mania wasn't what it became so it seemed like a bigger deal to get a #1. I just remember thinking the story didn't really interest me and anyhow I'd really stopped reading comics by 1977.

I'm curious, if I spent more time managing my retirement funds, instead of hanging out on these blogs, would I be richer enough to retire?

Steve W. said...

You'd be physically richer, Charlie but spiritually poorer.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

True dat! Now to go read Classics Illustrated Version of the 10 Commandments and double down on that!

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