Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Making of A Hero!


Welcome to Images Degrading Forever

Starting this week, I embark on a new project examining a rather unique comic and one which you may not have heard of or been aware of

This is a comic that was based on a real person, that featured things that person actually did, yet paradoxically the comic was firmly in the realm of fiction

The parallels between the fiction of the comic and what appears to be the fiction of the actual person make for an very interesting subject

How much of what the this person did as being real and was this person real as the comic said?

Was this just some guy in a costume or did he really do these things?

The next parallel which I want to look at is the parallel between the persons fictitious or not fictitious origins and the real life experience of the comics writer - Bill Mantlo….

The comic and the person i am talking about is of course THE HUMAN FLY… as written by Bill Mantlo.



This week to start us off let us hear from Bill Mantlo himself, from his essay "The Making of a Hero" as published in issue 1 of The Human Fly…

"WHO IS THE HUMAN FLY
A tentative explanation by BILL MANTLO

The Human Fly is me.  He’s also you and millions of other people you’ve encountered every day of your life since the day you were born.  The Human Fly is a concept, and idea.  The truly wondrous thing about him, though, is that he’s real!  We said that on the cover, we said it on the title-page, and folks, we meant it!

You may have read of his exploits, featured in newspaper and on TV from Montreal, Canada to Milano, Italy.  You may have heard, with a sense of awe and wonderment, of a young canadian who was hosted to the top of a DC-8 jet aircraft which proceeded to take off on a 200-MPH flight over the burning Mojave Desert... with the Human Fly still standing up top!!

You may have heard and dismissed it as impossible - but it happened pilgrims!  The Human Fly is real!

It began some six years ago in a head-on car crash on a lonely road near Ashville, North Carolina.  A young man driving the first car was seriously injured.  His wife and children were killed instantly and he, on being rushed to hospital, hung for days between life and death... fighting inwardly to survive, summoning all his will in a fierce desire to live.  Two Weeks later, this man, broken in body, was taken off the critical list.  It was said that he would remain a cripple for the rest of his life.

In the months and years to come, this young man underwent countless operations, financed by the father of the driver of the second car.  These operations replaced a substantial amount of the skeletal frame with steel, seeking to supplant scientifically what the body itself was no longer capable of recreating.  Doctors still remained skeptical of his chances of ever walking again, though he had regained some power of movement. For this young man, such an existence was a living hell.  It was more than he could accept... and he was determined to prove his doctors wrong - or die trying.

The determination grew.  He would strain to rise, to move from his bed.  So aggressive did his actions become that doctors were forced to sedate or strap him down out of fear that he would harm himself.  Realising that this was proving counterproductive, he calmed down, lulling his doctors into a sense of security that he at least accepted his irreversible condition...

...while every night, under cover of darkness, the victim of an accident that would have left most others for dead or paralysed for life began to secretly exercise his unresponsive body... until it became responsive, until it became his body again...and perhaps something more than it had been before.

Four years later, the man sat up in bed, then stood, then walked... to the amazement  of his doctors who had long ago given him up for lost.

He was released from the hospital, carrying with him a body partially rebuilt... and the memories of walking the hospital corridors unseen at night and witnessing, first hand, the hopelessness of others like him.  Veterans, missing limbs and maimed from Vietnam.  Workers, torn in industrial accidents.  Those born to disability and all separated from the mainstream of life.  He had fought against that separation and won.  They had lost, because the motivation was not there and was not being supplied by the world without.

It was then that this victim determined to supply the motivation,  the hope to the disabled of the world that they could rise above their disabilities, they could triumph over infirmity, they could succeed... for, hadn’t he?

He knew the world, knew that if you wanted to reach people with a message you had to do it flamboyantly, colourfully.  He remembered tales of the daredevils of the Depression Era, the 1930‘s when flagpole-sitting or walk up the side of a skyscraper or the exploits of a super escape-artist would excite the imagination of millions... give hope to those without hope... raise them above the crushing problems of everyday life for one brief shining moment so they would see, for themselves, that anything is possible if you just dare to try!  He knew he had been spared for just that purpose.

The Human Fly was born!

The stunts began.  He walked atop high-flying jets going at speeds man had never before dared unprotected.  He spoke of fighting man-eating sharks, of death defying races.  He kept his identity secret because he wanted to be identified as a ‘everyman’... not as as a lone,glory-seeking, self-serving individual.  Money raised by his stunts was all turned back into charity, into research so that cures might be found for disabled people the world over.

His stunts were spectacular, but so was the coverage in papers all over this continent and Europe.  His analysis had been correct.  Color demanded attention --- and got it!  Drama hooked the media and, though they concerned themselves with the spectacle, the flamboyance... the message, the reason behind the Fly’s exploits came through.

And people reading of him from hospital bed, or wheelchairs, or in Braille - or even normal people suffering a sense of hopelessness in a world grown too big, too impersonal for them - began to sit up, to open their eyes, to take notice... to find hope.

He became the “space-age Daredevil”, the living bionic man, compared to Captain America or Spider-Man in media presentations throughout the world.

“I’ve never been terrified or scared in my life” said the Human Fly.  “And I’m not fighting to walk to the bank with millions of dollars for myself.  I’d like to make millions for the kids!”
Comics, as we all know them, have been pressing that kind of glorious altruism for decades, and no-one but wide-eyed kids or adults who regretting leaving childhood goals in the face of the harsher realities of life would agree with them. Until the Human Fly.

“I’ve got 50,000,000 kids out there depending on me.  I’ve got a lot of people to support... youngsters in hospitals, struggling against cancer, polio, cerebral palsy or whatever. I’ve got a lot of people to support.”

“And this is my way of doing it!”

And we couldn’t agree with the Fly more."



NEXT WEEK:- Some of the Human Fly's incredible stunts get the cover treatment !

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