You know him…you love him…you either want to fight or fuck him (maybe both)…
FLEX MENTALLO MAN OF MUSCLE MYSTERY!
I searched all over the interweb for the true origins on this superhero’s creation and I kept coming up with was some gibberish about some hack comic book writer named GRANT MORRISON?! What gives? has everyone forgotten about CHUCK “THE CHIEF” FIASCO, ASHLEY DUBOIS, and WALLACE SAGE?!
Okay, luckily I have some information from a DC Comics interview with Chuck right here…so, I’ll just cut and paste from it…
“Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery, made his debut in the pages of Manly Comics’ Rasslin’ Men in February 1941 and was an overnight success. Sales of Rasslin’ Men quadrupled in as many months and Flex Mentallo #1, which followed in April ’42, went on to become one of the most sought-after first issues in comics history…
“Dubois said Manly needed its own Superman,” remembers veteran artist Chuck “The Chief” Fiasco. “That’s how it all started. He told me to come up with something and I must admit I was kinda stumped….”
Chuck had some sort of epiphany while driving home one night:
“The desert was kind of silver and the sky was way too blue and there was a big neon sign right there saying ‘FLEX MENTALLO,’ ‘FLEX MENTALLO,’ over and over again. I woke up in the woods about half a mile from home and I had my super-hero! It was around four in the morning but I drank some black coffee, threw back a fistful of crank pills and just drew and drew. I invented many marvelous gadgets and mysterious pieces that night, I can tell you, but perhaps the strangest of all was Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery.”
Oh, real quick about Ashley:
“Ashley DuBois was the flamboyant publisher and editor-in-chief of Manly Comics, a vanity press venture which had taken on a life of its own. Manly specialized in lurid retellings of the exploits of legendary strongmen and athletes such as Samson, Atlas, Hercules, and Caligula.”
“Ashley DuBois’s body was found contorted over a vaulting horse in a sleazy motel room. Partially dressed in a filthy Roman-style toga, his face smeared with rouge and lipstick, he had clearly drowned in his own vomit and urine. A pair of women’s silk stockings was stuffed in his mouth along with several hundred sleeping tablets. A note, written in violet ink on lavender-scented note-paper, said simply, “The dogs have all got masks. And may the Lord have mercy on our souls.”
Yikes! Well, before and after Ashley’s untimely death there was more and more to come…
“Manly Comics began as an outlet for DuBois’s own writing; his tales of Greek love and hand-to-hand combat among the gods and demigods were intended for his own pleasure and that of a small circle of enthusiasts. Much to his surprise, however, the self-published comics proved immensely popular with children and with servicemen, who failed to discern the obvious subtext (a typical cover depicts a grinning Hercules thrashing Atlas’s near-naked buttocks with a cruel barbed-wire flail), and thrilled instead to the depictions of mythical worlds and mighty supermen. When Flex Mentallo appeared in Rasslin’ Men #35, sales went through the roof and the new hero soon became Superman’s chief rival.”
There were some ups and downs with Flex and comics in general…but the 1960s were right around the corner…and so was Wallace Sage!
“In 1959, however, a new Flex Mentallo returned on the cover of Stellar Comics’ “My Greenest Adventure” #159. This comic had survived for seven years on one gimmick–all the stories revolved around the color green in some way–but the novelty was beginning to wear thin.
My Greenest Adventure” #159, with the return of Flex Mentallo featured on the cover, sold more than any comic ever, before or since. America’s postwar generation of affluent baby-boomers went wild for the new, “way-out” heroes, while U.S. servicemen in Korea waged their own far-from-fictional, real-life War against Evil. This magical era was to be known as the Silver Age of Superheroes and will be remembered as a time of renaissance and creativity. New superheroes were being created almost at the speed of thought to keep up with the incredible demand and, like his contemporaries, the Silver Age Flex inhabited a Brave New World of science-fiction adventure. Drawn by Chuck Fiasco at the height of his powers, and written by the man now considered to be the definitive Flex Mentallo writer (Wallace Sage was an 18-year-old hipster from New York who had published two “science fiction” novels, “Sputnik Go Beatnik” and “The Pleasure Planet” before turning to comics), the new Flex faced bizarre and hi-tech menaces like the Mentallium Man, Uncle Sham, The Tree Men of Walzur, Mr. Quizmatiz, The Ism and a resurrected Lars Lotus. (Sage penned what must surely be the quintessential Lotus epic in the two-part “I, Lotus,” in which the overweight Grim Guru of Crime finds love in the arms of the beautiful Kirby Kosmos only to discover that the light of his life is nothing other than Flex Mentallo transformed by Shocking Pink Mentallium into a glamorous actress. Heartbroken, Lotus builds his own robot universe and peoples it with very pretty mechanical ladies.)”
“I was baffled,” says Chuck Fiasco. “I knew Wally was doing a lot of LSD at the time…in fact, I knew everything because basically we were all doing a lot of LSD at the time. It was still legal then, of course, and we’d usually start every day by dipping into the mason jar we’d got from the Sandoz company. Many’s the time, believing I could fly or punch through walls or chew on broken glass, I’ve come to within an inch of my miserable life in one way or another. Acid, all day, every day, for four years…Think about it and then go read those comic books again.”
“It all came to an end in November 1963 when Flex Mentallo #127 featured a story called “Who Stole the President’s Face?” This uncharacteristically unfunny farce dealt with Mr. Quizmatiz’s efforts to embarrass the President of the United States by stealing his face and attaching it to various animals and pieces of furniture and walls and so on. The President himself, unable to see, talk or blow his nose, spent much of the time tripping over his dogs, his wife, his brothers and several world leaders, including the by-then-long-dead Gandhi.
“Unfortunately, the President at the time was Jack Kennedy,” Chuck Fiasco recalls grimly. “How could we have known? We thought it was just a funny little story. The comic had already come back from the printers.”
In questionable taste to begin with, Flex Mentallo #127, “Who Stole the President’s Face?” was to hit headlines and achieve worldwide notoriety and condemnation when it was published one day after the shocking assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas.”
“The glory days were over, however. After a few lackluster attempts to create new characters–the forgettable Giggle-O and Pocketman–Wallace Sage dropped out of comics, becoming an almost mythical figure in the process. He never wrote again, and fans have often speculated as to his whereabouts and current status.
“Well, he was the sort of guy who would always land on his feet,” Fiasco smiles fondly. “I can just see him now, sitting on a beach in Hawaii surrounded by beautiful girls and sipping a piña colada. Good old Wally, the guy’s an inspiration to us all.”
In fact, Wallace Sage died in 1982, a broken, penniless wretch. His talent destroyed by drink and drugs, his once desirable features gnawed into a bloody ruin by tertiary syphilis and face cancer, he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
“Flex Mentallo haunted limbo for over twenty years, present by implication alone in every other superhero title published in that period. Then, in 1990, a radical “postmodern” or “Dark Age” version of Flex appeared in DC’s DOOM PATROL title. This Flex was used to challenge the ontological categories of the hypothetical DC “universe” and his success led to various imitators both here and in other lands, where the people are quite different. Characters with names like “Stress Psycho, Mindwrestler” and “Brute Braino, Psychic Weightlifter” are selling in the millions and offering eager readers the chance to face their deepest fears and insecurities on a monthly basis.”
“There was no joy in it; it was a cold, joyless thing they created, a kind of abortion, I’d say. Sure. And who can understand this stuff? This modern stuff? You’d have to be a modern Einstein or a Stephen Hawking kind of character to understand what the hell’s going on in these comics. Am I right? Is it just me?” Chuck Fiasco shrugs, utters a hollow laugh and drains his second bottle of “the old anesthetist, Doctor J. Beam,” as he calls it. There’s a trace of bitterness in his voice and I attempt to remind this man, Chuck “the Chief” Fiasco, that he’s still the Chief in the hearts of dozens of old-time comics fans.”
Cold, joyless things
Wow…those comic book creator types sure were a strange and wonderful bunch…except for this Grant Morrison fellow…what a talentless bore.
Many thanks to this website for their help.