Thursday, May 26, 2016


Science, death and stickum, this one has it all!

Grim from the git-go, Sam Glanzman's first comics work -- Fly-Man from Spitfire Comics No.1 -- is one of the grittier characters in the history of comics. Even the panels drip with ink, grime, gore and implements of murder -- which is fine because Fly-Man doesn't pull any punches.

Why do so many people plan for small superheroes?
It'd be bad for his career, for one thing. Kentucky-born Clip Foster makes it all the way to Madison Square Garden for heavyweight championship bout. Shrugging off his manager's offer to throw the fight, Clip walks out the winner ... and heads straight for his scientist father's secret laboratory. What's in store for Clip? "The ray will effect (sic) your pituitary glands. They control the growing of the skeleton - the ray will cause them to shrink and you will become smaller" explains old dad.

Well, it sounds great, exactly what the top boxer in the world could use. But what else, pop? "The experiment isn't dangerous" he continues, "But I haven't found an antidote which will make you regain your normal size." That sounds plenty dangerous to me, but I'm a layman.

Clip gave his word, though, so world championship and threat of imminent smallhood aside, he allows his father to make him his guinea pig - or as big as one, anyway.

His morning routine
The experiment works, although Billy's tiny, comatose body needs time to relax. This is when his manager shows up with two thugs in tow, demanding that they too be made quite small. How word got around about the small-man-making machine, I dunno, but that's the power of advertising.

While his men are shrinkified for criminal purposes, Clip's manager takes out his frustrations on his former client, hurling his tiny body into a bunch of vials of acid which burn his skin and face and stuff. This necessitates Clip disguising his horrifying scars, which is a good idea because I imagine it probably made his tiny head look like a wet thumb. Luckily, dad left Clip a tiny orange uniform. Why? "Dad wanted me to fight crime in this costume" he says, raising a lot more questions than are answered.

Clip, as Fly-Man, catches up with his former manager and his diminutive pals and makes short -- and gruesome -- work of them. The killer final panel of his first appearance has Clip flinging a knife through the body of one of his opponents, with the blade cutting him stem to stern. It's gross.

As an artifact of Glanzman's storied and fascinating career, Fly-Man deserves a little better treatment than to be a forgotten figure. With only two adventures, there's nothing much to collect, but his public domain status and legitimately harrowing adventures should appeal to any current creator looking for an interesting -- if blood-soaked -- character to revive.

Whoops, somebody left their George Bellows book open.

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