Human Fly #1
Issue(s): Human Fly #1
There isn't a lot of information out there on him. This article at Rocketman Online is pretty much the only account of him i've found online that's based on firsthand information (and includes a couple of pictures) (i also found one more article, here, that talks a little bit about the Fly) . As the text piece written by Mantlo in this issue says, the Human Fly (his real name was Rick Rojatt, according to the Rocketman article) was in a head-on car crash that killed his wife and children instantly. It was assumed that Rojatt would be crippled for the rest of his life, but thanks to operations funded by the father of the driver of the other car, he was subjected to a series of operations that replaced part of his skeleton with steel. Tragic, but it does sound like a super-hero origin.
Mantlo's text piece also mentions the Mojave Desert wing-walking stunt which is mentioned in the Rocketman article. There's a picture of that here.
It's worth remembering, of course, that the Human Fly was not a "real life super-hero" like you sometimes hear about on the news: people that dress up in costumes and become vigilantes. The Fly was a stuntman. The "hero" aspect really comes from the fact that he donated his profits to children with diseases, and the fact that he wanted to give hope to people with disabilities.
So it sounds like he had good motivations (even though the Rocketman article describes him as "an accident looking for a place to happen"), but how does that all translate into a comic book, especially one that takes place in a world where there are actual super-heroes with super-powers?
Since the stunts on paper aren't more exciting than anything we see Captain America or Daredevil do on a regular basis (while granting, clearly, that they'd be pretty damn impressive in reality)...
...Mantlo chooses to go the full super-hero route, and the issues of this book follow a formula where the Human Fly goes somewhere to perform a stunt, and then a bad guy shows up (the villain this issue is impressively called the "Mercenary")...
...and the Human Fly has to stop him.
The problem with this approach is it further invites comparisons to Marvel's other heroes. I don't have a better idea, but having the non-powered Human Fly fight villains just makes him Marvel's Least Interesting Super-Hero.
Spider-Man helps out this issue, which really emphasizes how the Human Fly loses all uniqueness in the Marvel Universe.
Much of this issue is devoted to telling the Fly's origin (similar to what's described in the text piece, except instead of a head-on collision, it's said that he was run off the road).
It also introduces his supporting cast, which includes his engineer, Ted Locke, who lost his hands in Vietnam...
...and Blaze Kendall, pilot, who survived a traumatic crash.
There's also Arnie Berman, his agent, who doesn't get much panel time this issue, and Harmony Whyte, the reporter who is skeptical of the Fly's altruism.
The coolest thing about this issue is the little scene on the cover that shows the Fly fighting off a shark with his little cane.
Still, this series is a bizarre part of Marvel's history so it's worth a read.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
There's also an article on the Human Fly in an issue of "Back Issue", but it's a rather strangely written piece...the text can't seem to make up its mind if the Human Fly ever really existed, but accompanying pictures in it clearly show he did. Unfortunately, Back Issue has a long history of giving us at least one article per issue that seems to have been barely edited at all.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 18, 2011 6:17 PM
The most incredibly boring comic of the 1970s: "I'm not a superhero, I'm a stunt man!" Then why do you have a series? Arrrgh! Oh, and I don't believe he ever appears out of costume; so much for having an interior life.
Bill Mantlo can make great comics out of toys and licensed tie-ins, but even he can't save this drek.
Posted by: Dan Spector | February 3, 2013 1:16 PM
The Human Fly was a GREAT character and a GREAT book!! To someone who grew up in the days of Evel Knievel, the Human Fly was an inspiration AND an all around GREAT series. I was really upset when it was cancelled..i bought EVERY SINGLE issue and you judge it UNFAIRLY.
Posted by: Andy Kerschenske | March 22, 2013 2:58 PM
Of course the Human Fly's greatest moment was his one line on The Simpsons, as he climbs the side of a building and no one notices.
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | September 9, 2013 1:12 PM
Here's an interesting Esquire article from 2014 about the Human Fly. It mentions the Marvel deal, as well as a Cyndi Lauper connection that I found amusing. It also implies that Rojatt's backstory was fabricated and that there was more than one person who wore the Fly costume.
Posted by: Robert | March 28, 2016 1:49 PM
I was 11 or so when this came out and Loved it. I think I saw him on TV or something around that time as well. I don't remember if it was a special about him, or a segment on "That's Incredible!" (or similar one of those shows) but I thought the Human Fly was really cool :)
Posted by: Synergy | July 20, 2016 11:46 AM
Ted Locke has to be based on Jay J. Armes. I would put money on Marvel having at least attempted to do a licensed comic about him around this time:
Posted by: Dan H. | April 2, 2017 5:03 PM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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