Comic Book: Flex Mentallo
"Never grow up."
Describe Flex Mentallo here.
... We can try but you won't believe it
. Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery
, is supposed to be a Silver Age
super-hero with a Charles Atlas Superpower
that allows him to do, well, anything by flexing his muscles while simultaneously being a parody of a Charles Atlas advertisement ... the strange thing is that he's a fictional comic book character created by a young psychic named Wally Sage. Flex is then brought to life through Wally's abilities and fights crime
. He meets up with the Doom Patrol
, saves everyone from a telephone monster from underneath the Pentagon, and then helps, uh, destroy the Dark Age
Anyway, Mentallo was created by Grant Morrison
, which explains a lot
. He first appeared in "Doom Patrol
" vol. 2 #35 (August, 1990). He was regularly featured in the series to 1991, before getting his own 4-issue mini-series (1996) which deconstructed and reconstructed comic books in their entirety and was about growing up, holding onto your imagination, love, hope, responsibility and realizing that, yeah, there will always be heroes... and you might just be one of them.
Go ahead, gamble that stamp.
This comic provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: As ever, interviews with Morrison shed a lot of light on the series. Among other things, the four issues represent the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age of comics, respectively.
- Alternate Continuity: Flex was originally introduced in Morrison's Doom Patrol, which is set in the main DC Universe. The miniseries, however, has no indication that it takes place in The DCU, so it appears to be set in an alternate continuity of its own.
- Anvils That Needed To Be Dropped: Morrison makes it clear that the Dark Age of comics was wrong with its violence and Black and Grey Morality, and while the Silver Age was wacky and rife with mature subtext, it was a great place to escape to and have fun in.
- Author Filibuster: The whole comic can be read as a long rant against the grim and gritty superhero comics of its era, and a defense of the more colourful superhero stories that preceded it. Thankfully, as Morrison is an experienced writer of metafiction, the filibuster element doesn't diminish the quality of the comic.
- The Blank: The Fact, one of Flex's fictional friends, is this.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Flex can, well, flex himself just about any superpower he needs.
- Crapsack World: The world Flex lives in is broken... but Flex and his friends fix it in the end.
- Da Chief: Flex works alongside a cynical one of these... then his wife dies and he decides the world needs some saving.
- Dark Age: The mini-series takes this age of comics apart.
- The Determinator: Flex will not be broken.
- Digital Destruction: The hardcover collection of Flex's miniseries is dramatically recolored, turning the bright op-art colors of the original into Real Is Brown, and often deliberately obscuring the art by making objects the same color as their surroundings. However, the new colourist Peter Doherty says that unlike the original colours, the recolouring job was done with consultation and approval of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and it's meant to better correspond with how Morrison and Quitely originally imagined the colours to look like. It's up to the reader to decide whether this consultation provided better results, or whether original colourist Tom McGraw got it right regardless of Morrison's and Quitely's wishes.
- Driven to Suicide: A different and disillusioned rock star Wally Sage is trying to kill himself in the mini-series.
- End of the World as We Know It: The world is falling apart at the seams and there isn't anyone to save it, right? Not if Flex can help it.
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Rex Ritz and Sparkly the Glamour Boy are two of the heroes mentioned. Rex Ritz makes an appearance in the background of issue 4, wearing a fur coat and a giant diamond over his head.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: In the mini an entire superhero world exists like this.
- Green Rocks: Mentallium! And it comes in several different flavors! Pink Mentallium invites the victim "to explore complex issues of gender and sexuality," while silver Mentallium robs someone of their sense of humor and many more!
- Historical Fiction: The preface gives the history of the fiction comic book publisher Manly Comics, which supposedly originally published Flex until DC Comics got the rights to the characters.
- Hive Mind: A few of the heroes in the third issue are a miniature group of bee women with a single mind.
- Mind Screw: The Doom Patrol comics are batshit insane... but the mini-series takes it to a whole new level.
- Order Versus Chaos: A main theme of Morrison's that follows Flex everywhere.
- Post Modern: The mini-series is rife with post-modernism.
- Race Lift: When the series was recoloured for its collected edition, a couple of the characters inexplicably became white (scroll to the bottom of the article for the relevant part). The new colourist says it was accidental, though.
- Rage Against the Author:... or the author raging against himself.
- Reality Warper: Flex can alter reality by, well, flexing.
- Replacement Goldfish: Da Chief used this literally... his wife's fish kept dying but he didn't want her to ever know.
- Shout-Out: Too many to count. Among them, cameos by "yellow boots with ridged fireproof treads" (the Flash's), the incomplete magic word of transformation "SHA_A_" (Shazam), and a farmer who's planning on putting his infant son in a spaceship to save him from the end of the world (guess). Possibly justified, in that the entire thing may be happening in the head of a lifelong comic book fan, ... or perhaps not. Grant Morrison's works are funny like that. Also, keep your eyes peeled for DC's Unknown Soldier getting a prostitute on a street next to Walter Kovacs holding a sign. Or the Mutant Gang from "The Dark Knight Returns," or the wizard Shazam during a young man's super-powered drug trip, or a renamed version of the Question, or.... better stop now, this list could fill the internet. Background character Rex Ritz is also a nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- Silver Age: The mini-series also examines and shows just how awesome, and how silly, this age was.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Even though at first it may seem to fall on the cynical side, the last issue of the mini is very hopeful for the future.
- Stripperific: A few of the super-ladies, and normal ladies, in the mini-series are like this.
- Flex himself is a rare male example of this.
- Teens Are Monsters: The real villain of the series is the teenaged Wally. He exemplifies the Dark Age and questions the very virtue of Flex... but as the Hoaxer puts it "Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism." But with Flex's help he redeems himself.
- In the first issue there's mention of "roaming bands" of teen heroes and sidekicks acting out.
- World of Chaos: Flex's world is like this... that is until you find out Flex's world and the real world are intermixed together on a mental level... or something...