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Comic Book / Flex Mentallo

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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. However, 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 in 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.

Flex Mentallo made his live action debut in the Doom Patrol series on DC Universe, portrayed there by Devan Chandler Long.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Allegorical Character: In practice, the entire cast is allegorical to a variety of different concepts. The main ones are Flex Mentallo (who represents all that is pure and idealistic about superhero stories and innocent fantasies in general), Wally Sage (who stands for the many complexities of being both audience and author to art) and Lord Limbo (who stands for the enigmatic, transcendental nature of superhero fiction). Other prominent characters such as Lt. Harry (a all-purpose stand-in for the hapless citizens of superhero fiction and, by extension, regular humans outside of comics) and The Hoaxer (who gestures towards the impossibility of fully comprehending reality) are also examples, and it is part of the narrative's goal for the reader to navigate the allegories in the cast.
  • 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 Company Equivalent: In the "true story of Manly Comics", Flex Mentallo is stated to have been explicitly created as a counterpart to Superman in 1941.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Ending: In trademark Morrison fashion, it is hard to tell how much is real and how much is not (and if that even matters).
  • Arch-Enemy: The Historical Fiction preface states Flex's original and most iconic arch-enemy throughout his decades of publication was Diabolical Mastermind Lars Lotus, although (interestingly) he never appears in the story proper. The Mentallium Man, another oft-mentioned iconic villain, does actually play a crucial role in the narrative and fights Flex in person.
  • Arc Words: "Reality dies at dawn!", a line spoken first by Flex Mentallo and later by Lord Limbo describing the stakes of their narratives, which receives layers upon layers of meaning with each time it's spoken.
  • 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.
  • Beyond the Impossible: In the climax, Flex Mentallo is weakened by Black Mentallium (his proverbial kryptonite that is essentially lethal to him) and fighting the author of the story who's in the process of writing him out completely. Despite the flagrant impossibility of it, he manages to flex anyway. He is Flex Mentallo after all: triumphing over the impossible is what he does.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In Issue #4, when The Moon Man has Flex at his mercy with Black Mentallium, Chief Harry and the Hoaxer arrive!
    Harry: That's enough, asshole. I got six chambers of semi-jacketed realism aimed right at your sea of tranquility. Drop the rock.
  • The Blank: The Fact, one of Flex's fictional friends, is this.
  • The Cameo: There's a littany of cameos from famous comic book characters in background shots (some with one or two lines). These include The Question, Rorschach, The Unknown Soldier and even Clark Kent himself.
  • Color Motif: Green. Flex Mentallo returned in a comic called "My Greenest Adventure", a hospitalized Wally Sage recalls a green light staring at him "like some alien intelligence", Wally vomits green, the Krystal drug (which briefly makes one into a superhero) is a of a bright green hue and Flex is guided by a green light emanating from said drug at a crucial scene. It is implied that all of those instances are the work of Lord Limbo, the leader of the Legion of Legions (who is entirely decked out in green), who engineered the plan for superheroes to escape into fiction and has been orchestrating events for superheroes to make their return, with the presence of green throughout the narrative being signs of his guiding hand.
  • Captain Patriotic: We briefly hear about a Golden Age superhero called "Jap-Destroyer" and another one called "Lady Liberty".
  • Catchphrase: The Fact always leaves behind "fact cards" stating (and/or verbally states out loud himself) "The Fact is: (blank)".
  • 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.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: 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.
  • Faux Adventure Story: The brawling superhero Flex Mentallo is off to save the world, but the comic is much more dialogue-based and surreal than that statement would imply.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: In the climax, Flex Mentallo has to fight through the Black Mentallium.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: Flex stars as the main hero, but both The Fact and the enigmatic Lord Limbo loom large in the narrative's background. The former is trying to help Flex but is crippled by being displaced throughout time and the latter is trapped in the realm of fiction but is guiding the narrative.
  • 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! And Black Mentallium can weaken guys like Flex into oblivion...
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Hoaxer, a incarcerated supervillain, gets recruited by Lt. Harry to save the day and gets genuinely onboard with it.
  • 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.
  • Last of His Kind: Flex is repeatedly stated in the narrative as the last active superhero, the last hope his world has.
  • Non-Linear Character: The Fact is scrambled through time, existing non-linearly, so his story wraps around itself. His first appearance in the story is, for example, chronologically his last in a Stable Time Loop sort of scenario.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: The narrative involves a very complex, metafictional exploration of the concept. It is stated that superheroes are real, and they survived the destruction of their universe by becoming fiction in ours and all of us contain their sublime, superheroic nature inside us all. In the very last scene, the superheroes trespass the barriers of fiction at last, heralding a new age where we all might be superheroes.
  • Master of Illusion: The Hoaxer can fool one person at a time with incredibly vivid illusions using a hand mirror and his talent at imitating sounds.
  • Mind Screw: The Doom Patrol comics are batshit insane... but the mini-series takes it to a whole new level.
  • Muscle Beach Bum: Flex' earliest strides on his path of heroism saw him engaging with this trope, playing the roles of both the victim and the bully in the process.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We never get to see how Flex and Faculty X fight through the ceaseless horde of superheroes trying to stop Flex from reaching the Legion of Legions. The Hoaxer and Harry just stumble upon the gory aftermath.
  • Ontological Mystery: The underlying theme of the narrative is that there's just something wrong with the world(s) and that the end is fast approaching. Characters thus explore the very limits of reality to unravel this.
  • Order Versus Chaos: A main theme of Morrison's that follows Flex everywhere.
  • Post Modern: The mini-series is rife with post-modernism.
  • Power Perversion Potential: At one point, Flex enters a club for "adult" superheroes that is absolutely rife with this, complete with overwrought narration explaining all of it. And occasionally railing against the Dark Age of comics for good measure.
  • Race Lift: When the series was recolored 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 colorist 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: At one point Harry asks The Hoaxer what was his biggest "hoax". He merely turns to Harry (and the audience) and wryly comments "Ah...If only you knew..." with a smile. We never do find out what his biggest hoax was, and there's an infinite ways of interpreting what it might be.
  • Rogues Gallery: Flex is stated to have a large, colorful rogues gallery with names like Lars Lotus, Mentallium Man, The Numbers Gang, Uncle Sham, .
  • 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 "Batman: 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.
  • Super Team: The Legion of Legions, stated in-universe as the supreme superhero team above all others (as hinted by the name).
  • 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...