April 17, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #286: The Human Fly

A superhero, identity unknown, who may have been a real person depending on whom you ask.

Comic book superheroes are works of fiction.  That’s hardly a surprising fact.  Sure, we may even hear stories about people who put on costumes and act as a sort of neighborhood watch, but that’s about it.  Superheroes, people with fantastic powers and abilities in colorful costumes, don’t really exist.

Marvel once claimed they had a guy who was real.  That would be the Human Fly.

The basic idea behind the Human Fly was a young man, injured in a car accident, received special treatment by replacing 60% of his bones with a more durable metal, granting him some resistance to injury.  A stunt man by profession, the youth put on a colorful costume to do charity performances in, often for disabled kids, and his real identity was never revealed in the comic series that featured his name.  Created by Bill Mantlo for The Human Fly #1 in September of 1977, whatever real name the Human Fly had, the series never revealed it.  Instead, the comic claimed he was a real person and even supplemented issues with photographs of someone dressed in the Human Fly costume.

That costume doesn’t look very fly-ish.

Oh, and he couldn’t fly either.  Instead, he carried a lot of stunt man padding and equipment to do various tricks and acrobatics, the sort you’d think would be more difficult if 60% of your skeleton was now metal.  From what I can find, the series ran for 19 issues and never once did Marvel give the character a real name, possibly because they were playing with the idea the Human Fly was a real hero and they didn’t want to reveal his secret identity.  Instead, he did a lot of flipping around, carried a special baton, and fought the criminals who apparently kept trying to rob whatever charity event he was performing for.

Oh, and since he wasn’t the first Human Fly, he had other problems.  The original was a supervillain who fought Spider-Man, but he died (and got better later), but in the meantime, Spidey did look into the more heroic version to see if they were the same guy.

The original Human Fly seems a bit more…fly-ish.

In 2007, Jim Shooter did eventually publicly admit the man in the photos was the basis for the heroic Human Fly, and he was a professional stunt man named Rick Rojatt.  Will that Human Fly return to a Marvel comic book?  I don’t know off-hand.  Since he was somewhat real, for all I know, there are rights issues, and the stunt man/daredevil craze was much bigger in the 70s than it is now.  All I know is if, he was the hero Marvel pretended was a real hero, then he’s probably missing from Jimmy’s Spider-Man Chronology.