Wednesday, April 4

Flex Mentallo and Me

Years and years ago, I wrote reviews for PopImage, a website not unlike a few sites at the time that wanted to discuss comics seriously. I knew site publisher Scott Grunewald from our days on the View Askew board in the late '90s, and he told me of this new venture. I wrote some brief reviews about weekly releases, and we all joined in on profiles of major creators.

(Please ignore the typos. We were typing up the material and hand-coding it at the same time. Hand-coding!)

One of those was Grant Morrison (here's the spotlight package). I wrote reviews for the first Invisibles trade and the Flex Mentallo series. I loved these books. I was a huge Morrison fan. Still am. I read just about everything he writes and love just about all of them. Seaguy, Invisibles, Sebastian O, Doom Patrol, Batman, All-Star Superman, X-Men, Vimanarama.  

Flex hit me hard. Flex spoke to me in one of those book-discovery occasions that now seem quaint. I latched onto it. So much so that I accidentally -- really -- stole the whole premise for a short comic I did for a Fluke anthology. (You can read it here.) I love this book. (More than Invisibles? It's not fair to compare. Invisibles is 1,000+ pages, and Flex is four issues. Flex is concentrated Morrison, a superdense star about to go nova. Invisibles is a galaxy.)

We weren't trying to be objective all the time. We wanted to advocate and champion. Let other guys be critics. We were fans. 

ASIDE: I think anyone who is a paid critic needs to change their title to connoisseur. The word critic is ruined by associations of disdain and nitpicking. A connoisseur dabbles and indulges and knows what he likes and why. He's not an epicure; he doesn't blithely gorge himself. But he doesn't seek to torpedo what's placed in front of him.

Flex was supposed to be collected for a US trade long ago, but a lawsuit from the Charles Atlas estate postponed that for a number of years. Flex's gimmick relied on the Atlas comic myth of the 98-pound weakling learning strength and confidence from a mail-order book. That's Flex's origin story too.

The suit ended, and fans waited a few more years for the trade that came out today. I had no intention of picking it up. I still have the single issues. But I was in the comic store on a lunch break and wanted to see the packaging and new coloring.

This was a long time coming, and DC wanted to do it right. It looks solid. The store owner jokingly asked another customer if I should get it, and the answer was yes, and I said I already had the singles. Then I flipped to the back cover. xxx

And there's my review. I wrote this thing in 2001. The words sounded familiar (and overly blah-blah nowadays), and when I saw the PopImage name, I knew. I'm on the Flex trade. Even if my name isn't there, that's my material. That's my love letter excerpt to the original series now used as a recommendation to get others to try it.

Of course I bought a copy. I almost bought everyone a copy.

PopImage seems to have gone cold in 2010. I hadn't written for them for years beforehand. But the site gave me the opportunity to say why and how I loved those comics (and objectively discuss other titles), and I thank Scott and the site for the opportunity.

A collection of the best of PopImage was published in 2002, and you can buy it, if'n you like.

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