Fly Man #31 cover

Fly Man #31, May 1965

“The Fly-Man’s Partners in Peril!”

Super-villain, the Spider, makes a daring break for freedom using a truck that suddenly spouts legs. The vehicle leaps over the walls of State Pen and zooms away. Attorney Tom Troy hears the report on his radio and decides it’s, “Time to rub my magic Fly-Man ring!”

Fly Man #31, the Spider

Dashing to the scene, Fly-Man is confused by a cave mirror system that creates a myriad of Spider reflections. “Buzz off!” shouts the Spider, “I’ll swat you later!” Fly-man leaves the cave unable to find his foe.

The next day, a gigantic metal claw hovers over New York City. Fly-Man becomes giant-sized and pulls the craft out of the sky, but its “stupendous charge of murderous electricity” almost kills him. Suddenly, a man dressed in orange and green flies down and destroys the claw with power rays projected from his gloves. He introduces himself as the Comet—and flies away.

Fly Man giant-size

Later, Fly-Man attempts to break up a jewel heist. Unfortunately, thugs Boppo, Flipsy and Basher make short work of our hero once his time-limited powers wear off. They trio dump him onto some railway tracks, where he’s instantly rescued from the path of a locomotive by another costume-clad hero: the Shield. The Shield soon takes care of the three goons and dashes off.

Some time later, Fly-Man is overcome by the energy-sapping emanations from one of the Spider’s devices. Helpless, Fly-Man is forced to endure a maniacal monologue from his insane enemy. It transpires that the device also houses an atomic bomb! With just five seconds to spare, the device melts into slag—the result of a heat ray fired by yet a third colourful character. This time, it’s the Black Hood, sat astride his flying robotic horse, who has come to the rescue. Once again, having saved the day and introduced himself, the newcomer flies off.

Needless to say, the Spider is none too pleased about this—and he vows revenge.

Return of the Archie Heroes, the Mighty Crusaders

A message in the sky causes Fly-Man and the other three super-heroes to convene at an abandoned amusement park. The four wonder about becoming a team—The Mighty Crusaders—but Fly-Man objects: the name is too corny, and he’s not convinced that Black Hood, the Comet and the Shield are indeed mighty enough to deserve the name. A fight ensues and Fly-Man is humiliated as the others fly away in a huff. Left weakened when his powers wear off, he’s at the mercy of the Spider, who, disguised as a clown, sets about beating up Fly-Man.

Things look grim for our hero, but Fly-Man suddenly cocoons the villain in steel threads. The other heroes reappear, laughing. It seems that the whole thing has been a stunt. Telepathically warned by a spider—the arachnid— that the Spider—the super-villain—was present and disguised, Fly-Man had staged the scuffle to warn his pals. As Fly-Man declares: “A spider helped me defeat The Spider!!!”

The Spider escapes, but the four heroes agree to consider the notion of a super-team—and the newspapers report that the entire world is holding its breath.

Fly Man and the Mighty Crusaders

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Intended as something of a new direction for the ailing Fly character, this is the first issue to feature the new, flashy Fly Man logo. Interestingly, “Fly Man” is not hyphenated in the logo, but it is elsewhere. Who know which one is correct. The publishing schedule was rather erratic by this time, although things got a lot more on track from here onwards. Marvel was reviving the fortunes of super-characters and so Archie Comics wanted a slice of the action. It was still several months away from the debut of the Batman tv show, but all the hallmarks of that camp approach are here.

Jerry Siegel, having burnt his bridges at DC by suing the company for ownership of Superman, was only too pleased to accept a regular writing assignment. Taking a leaf out of Stan Lee’s book, Siegel attempts a tongue-in-cheek approach, with asides to the reader designed to pull them in and make them a part of the action. Unfortunately, Siegel just wasn’t as good at it as Stan, and his efforts are often just painful to read. Had Siegel just used his standard style, one that had stood him in good stead for a series of wonderful Superman Family tales in recent years, Fly Man would probably have been far more successful. I’d imagine, though, that he was under orders to write these in a manner intended to ape Marvel, and it just clashed with his regular way of working. His plots are as elaborate and thought out as ever, but his dialogue and captions are a chore.

The Shield, Black Hood and the Comet were all had series during the Golden Age, but had lain dormant for a good long while before their use here. Although the Comet had first reappeared in the previous issue, this is where the saga of the creation of the Mighty Crusaders starts. For more see HERE.

Cover and art by Paul Reinman, who, sadly, struggles. Note how the Shield looks to be jumping into the sewer on the cover!

EDIT — a pointed out by Gorilla Daze reader Richard Bensam, Jerry Siegel did have something of a track record for this zany material: namely, the Bizarro World series that ran in the back of Adventure Comics. From Richard: “Beg to differ on one point: Siegel’s campy style here isn’t terribly different from the style he used for his Tales of the Bizzaro World and Legion of Super-Heroes scripts shortly before this…not to mention his Funnyman series from 1947. I couldn’t say if he was writing this book this way to editorial direction — a quite reasonable possibility given the success of Marvel — but love it or hate it, this was one of his regular writing styles. It worked slightly better when he wasn’t trying so hard to force the laughs, but he was definitely better at the sincere emotional stories than at the “wacky, zany” stuff he thought was more commercial.”

Images ©2013 Archie Comics