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In which Bill pitches Flex Mentallo 2

I wrote this on a whim and a dare back in 2007, and just recently rediscovered it on my hard drive. I got a kick out of it, and it’s not like DC’s ever going to publish something like this (Dear DC: If you’re ever going to publish something like this, click on “Contact Us”), so I figured I’d share it with our readers. “Gamble a stamp! I can show you how to be a real man!” Without further adieu, here’s…

THE DEATH OF FLEX MENTALLO
DC Comics/Vertigo
Proposal for 4 Issues
Written by Bill Reed

Tagline:

Legends never die. They get canceled.

Flex, right here

The Premise:

The original Flex Mentallo mini-series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is considered by some, myself included, as the best comic book ever made. It worked as a love letter to superheroes, analyzing their publication history and cultural impact through a twisting, surreal narrative. It absolutely does not need a sequel. This mini-series is the sequel it doesn’t need.

The Morrison/Quitely series commented on a few eras of comics, from the Golden to the Silver to the Grim-and-Gritty Age and then projected into the future. That future, however, did not come true—and this mini will take the baton and comment on the current state of the superhero industry, from character deaths to cancellations and reboots to the Ultimate line to legacy characters to legal issues and creator’s rights.

Flex Mentallo was about the power (and reality) of fiction and the power (and hope) of the superhero. That’s what this one’s about too, in its way. It’s about superheroes transcending the limitations of reality once again. It’s about the cyclical nature of comics and the need for change.

The Plot:

Much like the first Flex mini, this one has worlds within worlds within worlds. In one plotline, Flex Mentallo is living in the world seen at the end of the first series— the one in which the fictional superheroes came to life and returned to bring hope to the world. When we pick up with the planet, society has developed an alarming sense of ennui and boredom with their heroes. There’s no room for hope, after all, if everything’s perfectly fine. It’s a restless civilization; but here comes Flex’s retconned-in sidekick, Charlie the Boy Bodybuilder, all grown up and with a much darker attitude. He’s become an acolyte of a new villain, one with a miniature Planet Earth for a head, a mysterious entity eating away at the corners of the universe…

Flex, where-you-get-your-ideasIn another plot, another world, the older, balder Wally Sage (well, he was an avatar for Grant Morrison, so let’s have the hair missing) is being sued by the estate of Carlton Globe, mirroring the real-life legal battle between the Charles Atlas Estate and DC Comics. Sage finds himself driven to the brink by the proceedings, which seem to become more crazed and horrible every day, and finds himself digging up the grave of Carlton Globe, only to find no body in the casket…

And elsewhere, the sales of the Flex Mentallo comic are sagging, and a new wunderkind, by the name of Blake Reeves, is brought in to revitalize the book. If Wally Sage was Grant Morrison, the creator and original visionary of the property, then I must become a character as well, in the form of Reeves, with a little bit of Bendis and Millar and Meltzer thrown in. His new vision is to kill off Flex Mentallo and then end the series, only to reboot it with a new #1 and a fresh take on the character—much like the Ultimate line. As he puts the story out, it becomes real for Flex Mentallo.

Flex finds himself surrounded by heroes who begin to fight each other and reveal their secret identities to the world and kill their enemies and cry and cry the night away. Charlie takes him on in an epic battle that ends with Flex being reduced to the skinny, weak man he was before he discovered Muscle Mystery—and he shrivels up and dies in a fellow hero’s arms. Wally returns to court. The verdict comes down, and Flex Mentallo is condemned.

Reeves then debuts his new series, with the darker, suaver, leaner, meaner Flex Mentallo, filled with sex and violence and explosions. Something keeps slipping into the book, though, seemingly out of Reeves’ control—a villain with a planet for a head…

Wally Sage returns to his home, dejected, reading through old Flex Mentallo comics, reminiscing about the good times, wondering what’s going to happen… And then he sits, with a notepad, and doodles a new Flex comic. It’s simple, but it’s raw imagination. He finishes, looks up, and finds himself back in the Land of Where-You-Get-Your-Ideas.

Wally calls a meeting with the heads of the Globe family, and begins to talk to them. He tells them that ideas are stronger than laws, stronger than anything—and then, to demonstrate, he pulls out a light bulb, the symbolic representation of the idea. It shines in the light—and then the Globes find themselves transported into a different world, and surrounded by superheroes. He wasn’t Wally Sage at all—he was the Hoaxer, the bald villain from the first Flex mini, who helped transport the heroes to reality. All the heroes take off their masks, or even faces, and they’re all Wally Sage underneath.

Flex, Hoaxer

The Globes recoil, and snarl, and merge into one massive, frightening figure—a creature with Planet Earth for a head. The heroes team up against him, and then Flex Mentallo—the real Flex Mentallo—returns and flexes the crap out of him. The villain collapses, and his globe-head cracks down the middle. Flex leans over him, pitying the guy, and then the scene zooms down onto the globe-head and into Blake Reeves’ world. He thinks he’s going mad as the comics start talking to him, but then he comes face-to-face with Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery.

Flex tells Blake that he grew up reading the Flex comics, but the comics didn’t grow up with him. He tried to take the magic from his childhood and transform it to fit his adult sensibilities, but that it didn’t work. In his hand, Flex holds an old, homemade comic, one that Blake wrote and drew when he was a kid, featuring the “debut” of Flex’s sidekick. Flex explains the true origin of Charlie the Boy Bodybuilder—that he was Blake Reeves all along, the culmination of his childhood desire to insert himself into the narrative. Flex also tells him that maybe it’s time to put the old stories away, that causing them to retread over and over is what was hurting the modern comics. Flex realizes that’s why the world was bored of heroes—because they were of a different era, a different time, and they didn’t realize it was time for something new. “Why do a sequel to something that doesn’t need one?” Flex asks. “Maybe it’s time for something else. A new idea. Think about it.” He vanishes, leaving only Blake Reeves and his word processor.

Flex, being clever's a fine thing

The old heroes return to the land from whence they came, to the mind of Wally Sage. Flex “dies” again, “sacrificing” himself for the sake of the New. It’s time for the new world to find its new heroes, but if they ever need help—well, the old heroes are always waiting, and who knows? Maybe they’ll be back one day…

The End.

13 Comments

Hmm, that FLEX recap of yours got me thinking….

You know as much as I adore this 4 parter, there was something that irritated me after ive finished it.
Couldn’t really put my thumb on it back then..

I think I found the reason finally: FLEX is really a commentary on superhero history, a review really and actually less an (original) story as such.

Good stuff, Bill. I’d read it. You’d need someone of Quitely’s caliber to draw it, of course, although perhaps with a radically different style (at least for some of the worlds).

The message at the end is an important one, but I don’t know that telling people to create new concepts is really going to work. If you want the Big Two to get on board, you have to spell out how to make new characters profitable. If you can show them how to make money on new ideas, they’ll be much more prone to investing the time and man-power. Maybe end the series with Blake presenting the Carlton Globe Company a pitch — not unlike your own pitch — that lays out not only new characters and concepts but also how to monetize them. Add a dash of Robert Kirkman to the Bendis/Millar/Meltzer brew.

That is great, Bill. A real continuation. I’d buy it.

And what is with this lawsuit crap anyway? Half of a butt-load of money is still a butt-load of money. Just hope I sell my mint collection of the original Flex series before the first reprint is announced. What are they going for these days, anyway?

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm

@ The Mutt: e-bay’s selling a set for $130.00 the rest is single issues (and a few doom patrol appearances).

Wonder what’s the word, about Vertigo reprinting those “lost” issues?

Great pitch, it would be a must-read for me if you ever managed to get it published. I expect you would see some critcism of the early issues as being perhaps overly derivative of the original Flex Mentallo, but I think you address that point very elegantly in the conclusion.

The idea of needing something new reminds me of the ending to Final Crisis, and the whole “if your heroes can’t save you, think up something that can, and make it real.”

This would be a good follow-up, especially since it’s entirely unnecessary, but then most comics are, and that’s the whole point of the story itself. Perfect Flex-style brain twister

I see the bleeding cool story got you in another tizzy. Me too. I only have the first ish of Flex and it’s awesome. One of the coolest comics ever.

But this is an interesting idea. Which of course means it would never make it to DC.

“Wonder what’s the word, about Vertigo reprinting those “lost” issues?”

Apparently, there’s progress. At San Diego, Morrison said something about how he’s pretty sure it’s going to be resolved soon, and that’s the first time he’s ever said anything positive about it.

I bet they’ll release it, but they’ll charge a bit more for it.

There were theories over on Bleeding Cool when Rich featured a bit on reprinting Flex this past week that involved putting it in the Absolute WE3 edition. It’d be nice, and would make me definitely buy it (well, MORE definitely, I loves me some WE3), but it seems a bit unlikely.

I’m no legal expert, but I would think that if the Charles Atlas people didn’t sue when the Flex issues of DP were reprinted, DC could make the argument that they’re not pursing their claims against the character. Which I presume are something involving copyright infringement. If they are aware that DC has this character, and don’t want his stories reprinted, they need to speak up when they do get reprinted, or else, I would think, they’re not pursuing their claim aggressively enough.

But I also think the claim is BS, as it seems the character would either be satirical, or else it’s far enough removed that it’s something entirely different.

I just picked up issues 2, 3 and 4 from a back-issue bin for 50 cents each. Heady stuff. Now I just need to find issue #1.

Man, Mongrelman’s lucky. He’s got the 3 issues I need. Son of a…

So mongrelman, you send me 2,3 and 4, and I’ll never get around to sending you 1. Sounds fair, right :)

I’ve never read Flex Mentallo, I really want to but I’m not paying over a hundred dollars for four issues when hopefully it will get reprinted soon. I really hope it gets reprinted soon.

Awesome tagline by the way.

I’m an advocate of fans writing their own stories.
I think a renaissance of fan fiction could spill out into a creative and publishing renaissance.

Lets do it people!
Lets start a ‘zine!
Or a blog!
Or sit around late night under the pillow fort with our buddies, making up our own stories!

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