Meta-Messages – Bill Mantlo’s Bizarre Goodbye to Alpha Flight!
All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!
Erich, of the awesome comic book blog, Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat, suggested that I feature Bill Mantlo’s final issue of Alpha Flight, where one of the characters in the comic realize that they are in the comic and decide to fight back against the whims of his creator – Bill Mantlo!
Alpha Flight #66 was the final issue of Bill Mantlo’s run on the book. He wrote 37 issues, which was a longer run than the creator of the book, John Byrne.
Whitman Knapp was just a regular fellow who worked at the same hospital as Lionel Jeffries, brother of Madison Jeffries of Alpha Flight. Jeffries had the ability to manipulate organic matter. He eventually went nuts and fought Alpha Flight as the villain known as Scramble. When Knapp tried to intervene in a plot by Jeffries to attack Alpha Flight, Jeffries used his powers on Knapp. The resulting stress unleashed Knapp’s hidden mutant abilities – he was able to summon three relatives of himself from three different points in human history – two ancient ancestors and one futuristic descendant: a primordial pile of goop, a cave man and a futuristic being with powers. Knapp could basically control these three “relatives,” although it was more a matter of them looking to him for guidance than any specific control over them.
Since they were his “kin,” Knapp took the name Manikin. Yes, I know, I know. Moving on…
In any event, in Alpha Flight #66, the book opens with the caption “In this issue…an Alphan dies!” Well, Manikin takes issue with this and begins to converse directly with Bill Mantlo…
The rest of the issue is therefore a battle of wills between Mantlo and Manikin as Mantlo attempts all sorts of manipulations to force Manikin to follow Mantlo’s plot, including threatening to kill a different member of Alpha Flight in Manikin’s place. It is really an interesting plot.
I presume this issue can be picked up pretty cheaply – it is worth giving a read to see all the later scenes between Manikin and Mantlo (the art is by Hugh Haynes and Gerry Talaoc, by the way).