The Fly #5-7
Written by Steve Ditko & Robin Snyder
Illustrated by Steve Ditko
Lettered by Bill Yoshida
Colored by Tom Ziuko (#5), Barry Grossman (#6-7)
For those of you wondering why the first four issues of The Fly bit hard, editor Robin Snyder offers an explanation in the letter column of issue #7 - apparently the first four issues consisted of old inventory stories.1 Why anyone at Archie would think that launching a new line of superhero comics with decades-old inventory stories would be a good idea is beyond me. Is it any wonder that their superheroes consistently fail?
With issue #5, the inventory stories are gone and Snyder and Ditko are writing all the stories. And you know what? There's a marked improvement. Tom Troy starts to develop an actual personality - too proud to accept the help of others, too optimistic to turn his back on a world that hates him, clever and quick witted but also overeager and impulsive. Not the most original set-up, really, but it's well done and the stories are engaging.
Artistically, Ditko starts off the first issue with an amazing splash page...
That's a lovely type of image that you don't see a lot in comics any more - a nice, high-perspective shot that's an actual story page rather than a space-wasting pin-up image. The Fly's pose is a bit awkward but forms a concave basket that directs you to the real point of interest, the two figures standing in the street light at the bottom of the picture. The Fly and the street light are the only splashes of bright color on the page, with everything else being draped in dark, cool or neutral colors. The word balloons are artfully placed, starting in the upper left-hand corner with the next one being placed under the Fly's legs, where your attention is naturally drawn by the curve of his body. Ditko's drawing is also amazing - the Fly's musculature is superbly defined and exquisitely shadowed, and those undulating waves are obtained with some wonderfully textured inking.
The story for this issue is serviceable - Tom Troy is involved in a patent law case2 when a supervillain (with the lame-o power of extensible arms) starts intimidating witnesses and the Fly needs to get involved. What's more interesting is a left-field plot development - Tom Troy is disbarred for attempting to bribe a witness. Now, we all know that he isn't guilty, but unfortunately the only potential witness accidentally dies and Tom's got no way to prove it.
The next issue sets up a new status quo for the Fly - Tom Troy set up show as a professional problem solver, using the Fly's abilities to help . Not really the most heroic set-up, but it's one that allows plots to come to the Fly rather than vice-versa. It's also becomes clear that Ditko's using the Fly as a mouthpiece for his own brand of Objectivist morality. Here's a few panels of Objectivism-tinted dialogue from issue #6...
This is actually pretty toned-down for Ditko - when he's in Objectivist mode he usually lays it on with a trowel. This may be Objectivism, but he's still couching it in terms of standard superhero tropes which helps it go down smoothly.
But enough of that. So we've got an exciting new status quo and actual personality for the Fly, some stellar art and a new take on superhero morality, all of which are injecting some life into the series. So what's next?
You got it. The Fly was cancelled with issue #9.
- Also, Robin Snyder runs one of the strangest letter columns I've ever read. Over the course of the series he: calls long-time letterhack T.M. Maple an idiot; brushes off all criticism as either untimely, irrelevant, or pedantic; and even runs down the hero of his own comic as silly and anachronistic. Oh, and wastes half of one column with a brief history of the Canadian Football League. I'm not saying every letter column needs to be all hugs and smiles, but this is just bizarre.
- I really want to know what type of law Tom Troy practices. In issue #4 he's a defense attorney in a criminal case in California, and in this issue he's representing one side in a patent law case in New York. There's not a lot of overlap in those disciplines...