Here’s two epilogues (one old, one new) as part three of my ‘Morrison’s Muscle Mystery Versus Everyday Reality… and Other Parallel Worlds!’ from Routledge’s 2008 anthology The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero. Here’s part one. Here’s part two.
In 2005, Grant Morrison was appointed as the DC Universe ‘revamp guy’: a creative consultant who helps to revise older, out of date characters to bring them back to popularity. This played into this year’s Infinite Crisis miniseries (2005-06), a sort-of-sequel to the original Crisis On Infinite Earths. The last page of Infinite Crisis #1 (2005) was packed tight with Muscle Mystery. Here, the long-forgotten, long-overwritten Superman from Earth-2 came back into current comic book reality using his own kind of ‘superhero poetry’ – punching not just through space, or time, but physically shattering the continuity barrier itself!
And the shockwave of this blow shifted continuity for other heroes, too. There was only one who mattered to me. Continuity, you see, fragmented around a member of the current Doom Patrol in a double-page splash in a crossover issue with the Teen Titans (#32, 2006). It showed us all their previous incarnations thrust back into the present: shards of the recent, rebooted Doom Patrol; pieces of the 1960s originals; moments clipped from Morrison’s strange, ludicrous, heartbreaking run. And hidden within this mosaic – tucked away so you can’t make out a face – one thing’s impossible to miss:
Familiar, skintight, leopard-print trunks, framed with beach as background.
That’s how I ended this piece when it was originally published. Now it’s 2012, and Flex Mentallo is finally back in print. The colours of the comic have been unexpectedly redone for its new edition, however, and the vivid dayglow of Flex’s worlds has been replaced with grim blues and greys.
(It also had the unfortunate effect of ‘whitewashing’ some minor characters. Accidental, I think, but still depressing, and happens pretty regularly in comics.)
In this great Mindless Ones piece, they say this new colour scheme manages to show us Flex “through the eyes of a Flex who has been dosed with a previously undiscovered sixth form of Mentallium, ‘Grey Mentallium’, a lump of dull moon rock that shows you all of life’s possibilities as filtered through the PRISM OF ADULT DISAPPOINTMENT. And hey, maybe it’s only fitting that you find yourself freshly disappointed while reading your favourite superhero comic about how your perception of superhero comics change as you get older.”
It makes a horrible, monkey’s-paw sort of sense that this is the price Flex pays for his resurrection. To sit on our dusty, real world bookshelves again he must sacrifice some of his otherworldly optimism. This is what it takes to have his story read once more.
As Morrison has a character announce in his half-empty / half-full conclusion of Animal Man: “And every time someone reads our stories, we live again.” (Animal Man #24, 1990).