The Fly #11 (June, 1992)
“Which Way Out”
Writer – Len Strazewski
Pencils – Mike Parobeck
Inks – Paul Fricke
Letters – Bob Pinaha
Colors – Rick Taylor
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Inspired by – Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Cover Price: $1.25
From the Mixed-Up Files of C.M. Sheehan, I bring to you… The Fly? Yup, felt like just grabbing any old book to discuss today… and just reached into one of my many “Misc. DC” longboxes… and, here we are! And hey, it’s by our friends, Len and Mike… the Justice Society of America creative team!
Lookit that oddly-written cover copy… “This Girl’s Life–Do You Care?” C’mon, lose the attitude, cover… I don’t know the girl!
Will we know her… and/or care about her after reading this issue? Let’s find out!
We open with young Jason Troy about to be jammed into an iron maiden by an SS-suited woman and her hunchbacked assistant. Wow, we’re starting off hot! Only… not really, so much. This is just a doodle the real Jason is drawing in class. Yeah, we’ve all been there! Anyhoo, he is interrupted by his teacher, who tells him to save that kinda thing for art class. Gotta say, I feel bad for any kid who draws an iron maiden these days… they’d probably be expelled. They’d at least be sent to therapy. Anyhoo, we can see that one of Jay’s classmates looks pretty bummed out… we’ll come back around to her later.
The teacher goes on to give a lecture on the story of Samson and Delilah… which is interrupted by the arrival of, some goofy kid called Boober. He’s got a slip for young Master Troy, it would appear that the counselor wants to see him. Wow, word of the iron maiden doodle traveled fast!
Anyhoo… in Ms. Kriz’s office, Jason is chatted up by Lieutenant Odell. Counselor Kriz seems surprised that they already know one another. Odell is here to talk to Jason about… The Fly!
Ya see, Jason’s mother had called the police to tell them that Jason had gone missing for two days. Then The Fly allegedly brought Jason home, and reported to the police that the young boy helped him out on a mission. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Jason is The Fly. Just wanna make that clear.
Jason begins weaving a tale, starting with the fact that The Fly is actually a friend of his grandfather. Anyhoo, The Fly had asked for his help, and together they had one heck of an adventure… even involving the other heroes of the Impact! line of comics, The Crusaders! Long story short, they lost track of time, and before they knew it… two days had passed. Bingo-bango, Jason was dropped off at his doorstep.
Odell appears to be satisfied with this story… but then, the other shoe drops. He asks Jason if The Fly did anything… uh… inappropriate with him… as in, did he force young Jason to do anything he didn’t want to do. And, well…
After this, Jason is dismissed. Kriz and Odell contentiously chat for a bit. They’re both almost positive that Jason’s story has a few holes in it… and Kriz blames Odell for scaring Jason into lying. And so, he leaves. As he goes though, we can see that the next file on Kriz’s docket is that depressed-looking girl from earlier.
We rejoin Jason as he wonders whether or not the growed-ups bought his story. Ah, you sweet summer child. Either way, this facilitates a quick and dirty look at how he became The Fly to begin with… so, that’s a good thing. Turns out, it’s sort of a Captain Marvel deal, where a young fella turns into a super-powered adult.
Outside, Jason has a run-in with some bullies… and winds up getting tossed right into the depressed girl from earlier, sending the contents of his and her respective binders all ova da place!
We (or at least I) learn that this girl’s name is Rachel… and her behavior has changed severely over the last few months. She went from being the head of the school newspaper, to a short-tempered loner… who actually quit the paper by chucking a garbage can at the editor!
Later on, Jason is going through his binder when he realizes that he has some of Rachel’s papers… including, what looks to be a rough draft of … a suicide note!
Jason frets over what to do… and decides to ask his mother. Unfortunately she’s still ticked off about his disappearing act, and doesn’t even let him finish his question before exiling him to his room for two-hours of study time! Worth noting, his mom looks a lot like that girl who told us about Rachel a couple of pages back… only without the headband. Anyhoo… Jason “Fly’s up” and heads out.
Shortly, he arrives outside Rachel’s house… where it looks like she’s being plied with wine by her step-father. He overhears that Rachel’s mother is out of town on business… and won’t be back for a few days. This is the recipe for… a really bad time. Nothing is said outright… but, it’s pretty clear where this is headed.
The Fly… uh, flies away before being detected by dirtbag-daddy, and happens across a high-speed police chase. He figures, while he’s here, he may as well make himself useful. He wrangles the crooks and gets home just in time for dinner.
The following morning, Jason arrives at school… and he’s got some mixed emotions. He knows he probably should talk to Ms. Kriz about Rachel’s suicide note, yet at the same time, he doesn’t want to “rat her out”. That decision is just about to be taken out of his hands, however…
Ya see, Rachel locked herself in the bathroom, and isn’t responding to any of her friends. Jason sneaks off to suit up… then returns to bust into the bathroom. He finds Rachel curled up on the floor… with her wrist slashed!
He flies her to the hospital, and they are able to save her. The following day, Jason and her classmates are having an old-fashioned “rap session” with Ms. Kriz. They all question whether or not they should’ve (or could’ve) done more to help her.
It ends pretty high on the melancholy scale… plenty of tears, and almost a fourth-wall break, where Ms. Kriz addresses the reader directly… imploring us that, if we’re in a similar way (or know someone who is) not to wait to tell someone. Total missed opportunity to include a number to a hotline. It’s 1-800-273-8255 by the way.
So… this sure got dark after the staples, dinnit?
I’m having trouble even deciding where to start… I guess we should probably work backwards. So yeah, attempted suicide… a pretty heavy (and emotionally charged) subject. One that totally turned this issue on its ear. It came out of nowhere, which, has got to have been by design. I mean, as a human who crosses paths with many other humans on a daily basis, how often to we stop and consider what other people might be going though? Not very.
I feel like this was the case with Rachel. People who don’t know her (like Jason) just think she’s a jerk with a bad attitude. Her friends… well, they know she’s changed over the past little while… but she’s withdrawn from them, and they haven’t exactly been doing their best to find out why…
… we readers, however… know exactly why. It’s heavily alluded to here (so much so, I hate leaving it at “alluded”) that Rachel is the victim of sexual abuse from her step-father. It’s handled here very well… nothing graphic, but it’s abundantly clear what’s going on.
Does the story “land”, though? I’m not sure. The drastic shift in tone, which… again, might’ve been on purpose, really takes the “oomph” and sense of urgency out of the situation. It feels almost like a Degrassi Junior High story happening on Saved by the Bell… if that makes any sense? Like, it’s serious… and “issue of the monthy”, but there’s still this kinda innocence and hokeyness to it. Ya follow? It might just be me projecting… Mike Parobeck’s art really doesn’t make me think of “darker” subjects.
Continuing to work backwards… Jason talks to Kriz and Odell about his adventure with The Fly. The subject of abuse is brought up there too… but, again… it’s hard to take it as serious as it should be given the art style, and lemme tell ya, Jason saying “Are you asking me if The Fly is a pervert?” made me actually chuckle… which, in retrospect… is probably not the intended reaction. I swear I heard a “laugh track” though.
One more thing… I joked about it above, but… I gotta imagine that if, these days, a kid drew a picture of a Nazi tossing a kid into an iron maiden at school… they’d get, at the very least, a “talking to”. Growing up, I used to draw all sorts of comic booky pictures during class. No straight-up gore or anything, but I’m sure there were plenty of Liefeldian firearms and blades on my binder covers. I know I drew superhero battles and probably even had the Red Skull getting his butt kicked a time or two as well. I’m sure if I was a kid today, I’d be in so much therapy… or expelled… or both! Weird times, gang.
Overall… this was an interesting issue. It was also my first ever issue of The Fly (it’s been sitting in a longbox unread for probably twenty years now)… and I was actually able to follow it! Remember, this is back from when writers felt that sort of thing was important. I’d say it’s probably worth a look…