Charles Atlas vs. Flex Mentallo…

OK. There’s this writer called Grant Morrison, right? And he’s, like, absurdly talented and witty, and has been written about in academic tomes on postmodernity. His work sells in the hundreds of thousands of copies a month, and he may or may not have been the creative force behind The Matrix, depending on who you believe. He mainly writes comic books – pretty fucked-up comic books if the truth be told – about freakish superheroes, the nature of reality, anarchy, evolution, revolution and bald men, who wear leather and fight the establishment.

Way back in the mists of time, he also created this little character called Flex Mentallo, a character who literally leapt off the page. He was a poor skinny little boy, who had sand kicked in his face on the beach. His girlfriend thought he was pathetic and went off with the bully. He studied muscle building arts, and then his girlfriend wanted him back.

Any of this sound familiar? Charles Atlas Ltd. thought so (and rightly, since the comic strip follows almost exactly the Atlas comic strips of the seventies and eighties) and swiftly sued. And why did they sue? [“Sand Kicked in the Face of Charles Atlas”]

Because in Morrison’s version, “Mac” doesn’t just write off for some guides to muscle-building. Instead, he meets a strange man down a dark-alley who has a television instead of a forehead, whose arms trail cans of some kind and who is continually smoking three cigarettes. The man offers Mac the knowledge to make him a master of the arts of Muscle Mystery – and thus to be able to cloud men’s minds, look into other dimensions and generate a “Hero Halo” which hovers above him, saying “Hero of the Beach”. But above and beyond all this, what really pissed off Charles Atlas Ltd, was that when the cooing girlfriend turns around to Mac and says: “Oh Mac! You are a real man after all!”, he replies (while pushing her off him), “That’s right. I am a real man and I don’t need a tramp like you anymore!” (before wandering off into the sunset in his swimming trunks – Hero Halo a-blazing.”