Dear Ghost Factory. What Should I Read?
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
As a man in his last throws of life lies helpless and alone in an alley with nothing but a toy-car wireless telephone (minus the batteries) to share his life story with, the rain beats down furiously. Surrounded by pills and medications to abuse in an attempt to bring about his own demise, Wallace Sage recounts how he arrived at this point and recalls all his magnificent creations over the years between the panels of comics. A judge made of melting candle wax, a trench coat wearing faceless crime fighter named the Fact, an folded origami figure thief, a gang of villains with billiard ball helmets attacking heroes with malleable giant numbers (literally), a giant killer robot with interchangeable rotating heads each with a different influence, as well as a man of mystery with the ability to fold reality in on itself by flexing his muscles; All of these miraculous imaginings and many more burst from the comics page and become heroes in our world all searching for meaning and trying to stop the rising threat of the Legion of Legions. A multitude of caped avengers burst through the sky in droves as a man becomes cosmically aware after injecting a mysterious fluid into his veins. An infinite amount of versions of Flex, the man of Muscle Mystery, exist parallel to us and beyond comprehension. Fredrich Wertham’s worst nightmare resides in underground caves as horrifying superhero orgies occur. The Seduction of the Innocent teems endlessly under our feet but Sage’s creations have become corporeal to save us. During all this nonsensical mayhem we follow Wally as his worlds collide and he is taken by the hand and guided into his own mind to discover the reason for his creation and the importance of heroes in these dark times.
Look for the Man in the Moon.
It all comes back to the fishbowl.
Flex Mentallo was the first collaboration between Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly on Vertigo and it remains one of their most hopeful and passionate tales of the powers of fiction, the importance of ideas and the humanism inherent in the creation of the superhero. We get to visit the mind (again, literally) of a writer and understand his motivations for the stories he creates, understand his vision of a better world and how these tales can truly save us all. Morrison delivers the starting point for what became his meta-trilogy followed by The Invisibles and The Filth (Flashfact’s April Book of the Month) with an opus painting a beautiful picture of how he truly feels about the genre, medium and concept of the “supergod” in Flex Mentallo. The narrative is non-linear with past, present and future colliding simultaneously as Wally lies in an alley speaking with seemingly no one on the other line, as well as being led through a rocky region overlooking Earth with his childhood self as the leader meanwhile another Wallace Sage exists somewhere and somewhen writing and creating all these universes to share adventure tales of compassion and justice. Not to mention another childhood incarnation of Sage following one of his own creations to where the ideas are made which he finds inside his brain.
Take a deep breath… It only gets more confusing from there
The complexity and convoluted nature of plot and delivery is only possible in the hands of a writer like Morrison as he has continuously proved over the years with mind-bending science fiction like the other projects previously mentioned and many more. His resume needs not be mentioned as if you are reading comics I’m sure the name is familiar to you. You will need to re-read this 4 issue mini-series a few times before you finally feel comfortable with all the layers and dense, complicated storytelling but you will not be disappointed during a single read through.
Frank Quitely is a hero in his own art and delivers a perfect compliment to the over the top, out of control nature of the this book and as a result has collaborated many other times with Morrison in his quest to make your brain do pushups and your head ache never before so wonderfully in comics like All-Star Superman, WE3 (another “Dear, Ghost Factory. What Should I Read?” entry), JLA, New X-Men, The Invisibles and Batman & Robin. His work speaks for itself with style revered in the industry and a hyper-detailed pencil work that takes your breath away with every new panel. Never before has such intentionally elaborate and honestly, enjoyably tortuous fiction been drawn in comics and I commend Quitely as one of the best artists working today. Make sure to go out of your way to pick up his upcoming project with Mark Millar in September called Jupiter’s Children as you can rest easy knowing he is involved in a comics project.
The best way to comprehend or piece together all the radical ideas put forth on the pages of this collection is to read, then re-read, then re-re-read Flex Mentallo yourself as in my opinion some of the best fiction is ambiguous and textured in a way where there can be multiple interpretations to every line of dialogue or event or ending. The new Deluxe edition with back matter by the creative team is available through Vertigo Comics and I highly recommend taking the plunge into the demented mind of Morrison as depicted by Quitely.
Get your Advil ready because your head is about to explode… But you will thank me for it.