12/10/2000: I've been remiss in putting up a reference to Will Brooker's very good paper on Flex.
12/09/2000: This site is cited in the judge's decision regarding Atlas vs. DC. Why am I always the last to find out about these things? The decision is pretty interesting; you might want to read it in its entirety.
9/16/2000: I'm probably the last source to publicize this, but litigation between DC Comics and the Charles Atlas company regarding Flex has apparently been resolved. There's never been a better time to get writing to ask for a trade paperback...
6/1/2000: I've gotten quite a few nice letters from readers, including this one full of great commentary from Ian Newman of Glasgow and another good one from Stephen Matthews. Both reference the panel that had completely stumped me, 2.13.5 (Barbelith! Of course!). I'll incorporate these comments into the site during the big upcoming revision, which ideally will make this site searchable and at minimum will involve cleaning up this miserable HTML.
1/18/2000: Overhauled the site this morning with new navbar and layout. If you come across any bugs or glitches, please email me.
1/17/2000: I've finally put a bibliography up. I'm mulling over the commentary section right now; I had originally intended to put my conference paper up there, but I'm now concerned that might raise issues in terms of publication and the dissertation. We'll see.
The Annotated Flex Mentallo: A Reading Guide is intended to make it easier for a general reader to appreciate what is a complicated but extremely worthwhile work.
Many better-received "graphic novels" have succeeded, I believe, because they lean more toward modes of narrative not necessarily endemic to superhero comic books. Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, both excellent works, take much of their influence from film and from fictional modes of "realism"; they attempt to make the superhero psychologically and socially comprehensible and provocative to a point of view outside of comic books, and for this reason they found praise from readers outside of the increasingly closed and coded world of comics fandom.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Flex Mentallo, on the other hand, does not place its heroes within a novelistic or realistic world--a linear world--but rather within a fragmentary matrix of parallel universes and alternate realities, within a wild and meta-aware history of comics itself. Flex Mentallo is a comic about comics; it revels in the traditions of superhero comic books--narrative, semiotic, and corporate alike--even as it critiques them. It is an absolutely brilliant work, but it is, in many ways, an "inside joke."
This site, then, hopes to provide background and commentary so that readers from a variety of contexts can "get in on" this extraordinary joke.
(Almost) all images in this site are thumbnails, reduced for your downloading pleasure. Click on the image to see a larger version.
References here are usually made in the format page.panel...that is, 9.2 means page nine, panel 2.
This is a strictly academic work, not for profit, and has no association with the creators of Flex Mentallo nor with DC Comics.
If you have any questions or comments, please email me.
A note: Flex Mentallo is currently unavailable as a mass market trade paperback; as a result, it is very difficult to locate the four-issue series. A paperback edition was planned and then scrapped; If you would like to get the text back on the market (and, really, you should), I urge you to write a polite but insistent letter to Vertigo, whether by email or by physical mail: