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Adventures of the Fly 5
"Return of the Spider! etc."

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND March 1960 Archie Adventure Series Comics; Richard Goldwater, editor (?) The cover has the Fly stuck by his feet to a big tray of flypaper as a criminal gloats "Now you're at my mercy!" and the caption declares, "Even a human fly is vulnerable to fly paper-- how will Tommy Troy, the Fly, escape? I't's a thriller!"

This is a transition issue for Archie Comics' leading entry in the early Silver Age superhero race. The Fly was created by the briefly reunited team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Kirby left after issue #2 and Simon put the next two issues together with other artists, then he too departed, leaving the Archie folks scrambling-- it would appear from this issue-- to find someone who could handle superhero art. The Archie/Mighty superhero comics index appearing in THE COMIC READER #200 (April 1982) credits the art on this issue, including the cover, to Bob White. I'm not very familiar with White's career, but I'm guessing he was a regular Archie artist who was pressed into service here. He tries hard, but there's a general feeling that at any moment the Fly may sprout red hair and start buzzing after Betty and Veronica. The scripter here is unidentified-- it doesn't read much like Robert Bernstein, who took over the series a few issues later.

The lead story is "Return of the Spider!" and the splash panel shows a floppy-winged Fly choking and floundering as the Spider directs his henchmen to shoot a cloud of "poisonous insecticide" at our insectoid hero. "I-I can't breathe! I can't b-beat my wings! I'm powerless!" As the story begins, "a young man reaches a milestone in his life," as budding attorney Thomas Troy hangs out his shingle. Now wait a minute.... when we last saw the Fly in issue #4, his alter ego was Tommy Troy, a Billy Batson-like orphan boy who rubbed his Fly Ring to become the adult Fly. It seems more than two months have elapsed since the last issue. Anyway, for his first job, attorney Thomas Troy takes the case of a would-be movie scriptwriter who claims that sci-fi movie producer T. C. Krall stole his rejected script to make the movie "The Monster Merman". Troy compares the script with the "Merman" movie and concludes his client has a case, so he goes to Krall's studio to confront the producer. There he is impressed by Krall's mechanical special effects, such as robot dragonflies and wind tunnels destroying model cities. Krall, who has a long hooked nose and sinister-looking little mustache, seems oddly familiar to Thomas Troy, but "the man you sound like isn't around anymore!" Surprisingly, Krall readily agrees to pay $10,000 to settle Troy's client's claim for the use of his script. Asked by a puzzled confederate why he gave in so easily, Krall explains, "I don't want any trouble with the law! It's worth $10,000 to avoid unfavorable publicity!" But he seems to have more in mind than just making monster movies; "I've built up this movie front for three years! Now I'm ready-- with all my ingenious machines-- to make millions! I want no legal troubles to throw suspicion on us!"

Meanwhile, leaving the studio, Thomas Troy is convinced that Krall's voice is that of the villainous Spider. "But I put him in prison years ago!" He resolves to check the document Krall gave him for fingerprints and finds that they match the Spider's prints....but, according to a call to State Prison, the Spider is still safely ensconced there. Reminded for the first time in years of his superheroic career, Thomas Troy begins to reminisce; "Nine long years ago the Fly retired and the Fly became a legend to the police and underworld alike!" He recalls how, as orphan Tommy Troy, he found a strange fly-shaped ring, put it on,and was greeted by an apparition of "Turan, emissary of the Fly World," whose people had been searching for "one person pure of heart to wage our crusade against injustice on Earth!" Upon rubbing the magic ring and saying "Shaz--" er, "I wish I were the Fly!", Tommy is transformed into a costumed adult with all the powers of the insect kingdom. However, after a colorful but apparently short career, he put the Fly Ring away-- "Putting the Spider in prison was my last act as the boy who became the Fly! I wanted to become a lawyer so I could fight for justice in the courtroom too! But now I know that's not enough! The Fly must come out of retirement!" Retrieving the Fly Ring from a safe in his "secret laboratory," Troy muses, "I haven't worn this magic ring in nine years! Now it will never leave my finger!" Making the transformation to the Fly, he buzzes to State Prison where he presents the Spider in his cell with a strange electronic box he created... and discovers, as he suspected, that the imprisoned Spider is actually a robot the Spider created in the prison machine shop and left in his place. (Do you suppose comic book prison wardens will ever learn not to give their mechanical genius type inmates occupational therapy?) The Fly proceeds to Krall's movie studio where his shocked henchmen gasp, "I-I'm seeing things! The ghost of the Fly!" but the Spider himself is prepared as he catches our hero between a pair of giant mechanical flyswatters. "This is the happiest day of my life! This is the day the Fly died!" Not quite, for the Fly has burrowed through the ground "like a cicada" and escaped. Next the Fly is caught in a giant metallic spider web created for the "Robot Dragonfly" movie, but he escapes that by generating a vibration from his Buzz Gun. Next, the Spider and this thugs catch the Fly on a surface of sticky flypaper, but he blinds them with his firefly radiance long enough to flutter free of his stuck boots. But the Spider is not done yet, for he and his henchmen don gas masks and bombard the Fly with clouds of deadly insecticide. But the dying Fly stumbles into the movie studio's wind tunnel and accidentally activates the giant fan, which "accelerates his heartbeat and revives him" as well as dissipating the bug bomb and knocking Spider and his gang down. Shortly afterwards, Thomas Troy surveys a newspaper headline revealing that the Spider is back in prison and the Fly is back to stay in the fight against crime.

Apparently, once Simon and Kirby left the series, the Archie editors decided that their hero needed a more conventional adult alter ego rather than the boyish Tommy Troy.

The next story is "The Fly Meets The Bat!" Considering it's been reported that their superhero series "Double Life of Private Strong" (aka the Shield) was brought to a quick end by DC Comics' objections to similarities between the Shield's origin and that of Superman, you'd think Archie would have been more careful of treading on DC's cape again. But anyway.... the splash panel depicts the Fly crouching helpless on the ground while the greenish, flying Bat escapes with a stolen safe. "What evil power is preventing me from pursuing and capturing the Bat? Here I lie, helpless, while the Bat enjoys another night of law-breaking!" On his way home, Thomas Troy is halted by police who are trying to stop a "drunken fool" from leaping off a bridge. He realizes that only the Fly can save the man, and catches him as he jumps. The inebriated one tells his story... it seems he was once a Korean War pilot who lost his nerve, but an old gypsy woman sold him a magic charm for $50 that would make him "fly like a bird" again, and he was so drunk he thought he could literally fly without an airplane. The Fly blames the "magic charm" as well as the man's alcoholism for the near-tragedy, and resolves, "Some day I'll bring those rotten peddlars of black magic to justice!" His chance comes sooner than he thinks, as he takes a legal client, newspaper reporter Ed Dorne, who was caught red-handed committing burglaries, but insists he has no remembrance of his crimes. Dorne fears he has developed a Jekyll-and-Hyde split personality. But in investigating his client's activities, Thomas Troy discovers that Dorne was "working on an article exposing voodoo fakers" before turning to crime. Troy starts his own investigation, visiting a voodoo practitioner who offers him a doll to destroy his enemies, a maker of magic potions made of strange ingredients-- "No sale, buddy! I'm allergic to crocodile teeth!"-- and a candle maker whose colored candles supposedly grant wishes. The candle shop is invaded by thugs who tell the shopkeeper that the boss who supplies his wares is demanding a bigger share of his income. Troy turns into the Fly and hauls the thugs off to jail, and warns the police of the existence of a ring of voodoo racketeers. Determined to catch the ringleader, Troy studies Dorne's notes and then the Fly invades the lair of "Kokau, high priest of voodoo", who is actually "Rocky Diamond, gangster chief". The Fly declares "Everybody is under arrest! Voodoo rituals are against the law!", and then the ACLU files a lawsuit against the Fly for violating the voodoo believers' freedom of religion. Well, no, not really, though that might happen in real life. But it seems there is yet another mastermind still free...Madame Lola, the gypsy fortuneteller who warned Dorne that he would turn to evil. "In my case she sure had supernatural powers!" "There's no such thing! That's what's so evil about these rackets! They encourage people to believe in sorcery!" So says the man who uses a magical Fly Ring to become a supernatural insect-powered being....

The Fly confronts the obese and sinister Madame Lola and is warned by her, "Doom lies ahead! You will be destroyed by a ruthless enemy, the Bat! Any good you accomplish by day, the Bat will accomplish by night!" The Fly sneers at Lola's prediction, but, sure enough, that night the flying, super-powered Bat makes an appearance and rescues Rocky Diamond, crashing through the jail walls. Then the Bat frees Diamond's henchmen and goes on a crime spree, stealing loot which he shares with Diamond and his gang. Each night the Bat commits a new outrage, and each day the Fly tries and fails to find any trace of this new menace. The Police Commissioner complains that the Fly is useless in the fight against the Bat, for he vanishes at night when the Bat is active. "But that's crazy, Commissioner! I'm out every night looking for the Bat!" But there's no evidence of this; "The Bat has all your powers-- and you're afraid to battle him!", the commissioner accuses. Meanwhile, reporter Dorne, still in prison, fears Diamond will send the Bat to kill him. Going back to see Mme. Lola, the Fly hears her prediction, "Tonight you die, Fly! Right in this room!" and seemingly despairs; "Then I am doomed! For all your predictions have come true!" That night, obeying Diamond's orders, the Bat breaks into jail, kidnaps Dorne, and brings him to Diamond's lair which he shares with Mme. Lola. Diamond declares that the Bat has stolen enough loot for him and now he will leave town....but the Bat answers, "You're going nowhere, Rocky!" The voodoo gangsters are suddenly blinded by the light of a human firefly emanating from the Bat. "This afternoon I realized why the Fly and the Bat could never meet!" (contradicting the title of the story) Mme. Lola had hypnotized the Fly into adopting the criminal guise of the Bat, just as she earlier hypnotized Dorne into taking up crime. But the Fly broke the spell once he realized what had happened, and now he removes his Bat outfit and calls in the commissioner and his cops to finish rounding up the Diamond and Lola gang.

The last story in the issue is "The Fly Versus Thomas Troy!" in which attorney Troy finds himself trying to defend an accused criminal, Tony Tyson, whom the Fly is determined to see convicted of "a hundred crimes". A murdered hoodlum. Mike Grogan, is found clutching a gold chain with Tyson's name on it and with a death threat from Tyson in his pocket. Grogan's brother Red, a fellow gangster, has disappeared, possibly out of fear for his life. But Tyson insists that he is being framed, though he claims that due to amnesia he has no alibi for the time of the murder. The superstitious Tyson picks Thomas Troy as his lawyer because they share the same initials, and Troy agrees to defend Tyson after a lie detector test suggests he is innocent. (Apparently Troy doesn't subscribe to the legal ethic that even guilty clients are entitled to a legal defense.) Trying to identify the real killer, Troy concludes that Tyson's former gangland partner, Little Pete Porter, has a motive both to eliminate the rival Grogan brothers and to put Tyson out of the way so that he can take over all the rackets himself. A possible lead appears when showgirl Karen Morse calls Troy and offers information about Tyson. But as she approaches Troy's home, she is captured by Porter's hoods. The Fly rescues her and she reveals to him that she saw Tyson the night of the murder at the Shangri-La Club, far from the waterfront where the crime occurred. But she also saw Tyson and Porter with a strange trunk and started to wonder if it had something to do with the disappearance of Red Grogan. The Fly suspects that Red Grogan was inside the trunk.

Karen Morse's alibi gets Tyson acquitted in court, but after the trial she contacts both Porter and Tyson and demands $50,000 from each of them not to tell the police what else she knows. Troy promises Karen that the Fly will be on hand to help snare the two gangsters in the trap they have set, and also uses his "power of instinctive telepathic communication with the insect world" to locate the mysterious theatrical trunk. Porter and Tyson both show up to kill Karen, and Tyson realizes that Porter double-crossed him by framing him for the murder of Mike Grogan-- knowing that he could not provide an alibi for the killing of one Grogan brother because he was actually killing the other one at the same time. The two gangsters agree to join forces to kill the "blackmailing" Karen, but the Fly wraps them in a cocoon and turns them over to the police, and then follows a lead from his insect friends to find the vital evidence, the sunken trunk holding Red Grogan's body. Both men go to prison-- "I did my duty defending Tyson when he was falsely accused of Red Grogan's murder! Now let him be punished for the murder he did commit!"(If I'm following all this right, the scripter or the letterer got confused-- it was Mike that Tyson originally got framed for, not Red) - and Karen Morse takes a job as Thomas Troy's secretary, secretly hoping this will give her another opportunity to meet the Fly.