Michael L. Fleisher|
November 1, 1942
|Jonah Hex, Spectre|
Early life and career
Fleisher was raised in New York City. His parents divorced when he was four years old, and Fleisher developed the foundation of his later Western writing by spending Saturdays with his visiting father at Western movie double features. "I saw two Westerns every Saturday for years," Fleisher recalled in 2010. "So it wasn't very hard to write [Westerns] at all."
Fleisher wrote three volumes of The Encyclopedia of Comic Books Heroes, doing some research on-site at DC Comics. He started comic book scripting in 1972, co-writing with Lynn Marron the full-issue supernatural story "Death at Castle Dunbar" in DC's Secrets of Sinister House #5 (July 1972). He co-wrote supernatural short stories with Maxene Fabe in DC's House of Mystery, and a solo story in the companion title House of Secrets #111 (Sept. 1973). Collaborating with Russell Carley, who provided art breakdowns Fleisher's scripts, Fleisher wrote seven stories for those titles and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion late in 1973. Fleisher scripted the Steve Ditko-created Shade, the Changing Man series in 1977-1978. Fleisher made several contributions to the Batman mythos in the early 1980s. He reintroduced the Crime Doctor in Detective Comics #494 (Sept. 1980), co-created the Electrocutioner in Batman #331 (Jan. 1981), and wrote the origin of the Penguin in The Best of DC #10 (March 1981).
After becoming, variously, an assistant editor and an associate editor under Joe Orlando on the DC humor series Plop! and the superhero anthology series Adventure Comics, Fleisher, with Carley's script-breakdown assistance, began writing the feature "The Spectre" in the latter title. Beginning with the 12-page "The Wrath of ... the Spectre" in issue #431 (Feb. 1974), Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo went on to produce 10 stories of the supernatural avenger through issue #440 (July 1975) (without Carley's assistance toward the end) that became controversial for what was considered gruesome, albeit bloodless, violence. As comics historian Les Daniels observed, the character, created during the 1940s Golden Age and briefly revived in the late 1960s,
...got a new lease on life after Orlando was mugged and decided the world needed a really relentless super hero. The character came back with a vengeance ... and quickly became a cause of controversy. Orlando plotted the stories with writer Michael Fleisher, and they emphasized the gruesome fates of criminals who ran afoul of the Spectre. The Comics Code had recently been liberalized, but this series pushed its restrictions to the limit, often by turning evildoers into inanimate objects and then thoroughly demolishing them. Jim Aparo's art showed criminals being transformed into everything from broken glass to melting candles, but Fleisher was quick to point out that many of his most bizarre plot devices were lifted from stories published decades earlier."
Fleisher wrote DC Comics' Jonah Hex character for more than a dozen years, beginning in 1974 in Weird Western Tales (taking over from the character's creator, John Albano), then from 1977 to 1985 in the character's self-titled comic. A sequel series, Hex (1985–1987) transported the character into a postapocalyptic setting, making him the lead in a science-fiction feature.
Controversy and later career
Writer Harlan Ellison in a 1979 interview praised Fleisher's comics work, while also describing Fleisher and his work as "crazy", "certifiable", "twisted", "derange-o", "bugfuck", and a "lunatic". He also claimed that a Publishers Weekly review called Fleisher's novel Chasing Hairy "the product of a sick mind", and that Fleisher's Spectre run on Adventure Comics had been discontinued by DC Comics because the company "realized they had turned loose a lunatic on the world." While Ellison stated that some of what he was claiming was said "in some humor", Fleisher, saying his "business reputation has been destroyed" and believing he was falsely portrayed as insane, filed a $2 million libel suit against Ellison, publisher Gary Groth and the magazine in which the interview appeared, The Comics Journal. The case came to court in 1986, and resulted in a verdict for the defendants.
Afterward, Fleisher attended college in New York City from 1987 to 1991, while also writing for the British comics magazine 2000 AD. Leaving the comics field that year, he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for graduate school at the University of Michigan, spending from 1994 to 1996 researching his Ph.D thesis on commercialized cattle theft in Tanzania while living for two years near Nairobi. He then spent a year in New York writing his dissertation and earned a doctorate in anthropology. After that, he worked as a "freelance anthropological consultant carrying out research assignments for humanitarian organizations in the developing world."
- The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume One: Batman (Collier Books, 1976, ISBN 0-02-080090-8) (DC Comics, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4012-1355-8)
- The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume Two: Wonder Woman (Collier Books, 1976, ISBN 0-02-080080-0) (DC Comics, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4012-1365-7)
- The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume Three: Superman (a.k.a. The Great Superman Book: The Complete Encyclopedia of the Folk Hero of America (Warner Books, 1978, hardback ISBN 0-517-53677-3, paperback ISBN 0-446-87494-9) (DC Comics, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4012-1389-3)
- Chasing Hairy (St. Martin's Press, 1979, ISBN 0-312-13139-9)
- Kuria Cattle Raiders: Violence and Vigilantism on the Tanzania/Kenya Frontier (University of Michigan Press, 2000, hardback ISBN 0-472-11152-3, paperback 0-472-08698-8)
- Shambler: An Insider's Novel of the Comic Book World (iUniverse, 2008) ISBN 0-595-48071-3, ISBN 978-0-595-48071-5
- The Brute #1–2 (1975)
- The Grim Ghost #1–2 (1975)
- Ironjaw #1–3 (1975)
- Morlock 2001 #1–2 (1975)
- Weird Suspense featuring The Tarantula #1–2 (1975)
- 1st Issue Special #7 (Creeper) (1975)
- Advanced Dungeons and Dragons #1–4 (1988–1989)
- Adventure Comics #431–440 (Spectre) (1974–1975)
- Batman #265, 331 (1975–1981)
- The Best of DC #10, 22 (1981–1982)
- The Brave and the Bold #166, 180 (1980–1981)
- Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 (1978)
- DC Special Series #16, 21 (1978–1980)
- Detective Comics #494-496 (1980)
- Elvira's House of Mystery Special #1 (1987)
- Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #13–15 (1973–1974)
- Haywire #1–13 (1988–1989)
- Heroes Against Hunger #1 (1986)
- Hex #1–18 (1985–1987)
- House of Mystery #205, 210, 212, 215, 218–222, 224–225, 227–228, 230, 233–234, 237, 239, 242, 246, 249, 253–254, 256 (1972–1978)
- House of Secrets #111–112, 114, 118–119, 123, 128–129, 131–133, 135, 145 (1973–1977)
- Jonah Hex #1–12, 16–92 (1977–1985)
- Justice League of America #242 (M.A.S.K. insert preview) (1985)
- Little Shop of Horrors #1 (1986)
- M.A.S.K. #1–4 (1985–1986)
- M.A.S.K. vol. 2 #1–9 (1987)
- Phantom Stranger vol. 2 #32, 38–41 (1974–1976)
- Power Lords #1–3 (1983–1984)
- Sandman #2–6 (1975–1976)
- Secret Origins vol. 2 #16 (The Warlord), #21 (Jonah Hex) (1987)
- Secrets of Haunted House #13 (1978)
- Secrets of Sinister House #5, 14–15 (1972–1973)
- Shade, the Changing Man #1–8 (1977–1978)
- Sinister House of Secret Love #4 (1972)
- Spiral Zone #1–4 (1988)
- Star Trek #38 (1987)
- Time Warp #1 (1979)
- The Unexpected #152 (1973)
- The Warlord #100–133, Annual #5–6 (1985–1988)
- Weird Mystery Tales #10, 15, 22–24 (1974–1975)
- Weird War Tales #41, 88, 102 (1975–1981)
- Weird Western Tales #22–44, 59 (1974–1979)
- The Witching Hour #44 (1974)
- Wrath of the Spectre #4 (1988)
- The Amazing Spider-Man #220 (1981)
- Captain America #236 (1979)
- Conan the Barbarian #150–163, 165–171, 223, 225, Annual #9 (1983–1989)
- Daredevil #162 (1980)
- Ghost Rider #36–66 (1979–1982)
- G.I. Joe Special Missions #27 (1989)
- Man-Thing vol. 2 #1–3 (1979–1980)
- Marvel Fanfare #36 (1988)
- Marvel Super Special #21 (Conan the Barbarian), #35 (Conan the Destroyer) (1982–1984)
- Savage Sword of Conan #61–63, 65, 71, 73, 75–104, 106–109, 111–112 (1981–1985)
- Spider-Woman #21–32 (1979–1980)
- Star Trek #10 (1981)
- What If...? #28 (1981)
- Junker (with John Ridgway)
- "Junker Part 1" (in 2000 AD #708-716, 1990–1991)
- "Junker Part 2" (in 2000 AD #724-730, 1991)
- Rogue Trooper: "The Arena of Long Knives" (with Kev Walker, in 2000 AD Yearbook 1992, 1991)
- Rogue Trooper (Friday):
- "Circus Daze" (with John Hicklenton, in Rogue Trooper Annual 1991, 1990)
- "Golden Fox Rebellion" (with Ron Smith, in 2000 AD #712-723, 1991)
- "Saharan Ice Belt War" (with Simon Coleby, in 2000 AD #730-741, 1991)
- "Apocalypse Dreadnought" (with Ron Smith, in 2000 AD #780-791, 1992)
- "Scavenger of Souls Prologue" (with Simon Coleby, in 2000 AD #850-851, 1993)
- "Scavenger of Souls" (with Chris Weston, in 2000 AD #873-880, 1994)
- Harlem Heroes: "Cyborg Death Trip" (with pencils by Kev Hopgood and inks by Stewart Johnson (931-932) and Siku (933-939), in 2000 AD #928-939, 1995)
- Wrath of the Spectre collects Adventure Comics #431–440, 200 pages, June 2005, ISBN 978-1401204747
- Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Volume 1 includes Weird Western Tales #22–33, 526 pages, November 2005, ISBN 978-1401207601
- Essential Spider-Woman
- The Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 1 collects Shade, the Changing Man #1–8 and Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2, 480 pages, September 2011, ISBN 1-4012-3111-X
- Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide. Iola, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on October 30, 2010.
- "Autumn Funeral and Cremation Services | Funeral Home Portland Oregon (OR)". www.autumn-funerals-cremation.com. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
- Bails, Jerry (2006). "Fleisher, Mike". Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "Michael Fleisher interview". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (42): 5. August 2010.
- Michael Fleisher at the Grand Comics Database
- See, for instance, House of Mystery #218 (Oct. 1973): "The Abominable Ivy" at the Grand Comics Database
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Steve Ditko returned to mainstream comics with Shade, the Changing Man. Joined by writer Michael Fleisher, Ditko unveiled the story of Rac Shade, a secret agent-turned-fugitive from the extra-dimensional world of Meta.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dougall, Alastair, ed. (2014). "1980s". Batman: A Visual History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 137. ISBN 978-1465424563.
Not glimpsed since the Golden Age of comics, Bradford Thorne, alias the Crime Doctor, made his return in the lead story of this issue by guest writer Michael Fleisher and artist Don Newton.
- Manning "1980s" in Dougall, p. 138: "Plotted by Batman's new regular writer Marv Wolfman with dialog by Michael Fleisher and art by Irv Novick, this story saw Batman face this new costumed threat."
- Manning "1980s" in Dougall, p. 139: "After 40 memorable years as Batman's bird-obsessed number two foe, the Penguin had his bizarre beginnings finally revealed to a curious readership in this completely new origin tale...written by Michael Fleisher with pencils by Romeo Tanghal."
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 159 "The Spectre re-materialized in the pages of Adventure Comics. This time, however, he brought along an all-out wrathful disposition, delivering punishments that not only fit the crimes, but arguably exceeded them...[Michael] Fleisher and [Jim] Aparo's run lasted only ten issues, yet it was widely regarded as some of their finest work, and the character's seminal period."
- Daniels, Les (1995). DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-0821220764.
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 173: "Jonah Hex rode his horse out of Weird Western Tales and into his own comic...Longtime Hex scribe Michael Fleisher and artist José Luis García-López detailed the bounty-hunter traveling to Whalenberg, Tennessee."
- Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 214: "Transported from the Wild West of the past to a dystopic future society, Jonah Hex had to adapt to the times in this brave new world and series crafted by writer Michael Fleisher and artist Mark Texeira."
- Groth, Gary (Winter 1980). "Harlan Ellison interview". The Comics Journal. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books (53): 68–107.
- Cusick, Rick. "Bugfuck!", Gauntlet #9, volume II, 1995, via HarlanEllison.com. WebCitation archive.
- Pratt, Charles. "The Insanity Offence: The Fleisher/Ellison/Comics Journal Libel Case", Ansible #48, February 1987. WebCitation archive.
- "Newswatch: Notice From The Editors," The Comics Journal #59 (October 1980), p. 19
- "Newswatch: Comics Journal wins Fleisher libel suit," The Comics Journal #113 (December 1986), p. 11
- The Comics Journal #115 (April 1987), pp. 51-142: Section on Fleisher lawsuit
- "Michael L. Fleisher: Never in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time" (interview), Comics Bulletin, February 26, 2008. WebCitation archive.
- Fleisher, Back Issue! #42, pp. 14-15
- Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 190. ISBN 978-0756641238.
The Man-Thing returned in a new short-lived series, originally written by Michael Fleisher with pencil art by Jim Mooney.
- Michael Fleisher at the Comic Book DB
- "DC Profiles #3: Michael Fleisher" at the Grand Comics Database
- Michael Fleisher at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Michael Fleisher at the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
- Michael Fleisher at 2000 AD online
| Adventure Comics writer
Paul Levitz and David Michelinie
| Ghost Rider writer
J. M. DeMatteis
| Spider-Woman writer
J. M. DeMatteis
| Savage Sword of Conan writer
| Conan the Barbarian writer
James C. Owsley
| The Warlord writer