It was 1976 when I bought my first Spider-Man Annual. I had already been buying Spider-Man comics for a couple of years but, being a kid with an allowance of twenty-five cents a week, funds were low and reserved for the comics which “counted”. The Annual was priced at fifty cents. That was two week’s allowance and I’d have to give up something. Maybe Daredevil or The Avengers? I wasn’t a huge Avengers fan, preferring instead the solitary, and sometimes clumsy, mishaps of Peter Parker. Peter was me, only me at a much older age. Plus he had a ‘hot’ girlfriend. Even at that age I knew a pretty girl when I saw one. There was hope for us bookworms yet. So I sprung for the Spider-Man Annual #10. The villain on the cover was new to me also. I thought at first he must be a returning villain from the years prior to when I began to collect his adventures. I was wrong. He was new.
This was the Fly.
He wasn’t a joke then either. At least not the joke he would turn out to be in later years, that is, before Rick Remender restored the Fly, then dubbed the ‘Human Fly’, to his proper place in the pantheon of villainy.
In 1976 though, the Fly started out as a two bit criminal/kidnapper by the name of Richard Deacon, known as ‘Rick’ to his friends. Rick’s stint as a kidnapper was short-lived however as he had the unfortunate luck of being brought down by Spider-Man. Beaten, Deacon stumbles, actually by accident, into the lair of Dr. Harlan Stillwell who is looking for a volunteer to try out his ‘fly’ experiment. You see, Stillwell was hired by J. Jonah Jameson to cook up a hero capable of bringing Spider-Man down. This was back when Jonah had an addiction for hiring evil geniuses to create methods of slaying our hero.
If you’ve been following the Superior Spider-Man title recently you will see that his addiction has returned. But this is 1976, and Jonah hired Stillwell to create a hero with powers to match Spider-Man. So instead of focusing on another spider, Stillwell instead sets his target on that other pest of barbecues and picnics… the common fly. It is this commonality that has haunted Deacon ever since. Almost as soon as he makes his appearance as the Fly, to exact his revenge on Spider-Man… he loses.
Almost three years passed (in real-world years) before he popped up again to vex Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #192. His reappearance coincides with Jonah and Spidey falling prey to another one of Jonah’s genius-for-hire madmen, Spencer Smythe. Smythe is dying, having built one too many Spider Slayers for Jonah. The radiation is killing him so he decides to take with him the two men who brought him to death’s door. In a stroke of genius he handcuffs the two together, but these are not normal handcuffs. Not by any means. This set of cuffs is a cleverly built bomb set to go off in twenty-four hours and, should they attempt to free themselves, the twenty-four hours will be cut short. Drastically short.
Unbeknownst to them, while this is going on, the Fly is back in business and planning to rob the King Tut exhibit (back then the exhibit was a huge crowd-pleaser, just ask Steve Martin). Being handcuffed to Jonah is of no help in battling the Fly, but Spider-Man manages to hold his own and free both he and Jonah from certain doom. The action continues in Amazing Spider-Man #193 and we see the King Tut treasures spared from theft and the Fly being spared from Spider-Man’s wrath, by the police. Apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. had armed them with a special device designed specifically to serve as a fly-swatter.
And the Fly’s next appearance?
Not content to lay low for too long the Fly buzzes back into action in the pages of Spider-Woman #30. Here, the Fly’s superhuman powers are ebbing away so he turns to Dr. Karl Malus for help. Of course the only thing that will help to restore his powers is a blood transfusion from a super-powered spider-being and, since this is the pages of Spider-Woman, who do you think he set his sights on? All’s well that ends well for our heroine, as the Fly is easily defeated and sent back into the mists of obscurity for four more years.
If you thought that the Fly was never going to get any respect, you would have been pleasantly surprised to see his sudden ascent to his former glory in Moon Knight #35 (1984). It is in this issue that we are afforded a glimpse into what the Fly is capable of when he manages to literally put Moon-Knight in a wheel chair. It would seem, for a brief and fleeting moment, that the Fly was back.
Until, that is, the pages of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #86 of the same year. In a one-off joke issue, Bill Mantlo almost puts the lid on the Fly’s criminal career by using him for comic relief. Here we see the Fly slowly turning into his namesake and definitely not the villain who recently sent Moon-Knight into weeks, if not months, of physical rehabilitation. We even get to see him pause in his villainy to slurp up some soda….
You would think that after that little bit of humiliation he would be given some long overdue respect. It almost seemed that way when, in 1986, he again flexed his wings in Amazing Spider-Man #276. In this issue we see a man transformed; gone is the familiar green and yellow costume. What we now see is a half-man, half-fly looking villain who now refers to himself as the ‘Human Fly’.
It seems to be an appropriate name when he breaks out of the Bwainstein Psychiatric Center for the Criminally Maladjusted to spill some Spider-Man blood. But, alas, poor Rick Deacon never gets that chance for he is immediately gunned down by the Scourge of the Underworld, a villain intent on wiping the world clean of villains ‘Punisher’ style. Deacon never knew what hit him.
To be perfectly honest I thought that was the last we’d seen of the Fly, or the ‘Human Fly’. And it was, for twenty-three years. He was resurrected in the pages The Punisher issues #5-9. ‘Resurrected’ is not a figure of speech in this case. Richard Deacon, aka the “Human Fly,” was literally resurrected by the Hood with a little help from Dormammu. Deacon wasn’t alone in the Hood’s resurrection scheme either. He was joined by eighteen other dead villains, all victims of the Scourge’s killing spree years earlier.
Rick Remender’s Punisher run was dark, and it was here that we saw the Human Fly, for the first time, with enhanced powers. His wings are now more powerful, regenerative, and he also has a thirst for human flesh. His flesh-eating process requires that he vomit acid (much like the sad monster in the movie The Fly). The Hood reveals to the eighteen resurrected super-villains that they were brought back to kill the Punisher and that they only have thirty days to do it. To wet their appetites he tricks them into thinking that the Punisher was actually the Scourge.
They fail to take down the Punisher, of course, but the Human Fly just might be back for good. He showed up again to satiate his thirst for human flesh during another Remender run in Venom #5, after a brief two year hiatus. Deacon makes the mistake of drawing Venom’s attention (a crime-fighting Flash Thompson) by kidnapping a senator’s daughter. He sticks around to battle Venom in issues #16-20 when when he joins the Crime Master’s Savage Six team. This happy little bunch includes Megatak, Death Adder,an insane Jack-O-Lantern, and Eddie Brock’s Toxin. Deacon makes a mess of things by kidnapping Flash’s mom and literally has his wings ripped off.
So what is the Human Fly up to now? Only time will tell but one thing is for sure…. he’s hungry for revenge.