Steve Englehart Interview

How did you come to be involved with Spectrum/Archie?

First, let me say that this was 1989, and you’re one of the few to know/ask about it, so my memories aren’t crystal clear. As I recall, they came to me. The idea was, this was not required to adhere to “Archie” standards – it was going to be a Superhero/Horror series. The movie “The Fly” had been out not too long before, and that had given the editor, Scott Fulop, the idea. I came up with my own slant, but that was the ballpark we were working in.

Who was the artist on the Fly?

My script for #2 lists Michael Bair on pencils and Bob Downs on inks. I don’t know if any pages were ever drawn.

How many issues worth of scripts did you have done before being told the series was cancelled?

I had 2 complete scripts, and plots for two more.

What were your thoughts on the cancellation of the Spectrum experiment? (disappointed?  Not suprised at all? etc…)

Disappointed, and reasonably surprised. Scott Fulop, the editor, thought he had a firm commitment to the new line so having the plug pulled was not something we expected. To be fair, Scott’s reading of it was that Archie *was* committed – they wanted to broaden their reach – but ultimately decided this was too broad if they wanted to keep doing the wholesome books. They weren’t, I don’t believe, close to pulling the plug earlier.

Do you know of any other titles/creators that wre supposed to be on the Spectrum line?

Len Wein had the Hangman, and Marv Wolfman may have been involved in something.

What was the Fly going to be like? (visual, as well as characterization)

I don’t know visually. The plot was deliberately brutal and it went like this: a handsome, heroic teenager is given powers by an alien, and spends much of #1 growing into a hero – before his body starts to decompose. He learns that the powers are in fact a “virus” which will pass from human to human until they mutate enough to stabilize – then that stabilized virus will serve as a template so alien hordes can invade. Our hero dies, but his body staggers to his cute girlfriend’s house and infects her. In #2, she’s the Fly, and at the end of it, she dies, too. But her doctor has figured it out, and he may find a cure in #3…except he’s now the Fly…

It becomes a race to solve the problem before those who know about the problem die. Basically, it was the Simon/Kirby origin if the alien handing out powers were, in fact, lying.

Is there any way in heck to get a copy of the art, or the stories for the Spectrum stuff?

Art I dunno. I sell copies of my old scripts, including FLY #1 and #2, for $15 per.

How many pages are those?

26 pages each.

Why was Spectrum cancelled?

To the best of my knowledge, the Archie guys saw what was planned (Hangman was also pretty dark; it wasn’t just this!) and decided it wasn’t good for their image.

Do you think it would have succeeded had ArchieCo not pulled the plug?

You never know, but I think so. It was different from anything else out there, it was right at the Image/speculator explosion time, it was concept-driven much like Malibu three years later.

What kind of research did you do on the characters?

I did my usual reading of what had gone before – the Simon/Kirby version and the Mighty Heroes stuff. Mighty was, of course, lame, but Kirby was always great. Still, our Fly was a dark reflection of his stuff. I named my #1 hero Troy Thompson – from Tommy Troy and also Flash Thompson (SPIDER-MAN).

What was your first introduction to the MLJ heroes?

Probably the Mighty Heroes.

Did you enjoy the Mighty Comics stuff?

Not really. Bad Marvel wannabe stories, bad art. I liked them in the sense that they showed me characters I didn’t otherwise know, with some cool back stories, but the execution was just lame compared to the standards Marvel was setting.

Did you catch the early-80’s Red Circle stuff (done by Rich Buckler and crew)?

I did. That stuff was far better crafted. But in the end, it didn’t establish any of the characters as heroes for the contemporary age. As soon as they stopped publishing, they faded right away.

Would you work on the characters again if given the chance (although it might mean adhering to Archie standards this time)?

Well, I can’t imagine doing *that* Fly under normal Archie standards, but anything’s possible, and I did like the idea because it was so different.

Click here if you to email Steve about the Fly scripts which he is selling.