Embrace your inner moron.
From the beginning, that was the philosophy behind Fleischer & The Group. The idea was to take any concept that came to mind – no matter how silly or outrageous – and see how it would fly when put in the words or actions of Fleischer and his teammates.
Actually, Fleischer & The Group, co-created by myself (Edward Gross) and Leon McKenzie, had its beginnings in the mid-2000s when I had created a comic strip called Media Geek, featuring an imaginary alter ego as I lived in and commented on a pop culture world. Accompanying Media Geek on the journey was MG’s girlfriend, Eileen; Timmy Tribble, Roddy and Gratuitous babe. With art by Argentina’s Fernando Sosa, the strip introduced the characters in the following way.
While writing the strip, I was struck by the notion of taking my life-long fascination with Superman and creating a parody version who would be one of the characters involved with MG and company. Very quickly, though, it became apparent that the character – named Fleischer – was so much larger than life that while he would fit in with Media Geek and his pals, he also needed his own comic. That’s exactly what began to happen in January of 2009 when I reached out to my friend, British writer Leon McKenzie, with the earliest notion of the character – much of which would evolve over time.
“One of my characters in the Media Geek comic strip is named Fleischer,” I had written on January 13, 2009 of an origin for the character, which was ultimately changed, “modeled largely after Superman from those Max Fleischer cartoons (which are now in the public domain). He was basically a geek who came across a lamp, rubbed it and two genies came out (a parody of Genie from Aladdin and a parody of Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie). They grant him a wish, but he stammers around and says something along the lines of, ‘I sort of…uh…want to be….kind of like…. uh, Superman.’ And that’s what he becomes — sort of, kind of, like Superman, with a fraction of his powers but an over the top attitude of being the proverbial boy scout. You know, believes in Mom, apple pie and all the rest (though I would imagine there’s a dark layer to him there somewhere). Hopefully something humorous to play off against the cold, cynical world we live in.”
Admittedly it really wasn’t much to start with and that origin description in retrospect kind of sucks, but something about the idea caught Leon’s attention and we immediately began fleshing the concept out. And while in the beginning Fleischer stayed very true to the notion that he was a parody of Superman, we quickly realized that there would have to be more to it in order for the character to transcend a one-note joke. This would not only eventually result in a major change in Fleischer himself, but open up the idea of creating a team element to the book that would eventually be known as The Group.
At the same time, we hired Fernando to try and bring the character to life visually. Below are some samples of Fleischer’s evolution. The artist’s original brief was to create a parody take on Superman with an influence of the Max Fleischer animated shorts. While the uniform would be similar to the Man of Steel’s, his chest would be emblazoned with a large F, his pants would be Capri and he would be wearing red fluffy slippers.
The above was a nice first pass, but the pose was definitely too Superman-like, and the hair curl certainly wasn’t helping the situation. The next suggestion was to have him floating in the, sky, oblivious to the fact that he was about to get hit by a plane.
The above was definitely closer to the direction we wanted to go, but it still wasn’t quite right. Fleischer needed to be the kind of guy who would be waving at the reader with a big goofy smile on his face, completely unaware of the fact that he was about to be struck by a jet.
Now those two images above were definitely much closer to the spirit we were going for. Fernando was given the go-ahead to bring the illustration to the next stage.
That image was perfect, and it was the look that would take Fleischer through a number of comic strips and the first two issues of his comic, which had previously been issued by Bluewater Productions but has now been given the “special edition” treatment. Both will be reissued soon with pages of new art as well as largely rewritten scripts.
But Fleischer’s look wasn’t locked down quite yet. With issue #3, it was decided that the character needed a different look; one that would really allow him to come into his own and stand far apart from his origins as a parody.
As readers will see, Fleischer, whose original uniform is pretty much torn apart in a battle that takes place in issue two, decides that the time has come for him to model his look on his true hero, exercise guru Richard Simmons, “The man who gets me up in the morning.”
For part two of this series, please click HERE.