Sad, belated news: Michael L. Fleischer, best known for his long run on Jonah Hex, his arresting work on the Spectre, and the definitive encyclopedias on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, died last month.

Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter tweeted it here:

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Here's an overview of his career from Wikipedia: "Michael Fleischer"

Rest in peace. His work on Jonah Hex is my standard of good Western writing.

If my house was on fire and I could save only one box of comics, it would be a hard call for me between my Sgt. Rock box and my Jonah Hex box. I've got the entire run of Jonah Hex stories in All-Star Western, which was renamed Weird Western Tales, Jonah Hex, and Hex! , which featured Jonah Hex as the Road Warrior.*

Although Michael L. Fleischer didn't create Jonah Hex -- that was done by Joe Orlando, John Albano and Tony de Zuñiga -- Fleischer very much made Hex into the character we know, much as Bill Finger transformed Batman into an enduring icon. Fleischer gave Hex his particular blend of cussedness, integrity and folksiness, making him a man toughened by a very hard life, but still had enough positive qualities to be endearing -- without him secretly being nice.

Fleischer grew into being a comics writer. According to Mark Evanier on his News from ME blog, Fleischer got his start while researching those encyclopedias at the DC offices, which led to his getting to write for DC horror titles. His earliest Hex stories were credited "script continuity -- Russell Carley." In a Comics Journal interview, Fleischer explained that, starting out, he didn't know how to write comics scripts. Carley is an old friend of his The two would brainstorm plots, and then Carley would draw thumbnails of page layouts with suggested dialogue in the panels. "There was no standard title in comics for what Russell was doing, so we made up a term,. In retrospect it was a confusing term," Fleischer said.

*I've also got the Vertigo miniseries Jonah Hex: Two-Gun MojoJonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such and Jonah Hex: Shadows West, and complete runs of the latter day Jonah Hex and All-Star Western.

I didn't just read his three Encyclopedias, I absorbed them! Though I was glad to see them rereleased though in a smaller format, I really hoped that they would have let him continue the series!

Also, those Spectre stories are still disturbing today!

Fletcher got a lot of bad press when he ended his comics career, but I don't remember why. Anyway, his Spectre was the first to take the actual concept of the character and make it work, and I loved it, even if it was a little repetitive. As said above, he virtually created Jonah Hex as we know him. And his encyclopedia was, as some reviewer said, "on-the-spectrum" diligence combined with genuine insight. Those encyclopedia aren't just good, they're stunningly comprehensive and mandatory for any research project.

Captain Comics said:

Fletcher got a lot of bad press when he ended his comics career, but I don't remember why. 

Fleischer sued Harlan Ellison, Gary Groth and The Comics Journal for libel over a 1979 interview in the Journal in which Ellison described Fleischer and his work in various insulting ways. He sought $2 million in damages. Here's a description: "The Insanity Offence: The Fleisher/Ellison/Comics Journal Libel Case"

Fleischer lost, and this was touted as a win for the First Amendment. I surmise that going up against Ellison and the Comics Journal in this way cost Fleischer some goodwill in the professional comics community. 

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