Revisiting Marvel’s 1970’s series, THE HUMAN FLY, & the Real Life Canadian daredevil, behind the mask!
Issue # 1’s upper cover blurb just about said it all: ‘The Wildest Super Hero ever — because he’s REAL!’
And indeed, he was!
The Human Fly, according to the 19 (nineteen) issues of The Human Fly comic book series of the late 1970’s was, underneath the mask and costume, a REAL person – just like you and I!
I’m saying he wasn’t (originally) created by comic book writers and artists.
This Real Life Stuntman turned out, literally, YEARS later — to be a Real Life Canadian Stuntman, by the name of Rick Rojatt!
And, given this information, even combined with his Marvel Comics Origin, of his having, much earlier, survived a devastating, fiery car crash, and, through sheer force of will, fought his way back from being a quadriplegic — even THIS wasn’t the whole story.
In point of FACT, this was, almost certainly, NOT EVEN THE REAL STORY!!!
And, In 1977, Rick Rojatt contracted a mechanic and engine tinkerer, to convert a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle, in to a hydrogen peroxide/rocket – powered Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle, to be built to jump twenty-seven school buses, at the Montreal Olympic Stadium in Canada, during a Gloria Gaynor concert, beating out Evel Knievel’s record jump of 14 buses event, from the past!
Previously, in Ohio, Evel Knievel’s motorcycle had landed on the roof/deck of the fourteenth, and final, (Greyhound) bus that had been set up for his jump. But he had made that jump successfully, drove down the off-ramp, and he walked away from this impressive jump, without injury!
If you’d like to see this Evel Knievel historic jump for yourself, which took place on October 25th, 1975, in Ohio, here is a film of that historic Evel Knievel jump, from ‘YouTube’:
Previous to that successful Evel Knievel event, on May 26th of 1975, Evel Knievel had tried to jump thirteen buses in London, England. This unfortunate spectacle, however, ended in a crash, wherein he broke his hip, his back, and other bones! There were other spills, also, at other Knievel stunt events.
However, recovering from injuries, Evel Knievel kept jumping.
You could call Evel Knievel whatever you wanted, but one thing nobody called Evel Knievel … was a coward!
The late Evel Knievel’s real name was Robert Craig Knievel, Junior.
Although The Human Fly was able to beat the number of buses that Evel Knievel had himself ever jumped, for the Record, The Human Fly crashed his own (rocket-powered) motorcycle, during his own bus – jumping stunt, very badly!
He suffered a broken ankle and some other injuries. It was amazing that The Human Fly wasn’t killed, in the attempt! He then retired from public life, after this near-death experience, and the public and the media never, ever heard of The Human Fly – nor Rick Rojatt, for that matter, ever again!
Previously, just the day before, (in 1976), The Human Fly (though this stuntman’s real identity was NOT known, at the time), appeared, along with his Manager, in full mask and costume, on the Canadian television talk show series, NINETY MINUTES LIVE, starring the since late, renowned Canadian television (and later Radio) personality, Peter Gzowski, who also wrote at least four books, each entitled ‘The Morningside Papers’, volumes one, two, three, and four. I have these books in my own collection of Canadian history ephemera.
Here is a link to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System) televised episode of the since late Peter Gzowski’s television show, NINETY MINUTES Live, from 1976:
The gentleman with The Human Fly in this 1976 Peter Gzowski’s ‘NINETY MINUTES LIVE’ TV video, (in the tan suit to the right of The Human Fly), seems to be his usually costumed, (but non-masked) sidekick, Mercury, himself!
Morningside had been the name of Gzowski’s long-lived morning(s) talk show on CBC (‘The Canadian Broadcasting System’) radio, which aired every morning after TV’s NINETY MINUTES LIVE had run its’ (television) course.
The Human Fly (Rick Rojatt), prior to becoming an Evel Knievel – like Canadian stuntman and American comic book star, was, of all things, a sausage maker, in a Montreal meat plant! No wonder he eventually decided to become a Stuntman and comic book superhero!
Brothers Joe and Dominique Ramacieri were born into the family sausage business, Roma Foods, which was founded in 1955. The business was doing well, but for young Joe Ramacieri, it was a dull trade. The later Human Fly, Rick Rojatt, was an employee of Roma Foods, as a sausage maker. Again, to clarify, this was some time before Rojatt became The Human Fly.
Moving forward: The very next evening after The Human Fly appeared on television, on Peter Gzowski’s NINETY MINUTES LIVE, was the night that he tried to jump twenty – seven buses on Ky Michaelson’s built rocket-powered motorcycle! Want to see what happened for yourself? It isn’t pretty, however, The Human Fly survived! Silodrome.com/rick-rojatt-the-human-fly/
In the very first premiere issue of Marvel Comics’ 1977 Human Fly comics series, there was a text piece about The Human Fly, in which The Human Fly, as well as his non-masked, but costumed ‘sidekick’, named Mercury, showed up at the Marvel Comics offices in New York City, for a photo – op, with head honcho Stan Lee!
Obviously, Mercury, whoever he was, had no true super powers; this was simply another publicity stunt.
However, I did notice, in some of the photos taken immediately after The Human Fly tried to jump twenty – six buses, and failed, crashing his rocket-powered motorcycle, that, as the still masked and costumed Human Fly was carried away on a stretcher, giving a thumbs – up to the crowd, the costumed Mercury was right there with him! Mercury was also The Human Fly’s assistant during The Fly’s flight, atop a DC-8!
Basically, Mercury, whoever he was in real life, acted as The Human Fly’s assistant in the act(s), which was called Human Fly Spectaculars, Ltd. I’m guessing he was also The Human Fly’s agent and/or publicist, among other duties. I wasn’t able to turn up his real name, through extensive research. He may have been another former Roma Foods employee.
In 1976, the aviation businessman and movie pilot Clay Lacy was asked to fly one of the strangest stunt acts in …
Check out this YouTube video from the 1970’s, wherein The Human Fly rides ON TOP OF a DC-8 passenger jet-!! :
Some say Rojatt was a dreamer — and that he actually wanted to be a superhero. In fact, even before Rick Rojatt became The Human Fly, he had incredulously informed people that he was once attacked by a gorilla; and that the end result of this strange encounter ended up with the result that his entire body had been so mangled — that his shattered body had to be rebuilt.
Rojatt had additionally been described (often) as a “con man” and an “idiot.”
Ky Michaelson, who built Rojatt’s rocket bike for the twenty – six buses jump, was nicer about it.
“I don’t want to say ‘fruitcake’,” Michaelson says, “but, at the time, I thought that he was just another one of ‘those guys.’ ”
Michaelson, also known as the Rocketman, has been building rockets for more than 60 years. He led the team that sent the very first civilian amateur rocket into space, in 2004. In the past, he has worked on a rocket-powered backpack, in his Minnesota workshop.
“I’m kind of like a magnet, and I draw a lot of strange people into my life that want to do a lot of crazy things,” Michaelson explained.
Rick Rojatt called about the rocket bike in 1977, when Ky Michaelson was in California.
According to Ky Michaelson, “He (The Human Fly) wanted me to build him a rocket-powered motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson”, Michaelson remembers.
Rojatt wanted to jump 36 buses, in order to obliterate Knievel’s record.
“I just thought that he had no clue what he was getting into,” he said.
“I mean, when a guy calls you up and tells you the majority of his body is made out of steel, you know it’s not exactly true,” Michaelson reasons.
“So, I just kind of blew it off.”
” Obviously, There Is No Stopping This Man! ”
Rojatt told Michaelson he was basically bulletproof. He claimed he’d been in an accident years ago, and had been rebuilt, with metal parts.
It was at least partly promotion. When Marvel licensed the character for their nineteen issue ‘The Human Fly’ comic book series, commencing in 1977, Rojatt got a better backstory. No more gorilla.
Esquire’s Tom Odell quotes from the text and photo article, from the first issue of Marvel’s “The Human Fly” comic book series:
“We’ll have to start with an automobile accident sometime in the early Seventies. An accident so serious it took four years of hospitalization, and only after all the bones in both legs and hips were completely crushed; half the stomach removed, and both arms shredded to uselessness; that he could honestly aspire to be the greatest daredevil of all time!
Michaelson told Rojatt he’d still crash and die if he tried to jump 36 buses.
“At the speed, he would have needed to do that,” Michaelson says, “he would have hit the wall, on the other side of the building, there.”
Rojatt, upon hearing this, finally relented, and agreed to jump a ‘mere’ twenty – six buses — still well over Evel Knievel’s feat — and Michaelson built The Human Fly a rocket bike. Rojatt had previously sent him a black, 1977 Harley Davidson XL-1000 Sportster, and the Rocketman replaced the engine with two 1,500-pound (680-kilogram) thrust hydrogen-peroxide rockets. At full power, the machine could do “well over 300 mph in the ¼ mile,” Michaelson writes on his website.
Clay Lacy was the pilot of the DC – 8 jetliner which The Human Fly rode on top of, on one stunt, in front of a crowd!
On the date of June 28th, 2012, I put the following post on Facebook:
” The comic book website icv2.com, today incorrectly published a brief internet article on the topic of THE HUMAN FLY, (a.k.a. Rick Rojatt), the real-life, 1970’s ‘THE HUMAN FLY’ masked and costumed (Canadian) stuntman, who Marvel Comics published a 19 issue comic book series on, commencing in 1977. ICV2.com is saying that THE HUMAN FLY was, in reality, Joe Ramacieri, and this ‘news’ today is completely…FALSE!
The real life 1970’s THE HUMAN FLY was, under the mask and costume, in reality, Canadian stuntman Rick Rojatt. And, anyone who had done any research on this matter at all, would have come up with that cold, hard fact!
However, now that icV2.com has published their story on the upcoming THE HUMAN FLY movie, with the incorrect data, other websites have picked up this story as well. So, now, this completely INCORRECT information is all over the internet!
The mind boggles… ”
A day or two later, I had politely emailed IcV2.com and informed them The Human Fly former Canadian stuntman was, in reality, Rick Rojatt, and not Joe Ramacieri. In answer, in the very next edition of ICV2.com, they printed a retraction, stating that the former Human Fly was indeed Rick Rojatt and not Joe Ramacieeri.
Joe Ramacieri, you may recall, owned Roma Foods in Montreal, the company that made sausages, which, in turn, had once employed Rick Rojatt, the future Human Fly.
Check out this YouTube video from, wherein The Human Fly rides ON TOP OF a DC-8 passenger jet-!! : Clay Lacy and the Amazing Human Fly
Some say Rojatt was a dreamer — that he actually wanted to be a superhero. Even before The Human Fly, he had informed people he was once attacked by a gorilla and was so shattered he had to be rebuilt, so his body was mostly metal.
Rojatt has also been described as a “con man” and an “idiot.”
Some say Rojatt was a dreamer — that he actually wanted to be a superhero. Even before The Human Fly, he told people he was once attacked by a gorilla and was so shattered he had to be rebuilt, so his body was mostly metal.
Ky Michaelson, who built Rojatt’s rocket bike, is nicer about it.
“I don’t want to say ‘fruitcake’,” Michaelson says, “but, at the time I thought that he was just another one of ‘those guys.'”
Michaelson, also known as the Rocketman, has been building rockets for more than 60 years. He led the team that sent the first civilian, amateur rocket into space in 2004. He’s currently working on a rocket-powered backpack in his Minnesota workshop.
“I’m kind of like a magnet, and I draw a lot of strange people into my life that want to do a lot of crazy things,” Michaelson explains.
Rojatt called about the rocket bike in 1977, when Michaelson was in California.
“He wanted me to build him a rocket-powered motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson,” Michaelson remembers. Rojatt wanted to jump 36 buses to obliterate Knievel’s record.
Michaelson said no.
“I mean when a guy calls you up and tells you the majority of his body is made out of steel, you know it’s not exactly true,” Michaelson reasons. “So, I just kind of blew it off.”
Obviously, There Is No Stopping This Man!
Rojatt told Michaelson he was basically bulletproof. He claimed he’d been in an accident years ago, and had been rebuilt with metal parts.
It was at least partly promotion. When Marvel Comics licensed the character, Rojatt got a better backstory. No more gorilla. Esquire’s Odell quotes from the first issue of Marvel’s “The Human Fly”, from 1977:
“We’ll have to start with an automobile accident sometime in the early (Nineteen) Seventies. An accident so serious it took four years of hospitalization and only after all the bones in both legs and hips were completely crushed; half the stomach removed, and both arms shredded to uselessness, that he could honestly aspire to be the greatest daredevil of all time! “To everyone’s amazement he walked out of the hospital a man, but a man remade of steel in 60 percent of his body. Obviously, there is no stopping this man!”
“At the speed, he would have needed to do that,” Michaelson says, “he would have hit the wall on the other side of the building there.”
Rojatt agreed to 26 buses — still well over Knievel’s feat — and Michaelson built him a rocket bike. Rojatt sent him a black, 1977 Harley Davidson XL-1000 Sportster, and the Rocketman (Michaelson) replaced the engine with two 1,500-pound (680-kilogram) thrust hydrogen-peroxide rockets. At full power, the machine could do “well over 300 mph in the ¼ mile,” Michaelson writes on his website.
At Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on October 1977, that’s not how it went down.
“I Wasn’t Gonna Let It Happen!”
The stunt was a disaster from start to finish. Ky Michaelson says he arrived in Montreal to find the ramps were set up all wrong — both the jumping and landing ramps had been changed from his specifications. And so, Ky Michaelson called the whole thing off!
But Michaelson said no one would listen. The stunt was happening anyway. He was furious. The ramp wasn’t even the only problem!
“We never tested the motorcycle, he’d never been on the motorcycle, he never rode the motorcycle,” he says. “And uh, you have to jump on that thing.”
Michaelson says Rojatt came up to him before the stunt and asked him how to work the bike.
“And I tell ya, I looked into his eyes and it looked like he wasn’t even there. So he was definitely either drunk, or he was really drugged up,” he recalls. “I said ‘sit on the bike, hit the red switch, and twist the throttle’, and I walked away from him.”
And Rojatt went for it!
And Like That, Poof. He’s Gone.
Before a very small crowd, The Human Fly sped up the ramp as music blared, and white smoke poured dramatically from the exhaust. He reached the launch point and went soaring (video, 4:30).
He crashed around bus 19. The bike flipped over and slammed down on top of him, and the two slid over the roofs of several buses before smashing into the landing platform at high speed.
From Michaelson’s vantage point, Rick opened the throttle too slowly, so the bike wasn’t moving fast enough when it left the jump ramp.
“I think that was a blessing in disguise,” he says, “because he would have gone much faster and it could have resulted in a complete disaster.”
Rojatt survived the crash (making the whole steel-body thing seem somewhat less stupid), and fully masked, to boot. He waved to the crowd from a stretcher, left the stadium in an ambulance, and never appeared in public again!
Not as Rick Rojatt, anyway. If Evel Knievel was king of the daredevils, Rick Rojatt was their Keyser Söze.
Ky Michaelson had said, ” Though I can’t quite claim to have solved the mystery of The Human Fly’s identity and current whereabouts, which I wrote about a month ago, I’m happy to report that Microkhan has at least uncovered another thread to the tale. Canadian film director Steve Goldmann popped by the blog to point us toward his documentary short, about The Human Fly (above), which focuses on the impresarios behind the operation: Joseph and Dominique Ramacieri, pepperoni-making brothers from Montreal. ”
Bored with the processed meats business, they dreamed of having their names attached to a daredevil enterprise that would exceed Evel Knievel’s, in terms of fame. But that dream came crashing down, quite literally, one unfortunate night when The Human Fly revved up his motorcycle behind a long line of school buses…
Seriously, watch the whole thing—well worth your eight minutes. And let’s hope Goldmann is able to make good on his plans to turn The Human Fly’s story into a feature movie.
A stranger once showed up at the Rocketman’s shop while he was working on the Harley. The man said he was an engineer, and that he represented Rick Rojatt. Michaelson thinks about that visit a lot.
“I don’t even know if that engineer … was Rick Rojatt,” Michaelson says. “The guy’s under a mask all the time … you don’t know who you’re with.”
Michaelson says he never saw Rojatt again after that night in Montreal, and he’s not shy about what he thinks happened. He’s confident something shady went down — that the whole endeavor was shady, from the start. He believes Rojatt is dead. He mentions a life-insurance policy.
“There’s a lot of things — well, there’s a lot of things that I don’t talk about, let’s just put it that way,” Michaelson says. He alludes to possible lawsuits, and protecting witnesses.
Someone else’s version of that movie has been in the works for years but keeps vanishing. IMDb now says 2017.
Now That’s Mysterious!
Two years after Rojatt disappeared, his partners told the Montreal Gazette that The Human Fly was trading stunt work for a singing career. They said Rojatt was unavailable for comment.
In the summertime of 1977 or so, there was a weekly edition of People magazine, that had a centerfold of Farrah Fawcett inside, leaving little to the imagination, her being nude, except for a white towel barely covering her, ah, ‘naughty bits’, leaving her left side bare. She was still starring in TV’s Charlie’s Angels, and in the article accompanying this centerfold of her (yes, of course, that’s why I bought the issue, silly!) ~ she describing her acting ability at the time as ‘just adequate!’ But hey, she was working on it!
But, my real point is, that also inside the same issue of PEOPLE, was a black and white photo of the unmasked Human Fly, revealing a young, good-looking young man with blond hair and a beard. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the issue, or I would have included the photo of him in civilian clothes, with this article. Does that particular issue of PEOPLE magazine sound familiar to anyone? In the photo, another man was lifting The Human Fly in his arms, off of the ground, atop The Empire State Building, (if memory serves), to prove that The Human Fly wasn’t so ‘Super’, after all, while The Human Fly in civilian guise, grinned! This was before The Fly’s civilian identity was ever published.
- Around 2013, a brand new ‘The Human Fly’ one-shot comic book, magazine-sized, with full-colour covers and an all-new story and art, was published, and it was then, and STILL IS offered at amazon dot com. The cover of this new Human Fly one-shot comic book you can find elsewhere in this article.
- For those who may want to order themselves a copy of this new Human Fly comic book one – shot (as I did, some years ago), go here: Amazon.com
Where is Rick Rojatt, the former Human Fly, now?
The answer is, sadly, no one seems to know!
I’ve read articles on the internet which speculate that mobsters bet a lot of money on the Human Fly’s twenty – six bus – jumping motorcycle stunt, for the Human Fly to SUCCEED in jumping all twenty – plus buses just before that vintage — as though it were a horse race at a race track!
And, when The Human Fly failed in his attempt to do just that (drastically), and with his real identity a secret to the real public at large, overall, he decided to “get out of Dodge”, so to speak, and go into hiding, fearing for his very life!
After all, his real identity did not (somehow) become known on the internet for quite sometime later. (If) the above story is true (stranger things have happened, though I tend to disbelieve it), then it would certainly explain why both The Human Fly as well as his real name of Rick Rojatt, disappeared, for good.
What happened to him after his last (motorcycle) bus – jumping stunt, is completely unknown by everyone on the internet. Unless it is on a page which I simply have NOT discovered!
Some speculate that Rick Rojatt is dead. Perhaps he even died as a result of his injuries incurred shortly after jumping all those buses on Ky Michaelson’s rocket-powered motorcycle! Or, if the mafia story is true, perhaps he went into hiding and changed his name. 1976 through 1978 or so is approximately 40 (forty) years ago! If Rick Rojatt did not die as a result of his injuries incurred from his motorcycle stunt, he could be living somewhere in Canada (or elsewhere) under another name. Or, he might be dead, either from the Mafia or of eventual old age.
Some people on the internet speculate that there may have been more than one (perhaps several different men) under the mask of The Human Fly, at different late 1970’s appearances and stunts. I tend to disbelieve this hypothesis, also.
Whatever happened to Rick Rojatt, it seems to be a mystery on the scale of Jimmy Hoffa, and D.B. Cooper, the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view), who hijacked a Boing 727 aircraft, had parachutes and money delivered to him aboard the plane – otherwise, he threatened to set off a bomb, then parachuted to safety. To this day, no one really knows, for sure, who D.B. ‘Dan’ Cooper really was. I myself have several books on this topic.
If anyone can supply me with any information on either The Human Fly OR D.B. Cooper (I’ve always been interested in both of these stories), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No spam, please.
Here is a photo of a BOWEN ‘The Human Fly’ bust statue, which Randy Bowen sculpted and had produced for comics fans, in the past, and for fans who fondly remember the Human Fly comic book character. The following is a post I made on September the 14th, 2017; I had re-posted it on Facebook. The original poster of this was Jarvis Edwin.
My favorite of all the nineteen issues of Marvel Comics’ The Human Fly was # 16, for the reason that his adventure in that issue was set at Niagara Falls! And, on # 16’s cover, The Human Fly was shown on the (Canadian) side of Niagara Falls!
That was pretty thrilling to see, buy and have my eyes devour that particular issue, as a teenager!
I mean, I’ve always loved American comics, but I’m a Canadian, and, after all, except for Captain Canuck, Canada didn’t have any Canadian superheroes (that I knew of ), back then, with the exception of Captain Canuck and Cerebus The Aardvark. I’d only learn about Canada’s rich history of World War Two 1940’s comics heroes, decades later!
I didn’t myself get to visit Niagara Falls until the summer of 2008, and seeing it in person was, of course, even more exciting! ”
I want to dedicate this entire article to Mr. Ky Michaelson, whose history I have also followed for many, many years!
It’s very fair to say that I have been quite a big fan of Mr. Michaelson ALSO, for many, many years!
The source of some of the information in this lengthy Human Fly article should be obvious, from the links provided.
I’m dedicating the copyright of the article to Ky Michaelson!