Sad tale: I am sure that many of the comics creators I grew up reading are now poor as a church mouse, but unlike most of them Messner-Loebs was actually very good, and read as likeable as this story makes him seem. Strong characters, quirky and surprising plotting, intelligent all-ages writing – exactly the kind of things the mainstream needs I’d say. Loebs’ problem I think is that he never really was comfortable with the kind of blockbuster action storylines that shift comics: his work has always been quite low key.

That said one of his issues of Flash is probably my favourite ever ‘trad’ superhero issue. It’s #53, “Nobody Dies”, published in about 1990. Flash – who has super-speed powers – is on a passenger plane, in civvies. He flirts with a pretty but nervous stewardess and jokes that his job is making sure nobody dies. There is an attempted hijack (I’m a bit hazy on the details here) which Flash foils, but the cabin is briefly depressurised and the stewardess is sucked out of a door. Flash, being a superhero, jumps after her. The rest of the comic is him working out how to use his powers to keep him and the girl alive and get down to the ground. It doesn’t have a costumed villain, it doesn’t have complex plotting, it doesn’t have very much violence. It takes an issue to tell a story – ‘hero rescues somebody’ – that readers take for granted. But it has a strong premise, follows it through, keeps the suspense up to the end, and winds up as a character piece that lets a reader know exactly what Flash does and why he does it. If I had a kid this is one of the first comics I’d give them. Best of luck, Messner-Loebs.