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[comics] Man-Thing 1971-1974

 
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Kevin Tyler



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 68
Location: Moncton, NB

PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:13 am    Post subject: [comics] Man-Thing 1971-1974 Reply with quote

I just finished reading Essential Man-Thing vol 1, which covers the characters major appearances from 1971-1974. Since I've recently discovered tOA has an old-school comic following, I thought I'd throw up some thoughts. I'd especially like to hear from those who read some of these issues back when they were first released.

The collection I just read re-printed Man-Thing's initial story in the horror mag Savage Tales #1, his guest-appreance with Ka-Zar in Astonishing Tales #12&13, then his solo run in Adventure Into Fear #10-19, then the first 14 issues of his own title including the first two Giant-Size issues, with bonus material from the magazine Creatures on the Loose #5,8,&9 (8&9 were a two part prose story, not comic art).

Man-Thing, like a lot of the new heroes of the 70s, was blending of the superhero genre with another. Originally, Man-Thing was blended with horror, as was very popular at the time. At least that was the original intent. Very early on, however, Steve Gerber, known for his off-the-wall writting, came aboard in no time started moving the title towards fantasy. It took no time for the title to contain wizards, demons, barbarians, and a talking duck named Howard. And, being Marvel of the early 70s, the comic almost required some social commentary. Native rights, drinking and driving, Vietnam, and, of course, environmental issues, all worked their way into the title.

Personally, I liked the multiple sub-genres for this character. It doesn't work for most, but Gerber pulls it off quite nicely. Man-Thing, a being of the swamp, is going to be very attached to environmental issues. Man-Thing, an empathic, unthinking creature who reacts only to emotions, is going to have a horror element to it. Fantasy? Well that's just Gerber being Gerber, and he does it well. The fantasy sub-genre does seem to disappear half way through, or about the same time Man-Thing gets his own title, but I'll get back to that.

It's tough to write a character who doesn't speak or even think. The story has to be driven by the "narration", which Gerber writes well, and by thinking, speaking supporting characters. That's were I think Gerber fails. Early on, we are introduced to a set of supporting characters in the Kale family - old sorcerer grandpa, sexy teen apprentice sorceress Jennifer, and little brother Andy. As soon as the fantasy element is dropped, we lose these characters, despite their connection to Man-Thing. Instead, we get born-loser Richard Rory and rotating cast of women Rory never scores with. The Rory character was amusing in his own way, but ultimately adds nothing to the stories other than "right place, right time" and does Man-Thing's "thinking" for our benefit. He's not a bad character to have around for the occasional gag, but not worth dropping the more appropriate Kale family for. Even moving away from fantasy, a family of sorcerers can still be used in a horror setting.

Another supporting character that bothered me was returning antagonist F.A. Schist. Schist, the evil industrialist trying to destroy nature for profit, made a fine enough villain when it came to environmental issues, but his characterization kept changing. He goes from easily upsetable, requiring others to do his dirty work, to Lex Luthor-esque hands-on schemer, to mad man bent on... finding the fountain of youth? He was all over the place.

The art for the most part was very good to great. Val Mayerik comes in fairly early and becomes the first regular artist on the character. He set the classic look for Man-Thing, doing a a great job. When he leaves, he's replaced by Mike Ploog. And while different, is still very good. The changing of artists also marks the dropping of the fantasy stories. I'm not sure if Gerber of the editors deemed Ploog's style unsuited for fantasy, if Ploog himself had no interest in fantasy, or a reason unrelated to the art. The last couple of issues collected feature John Buscema art, which is perfectly suited for a claustrophobic horror feel.

Despite inconsistencies with the supporting cast, I still enjoy Gerber's writting. This is a tough character to write and he does a good job. I'd like to see Marvel released a second volume to finish off the characters run in th 70s. I don't believe they ever did much with him afterwards.
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Steve Yohe



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 2994
Location: Wonderful Montebello CA

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its been a long time sence Ive thought about this stuff but didn't DC have SWAMP-THING or something like that. It had great art & in one of the issue..like #10 or so...started the revival of Batman. Wasn't the actist the guy who did THE SHADOW? Which I loved. The guy was great.---Yohe
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Kevin Tyler



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 68
Location: Moncton, NB

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DC did have a Swamp Thing, who's debut was released the same month as Marvel's Man-Thing. Neither company has ever accused the other of stealing the idea. More of a "great minds think alike" situation. Swamp Thing recieve huge critical acclaim when it was re-launched in the 80s (to coincide with the Wes Craven film) with Alan Moore as the writter. Unfortunately, I've read neither series so I can't comment on the art.
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DGinnetty



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:03 pm    Post subject: Yep Reply with quote

Steve Yohe wrote:
Its been a long time sence Ive thought about this stuff but didn't DC have SWAMP-THING or something like that. It had great art & in one of the issue..like #10 or so...started the revival of Batman. Wasn't the actist the guy who did THE SHADOW? Which I loved. The guy was great.---Yohe


DC did have Swamp Thing. Very similar background, debuted slightly after Man-Thing did. The first 13 or so issues of the first Swamp Thing run featured art by Berni Wrightson, which was simply awesome. Perfect artist for this style of book. It only lasted 24 issues, and the next 11 issues were nothing compared to the first 13. My recollection is that Nestor Redondo took over the pencilling after Wrightson moved on.

I was lucky enough to get the entire run of this book for Xmas in the early 80s, and ate it up.

The title was relaunched in the early 80s, coinciding with the Swamp Thing movie. It was just OK, until a young Alan Moore got his hands on it, taking it in an entirely different direction.

I preferred Man-Thing to the original Swamp Thing. Moore's version is entirely different, and very very good.

Dan Ginnetty
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DGinnetty



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:25 pm    Post subject: Re: [comics] Man-Thing 1971-1974 Reply with quote

Kevin Tyler wrote:
I'd like to see Marvel released a second volume to finish off the characters run in th 70s. I don't believe they ever did much with him afterwards.


Man-Thing appears from time to time in the Marvel Universe after the end of his first 22-issue run. He gets a 2nd 11-issue run that is written (partially) by Chris Claremont. I was underwhelmed by the 2nd run.

He ends up being the caretaker of the Nexus of all Realities, located in the swamp. This is pretty convenient, allowing him to insert himself into just about any storyline, ala Forrest Gump.

He also plays a big part in the ongoing Marvel Zombies series.

Definitely a character worth checking out.

Dan Ginnetty
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matt farmer



Joined: 29 May 2010
Posts: 33

PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never was a fan of Man-Thing...but I guess when I came across them I was in my super hero mode. I would litterally read any and every comic I could get my hands on.
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