Monday, October 14, 2013

A Man-Thing Or Two!

Neal Adams
At the same time that I am slowly winding my way through the earliest adventures of DC's Swamp Thing, I'm also strolling much more quickly through the misadventures of Marvel's muck-encrusted main character the mute Man-Thing.

Man-Thing debuted in the pages of Marvel's experimental magazine Savage Tales, one of several somewhat provocative series to back up a more adult rendition of the Conan the Barbarian. The story (which you can marvel at here) is written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas and drawn magnificently by the late Gray Morrow.

 Gray Morrow
In this stellar origin story we meet Ted Sallis, a chemist working for the United States government on the Super-Soldier program and who has invented a formula which many parties want to get hold of. Circumstances dictate that Ted inject the only sample into himself, but then he crashes into the swamp in which he is hiding and the mixture of muck and miracle drug turn him into something other than human, something similar but monstrous -- a Man-Thing. Then the story stops.

John Buscema
Rich Buckler
That is until two issues of Astonishing Tales where Ka-Zar and his mighty sabretooth comrade Zabu come to the Florida Everglades to help Dr.Bobbi Morse and find themselves battling the evil cabal called A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) who want the Sallis formula. Man-Thing gets his first cover appearance on the second of two issues which feature the fantastic artwork of John Buscema and a young Rich Buckler. Also blended into this two-part adventure are pages drawn by Neal Adams clearly intended to be the second Man-Thing story written by of all people Len (Swamp Thing) Wein intended for the unpublished second issue of the original Savage Tales. To read it check out this link. The battle seems to suggest the Man-Thing was destroyed, putting a neat ending onto a story which had lingered for a few years by that time.

Gray Morrow
Then a few months later we find in the converted reprint comic Fear a new Man-Thing story, again drawn by Gray Morrow and written by Conway. This time we find the Man-Thing, still up and shambling involved with a pure morality tale about husbands, wives, and their responsibilities to each other and their children. It's  pretty tough stuff and violence has a real punch to it, unlike so many of the superhero epics Marvel specialized in at the time. To read this tale of woe check this link out.

Neal Adams
In the next issue of Fear, we get a utterly fantastic Neal Adams cover. I'm convinced this cover pre-dates and in all probability inspired the story by Conway and Rich Buckler which among other things introduces the ongoing characters of Jennifer Kale and her brother Andy.

With this issue Steve Gerber gets his mitts on the characters and things would never be the same. The earliest Man-Thing stories have a science-based feel which gets turned over for a more magical background, which opens up story possibilities but sacrifices I feel some of the classic horror power of the character's premise.

More later perhaps.

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