And now for something completely different…
Hey there, match-heads! When you visit FIRESTORM FAN, I’m sure you expect to read about everybody’s favorite Nuclear Man. Well today is going to be a little different. We spend all our time here talking about Firestorm when there are zillions of other great comics out there to read! Today FIRESTORM FAN is participating in a loosely-themed crossover with 17 other blogs entitled, “Read This Too!” The basic idea is for each blogger involved to recommend a comic or trade they enjoy but don’t typically write about. Thanks to our buddy Kelson from Speed Force for spearheading this interesting and horizon-expanding crossover!
In an effort to suggest something drastically different from Firestorm, I’m taking us to the opposite end of the comic spectrum. Firestorm is all about fun superhero adventures in a squeaky-clean world. The subject of today’s post is all about macabre horror in the slimy swamps of Florida’s Everglades — Marvel’s muck monster… The Man-Thing!
While at DragonCon this year, I perused the Tales of Wonder booth where you can find amazing prices on trade paperbacks. I came across the Essential Man-Thing volume 1. My first thought was, “Really? Who on Earth would buy an Essential dedicated to the Man-Thing? I mean seriously, who cares about this character?” I’ve never really been a big fan of the comics genre dedicated to monsters and horror stories, so I immediately dismissed this collection as a waste of money. My next thought was, “What is Man-Thing’s origin anyway? Isn’t he a ridiculous Swamp Thing rip-off or something?” Curiosity got the best of me. I picked up the trade and began flipping through the pages. I was quickly drawn in by the impressive artwork and the mysterious tagline, “Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!” I spent a few more minutes trying to wrap my brain around the appeal of this character. Next thing I know, I’m leaving the Tales of Wonder booth with my newest purchase, the Essential Man-Thing volume 1.
Let me start off by saying this collection is really great. My initial apprehension was quickly replaced by fascination for this mindless monster and his gruesome exploits. Having very little previous exposure to the character, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it an interesting choice making the Man-Thing completely devoid of intelligence and a mute. By removing the human factor, the reader can really only connect with the creature on an emotional level similar to that of an animal. Also fascinating is that the Man-Thing is not a hero. This is definitely a horror comic and the stories can often be pretty grisly.
The first story covers Man-Thing’s origin — Ted Sallis was a brilliant biochemist who was developing an experimental drug to create the ultimate soldier. Sallis was forced to inject the experimental formula into his own system to protect it from sinister forces. Pursued into a swamp, Sallis ends up drowning, but was later revived and transformed by a combination of his formula and supernatural forces into the creature known as the Man-Thing! Now whenever the creature touches someone experiencing fear, the biological make-up of Man-Thing’s skin reacts and causes the person’s flesh to chemically burn. Hence, whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing! If you think Man-Thing’s origin sounds very similar to Swamp Thing’s, check out this article regarding the two character’s parallel creation.
This collection reprints: Savage Tales #1, Astonishing Tales #12-13, Adventure into Fear #10-19, Man-Thing #1-14, Giant-Size Man-Thing #1-2, and Monsters Unleashed #5 and #8-9. It’s a great bargain for 544 pages of macabre horror at only $16.99. Keep in mind this isn’t for the kiddies, it carries a parental advisory warning. The Man-Thing was created by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, but his first story was scripted by Gerry Conway – the co-creator of Firestorm! Nearly all the others stories in this collection were written by Steve Gerber. Gerber is probably best known for creating and writing Howard the Duck, whose first appearance was in a Man-Thing story! A few other Gerber credits worth mentioning include: the Defenders, Countdown to Mystery: Doctor Fate, and Thundarr the Barbarian. Several different artist’s work is displayed in this Man-Thing collection, but Val Mayerik and Mike Ploog are the most prolific. Worth noting is that two issues within this collection were penciled by Pat Broderick and inked by Al Milgrom – talk about a Firestorm fan’s dream!
My personal favorite issues within the collection are the one-and-done stories. The early tales were typically 15 pages and examined how human nature was often more monstrous than the Man-Thing itself. I prefer the human dramas over some of the trippy magical encounters included. Being an Essential collection, the art is black and white. The monochromatic style really showcases the amazing artwork – the murky swamps, the muck-encrusted creatures, and the mystical mayhem.
I’m not sure I can entirely quantify what changed my mind about monster and horror comics. I just know this collection appealed to me and was worth the time and money. So give the Essential Man-Thing a try! Tomorrow we return to your regularly-scheduled Firestorm madness.
Support Man-Thing! Move the Muck!
Interested in reading more good comics? Great! Check out the lesser-known titles reviewed in these other blogs and “Read These Too!”:
- Adam Strange at It’s A Dan’s World
- American Vampire at My Greatest Adventure 80 (Doom Patrol)
- Astro City at Speed Force
- Booster Gold and Zatanna at Red Tornado’s Path
- Forgetless at Girls Gone Geek
- Franklin Richards digests at Once Upon a Geek
- Glamourpuss at Being Carter Hall
- Peter David’s Hulk at Fortress of Baileytude
- Jonah Hex at Boosterrific
- R.E.B.E.L.S. at Indigo Tribe
- Scott Pilgrim at Toyriffic
- Son of Tomahawk at Aquaman Shrine
- Spelljammer at HeroPress
- Spire Christian Comics at Mail It To Team-Up
- Strange Science Fantasy at Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery
- Thor the Mighty Avenger at Aquaman Shrine
- The Unwritten at K-Squared Ramblings
- Welcome to Tranquility at Girls Gone Geek
Please feel free to give a shout-out to any lesser-known comics that you love in the comments!