The Man-Thing! by Steve Gerber!

I know the Silver Age was the foundation for just about everything (except most notably Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor) at Marvel, but the Bronze Age was the age that brought comics into the modern era, because it explored ideas that were previously ignored or even taboo. Drugs, violence, religion, you name it, this time in comics was exactly what the industry needed. One of the creators that helped lead the way with his unique style of storytelling was Steve Gerber. He was a shot in the arm no doubt as the pages were filled with social issues galore, and along with his idiosyncratic style, humor, and tons of off-the-wall stories readers were enthralled with these books!

 

Imagine if you will, trying to write stories in which the main character cannot speak. Taking over the character Man-Thing in only its third appearance, Gerber immediately turned the direction of the book/character from a straight up horror character, to one that is centric to stories with social issues, but you still get the horror angle as well (just not the main point of the story). The issues of (Adventures Into) Fear that featured Gerber’s work did lean slightly more towards more horror than anything, but once Manny transitioned to his own title, the restraints were completely off.

Let me be frank, Gerber could write any kind of story, not just one solely focused on social issues. He actually would write an issue or two with that as the main idea (Fear #12, 16), but then turn around and write a few issues in a row of just straight up horror (Fear #13-15). He wrote superhero stories (check out his trippy Daredevil run, Marvel Two-in-One, Omega the Unknown, and Guardians of the Galaxy!), and everything in between, but what most consider his crowning achievement is Howard the Duck. I’m partial to the Man-Thing¬† stories though, and if you read them, I guarantee you’ll become a fan!

Check out these images that really drive home how awesome the Gerber Man-Thing is! Enjoy!

 

 

 

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The Incredible Hulk 197, 1976 “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”

Since October is now upon us, my blog will feature nothing but horror comics. Although it does feature this genre often, I couldn’t wait for this month to come because I love horror comics! Honestly, I love comics period, but even when a horror character makes an appearance in a superhero book I love it! This is the case with this book, as the Incredible Hulk must fight not one but two horror characters that actually prove that not only can the Hulk be beaten, but knocked completely unconscious! And you know when the Collector is involved, things will get cosmic!

I usually don’t start talking about the creative team by mentioning the cover. Not because I’m a heel or anything, but typically, an issue overall offers more from the inside. There’s no way possible for me to not start with “Bashful” Bernie Wrightson (cover art). He didn’t do that much work for Marvel Comics, but, wow, this one is amazing! When you open this book, you’ll quickly learn why I love the writing of “Lively” Len Wein. No matter who the characters, or the setting, scenario, etc., the guy delivers a solid story/script. When you also then get an interior art team like “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Joe Staton (inks), it’s quite a treat. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) add their talents to this great book, that was edited by “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman!

 

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Giant-Size Man-Thing 2, 1974 “Of Monsters and Men!”

How is it possible that a character that cannot speak be so appealing? Well, when you take an origin story that involves a mystical swamp (near the Nexus of All Realities), a scientist, and Hydra (a later retcon not explicitly told in the origin story), and you’ve got a great way to convince me. Taking the concept from King Kong (1933), men who seek to cage something unnatural, and put it on display, are just begging for trouble. The trope of trying to contain something that is virtually uncontrollable, is one that’s been used many times over, with a varying degree of success. This time is definitely on the positive side.

When he was still alive, the mind of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) might have been a scary place to dive into. Hi stories about the weird and supernatural are top-notch. Why he isn’t recognized more outside of the circle of hardcore fans is a mystery to me, especially considering the praise other creators from that era and beyond seem to have for him and his work. Of Out of all the people who’ve drawn Man-Thing, I think “Big” John Buscema (pencils on interiors, and cover art) is my favorite. He certainly understood how to draw everything¬† even though he’s gone on record stating he didn’t like to draw superheroes all that much, he always did an admirable job. He is still one of the giants of the industry. “Santa” Klaus Janson (inks) is an artist that I first saw on Daredevil, and always thought he brought an extra dimension to whatever he had his hands in. John Costanza (letters) and Linda Lessmann (colors), are two very capable contributors that never failed to get it done. Let us not forget “Rascally” Roy Thomas (editor), as his work not only as a writer, but editing also is something that puts him at the top of the food chain in comic book history! You also get three bonus stories with work by great creators like Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby!

 

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Fear #12, 1972 “No Choice of Colors!”

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for classic Manny! No matter what the content, there’s just something about the character that draws me in, and really keeps me hooked through the entire issue. Not many other books/characters do that for me over and over. The fact that a character that can’t speak “speaks” to me abundantly, is quite telling about the brevity that the writers of this book had during the Bronze Age. Add in an element such as racism, and you get something very ambitious, and a very succinct reflection of the times.

As stated earlier, this character was written by people who had their finger on the pulse of the everyday joe. No one did this better than Steve Gerber (writer). No one wrote socially significant stories with a weird or macabre tone better than Steve Gerber. It’s not opinion, it’s fact. He had an innate ability to write these kinds of stories for many years without recycling them. The man was a genius. And as if that wasn’t enough to sell this book, you get art by the team of Jim Starlin (pencils- interiors and cover) and Rich Buckler (inks)! Both men have had long careers, and are still active today. Letters by John Costanza, and edited by Roy Thomas! Great cover by Starlin and the late, great Herb Trimpe, as well. Also, there’s a cool little reprint in the back that features art by none other than Russ Heath!

 

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Man-Thing #4, 1980 “Death-Knell”

My love for Manny is documented, and of course, as most people agree, the first volume was better than the second. Mostly because of Steve Gerber and Mike Ploog, and obviously those two gentlemen had an incredible grasp on the character that was difficult to follow. I will admit though, that Chris Claremont and Don Perlin also seemed to be able to relay the silent emotions of the character quite well. In this story, Doc Strange travels to the swamps of Florida, and runs into Manny. For some unknown reason, his magicks are not working on the muck monster, and this spells trouble for Steven!

I know there is a lot of love out there for Swamp Thing, especially the Alan Moore stuff, and rightly so, but definitely give Manny a chance. The Gerber stuff is outstanding, and this second volume is very underrated, and deserves a shot! Written by Mister X-Men himself, Chris Claremont, pencils by Dandy Don Perlin, inks by Bob Wiacek, colors by Ben Sean, letters by John Costanza, and edited by Denny O’Neil (cover by Bob Wiacek)!

 

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Doctor Strange #41, 1980 “Maelstrom at the Center of Time”

I definitely wanted to sneak in some Doc Strange for Halloween, and what better way, than with a Man-Thing story! In this issue, we see the Doc in an adventure with not only Man-Thing, but also Jenifer Kale, Baron Mordo, a cult, and even Death itself! From cover to cover, you’ll get everything you’ve ever wanted – the Nexus of All Realities, magic, monsters, skeletons, you name it!

The story is brought to us by Chris Claremont, pencils by Gene ‘The Dean’ Colan, inks by Dan Green, letters by Diana Albers, colors by Ed Hannigan, and edited by Jo Duffy! You also get a spectacular cover by Bob Layton and Klaus Janson, as well! Definitely check out this issue, as it can found for a decent price in most back issue bins.

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes -Val Mayerik!

It has been too long since my last spotlight on one of Marvel’s Unsung Heroes, so it is returning now, with a thunderous BOOM! One of my favorite artists from the 1970’s, is without a doubt, Val Mayerik! This guy should be on every list regarding a profound impact on comics from this decade. His work on one of my favorite characters, Man-Thing, is proof alone that he should be held aloft with the other greats of that decade/genre.

Alongside writer, Steve Gerber (who will be getting some love really soon), Mayerik did a phenomenal job with Man-Thing in the title “Fear” (Adventure into Fear, on the cover). Cover artists like Frank Brunner, Rich Buckler, and others, brought people’s eyes to the books, but once inside Mayerik lent his style to the character and it was very eerie! So, here’s to you Val Mayerik, thanks for all the creepy panels that live in our memories!

 

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Comics: The 1970’s Horror Explosion! Pt. Deux

Alright, so far, we’ve seen the beginnings of what would become Marvel’s foray into the horror genre in the late 1960’s/ early 1970’s, so now it’s time to open the flood gates, and see some more hardcore action from this publisher! One of the earliest (and one of my personal favorites) monsters to roam the 616 Universe, is the muck monster, Man-Thing! This beast was once a scientist that was betrayed by his wife, a subversive agent of A.I.M.! Ted Sallis was working on a formula (the Super-Soldier Formula that gave Steve Rogers his extraordinary powers), but was attacked by his wife and agents of A.I.M. Sallis fought his way out of the lab, and drove his car off into the swamp. He then injected himself with the serum, and crashed into the murky depths of the swamp. Little did he know though, that the specific area where he crashed, was near the Nexus of All Realities, an area ripe with magical properties. These three elements joined to change him into the shambling monster that he is today. The vampiric Morbius followed, and the floodgates were then thrust wide open for many more macabre characters to make their way into the limelight!

Let us now take a look at some of the more memorable moments from some of these Marvel monsters! Credits include- Gray Morrow, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Howard Chaykin, Frank Robbins, Doug Moench, Bill Mantlo, Don Heck, Bernie Wrightson,and more! Enjoy!

 

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Man-Thing #12, 1974

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Although the cover is Gil Kane and John Romita Sr., we get some fabulous interiors by ‘Big’ John Buscema in this book! I know most don’t think of Man-Thing when they think Buscema, but believe me, his work on this title is second only to Ploog in my humble opinion. And that’s saying something, because Ploog is a legend in this genre, more so than Buscema.

In this story, we see a troubled writer, that seems to have a broken mind, and maybe a shattered spirit. We see over the course of a few issues, that this man, Brian Lazarus, is somehow tied to the titles shambling protagonist, Man-Thing! Are the people torturing Brian really there, or are they just figments of his imagination? Only Steve Gerber & ‘Big’ John Buscema could bring us this macabre story! Enjoy!

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Astonishing Tales #13, 1972! “Featuring Man-Thing”

Astonishing Tales! Featuring Man-Thing!

Ka-Zar vs. Man-Thing! A cover a day for the month of December! All this will lead to 2014, and my new comic book and movie review blog! Be ready! In the meantime, enjoy this great cover by Rich Buckler!