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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Giant-Size Man-Thing 5, 1975 “Hellcow!”

I know it’s heresy to say this being a big fan of Steve Gerber’s work, but I’m not really into Howard the Duck. That said, I do love horror stories, and most of them revolving around that character do fit into this genre. In this one for instance, we get to see Howard arrested, and in jail. The police are befuddled that a real duck is in their midst, and quite frankly have no idea what to do with him. The best part of the story lies with another character though, the Hellcow. Apparently, at a certain point in the life of Dracula, he swooped in and bit a cow. Normally, you don’t see animals come back as vampires but for some insane reason, this one does.

As I said above, Steve Gerber (writer) is nothing sort of fantastic. He can take the oddest of themes and turn them into gold. His work on The Defenders, Omega the Unknown, and several other books are all the proof that I need to prove that point. Another creator of this era that did incredible work, is artist, Frank Brunner (penciler). Even though he didn’t do a ton of work in comics, his impression on the industry is a lasting one, for sure. Tom Palmer (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Annette Kawecki (letters), finish off the creative team for this outstanding story! Of course, everyone knows of the fantastic work by Palmer, as he inked many books, and none more appreciated than his collaborations with Gene Colan in Tomb of Dracula!

 

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Tales of the Zombie 6, 1974 “Child of Darkness!”

The Marvel black and white magazines from the Bronze Age are nothing short or astonishing. The painted covers, great creators, and over-sized goodness are just a few reasons why I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to grab more every time I hit a convention. One of the books at the top of my list, is Tales of the Zombie. This particular issue only has two stories (most had more), but they’re great ones! The first is a Simon Garth tale, and as you can imagine, it involves something eerie. A prominent couple that leaves all their wealth behind to move into a voodoo infested swamp! The second tale involves Brother Voodoo! Yes, Jericho Drumm himself, as he battles The Black Talon!

As far as creative teams go, this book is tough to beat. The Zombie story has Steve Gerber (writer), and Pablo Marcos (art)! Both men made their names in the 1970’s, and their work still resonates to this day. The second story is brought to us by Len Wein (plot), Doug Moench (script), and the art team of Gene Colan (pencils) and Frank Chiaramonte (inks). The fabulous cover is by the late Earl Norem. He did a few of these great covers for Marvel’s magazines, and really seems to have been an unsung hero of the industry.

 

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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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Tales of the Zombie #3, 1973 “When The Gods Crave Flesh!”

I have a new passion for a certain comic book that wont stop gnawing at me. The black and white horror magazines from the 1970s are very hypnotizing; from the fantastic artwork, the wild stories, and the overall more mature tone are really exceptional. I’ve already talked about the first issue of these that bought a while back (Monsters Unleashed #11), and that one really hooked me into the genre. I was already a fan of most of the creators that worked in this era, and saw some work from creators I’d never seen before (Billy Graham, being one). In this great issue, we start out with a story starring the one and only, Simon Garth (the Zombie)! There are four other stories (one reprint maybe?) in the issue, but this first one definitely stands out the most, as you will see!

Legendary writer, Steve “Baby” Gerber wrote the Zombie story, and with artwork by “Prolific” Pablo Marcos, you really get the best of what these magazines had to offer. Throw in more artwork by long time artists Tony Dipreta, and Bill Walton (both Golden Age alumni), and more stories written from talents like “Devil-May-Care” Doug Moench and Tony “The Tiger” Isabella, and you get an incredible book! Let’s be honest though, you’ll fall in love with this one just from the Boris Vallejo cover alone (a definite shout out to magazine editor, “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman, as well!)!

 

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The Defenders #27, 1975 “Three Worlds to Conquer!”

My love for the Defenders is legendary, so it stands to reason, that I must love the creators as well. Most of the stories borderline on the absurd and unusual, kind of like a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode. Truthfully, you have to be kind of weird to like this book, but that suites me just fine. The Guardians of the Galaxy (from the future), get tangled up in a battle with the Brotherhood of the Badoon, and it’s up to the Defenders to help them defeat these nasty aliens!

The creative team supreme, of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) and “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils), gave us this great book, and by no means do I exaggerate! Throw in the controversial “Valiant” Vince Colletta on inks, Joe Rosen on letters, Al Wenzel colorist, and “Lively” Len Wein, editing! Being that this book is a GotG tie-in, the price can be utterly insane, so, watch out, the thieves of the internet are on the prowl!

 

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Omega the Unknown #4, 1976 “Cats and no Dogs!”

On my last adventure to the comic shop, I had several issues in mind that I was going to grab. The only problem was that those issues were nowhere to be found. I did the only thing any red-blooded comic book collector would do…I bought some other great comics from my favorite age, the Bronze Age! It’s no secret that I love the writing of Steve Gerber, so when I saw the opportunity to grab some issues of Omega the Unknown, I knew I had to do it! In this issue, #4, (of short title run of ten issues) we see the enigmatic hero faces off against one of the most obscure, and wild villains of all time, a man named¬† El Gato! This wild man can control felines, and when you really tick him off, he’ll summon a multitude of them to viciously attack his enemies!

Gerber (along with Skrenes), has always been known for writing well, but especially when the content is even more insane than the last. He portrays Omega the Unknown sort of like how Brian Bendis portrayed The Sentry. Very doe-eyed, and simple, but powerful as well. The flip side to the story is that we also get to focus on the boy named James-Michael Starling. This odd youth has two young lady friends, but doesn’t seem to realize what’s going on half of the time. The artwork by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Pablo Marcos (inks) is very good, and will definitely turn some heads. Colors by Phil Rachelson, with letters by Gaspar, Karen Mantlo, and Ray Holloway. The cover is by Howard Chaykin and Frank Giacoia!

 

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Sub-Mariner #64, 1973 “Voyage into Chaos”

Prince Namor of Atlantis was never a character that was one of my favorites. Oh, I like the character more than I dislike him, but he just never impressed me unless he was part of a team (like the Avengers). I recently grabbed a couple of back issues of Subby, and really enjoyed them. Now, granted, the writer is the awesome Steve Gerber (RIP), with art by Don Heck (RIP) (pencils), and Don Perlin (inks), so that really raised the level of the content in my opinion. You also get perennial favorites Glynis Wein on colors, and Artie Simek providing letters (and Roy Thomas editing). Again, characters are great, but the creative force behind them is what really matters.

A story involving Subby fighting racial inequality (basically), is the plot, with undersea friends and foes galore. Heck and Perlin make a great team, and you’ll agree when you see the pages below. Namor is his royal, condescending self, while the ocean backgrounds look fabulous. A quick cameo by Namorita, Namor in chains, and at the mercy of a WOMAN, nonetheless! There is also a back-up story from Gerber featuring artwork by Howard Chaykin and Joe Sinnott! And what a fantastic cover by the team of Rich Buckler and Bill Everett (RIP)!

 

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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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