Tuesday, October 16, 2007
1970's Flashback: Man-Thing
Marvel Comics introduced their own muck-monster which was created by writers Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway (with artist Gray Morrow) in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971). Man-Thing went on to become the lead feature in Adventures into Fear and eventually his own series; Man-Thing vol. 1, which was written by Steve Gerber, introduced the popular cult character Howard the Duck. Man-Thing also starred in a god-awful 2005 TV-movie that must be avoided at all costs.
Man-Thing is a large, slow-moving, vaguely humanoid creature living in the Florida Everglades near the Seminole reservation. Ted Sallis was a biochemist who developed a "miracle drug" later defined as an attempt at recreating the "super-soldier serum" that had created Captain America. Betrayed by his lover, Ellen Brandt, Sallis flees from agents from AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), who coveted his formula and research. Sallis injected himself with the serum, but after crashing into a swamp and apparently drowning, he was transformed into a swamp creature through a combination of his formula and (it was later explained) magical forces extant in the area. Ted Sallis' mind was apparently extinguished, although it was later shown that he could briefly return to consciousness within his monstrous form and indeed he has even been briefly returned to his own human form several times. Sallis's assistant, introduced later, was an elderly, African-American scientist, Dr. Wilma Calvin.
Gerber expanded on the notion of the swamp having mystical properties and in issue #14 coined it the "Nexus of all Realities", thus supplying numerous demons, ghosts, time-traveling warriors, etc., to serve as the Man-Thing's antagonists—although he continued to encounter non-supernatural villains as well, including land developers, fascist vigilantes, and common criminals. If this sounds similar to DC's Swamp Thing character, well, you wouldn't be the first to notice the "Big Two" publishing similarly-themed comics within weeks of each other. It was a common habit back in those days.
Industrial Espionage? Maybe!