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"...and whatever knows fear... burns at the Man-Thing's Touch!"—Gerber's signature tagline for the series
Man-Thing is the name of a Marvel Comics character. He first appeared in "Savage Tales" #1 (May, 1971). The character was co-created by author Roy Thomas and his editor Stan Lee. His debut story was scripted by Gerry Conway and drawn by Gray Morrow. Man-Thing is not to be confused with DC's Swamp Thing, which premiered within a month of Man-Thing. The two characters have many parallels, including their backstories (both partially written by Len Wein), swampy homes, and being reimagined by notable comic writers. Both are also similar to a older horror character, The Heap.
Savage Tales was a one-shot publication, though it would be revived as a regular series in 1973. In the meantime Man-Thing gained a regular series in the Horror anthology 'Adventure Into Fear'. He became an unlikely hit for writer Steve Gerber, who pushed genre boundaries with the character, providing inspiration for later writers like Neil Gaiman.
Gerber's Retool of the character helped the Man-Thing get his own series, prefiguring Alan Moore's similar reimagining of Swamp Thing; but while Moore's experimentation with the medium garnered him praise and notoriety, Gerber struggled throughout his career with censorship and creator's rights. Gerber introduced Howard the Duck in the pages of Man-Thing, and was soon fighting Marvel over creative control and ownership of the character, costing Gerber his job and leading to a legal case resulting in his bankruptcy.
Unlike Swamp Thing, Man-Thing was a mindless creature living mostly by instinct, hardly aware of his former life. An empathic creature, he often came to the aid of the weak and confronted those who expressed strong negative emotions, since, due to latent psychic empathy, strong negative emotions caused him great pain. Man-Thing has a particular loathing for fear, which comes up often throughout the series, since it is the emotion a giant swamp monster is most likely to elicit. Writing stories around a mindless, unchanging character proved difficult, but Gerber showed remarkable variance in the types of stories and characters he was able to fit into this rather limited concept. As usual, he tried to bring a sense of realism and psychological depth to the series, and fans responded.
Man-Thing is currently a member (of sorts) of the Thunderbolts, Marvel's team of redemptive villains. Initially intended to be just the team's transportation, thanks to Hank Pym hacking into the Nexus of All Realities, he's since become one of the team's strongest and most unpredictable members.
In 2007, a TV movie was released based loosely upon Gerber's plot about a thoughtless developer trying to drain Man-Thing's swamp. Outside of the authors it inspired, the series is best remembered for its larger collections, infamously titled 'Giant Size Man-Thing'.
This work contains examples of:
- Achilles Heel: Man-Thing's is being dried out.
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: At one point, Richard Rory has the misfortune to encounter a pack of them in the swamp. Subverted though as they become friends with him.
- Alternate Universe: Man-Thing and several supporting characters find their way to a neighboring fantasy world of wizards and warriors during the same dimensional confluence that spawns Howard the Duck.
- The Archmage: Dakimh the Enchanter.
- Ascended Meme: In Thunderbolts, the events of Fear Itself have turned Man-Thing into a literal "Giant Size Man-Thing"; he is even called such by Songbird.
- Author Avatar: perpetual loser Richard Rory, who appeared in several of Gerber's works.
- The last issue also has Steve appearing as himself, telling us that he's just been retelling stories told to him by Dakimh.
- Ax Crazy: Foolkiller, the Mad Viking.
- Barbarian Hero: Korrek.
- Came Back Wrong / Inhuman Human: Man-Thing.
- Captain Ersatz: Wundarr, a version of Superman who is left in his landing pod when the elderly couple who happens by proves too fearful and suspicious to investigate. He is educated and raised by the pod until discovered and unwittingly released by Man-Thing.
- Chain Pain: One of the bikers in early issues attacks Man-Thing with a chain. It gets stuck to him and provides a catalyst to his escape from Schist's death trap.
- Death Trap: Schist has a scientist build one to try to end Man-Thing's meddling once and for all.
- Elemental Embodiment: Man-Thing is the incarnate elemental spirit of the swamp he lives in.
- The Empath: Man-Thing's main form of interpersonal interaction.
- Empty Shell: What Dr. Sallis becomes after his transformation into Man-Thing.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: As much as a monster he is, F.A. Schist has a wife and a daughter that deeply care for him. It is also what triggers Schist's wife to attempt an (unsuccessful) vendetta against Man-Thing after Man-Thing kills Schist.
- Everything's Worse with Wolves: When Man-Thing is accidentally teleported to Himalayas, he is instantly attacked by wolves.
- Failure Hero: Author Avatar Richard Rory.
- Freak Lab Accident: While working in a swamp trying to recreate Captain America's super-soldier serum, Dr. Ted Sallis is betrayed and injects himself in an attempt to escape, but crashes into the swamp where he is transformed . . .
- Ghost Pirate: A whole shipful, cursed of course.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Giant-Size Man-Thing.
- Healing Factor: as long as he is in the presence of moisture.
- Hell Gate: The 'Nexus of All Realities' in Man-Thing's swamp. Not to be confused with the other "Nexus of All Realities", the M'Kraan Crystal...though the two are connected on some level.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Both original runs revealed near the end that The Netherspawn was the one pulling the strings.
- I Thought It Meant: Made worse by the occasional issue of Giant Size Man-Thing.
- Knight Templar: The Foolkiller.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A recognizable Man-Thing appears in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon episode 'Prison Without Walls', penned by Steve Gerber after his fallout with Marvel.
- The creature is basically a slightly modified version of a D&D monster called a Shambling Mound, which is obviously derived from Man-Thing, Swamp Thing and The Heap.
- The Legions of Hell: Thog the Nether-Spawn.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: In the final issue, Gerber tells us that the stories were provided to him by Dakimh the Enchanter, and that he's decided to stop writing them after being dragged into the story, himself.
- Mad Artist: Eugene Spangler is a singer and poetist that is unhealthily obsessed with chaos and madness, and doesn't even care when the Mad Viking bursts in his camp and starts murdering his mates and then himself.
- Meaningful Name: Land Developer F.A. Schist, who tries to destroy Man-Thing's swampy home.
- Plant Person: Light on the 'person'.
- Nature Hero
- Never Smile At a Crocodile: Man-Thing frequently crosses paths with alligators. Eventually they start to avoid him like plaque.
- Nigh Invulnerability: Man-Thing.
- Posthumous Character: Edmond in "The Kid's Night Out" is run down by a cruel, uncaring world, but a certain shambling mound is prepared to balance the scales.
- Public Domain Artifact: You can't have a fantasy in the Florida swamp without a Fountain of Youth and some ancient Conquistadors.
- Pulling Themselves Together: Almost every Man-Thing combat seems to involve pieces coming off.
- Ruthless Modern Pirates: Modern pirates make an appearance in an issue introducing supporting character Barbara.
- Sad Clown: Darrel the Clown in "Night of the Laughing Dead" and "And When I Died".
- Silent Protagonist: Out of necessity, seeing as how Man-Thing has no mouth.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: One had issue had a pair with obvious Romeo and Juliet parallels-
- Starts with a Suicide: Again, Darrel in "Night of the Laughing Dead".
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: See Meaningful Name above.
- Stripperiffic: Jennifer Kale when she becomes Dakimh's apprentice.
- Weirdness Magnet: It's not so much him as his habitat, but since Man-Thing's swamp is a Nexus Of Realities, not to mention saturated with mystical energy, weird and strange things tend to pop up there more often than not.
- When Trees Attack: Man-Thing fights one infected with a personification of hate.