I’ve been hearing about Man-Thing more lately. I always knew that he was an unabashed rip-off of Swamp Thing, but it seems that Marvel made him much more metaphysical. So, some questions…
What’s the deal with Man-Thing’s “swamp nexus of all galaxies” ?
What book did he actually appear in? What do I need to track down to read about him? Is there any sort of trade paperback or anthology I can pick up (like those cheap-but-huge B&W “Essentials” that Marvel came out with a few years back)?
Actually, the two characters premiered more or less simultaneously. When they were developed, their respective creators–Gerry Conway for Man-Thing and Len Wein for Swamp Thing–were roommates. They are both strongly influenced by a 40s comic book character called The Heap.
Man-Thing’s swamp exists in multiple dimensions simultaneously. Purely a gimmick to generate storylines. What, you want to do a monthly book based on his personality?
He’s guest-starred in numerous comics, but has had his own title at various times. Look for the ones published in the 70s (Man-Thing, Giant-Size Man Thing (Don’t bother with the obvious joke) and certain issues of Adventures Into Fear featuring Man-Thing. Check the credits; if Steve Gerber didn’t write it, don’t bother. None of these series was ever anthologised, unfortunately.
Which was a take-off on a Theodore Sturgeon story called It.
The best Man-Things are Adventure in to Fear about issues 14-19 and Man-Thing series one (early '70s, 20c or so cover price) 1-15 or so. Plus a couple of (unfortunately named) Giant-Sized Man Things. Howard the Duck first appeared in one of the last Fears.
The key to good Man-Thing stories is the writer. If you see “Steve Gerber”, it’ll be good. Anyone else? Varying degrees of suckitude.
The problem with Man-Thing is that he literally has no personality. None. He’s like writing about a wind-storm or snow-fall or earthquake. They’re not interesting except inasmuch as they happen to people. So the writer has to be good enough to make the supporting cast interesting so they can react. And most writers can’t manage it.
People have already mentioned It and The Heap, so I’ll just point out that Man-Thing first appeared in Marvel’s solo “Rated M” Magazine Savage Tales back in, I think, 1971. It was an oversize black-and-white issue that had a Conan story (and cover), A Ka-Zar Story, an Amazon-World story and the first Man-Thing. It had limited nudity, but not enough.
Man Thing started showing up in odd issues after that, including Ka-Zar and Howard the Duck. There was certainly a similarity with Swamp Thing, which came out at nearly the same time, so it was never clear to me who was copying from whom.
It’s been ages since I read anything with him, and his mythos was evolving when I last saw him, so God knows what it is now. No doubt there’s at least one website that’ll tell you.
I doubt that Clayface (#2 or #3) and Man-Thing are in any way related, other than sort of looking like piles of offal. Clayface is in the DC Universe, and Man-Thing is in the Marvel Universe, for one. Not that they’ve never stolen ideas from one another, but I don’t think they’re directly related.