I wasn’t a big fan of Man-Thing when I was a kid, but I did try to collect nearly every series I had the opportunity to if I could start with #1. Consequently I ended up with Giant-Size Man-Thing #1-5. Also along the way I ended up with the book & record set of #5, reprints of the earliest stories in the b&w Monsters Unleashed magazine, and coverless copies of Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1. Years later I filled in the rest of the Fear issues I was missing, but I don’t thnk I ever re-read Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1… until last night.
I can see why it didn’t appeal to me when I was 10. First of all, I thought #19 began in medias res but it didn’t, really. I had totally forgotten the beginning is a dream sequence. It follows upon events of the previous issues, certainly, but it definitely the beginning of a new story. There were also copious footnoted references to previous issues, not entirely necessary to enjoy the story (I know now), but which contributed to my felling of coming in during the middle of a story.
One of my favorite comic books (from the ‘80s but of all time) is GrimJack. I see now that Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik were charting some of the same territory years before John Ostrander and Timothy Truman developed Cynosure. (Yes, I know Peter Gillis introduced Cynosure, but Ostrander and Truman developed it.) This is the kind of stuff I really would have dug a couple of years later, but in the mid-70s Gerber’s non-traditional storytelling went right over my head.
Right now I’m reading through the new tpb that collects Man-Thing from the beginning up through issue #8 or so of his first eponymous title. After that I plan to continue on to those “Giant-Size” issues I read as a kid but not too often since. Then, if I’m still in the mood, I might move on to some more recent Man-Thing comics by J.M. DeMatteis and Liam Sharp.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Back in the 90s I tried getting the old Fear and Giant-Size Man-Thing comics, and had to pass on the Howard the Duck issues because they were already much too expensive. Recently I've been trying to find the Essential Man-Thing but it's either unavailable or costs more than twice cover price. Same with Essential Ghost Rider Volume 1, while Volumes 2 and 3 are pretty cheap.
I was in my twenties when Man-Thing started and was more the target audience. The Gerber/Mayerik team was very good on Man-Thing. Since the main character is brainless, it wasn't my favorite but I always thought it was very well done. It's spin-off, Howard the Duck, was more of a favorite of mine.
It's odd he's mindless, since he wasn't in his origin story. Simon Garth the Zombie was also supposed to be mindless but there were a few times that it seemed he was trying to think. Don't really get the interest in characters that can't think and just wander around running into dangerous situations. The Hulk became more popular when he got stupid so let's make somebody even dumber than he is and maybe he'll be popular too?
In between Savage Tales and the Fear series Man-Thing appeared in Ka-Zar's series in Astonishing Tales #12-#13. #12 cannibalised some Len Wein/Neal Adams pages reportedly intended for Savage Tales #2. The GCD says the issues are included in the Essential Man-Thing volume.
LIke Richard, I was old enough when Man-Thing debuted that I could see the mechanics of the series, and how hard the writers had to work to spin stories AROUND Man-Thing, who had no agency of his own. He only reacted to things around him, and essentially only fear in others got him moving with purpose. So he was usually more deus ex machina than character, showing up to kill somebody who was afraid. And since innocent people ALSO are afraid, the writers had to work overtime to somehow make the villain more afraid and/or more available, because otherwise the story would have a terrible ending, with Man-Thing slaughtering hostages and children and such. Gerber was the only one was able to make it look easy, and even then not always. Gerber would just write a story about some ordinary people who have a problem, and Man-Thing would wander in and out. Sort of The Fugitive in reverse.
I had several of those “Power Records” comic book and record sets when I was a kid: all five of the Planet of the Apes ones, Fantastic Four, Hulk and Man-Thing. I don’t know what ever happened to the PotA ones. I still have the FF, Hulk and Man-Thing comics, but not the records that came with them. In the ‘90s, I found the Hulk 45 at a flea market, but it had a small warp in it. I wish I had bought more of them… and kept track of the 45s.
The Man-Thing one reprinted issue #5 and was actually a pretty good jumping on point. The trouble is, it was all set-up and ended on a cliffhanger. Where ever it was I got those coverless copies of Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1 I mentioned last week, I also got a coverless copy of issue #6 so I was able to read the complete story. It was still a bit over my head at the time, though, and I didn’t fully appreciate it.
I’m a little surprised that this story, which centers upon the suicide of a clown, was published in a code-approved comic, much less featured in a book and record set marketed to children. I know the CCA had previously loosened some of its strictures, but this is some pretty heavy stuff. Artistically speaking, I have always preferred the art of Mike Ploog to that of his predecessors Frank Brunner and Val Mayerik.
I finished the new tpb on Saturday and decided to take a temporary detour from Man-Thing to read Howard the Duck. I’ve read the first five issues of that so far.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
I’m a little surprised that this story, which centers upon the suicide of a clown, was published in a code-approved comic, much less featured in a book and record set marketed to children. I know the CCA had previously loosened some of its strictures, but this is some pretty heavy stuff.
The CCA, like the MPAA, was inconsistent when evaluating something for approval. Since everyone involved is human and not robots that's understandable. That's why these rating systems don't really work. As for choosing a comic with a suicide and a cliffhanger, the people selecting that comic for the book and record set probably didn't read it. being, you know, beneath them.
Artistically speaking, I have always preferred the art of Mike Ploog to that of his predecessors Frank Brunner and Val Mayerik.
I greatly enjoyed Ploog's art, especially on Werewolf by Night. I'm sure he has done better financially in the movie industry but he was a loss to comics.
That was an extremely bizarre choice. They wouldn't do that today, not only because it was a suicide, but because today's generation seems to have a serious clown phobia (and the record gave the ghost clown at the end a creepy voice). There's an old black and white commercial on youtube of a clown advertising a cereal similar to Rice Krispies "I crinkle when I eat them!" The clown breaks through a paper background declaring he's hungry, runs to a table, and starts eating cereal while saying how great it is. (Although like Lucy in Vitameatavegamin, he makes a face when he tastes the cereal the first time. This may be where the Simpsons got Krusty screaming in agony after trying Krusty-Os.) Hundreds of comments from people that the clown is creepy. That it's giving them nightmares. That they want to hide from the clown, or kill him, and so on. Several people made changes to the sound track, giving the clown a scary voice and having him say crazy things like adding Tim Curry's dialogue from IT, then posted them on youtube.
Some say it's scary because there's no background music. (Most old commercials didn't have any sounds in the background so you could hear the speaker push the product. Didn't realize that was such a big deal.) Others say it's scary because the commercial is in black and white. So not only do people today think black and white is old and boring, they also think it's creepy.
Part of this phobia seems to come from Stephen King's IT, part from a bad movie killed Killer Klowns from Space, and much of it from John Wayne Gacy dressing like a clown. Some clowns hate King for writing that book since it has made it difficult for them to get jobs. People have asked why companies like McDonalds would choose to damage their sales by putting in a scary clown, unable to grasp the idea that they were once popular. Because of films like Childs Play and Black Magic, there's also a phobia today about ventriloquist figures, and people have stated Howdy Doody is scary.
Definite loss to comics. Ghost Rider was never the same after Ploog left the title.
Didn't like the way Mayerik drew women's mouths.They always seemed to be puckering up to be kissed. This became a popular art style in the 80s, especially among the mutant titles, and goes against How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way which said don't draw lips that way.
I first came to appreciate Ploog's art on Marvel's b&w Planet of the Apes magazine. I initially bought them for the movie adaptations (because who knows how long it would take be I'd be able to see them all on TV), but later I bought them primarily for "Terror on the Planet of the Apes" (the Jason and Alexander stories). Good stuff!
...I recall that the MAN-THING title became popular really fast , becoming a monthly quickly and giving birth to ~ okay , here goes , getting this out of the way ~ GIANT-SIZED MAN-THING , huh huh huh huh , Beavis ~ spin-off - but being discontinued really quickly !
Why do you think that happened (Being chosen for a Power Records release might be an example of how popular the title was .) ?
A lot of horror titles came out after the Comics Code loosened up in 1971. None of them made it to the end of the 70s except Tomb of Dracula, and it didn't last much longer. I think it just faded out when the horror craze ended. Werewolf By Night also got a giant-sized series then got discontinued pretty quickly.
No Avenger except Captain America got one. Power Records seemed more interested in monsters than superheroes. They might have taken the Hulk because they saw him as a monster. Even Spider-Man fought a monster, Man-Wolf, in his record.
Ploog was always a favorite of mine, and it was always a let-down when he left a title. Man-Thing, Werewolf by Night, Frankensein's Monster, Ghost Rider ... he'd do a few issues, and then somebody like Don Perlin would take over.