skjam: Ghost cat in a fez (fez)
[personal profile] skjam posting in [community profile] scans_daily
I promised Steve Gerber, and by golly, I'm delivering. Mr. Gerber did a number of oddball titles for Marvel in the 1970s, including The Man-Thing.

Like the Swamp Thing, created almost simultaneously over at DC, Man-Thing was originally a scientist, Ted Sallis. He was working on recreating the Super-Soldier serum that created Captain America when there was an explosion and he was flung into the Florida swamp. There, the chemicals reacted with the mysterious forces in the Swamp (the Nexus of Reality) to create a muck-monster out of Sallis's body.

Unlike Swamp Thing, Man-Thing did not have access to Ted Sallis' memories most of the time. It shambled about mindlessly, drawn or repelled by human emotions. In particular, fear annoyed Man-Thing, and it would attack the source of that emotion. And "Whatsoever knows fear...burns at the Man-Thing's touch!"

Given this, Man-Thing is usually less of a protagonist, and more of a force of nature that other characters who the story is actually about interact with. This story is not an exception.

Maybelle grouses at Dawg, who she is bitter and jealous of because nowadays it seems closer to her husband Ezekiel than she is. She grouses out a well-worn litany of complaints and threats against Dawg. She's so caught up in her griping she fails to notice Man-Thing coming up behind her, drawn by her frustration. Until it's right next to her.

Ezekiel carries his wife inside, and she informs him that her heart is in bad shape. He needs to fetch a doctor. And Maybelle doesn't want Dawg to stay and watch over her, either.

Dawg goes back into the shack, and Maybelle spits out hateful invective at it. But then her heart goes back on her and Maybelle announces her intenetion to fight God himself if need be to get her revenge on Dawg. When she goes stiff and still, Dawg is unnerved and flees.

Man-Thing wrestles the tree and temporaily defeats it. Then it comes back and goes straight for Dawg, requiring Man-Thing to wresatle it again until it explodes into red vapor.

The gator capsizes the barge as Ezekiel breaks his barge pole on it. Once again, Man-Thing opposes the possessing evil, wrestling the gator until it can break the reptile's back.

The next pages are a lovely double spread of the chained skeletons rising to kill Ezekiel and Dawg, some great work by Mike Ploog. See if you can find a good reprint. Man-Thing once again smashes the skeletons, but not before Ezekiel has been choked unconscious...and now the red vapor is heading for a nest of snakes....

The snakes wriggle inside Man-Thing, as well as entwining its limbs, while the evil assaults its empathic senses. The swamp creature is staggered into the water, where the snakes are at a disadvantage due to their need to breathe. Man-Thing rises from the swamp to find the evil has made itself a humanoid body from the clay, crowned with the remaining snakes.

Maybelle suddenly jolts awake. She realizes that her years of bitterness and her hatred of Dawg have somehow taken on a life of their own. She crawls out on the porch in an attempt to somehow warn them, but collapses again, and the red vapor rises.

Ezekiel is awake now, but he, Dawg and Man-Thing are all in rough shape, so Ezekiel builds a fire and begins to talk to the swamp monster. He and Maybelle had moved out to the swamp some twenty years before because they were sick of city life, its crime and constant rush.

An hour later, the travelers hit a highway, and shortly spot Ed's Truck Stop. Inside, the customers gripe about Ed raising his price on coffee to a full quarter, and he points out he has costs, too. He can't afford to be giving anything away.. When Ezekiel comes in asking for a doctor, Ed points to the phone. It's only when Ezekiel looks at the phone that he realizes he doesn't have any money on him. Hasn't needed any for years.

The customers deride Ezekiel's request for a nickel to call the doctor with, and when the woodsman gets noisy, they drag him outside to "teach him a lesson."

The travelers swiftly head back to the cabin. The red vapor has now coalesced into a ghastly approximation of Maybelle. and Ezekiel finally tumbles to what's going on. The hatred spirit explains that she doesn't want to kill Ezekiel directly; just Dawg to make Ezekiel suffer.

Before the spirit can finish Dawg off, Man-Thing attacks it, and is able to make it explode again at the cost of being rendered immobile and smoking.

Ezekiel rouses Maybelle, but the spirit of hatred, now even more demonic in appearance, no longer requires her to be willing to feed it. It plans to consume her entirely to anchor itself to the mortal plane.

Your thoughts and comments?

Date: 2012-12-29 04:52 am (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Just that it's awesome.

Date: 2012-12-29 04:32 pm (UTC)
randyripoff: (Empress)
From: [personal profile] randyripoff
Yup. Gerber was highly underrated when it came to delivering good, solid, weird stories.

Date: 2012-12-31 06:57 am (UTC)
halloweenjack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] halloweenjack
Ploog's art is clearly a match for Gerber's script here. It's almost shocking how good it still looks.

Date: 2013-01-02 12:33 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Terrific stuff, we need more of this sort of writing and art, even now.


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