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It crawled from the swamp – The Man-Thing #7

July 17, 2011

I’ve always operated under the assumption that the Man-Thing was a derivative rip-off of the much more famous Swamp Thing. I only recently discovered that the former preceded the latter. Kind of. And the second version of the latter was a rip-off of the former. Or something. I’m now wallowing in less ignorance than before. I think.

Despite that newfound semi-edification, I still don’t care too much about Man-Thing. He’s always looked a bit too smelly (seriously, the tubes on his outer surface always made me think of sewage, and that he might have had some floaters mixed into his composition) and the silent enviro-hero bit always wears thin very fast.

I understand that he has his fans, though, as evidenced by his lengthier-than-I-could-have-imagined Wikipedia entry, so I thought I’d plow through this chapter in his series. What could it hurt? Hopefully I won’t come out the other side with his stench all over me, and who knows, I might actually pick up on what others so dig.

“The Old Die Young!” (from Steve Gerber and the perhaps appropriately named Mike Ploog) begins as I would have imagined it would, with Man-Thing watching from a distance as a developer pulls up stakes and abandons his attempts to build a runway in the swamp. It seems that there’s always an element of the “crying Indian” in these. Then the story takes an odd turn when Man-Thing runs into, of all people, honest-to-God conquistadors:

Gotcha!

Man-Thing proves to be a bit harder to conquer than Montezuma and his Aztecs, who weren’t blessed/cursed with the ability to ooze through nets:

Freed, Man-Thing is able to prey on his erstwhile captors’ fear and unleash some righteous vengeance:

The conquistadors retreat to their “hacienda,” and Man-Thing follows hot on their heels. The hacienda winds up being a bayou Shangri-La, or at least a low-rent Lost Horizon set:

Leave it to a woman to rescue the men from this mucky beast. A random lady douses him with some of this place’s healing waters (it turns out that there really is a fountain of youth in the Americas), which have a Wicked Witch of the West effect on him:

Man-Thing retreats back to the swamp, where the effects of the water start to take hold on his hand:

Ah, “The Gift of Death!” What a cheery title for the next chapter. Something to look forward to.

I think my biggest issue with these old titles that center around “monsters” and “horror” is that they aren’t shocking or frightening in the least. Perhaps they would have been if I’d encountered them at a younger age and when they were still fresh. This might once again be more of a failing on my part than on the part of the creators. Yet the problem remains. Even with all that said, the presence of a Shangri-La and Spanish conquistadors in the 1970s Florida Everglades is nothing if not unique. I tip my cap to Gerber for that, at least.

And my clothes still smell okay after wading through Man-Thing’s muck. So that’s a plus. But he still looks like bipedal ordure.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2011 5:12 am

    Well, Man-Thing preceded Swamp Thing, but not by any large number of months for one to really impact the other. Conway and Wein were also roommates, so they were both probably just inspired by the Heap.

    • July 19, 2011 10:53 am

      Man-Thing by a nose, or whatever he has that qualifies as a nose.

      I enjoyed the bit in the Wikipedia entry about the plagiarism issue between Conway and Wein. It sounds like someone was cribbing from someone else’s stuff.

  2. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    July 19, 2011 12:57 pm

    I really love the Man-Thing (Swampy too!), but I cannot think of a way to explain it that doesn’t sound like a double entendre. Anyway, there’s just something about his swampy nature, his endless willingness to help visiting hippies, and his burning whatever knows fear but only when those people really deserve it that appeals to me.

    By the way, the two issues preceding this one, the “Night of the Laughing Dead” arc, are really good–probably the best Man-Thing story ever done. Not that there’s a huge amount of competition for that title…

    • Fred W. Hill permalink
      May 27, 2012 11:19 pm

      I only collected a few issues featuring Man-Thing (in Fear or his own title) and none of the first Swamp Thing series when they came out during my childhood, but later I got much into both of them and never worried about which one was supposedly ripping off the other (and they were both “ripping” off the Heap, who had recently been brought back in a Warren magazine from Golden Age obscurity (and the Heap in turn was inspired by a Theodore Sturgeon pulp story). Man-Thing, under Steve Gerber, usually had the better writing while Swamp Thing, with Bernie Wrightson, had the better art, but I enjoyed both. Of course, Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, particularly with Steve Bissette and John Totlebon on art, significantly upped the ante on great muck monster comics.

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