Man-Thing

Adventure Into Fear 19 (December 1973)

Fear #19Apparently Mayerik and Trapani are keeping this new style, which is Trapani doing bad faces most of the time. Very unfortunate.

The issue is a mess of alternate realities, barbarians, ducks, GIs and something else. Magicians. Gerber is writing about the walls of reality collapsing and somehow he’s just got to get Man-Thing involved. But he doesn’t until towards the end of the issue and not well.

The story’s imaginative but there’s just no point to it. Man-Thing isn’t a full character in the comic, not with Gerber constantly trying to pull away from him–which is fine, so long as you don’t pretend otherwise. And the Jennifer girl is a problematic protagonist too. She’s the one who’s having the great adventure, yet Gerber can’t stick with her.

So he sticks with the guest stars, then brings in Man-Thing. It’s an okay hodgepodge. Except the weak art.

B 

CREDITS

The Enchanter’s Apprentice!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Stan Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 18 (November 1973)

Fear #18It’s really bad art. From Mayerik and Trapani too. Maybe the inks are a little off but I think a lot if it must be the pencils. I really hope it’s not some new style they’re working on. Because it’s bad.

Gerber tries very hard with this story, which is sort of a talking heads disaster story, very self-aware microcosm of American life thing. He tries so hard and he fails. He fails miserably. The tone is off and none of the many things Gerber does to even establish one fails. It’s like he’s got an earnest idea and no way to honestly do it in this comic.

But then there’s the bit action finale and it’s great. It’s a classic horror problem with a modern, slightly askew approach to it. Gerber sort of saves the issue; he gets credit for the attempt.

That art is really bad though.

B 

CREDITS

A Question of Survival!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 17 (October 1973)

Fear #17This story is the best so far in Gerber’s Man-Thing run so far. He does a story introducing a Superman analogue, only without growing up in the world and some other significant changes. But what’s important is how Gerber writes this character as encountering the world. Gerber does a second person thing and it’s fascinating stuff.

The Superman analogue becomes the reader or vice versa. If Gerber’s aware how he’s presenting this story, as a guided tour into how someone is going to experience the reading of the story itself, is he purposefully casting the comic book reader as a superhero. If so, a Superman analogue with its familiarity, works perfectly.

Trapani inks Mayerik again to even more success because there’s this goofy big time superhero action sequence in the middle of a small town. It’s simultaneously delightful and bewildering.

It’s a fantastic, multilayered story. Gerber does singularly well.

A+ 

CREDITS

It Came Out of the Sky!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 16 (September 1973)

Fear #16Sal Trapani inks Mayerik fairly well. Everyone looks a little too Marvel house style for it to be a horror comic, but it’s good art. There’s a lot of action in the issue, with Man-Thing getting involved with these Native American kids who decide to attack an industrialist destroying the swamp. They do it in costume, which gives the book an odd feel.

It’s modern, but then you’ve got these Native Americans in the swamp and it feels like a Western comic or something. Like the cowboy gets lost in the swamp.

No one gets lost here.

Gerber keeps his supporting cast around, even after the vague closure of their last appearance. It gives the setting a good feel–they show up in a crowd scene and Gerber focuses on them–and the familiarity is nice.

Plus, Gerber writes the Man-Thing narration well. It’s confused, just like him.

A- 

CREDITS

Cry of the Native; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 15 (August 1973)

Fear #14Gerber writes the heck out of the first feature length Man-Thing story. There’s a lot of new information introduced, with Gerber doing a lengthy flashback. The flashback–to Atlantis and an explanation of something the present–takes the place of a backup story. But put as a second chapter, it relieves a lot of drama. Not too much, just about right.

One really different thing is how Gerber has his cult out to save the world from demons; they’re the good guys. Don’t see good cults often.

Everything moves real fast. The world’s in chaos, the supporting cast gets together and finds Man-Thing, flashback, resolution. But Gerber makes sure each section is filled. Not so much with Man-Thing, who’s backseat to the girl, Jennifer (especially after she magically gets a risqué outfit). She’s also related to the flashback.

Depressing ending too.

It’s a good, well-executed issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

From Here to Infinity!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Frank McLaughlin; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 14 (June 1973)

Adventures Into Fear #14The Man-Thing feature is pretty good. Gerber starts clarifying the nexus in the swamp and also the real villains behind the story. They’re not the most original villains–demons from hell–but the way Gerber sets it up is strong. While there’s a forward-thinking element to the top story with the kids hanging out with Man-Thing, the demons are gloriously aged.

They’re basically Romans with pointy ears and Gerber doesn’t go for any humor with them. Loosing Man-Thing in this environment is ludicrous but it works out. The incongruity probably helps.

Chic Stone’s inks aren’t the best for Mayerick but the art’s still good. Gerber seems oddly detached from Man-Thing’s story this time around though. He’s occasionally cruel to the creature in the expository narration.

Then the fifties backup is this awesome story from Paul Reinman. Great art, great story. Very impressive.

This issue’s outstanding.

B+ 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, The Demon Plague; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Chic Stone; colorist, Stan Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek. Listen, You Fool; artist, Paul Reinman. Editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 13 (April 1973)

Adventure Into Fear #13Oh, very good news–Val Mayerik is on the pencils (with Frank Bolle in inks). From the first couple pages of Man-Thing, it's clear the art is going to be a lot better. It shouldn't be particularly obvious, as it's a Man-Thing story and Mayerik doesn't illustrate him until later in the story but the way Mayerik draws the supporting cast is enough to show things have turned around.

Gerber fleshes out that supporting cast more here, he shows how the local girl is somehow linked to Man-Thing, for instance. But he's also got a better grip on how to write Man-Thing himself. While Gerber does fall back on Man-Thing's human side getting dialogue, the sequence is effective and doesn't seem forced.

Maybe because it's in the second act, not the third. Anyway, good feature.

The sixties backup has indistinct Gene Colan art. The Lieber and Lee story's distinctively crappy though.

B 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, Where Worlds Collide!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Frank Bolle; colorist, Ben Hunt; letterer, Artie Simek. Mister Black; writers, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber; artist, Gene Colan. Editors, Lee and Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 12 (February 1973)

Adventure Into Fear #12Gerber does the stupid second person narration, but not a lot of it. Most of the Man-Thing story he does a close third person for Man-Thing; it works a lot better. Especially he confirms Man-Thing has no mouth.

Instead, Man-Thing listens a lot. He makes a new friend, a black guy on the run from a racist white sheriff. Gerber doesn’t shy away from the race issues. Gerber even takes it further, working race preconceptions into the surprise ending. He’s also turning Man-Thing into a real character, even if he can’t talk and doesn’t get any thought balloons.

Jim Starlin has a really fun time on the pencils. There are some really emotive pages. Buckler inks him well enough.

The fifties back-up, from Stan Lee and Russ Heath, has an interesting visual style but Stan must have been trying to impress his editor with how many words he could use.

B 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, No Choice of Colors!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Rich Buckler; letterer, John Costanza. The Face of Horror; writer, Stan Lee; artist, Russ Heath. Editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 11 (December 1972)

Adventure Into Fear #11Steve Gerber writes the entire Man-Thing feature with second person narration. Everything thing is the narration talking to Man-Thing, who can’t respond as he doesn’t speak. And because it’s the narration. But if he had talked back to the narrator, the story would be better.

Because otherwise there’s not a lot of personality to it. A couple kids bring a demon from the other side, then go to the movies and the demon wrecks havoc. Without Man-Thing, the demon might have eaten the one summoning him. There’s a lot of activity, something Gerber’s narration amplifies, but nothing really going on.

Gerber does get a little mileage out of the narration, but it’s uneven and not enough. The Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney art is fine. Not great, not good, but fine.

Then the fifties back from Fred Kida is almost better just because it’s actually far weirder.

C 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, Night of the Nether-Spawn!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Rich Buckler; inker, Jim Mooney; letterer, Jean Izzo. The Spider Waits; artist, Fred Kida. Editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure into Fear 10 (October 1972)

Adventure into Fear #10Of the three stories this issue–the first two are original, the third is a sixties reprint–Man-Thing is the easy winner. The other two aren't any competition.

The reprint is a Stan Lee and Larry Lieber (probably) written tale of greed. Don Heck gets some moody art in, but nothing particularly good. The writing's lame.

Ditto for the second story, which is sort of a tale of greed. Bugsy Malone versus pirates. Allyn Brodsky's script is terrible. Jack Katz and Bill Everett contribute indistinct art.

But as for Man-Thing… the art, from Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow, is pretty good. And Gerry Conway's script has a couple moments. Not enough, but a couple. The problem seems to be his pacing. He front loads the story setting up Man-Thing and then doesn't have enough room for a good finish. It's creepier with the bad finish… maybe Conway intended that reading of it.

C 

CREDITS

Man-Thing; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Howard Chaykin; inker, Gray Morrow. The Spell of the Sea Witch; writer, Allyn Brodsky; penciller, Jack Katz; inker, Bill Everett. There Is Something Strange About Mister Jones; writers, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber; artist, Don Heck. Letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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