The Man-Thing 8 (August 1974)

The Man-Thing #8

In some ways, this issue has Gerber's most predictable comics scene. Man-Thing and his arch-nemesis, Schist, duke it out in a laboratory where Man-Thing could regain his humanity and Schist could gain immortality. Sure, it's got Ploog artwork, but there's nothing special about it. Man-Thing's almost human again and Gerber can't think of anything to do with him except fight.

Again, Ploog art, so it's a nice-looking fight, but it's just narratively goofy.

Gerber opens the issue with an about-face in the cliffhanger resolution. Man-Thing goes straight back to the secret city, this time Schist and a sidekick following. Man-Thing's return to the city is the most impressive handling in the issue, with Gerber giving him a guide and so on. It just doesn't go anywhere. The character development on the guest stars, for example, is just filler before the fight scene.

It's a pretty good issue… but not great.

B 

CREDITS

The Gift of Death!; writer, Steve Gerber; artist, Mike Ploog; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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The Man-Thing 7 (July 1974)

The Man-Thing #7

Gerber only puts in a few pages of about Man-Thing's erstwhile human sidekicks, but it's all rather effective. It grounds the issue in reality, while elsewhere Gerber pulls even more out of it. Turns out Schist isn't just a bad guy industrialist, he's actually a bad guy industrialist looking for the fountain of youth.

Unconnectedly, Man-Thing finds himself captured by a bunch of Spanish conquistadors and stumbles across said fountain and a lost city.

The issue works thanks to Gerber's pacing and Ploog's art. The capture sequence is lengthy–and Man-Thing's attack on the city is somewhat inexplicable–but Gerber keeps everything busy enough he's able to sneak in a big moment towards the end. While there's a visual component, there's also how Gerber handles the familiar expository narration regarding Man-Thing.

It's an excellent issue. Ploog doesn't get to draw much in terms of variety, but he excels at what he's given.

A- 

CREDITS

The Old Die Young!; writer, Steve Gerber; artist, Mike Ploog; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 6 (June 1974)

The Man-Thing #6

Gerber nails it again, this time using Man-Thing to write an epitaph for a character. He’s also introducing most of this character in this issue. He uses a three act device–obviously so, with the regular cast and guest stars put to work as actors in a play–and runs the character development throughout.

He has enough time to foreshadow and to get the reader’s hopes up for possible outcomes and even has enough time to get the reader to readjust his or her hopes. It’s a beautifully paced comic.

Even the ending, which initially seems problematic, works once the reader has a chance to calm down and reflect on it. The only complaint might be how Gerber gets the tension so high, it does take a moment to interpret the finish.

The Ploog pencils are gorgeous, with Chiaramonte an able inker.

Gerber and Ploog produce a masterful comic.

A 

CREDITS

And When I Died…!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 5 (May 1974)

The Man-Thing #5

Here’s a rarity–the cliffhanger successfully ties the issue together. Gerber–with Mike Ploog joining him on the art–spends most of the issue bringing the players together. Rory and the biker chick, a couple circus performers, a dead clown and Man-Thing. They all converge at the end, where Gerber finds time for a fight scene.

He also finds time to bring a little more humanity to Man-Thing, which is an emphasis of the entire issue. It opens with the dead clown and Man-Thing finding him, lots of second person narration describing Man-Thing’s failure to properly access his lost humanity.

The odd cast of characters–there are also some small town meanies mad at Rory for being a hippy (they ought to be mad at him for being such a lame character)–gives Ploog a lot to do. He’s good on the swamp stuff, great on the various people.

It’s got problems, but works.

B 

CREDITS

Night of the Laughing Dead; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 4 (April 1974)

The Man-Thing #4

Abel inks Mayerik even better this issue; occasionally there’s an almost Eisner-like roundness to the figures and the faces. The hair too–the hair’s not Eisner-like, but there’s often a lot of phenomenal hair.

Gerber continues with the Foolkiller, recounting his origin. It’s a tad much, actually. There’s some anti-religion, anti-military propaganda in Gerber’s story for the character and it’s not effective. It might have been a big deal at the time, but it’s really just a shortcut to not having to do much character work.

The art and the rest of the comic smooth out those bumps. The outlandish humor aspect–down to the Foolkiller having a van and car setup from “Knight Rider” (but before the television show; wonder if Marvel got a check for it)–and the way Gerber doesn’t try to do anything with Man-Thing except as the lumbering deus ex machina… it all works out.

Works out well.

B 

CREDITS

The Making of a Madman!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Dave Hunt; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 3 (March 1974)

The Man-Thing #3

I almost want to cut this issue slack for the art; Jack Abel inking Val Mayerik is an interesting thing. Abel adds not just a lot of detail–to Man-Thing in particular–but comic expressions for most of the characters. Man-Thing all of a sudden seems to recognize its humor.

And a good deal of the issue has Gerber dealing with his human civilian cast. While they aren’t the most engaging people ever, Gerber’s coming up with new situations for them and plotting these situations well. It’s like he can’t ever screw up too much because his storytelling instincts are strong.

But then there’s Foolkiller, who makes his first appearance this issue. Gerber runs him through the issue, tying together all the subplots, but it’s all too obvious. The character feels way too artificial.

The worst part of the issue might be the cliffhanger–because Gerber doesn’t make it a rewarding one.

C 

CREDITS

Day of the Killer, Night of the Fool!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Jean Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 2 (February 1974)

The Man Thing #2

One problem I can see Gerber having with Man-Thing is what to do on the regular issues, the ones where he has a somewhat ambitious narrative structure, but isn't doing anything fantastical. Gerber excels at the fantastical. This issue is not fantastical.

The structure's kind of neat. Man-Thing saves a guy who runs into a girl in trouble while Schist is plotting against Man-Thing (though Gerber tries too hard on the humor of the big scheming scene) and then Man-Thing runs into the trouble the girl's running from (a biker gang). It all comes together at the end.

Maybe if the guy, the protagonist for a lot of the issue, were a better character, it would work. Instead, he's a comical doofus; Gerber goes for jokes for his backstory without thinking them through.

It's a dense issue, however, and Gerber's plotting is a success. Mayerik and Trapani keep it moving.

B 

CREDITS

Nowhere to Go But Down!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 1 (January 1974)

The Man-Thing #1

At one point during the issue, the editor–or writer Steve Gerber–apologizes for the visual madness in Gerber’s script. This apology is for the reader. But given all the insanity Gerber throws together, which ranges from superheroes, Howard the Duck, wizards, barbarians, politicians in big cars and then army guys–not to mention castles, swamps and cosmic walkways–one has to wonder how artist Val Mayerik felt about it.

Ostensibly–and from the title, Man-Thing–this comic is about Man-Thing. But not really. Especially not since Gerber does a slight retcon on the character and removes its ability for maintaining thought. So, while the comic’s great and Gerber uses Man-Thing to good effect, it’s hard to say where he can take the comic.

But it certainly seems like it’ll be somewhere great. Part of Gerber’s charm is his unexpectedness.

It’s a brilliantly written comic book with these fantastic little moments. Gerber and Mayerik are awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Battle for the Palace of the Gods!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Dave Hunt; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 19 (December 1973)

Fear #19

Apparently 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.

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