Welcome back comic book faithful, to another week of perilous panels in Ye Olde School Café! With Halloween quickly approaching, I’ll be focusing on some of the more macabre stories in the comic book universe! This week, we’ll be checking out one of the creepiest, but more misunderstood monsters, Man-Thing! In Giant-Size Man-Thing #5 (1975), we get three stories involving the swampy brute, and believe me, they don’t disappoint! Contributions by Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Ed Hannigan, Tom Sutton, Big John Buscema, Frank Springer, Marv Wolfman, (cover by Gil Kane) and more!
The first tale begins at a carnival, and two young people enter the tent of a fortune teller. The old woman conjures up a spell that shows a scene in an apartment building in Atlanta, Georgia. A woman, resembling something like a witch, surrounded by some unholy, devilish creatures, is stirring!
Meanwhile, outside a police officer is going off the deep end, as a monstrosity is heading towards him. It’s Man-Thing, and since he doesn’t talk, the officer, out of fear, opens fire on him. Of course, it does nothing to harm him, and Manny then uses his empathic abilities to figure out that the man just wants to get away. Back in the apartment building, the witchy woman and her beasts knock on a door and force their way inside. The witch is looking for a young boy, apparently, and she’ll stop at nothing to get him.
Man-Thing makes his way into the building, and the witch and her crew try to escape with the boy. They hear something stirring in the hallway, but ignore the disturbance. They make their way to an undisclosed location, where they have an altar set up to sacrifice the young boy. They call upon some unearthly demon named Ehrthold, who appears. He instructs the witch to kill the boy, so that she can gain her heart’s desire. Just as one of her minions is about to slice the boy in half, Man-Thing smashes through the doors and grabs the child.
As the demon attempts to stop Man-Thing, the witch gets burned by the brazier, and turns on the demon. The demon hears this, and begins to tear her crew apart. The fire begins to rage out of control, and Man-Thing heads into the hallway. He realizes at one point that he’s let the child go, and goes back for him. The fire then begins to consume the entire building, and in a panic Man-Thing hurls himself (and the child) out of a window seven stories up! Luckily, he’s impervious to harm of that nature, and he just gets up and walks away. As the fire trucks approach, he knows the child is now safe.
The next story in this book shows two young lovers as they are running away from home to be together. Kip then gives Tally a cheesy ring to show some commitment, then the two begin their adventure into the unknown. Tally remarks that she hopes they don’t run into that “Man-Thing” they’ve heard about, but Kip reassures her that it’s just a story. As they travel deeper into the swamp, they run right into this figment of everyone’s imagination, and it scares the crap out of them. Tally tries to run away, but trips over a log. She’s OK, but bleeding from her lip.
Just as the two are trying to make sense of what they’ve seen, Tally’s parents show up, and think that Kip has hit her. The father is just about to clobber Kip with the rifle he’s carrying, but then Kip’s parents show up, and an all out brawl begins! Tally and Kip are powerless to stop it, but then Tally rationalizes that Man-Thing might be able to stop them. She races to the spot where they saw him previously, and she calls out to him. Little does she know, though, that she’s stepped in quicksand, and slowly she sinks to a certain death.
The parents actually stop fighting when they hear her scream for help, then make their way to the spot where she’s being pulled under. Kip’s father refuses to help, and Tally is running out of time. Man-Thing appears out of nowhere, and trudges into the quicksand to help. Whether it’s his slow moving actions, or something his empathic ability tells him, no one knows, but he and Tally both sink under the surface, and Tally dies. This infuriates her parents, and the fist fighting between the parents begins anew. All of a sudden, Kip, feeling like he has no reason to live, picks up the dropped handgun and commits suicide.
The two sets of parents twirl around in stunned amazement, and then Man-Thing arises from the bog, carrying Tally’s corpse. He gently places it next to Kip’s body, and somberly walks away. The hands of the two young lovers touching, ever so slightly.
In the last Man-Thing story, we see a mad scientist type guy, who wants revenge against Manny for burning his face years earlier. He assembles a team of bounty hunters and arms them with flamethrowers. They descend on the swamp, and the hunt is on. It doesn’t take them long to find Manny, and when they do, they’re sorry that they ever saw him. No matter what they try, he either uses the swamp, or brute force to win the battle. In the end, the leader is in his helicopter, and only one of his troopers is still alive. The guy is so scared, he blindly shoots his weapon, and hits the helicopter! Man-Thing leaves the bounty hunter in the swamp, crying like a little baby.
Dovetail back to the carnival, and all this was witnessed by the man and woman in the tent of the fortune teller. The man, who was told that this is his future, gets enraged, and kicks over the table. As the couple leaves the carnival, the girl asks Ted Sallis if he thinks any of that was true….
There is a Howard the Duck story in this issue also, but honestly, I’ve never cared for that character. It just never resonated with me for one reason or another.
Well, that’s it for this edition, check back next time (in two weeks), for more monster madness!