Giant-Size Man-Thing (#1) – Steve Gerber, Various

5 out of 5

Steve Gerber’s classic run on Man-Thing spanned, purposefully, a lot of genres and narrative styles, but it was almost always rooted in tragedy. Ted Sallis-turned-muck monster is beyond a standard “tragic” character – mutated into inhumanity – because he’s hardly even present: Man-Thing does not “feel” or “think,” he only experiences emotions, strong ones, tangentially. It’s a brilliant concept, and one that the wordy, emotional Steve took to incredibly well, always in a bluster of having so much to say and a million ways of saying it. Thus, forced into a character who’s stories are proxy ones is a great way to ping-pong your thoughts off the world around you, without having to spell it out in black and white.

That rooting in tragedy generally means that the MT stories that stay true to that very much appeal to me, and Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 is one of the most sober issues Steve had written to that point in the series, despite including an entropy-worshipping cult with an irradiated golden brain relic that summons classic Marvel muckster The Glob.

That’s… pretty much the plot. These yahoos – who are extreme in their dedication to entropy, but are written in a delightfully morally gray manner, in which their ideas are arguably logical – get in the way of some idealists who are trying to instill some order via a solar-powered communal living space, and golden brain yadda yadda Manny wanders by and fights The Glob. But Steve twists the knife when delving in to Glob’s background as, like Man-Thing, a man; and after their fight he is reborn as one, then tries to start life anew in the communal living space… The irony runs strong, but for a tale of feuding swamp creatures, it’s told with incredible restraint and maturity, until the inevitable shuffling off of MT back into his mire. Mike Ploog’s artwork was such a fantastic fit for the book, and he absolutely delivers throughout.

The reprints in this GS are also pretty good, as they’re hand-picked to vibe with having a featured “monster,” excepting one about a scientist who turns himself invisible, but that’s a pretty fun story too. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m totally fine with reprints, given that I probably haven’t read the material before, but even if I had in this case, the curated nature of them is a nice touch.