Friday, May 29, 2009

I've got a Giant Sized Man-Thing for ya baby...

Noah Berlatsky and Tucker Stone are blogging their way through the classic Man-Thing series of Adventure into Fear and Man-Thing, and given that I was reading those front and center when they were coming out, I realized that someone had to go along and blog with them on this (especially since they're doing all the scanner work so that I don't have to).

First off, they have parts 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 up already.

And lets face it, someone clearly dug through the half price trades bin at the con and picked up that Essential Man-Thing trade.

Of course, I couldn't wait to see what they said about the bizarre acid trip that is Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1. Here are the comments on Howard the Duck's first appearance:
Oddly enough, the Conan-stand-in [Korrek] seems to share my feelings, because he likes and respects him immediately as well. Considering that most of Korrek's speeches and actions so far have painted his character as an aggressive jump-first type of character, it makes Howard that much more interesting when you see him tell the barbarian to shut up. Why does Howard get to order around Conan and treat Man-Thing like a retarded golden retriever? Gerber doesn't say. He doesn't need to. Howard gets to do that stuff because he's Howard The Duck.
Now, this is the fun of revisionist history here, knowing that Howard became a media sensation, as well as getting spun off into his own book, but at the time, we were simply witnessing all weirdness that Gerber and Mayerik could come up with. Any you know what? It made as much sense as Crisis on Infinite Earths did all those years later. What is intersting is Gerber's take on the entire thing, which is to almost to admit that the insanity level would be so high that the rational being would basically have to either lose his marbles or just roll with the entire thing.

Tucker wonders why Howard is there at all. The answer is simple, as simple as Ben Grimm in the FF: someone needs to be the voice of reason and ground the whole frikkin' thing or it really does spin so far out of control that we, the reader, could really care less. Howard allows Gerber to have his cake and eat it too: all the weirdness that Gerber's right brain can come up with, his left brain can make a clever, Give me a fucking break." kinda comment, and thus the story moves.

As far as villans go, the Nether Spawn was pretty fun, even if he didn't have the snappiest lines of all time, he was rather sinister if you bought into the whole panethon that Dakimh did. Anytime i drive around California and see "Dog is my co-pilot" bumper stickers, i'm reminded of Man-Thing #1. After all these years, scary I know, but that's the way my brain works.

After basically lambasting Gerber for some real by the numbers issues of Fear, I'll be interested to see what Noah and Tucker think about the issues when Gerber finally gets his brain wrapped around the sorts of stories that he wants to use Man-Thing for. Man-Thing #5 is about where is gets good. Steve creates a level of Brechtian pathos that most comics would never even dare attempt, let alone create on page after page. The death of the clown? Either brilliant pathos or inspired lunacy depending upon your vantage point. Hard to say where they will fall.

Part of it, of course, is the art. Val Mayerik did a good job, but was always inked so roughly that it missed the mark of being anything classic. When Ploog comes on, things get better by leaps and bounds, even if they would never hit the high notes that Wrightson would hit on Swamp Thing. Brunner's Man-Thing covers hint at how devastating the creature could have been in the right hands.

Looking forward to the next post from Tucker and Noah...

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