Astonishing Tales #12-13
Issue(s): Astonishing Tales #12, Astonishing Tales #13
Normally this is the sort of inter-connectivity you see when Marvel has an opportunity to start things over from scratch, like in the Ultimate universe or a cartoon series, so it's cool to see it happening right here with the Man-Thing's first color appearance.
We finally learn a little more about Barbara Morse, as well. She and her husband are working for a top secret government science project (confirmed to be part of SHIELD in issue #13), and they need Ka-Zar to track down Ted Sallis, who has gone missing.
The only person who knows that Ted Sallis has turned into the Man-Thing is a Dr. Wilma Calvin, and she's in a coma. We see her getting shot in a flashback scene.
The Man-Thing flashback is by Len Wein and Neal Adams (the rest of the issue is Thomas/Buscema/Adkins).
I thought these black & white scenes might have been replicated from the original Savage Tales issue, but they weren't. The original Savage Tales story was written by Thomas and Gerry Conway, and drawn by Gray Morrow, and aside from a quick recap of that issue, this sequence contains a new (unfinished) story that goes past where Savage Tales ends and adds the information about Dr. Calvin getting attacked.
So why include a black & white flashback by a completely different creative team in the middle of this issue? The sequence was originally intended to be a follow-up story in Savage Tales (The Savage Tales went on hiatus after issue #1 and began again with issue #2 in October 1973).
After the flashback, Ka-Zar hunts down Sallis. He initially finds AIM attacking the Man-Thing. We see Man-Thing's "He who knows fear burns at the touch..." attribute here (it was also present in the original Savage Tales story)(the actual phrase wasn't used either time).
Then Ka-Zar winds up trapped in a pit with the monster.
Ka-Zar, fearless, is immune to the Man-Thing's touch. AIM agents shoot down the Man-Thing (but Ka-Zar still detects a heart beating; eventually the Man-Thing won't really have human organs). Zabu then drives off the agents.
Zabu doesn't care that this is a code approved color comic; he's a saber-toothed tiger and he's gonna kill people that get in his way.
Ka-Zar pulls the monster out of the pit.
Two things worth noting here. One, it was implied last issue but it's pretty much confirmed here that Ka-Zar more or less has super-strength thanks to the Place of Mists he was exposed to as a child. He's not just a jungle-man like Tarzan. He (and Zabu!) are basically super-heroes. Two, i'm surprised that it was possible to pull the Man-Thing up with a rope. I would have expected him to have just oozed right through it. Indeed, a little later, he oozes through his prison bars.
The Man-Thing is still demonstrating some intelligence in these issues. In the Neal Adams flashback, he's seen trying to speak but prevented by his lack of vocal chords.
And later he's seen communicating to Ka-Zar and Barbara Morse, and apparently committing suicide as he destroys AIM's base with a convenient self-destruct lever.
The Man-Thing's complete lack of intelligence is one of his most interesting attributes, so it's a bit disappointing to see that it wasn't the case from the beginning, but it's certainly possible that the remnants of Sallis' mind degraded over time (or possibly immediately after the explosion at the AIM base).
It turns out that Paul Allen, Barbara Morse's fiancee, was actually an AIM agent, and Morse knew it and was only pretending to love him. That's a complete retcon; there was no hint of that in earlier issues.
Barbara is actually demonstrating a (remarkably reserved, for Thomas) interest in Ka-Zar, and Ka-Zar reciprocates enough that he's willing to go with her back to New York at the end of this issue instead of returning to the Savage Land.
It's odd to bring Ka-Zar and Zabu out of their Savage Land (it's strange to think Barbara Morse would have wasted "weeks" trying to recruit Ka-Zar instead of just bringing in more government agents to look for Sallis) but at least Thomas and Buscema were nice enough to provide some gators to make them feel at home.
These issues were done pretty well. It helps to have John Buscema on art.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
Later writers took the position that the mists did not give Ka-Zar super-strength (and the Official Handbooks confirmed it). But the mists DID prevent Zabu from aging while he was within them.
Posted by: Michael | December 11, 2011 4:31 PM
The Wein/Adams story was indeed intended for the never-published-as-originally-planned 1971 Savage Tales #2. I imagine Roy Thomas thought applying color to Adams' b&w art would have ruined it. The only other story intended for that Savage Tales #2 that I know of is a Thomas/Smith Conan story that was later published in censored form in the color Conan comic, and still later ran uncensored in either Savage Sword of Conan or the 1973 Savage Tales revival.
A Man-Thing entry in the Marvel Universe Handbook stated that Ted Sallis' brain was scattered into little bits throughout the Man-Thing's body, so I don't know how his lingering intelligence here is accounted for.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 11, 2011 6:37 PM
Though I realize this story takes place in the very early stages of the character's existence, it's still so strange to have Man-Thing accompanied by grunting noises.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 22, 2017 6:52 PM
Did they totaly forgot Barbara's first appearance? None of these are make any sense.
Posted by: Serena | December 12, 2017 10:47 AM
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