Issue(s): Daredevil #113, Daredevil #114, Daredevil #115
Foggy's sister Candace is getting arrested by the FBI when the Gladiator attacks. The Gladiator is brutal, horribly killing one of the agents with his spinning blades (a line of dialogue tries to make it sound like it's not actually murder, but the art is pretty clear).
Candace had been researching military funded campus research, which it turned out was investigating the ability to turn people into pollution-breathing monsters, and this Project: Sulfur was headed by Ted Sallis, who later became the Man-Thing.
As Matthew and Michael's comments below make apparent, there needs to be a clear delineation here. This idea was first introduced in Fear #16, but it seemed to contradict the original origin for the Man-Thing, which had Sallis working on a super-soldier replica, not a pollution-breathing serum. So this story kind of fixes that by showing that Sallis was originally working on Project: Sulfur but later abandoned it and then went into seclusion to work on another project (i.e., the one that turned him into the Man-Thing). So this makes the Man-Thing's flashback in Fear #16 not particularly relevant to his current state, but it does resolve the conflict in origins that the Fear issue introduced.
Daredevil tracks down the Gladiator and finds a villain called the Death-Stalker as well. The Man-Thing also shows up, of course.
The Man-Thing's interference delays Daredevil's defeat, especially since Gladiator is particularly afraid of it.
But Death-Stalker is able to dispatch it...
...he's able to defeat Daredevil as well.
One really nice bit of writing is when Gladiator questions why Death-Stalker doesn't just kill Daredevil after defeating him, and Death-Stalker gives the usual super-villain response. Gladiator's subsequent thought bubble is Gerber at his best; not zany weird stuff, just good writing that makes characters seem realistic.
Death-Stalker is after the Sallis papers, so he takes Candace Nelson back to New York, leaving Gladiator to kill Daredevil (and Richard Rory). As Gladiator predicted, Daredevil escapes and rescues Rory, while Gladiator is defeated off-panel by the Man-Thing.
It turns out that the Project: Sulfur program that Ted Sallis abandoned was still being pursued by the government, not just so that corporations could pollute as much as they wanted without repercussion, but also so that they could create soldiers that could survive biological warfare, freeing up the US government to use such weapons.
The final showdown with Death-Stalker takes place in an abandoned Osborn factory, and Death-Stalker is seemingly dropped into a vat of acid...
...along with Ted Sallis' notes. The deliberate destruction of the documents was a difficult moral choice for Daredevil.
Back in San Francisco, the Black Widow has been trying to contact Daredevil but he's been occupied with the events of this story, so she's increasingly frustrated with him.
The lettercols around this time are very reflective, with long responses acknowledging that the stories have not been good but Gerber has been really trying to turn things around, especially after "several long, involved discussions with editor Roy Thomas". And i agree that the stories have been getting better. One might question the wisdom of revising/fixing the origin of the Man-Thing in a Daredevil book, but if anyone's going to muck about (ha, ha!) with the Man-Thing, it should be Gerber. Beyond that, the stories have become better by becoming much more straightforward super-hero tales which, ironically considering his reputation, is where i think Gerber was at his best.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place either before or after the two-parter in Man-Thing #9-10. The MCP places it before.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Most of the detail on Death-Stalker's costume disappeared after this.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 19, 2011 11:50 PM
Possible historic first: First mention of a Zombie(in a footnote) in a Marvel comic since the code? The comics code was REALLY strict about zombies...Gerber also wrote Tales of the Zombie, by the way.
Death-Stalker is very similar to Agent Axis.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 14, 2013 6:47 PM
A big deal is made of the fact that the Man-Thing survived Death-Stalker's touch because Man-Thing is neither dead nor alive. The implication is that there was something supernatural about Death-Stalker's powers, which was apparently Gerber's intention. When Wolfman took over, he decided that the Death-Stalker was really the Exterminator, and all of his powers were just technology.
Posted by: Michael | April 14, 2013 6:49 PM
Don't know if there was a subsequent retcon, but at least according to Sallis's current "bio" on the MCDb, this story does not appear to be contradictory. Seems Ted worked on two separate and sequential secret projects: Sulfur, which sought to enable humans to survive in a polluted environment, and which he subsequently disavowed, and (ironicaly) Gladiator, which sought to replicate the Super-Soldier serum, and which led indirectly to his transformation into Man-Thing.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | April 25, 2014 1:23 PM
So Ted Sallis worked on one program that was supposed to create super-soldiers but accidentally turned him into a swamp monster (and, according to the original story, only because it interacted with the swamp he fell into) while at the same time he was working on a separate project to deliberately turn people into swamp monsters?
Maybe he grabbed the wrong vial when he ran out of his lab when AIM was chasing him...
Posted by: fnord12 | April 26, 2014 12:17 PM
We finally see what the perfected version of Sallis's formula would have done in Marvel Comics Presents 1-12, which you'll be reviewing soon, and the super-soldiers look monstrous, but they're not swamp monsters and don't seem to breathe pollution.
Posted by: Michael | April 26, 2014 12:47 PM
I think "sequential" is the key word, because some time elapsed between the two projects, and Sallis's super-soldier serum (which did indeed interact with the swamp, and perhaps its properties as the Nexus of Realities) built on the work he'd done for Sulfur. Try this link:
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | April 27, 2014 1:37 PM
But that still raises the question of why the perfected version of the serum (and remember, the Man-Thing recognizes the super-soldiers in that MCP story as what Ted Sallis should have been)didn't produce swamp monsters.
Posted by: Michael | April 27, 2014 1:44 PM
The Wikipedia entry on Richard Rory has this to say about the Tales of the Zombie footnote, : In the issue, Daredevil #113, he noted it was the site of several recent deaths. A footnote says that this is a reference to Tales of the Zombie #6, but as the cabin in that story was only a day's walk from New Orleans, Louisiana, it is clearly a reference to a two-part text story in Monsters Unleashed #8-9. All stories in question are Gerber's, perhaps implying that the story was published in a different place than originally intended.
Posted by: Anthony | February 7, 2015 6:03 AM
Awesome, thanks for sharing that, Anthony. I've updated the reference a bit.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 7, 2015 10:44 AM
The wiki entry is probably correct as a house ad in Tales of the Zombie 5 for next issue lists ... a special Man-Thing fiction tales by Steve Gerber ... that is nowhere to be found in issue 6. The letters page and editorial didn't make any mention of the omission.
Posted by: Anthony | February 8, 2015 3:05 AM
And now I am curious what Steve Gerber's original intentions were for Death-Stalker's origins.
Posted by: Ben Herman | August 16, 2015 10:51 PM
Having hypersenses, notably smell, and being in a swamp in such close proximity of Man-Thing must have been murder on DD's nostrils. Small wonder he didn't lose his lunch! Maybe off-panel?
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 7, 2017 8:18 PM
"Whoever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch" meets "The Man without Fear". Gerber really danced around a perfect made-for-a-splash-page moment there. It could have been as epic as Thor's unstoppable hammer meeting Captain America's unbreakable shield from Avengers, Vol. 2, #63.
Posted by: Andrew | February 11, 2018 8:12 AM
Comments are now closed.
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