Issue(s): Man-Thing #17, Man-Thing #18
Richard Rory risks his job as the local DJ to try and talk some sense into the book burners but to no avail, and he winds up knocked out by the viking.
While all this is going on, the Man-Thing is said to have become fully saturated with emotion.
His body stiffens and he falls over, and is captured by a posse hunting for the viking. The Man-Thing is captured and thrown into the town's waste water treatment facility, which is a unique and plausible solution to the problem of a swamp monster.
The Mothers' March for Decency takes their mob over to the school, where they begin trashing the place. The viking ensures that no one stops them.
Rory recovers and heads to the school. He's met by Astrid, the viking's daughter. She tries to reach out to her crazy grandfather, but he responds with a deadly smack.
Killing her, however, is not your neat little turning point, where the grandfather realizes the error of his ways, or the crowd realizes that they're following a madman. Instead, the book burning proceeds.
The event is only broken up when a bubbly soapy Man-Thing...
...arrives on the scene. Whatever chemical reaction is going on with it gets transferred to the viking, disintegrating him.
Rory's first concern is getting himself and the Man-Thing out of there, because he doesn't expect the mob to remain dispersed for long. Carol Selby, the March's organizer's daughter, begs to go along with him.
Nice art by Jim Mooney. Storywise, i think this is the best of Gerber's Man-Thing run. In that sense, this is sort of pay-off for me. My initial forays into Gerber's Man-Thing run were a bit random; whatever issues i ran across in bargain bins. And i was sometimes intrigued, sometimes put off, by what i found. I originally had #17, without #16 or #18, and wasn't sure what to make of it. The series is very uneven, in quality and especially in theme. I eventually got the Essentials, thinking i'd just slog through them for completeness' sake. And overall the stories are better when read as a whole. But the unevenness remains. This story, though, stands out as one where the social commentary and the zaniness reach the right kind of balance. There's no doubt that (as someone complains in the lettercol in issue #20, about issue #16 specifically) this is a very depressing story. Rory and Astrid are the only ones who try to stop the mass hysteria, and they fail. The irony that the book-burning mob teams-up with the guy that caused the violence that they think they are protesting against is never made apparent to anyone but Rory. So it's a bleak story. But that's not an accident; it's announcing the re-emergence of conservatism at the end of the hippie era (as well as, if you look at Eugene Spangler, a rotting of the hippie movement from the inside).
It's said that Gerber really intended this as "satire, black humor, not a literal representation of the world" and "never really intended for the story to be taken seriously!!". Again, that was about #16 specifically (which i consider to be the prologue to this arc), but i imagine it applies here as well. As usual, Gerber's "satire" is overplayed; i mean, a guy running around in a viking costume representing old school masculinity? But (and maybe it takes reading several years worth of stories to soften you up) it works this time.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: A little confusingly, the issue starts off by saying that the massacre of Eugene Spangler and his entourage was discovered "this afternoon", and then the next page says "the following afternoon, while the sheriff was still investigating", the Man-Thing's rampage at the school in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4 occurred. But the general idea is that these events took place in quick succession (although the musicians' bodies didn't have to be discovered immediately after the events of issue #16).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Man-Thing vol. 2 (#17 is an original)
Inbound References (2): showAstrid Josefsen, Carol Selby, Man-Thing, Richard Rory, Viking Josefsen
Gerber's last issue of Man-Thing was actually the genuine conclusion to his story; the title was initially supposed to continue with three issues by Steve Skeates. The decision was made to end the book on a high note by ending it with Gerber's last issue anyway.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 1, 2012 10:24 PM
At the first MarvelCon on 3/22-24/75, first place in the costume contest was taken by a Man-Thing costume that looked astonishingly professional(seen in FOOM#10).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 24, 2013 4:07 PM
Great analysis of how this story works as a commentary on the re-emergence of the conservative movement and the rot within the hippie movement. I didn't read these stories until well over a decade after they came out, but I'd rate these among the best comics ever. They are rather bleak but despite the fantasy elements they ring all too true. Gerber was unflinching when depicting social insanity which is very much a part of the world we live in.
Posted by: Fred W. Hill | December 30, 2013 7:50 AM
I rank Gerber's Man Thing and Howard the Duck as my favourite Marvel comics. Which means they rank very highly on my list of favourite comic series. One of those two takes top six out of all comic books.
Future comic book writer JM DeMatteis would write a letter to Marvel about these issues talking about how bleak they were and that Gerber should hold on, something to that effect.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | December 30, 2013 4:10 PM
The wild-eyed faces of the students running from Man-Thing on #18's cover are the most blatant giveaway that this is Gil Kane's handiwork I've ever seen. Ol' Gil must have been frustrated at drawing Man-Thing due to the lack of nostrils and facial expressions, so he must have overcompensated on the fleeing students.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 27, 2017 10:30 PM
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