Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Classics - Giant-Size Man-Thing #4

   It's an easy joke - the only question is, did the editors at Marvel realize they were creating a title that fans would be snickering about far into the future (coming up on 40 years and counting)?

   Whatever the case, Giant-Size Man-Thing (hee hee!) has (ahem) stood the test of time.

   The entire concept was improbable. Marvel's Man-Thing was created at the same time as DC's Swamp Thing. (There is much debate about who slogged out of the swamp first, but both owe a dinner to The Heap, after all).

   But where DC's creation had intelligence, the Man-Thing had none. A shambling mockery of a man, incredibly strong, it is driven by emotions, reacting to them, drawn to conflict. And it can't bear fear - so any creature feeling fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing.

   What that meant was that it took a terrific writer to make the character interesting - the burden was on the supporting cast or the characters created for each story.

   Luckily for us, the character's stories were crafted by Steve Gerber, an odd, unorthodox writer who was also a bit of a genius. He crafted all kinds of off-beat psycho-dramas that drew in the title character - like the "Kid's Night Out" story here.

   It's an oversized adventure that combines text pages, a dysfunctional family at a funeral, and their destructive attempts to get their revenge on an odd but determined girl named Alice. Her only defender is the confused but powerful swamp creature.

   But this issue's famous for a completely different reason.

   Behind the excellent Man-Thing story is the first solo story starring Howard the Duck.

   Howard would quickly become a sensation, and for good reason. His stories, written by Gerber (who created the character with Val Mayerick in an earlier Man-Thing adventure), were a terrific balance of humor, social commentary and action.

   It didn't hurt that the art was by Frank Brunner, one of the most talented artists in Marvel's history.

   The story pitted Howard against Gorko, the Man-Frog - a classic loser who transforms into a formidable foe, and forces Howard to take a heroic stand.

   The issue is worth buying for the main story, but it's one to collect because of Howard.

Grade: A


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