Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1562- Steve Gerber (writer), various artists: The Man-Thing The Complete Collection

Swamp Thing has recently become one of my favourite DC Comics characters and as a card-carrying Marvel fan it has pained me somewhat to think that they ripped off DC with the Man-Thing. The good news is I was wrong about that. The bad news is, it doesn't really matter. Swamp Thing still reigns supreme.

The first Swamp Thing appearance was actually a few months later than Man-Thing's. Perhaps tellingly, the creators of both monsters lived with one another at the time. And the whole originality question is moot when one considers that both were rip-offs of the Heap who was in turn a rip-off of It (not the Stephen King clown-monster).

With nearly identical origin stories (a scientist injects himself with a chemical, falls into a swamp, and becomes a rotting vegetable monster), the Man-Thing/ Swamp Thing differences begin to veer from there. The former has a demonic penis face, the latter a demonic vagina face.

But more importantly, the Man-Thing doesn't think but merely reacts to emotions and a vague sense of good/evil. The Swamp Thing on the other hand is quite a thinker. Steve Gerber, to his credit, managed to milk more out of the Man-Thing's premise than I would have thought possible, but in the end, he comes across as a bit of a dog. The Swamp Thing's writers throughout the years have been able to infuse him with existential angst which is far more interesting. (Gerber did touch upon such topics in his latter Man-Thing stories but had to rely on peripheral characters to do so.)

Perhaps owing to the existential angle, the Swamp Thing's artists were also able to make him a much more horrifying character with a creepy mix of psychedelic imagery and symbolism. None of the artists of Steve Gerber's Man-Thing stories were really able to do much that was truly frightening, except perhaps if you're terrified of garish70s colours. 

All this aside, I'm glad to have given the Man-Thing a chance and I'm still curious to see what R. L. Stine will accomplish with the character this year.

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