Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Giant Size Man-Thing!

So moving house has meant a lot of sorting through my comic collection. There has been some culling and some of the orphans are now up on eBay if anyone is interested. This sort out combined with my trip to the Birmingham comic convention has rekindled my interest in some of the old stuff in my collection. So what I thought I would do in between completing my Apes marathon and starting my British Invaders 30 day challenge was pick out the occasional comic and discuss it here.

So let's start with one I actually bought for a £1 from one of the dealers at Birmingham. Why did I buy this issue? Well it's because I remember the cover and the story. It's possible that I read it as a back-up story in one of the 1970s Marvel UK black and white reprints that I used to get. I don't have any other Man-Thing comics in my collection but it just struck me while I was flicking through back issues in Brum. Whimsey!
So this is Man-Thing issue 17 from May 1975 written by Steve Gerber with art by Jim Mooney and colours by Petra Goldberg. The editor was Len Wein who created Swamp Thing for DC and who was instrumental in getting Alan Moore to write his break out US comic as previously discussed here. Steve Gerber is the writer most associated with Man-Thing. His 39 issue run is regarded as a cult classic.

The story is "A Book burns in Citrusville". The Man-Thing itself is a fairly passive participant in the story. A pop star and his entourage have been attacked by what appears to be a raving, elderly Viking. The attack was ended by the Man-Thing and this issue starts with people picking up the pieces. There's a young woman who is the Viking's grand-daughter, a disc jockey who is the nearest thing that the Man-Thing has to a friend, a group of hunters have discovered the creature's apparently dead body. And then there is Mrs Olivia Selby. Mrs Selby in contemplating all that has happened recently in the fictional town of Citrusville, Florida and has found what she believes is the answer, in a high school biology text book. She discovers to her horror that the town's teenagers are being taught about sex and that must be the cause of all the town's troubles. Yes, that's right, the attack on the pop star, the axe-swinging Viking, and the shambling muck man are all because "We've been letting those teachers fill our kids' heads with dirt and filth!"

Before you can say tea party she is leading a Mothers' march for decency and taking her demands to a town meeting. You can see where it's all headed, and the point that Gerber wants to make in the coming issues. Meanwhile the Man-Thing has had some sort of emotional melt down that has left it insensate, so the hunting party decide to drag it to a nearby sewage treatment plant and dispose of it in a chemical treatment vat. The issue ends with the creature apparently dissolving into nothingness while the peaceful townsfolk take to the streets and start looking for torches to burn.

It's all quite bizarre and taken out of context doesn't make a lot of sense. Except to say that every American writer eventually gets round to writing something about book burning. And quite right too. Whether I should follow up by looking for Man-Thing issues is a tricky one but it's certainly a fun cover and story title.

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