“Where am I? My mind…dulled….”

§ March 18th, 2011 § Filed under giant-size man-thing § 12 Comments

So the main difference between DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing is that Swampy retained his intelligence during his transition from Alec Holland to monster, while Manny’s alter-ego Ted Sallis wasn’t quite so lucky. Man-Thing was a mindless beast (though admittedly the level of “mindlessness” varied depending on the needs of the plot), leaving Sallis unaware of his tragic fate. Except, of course, for the occasional mystical hoohar allowing Sallis to revert to human form or otherwise “resurface” from the depths of his monstrous prison.

This sequence, from Adventure into Fear #13 (April 1973), by Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik and Frank Bolle, is, I believe, the first time Sallis temporarily regains his humanity. Trapped in a chaotic interdimensional realm, Man-Thing finds himself in a room of mirrors:

In short order, Sallis, quickly realizing that the monster in the mirror is what he has become, is given the choice by Thog (remember him?) to either kill his friends to keep his humanity, or once again become a monster, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what Sallis chose.

There are further instances of the mind of Sallis reemerging from Man-Thing, such as this issue of Marvel Fanfare, but usually mystically transformed from his bestial form, or on some kind of spiritual plane. Only on a couple of occasions have we had the mind of Sallis directly functioning, kinda sorta, within the body of Man-Thing, such as during the early issues of the second Man-Thing series where Manny started receiving treatments to reform Sallis’s mind. In that storyline, the treatments were only just beginning to work when everything falls apart, the guy trying to treat Man-Thing gets killed, and Sallis’s mind dissipates again. But, in this What If continuation of the story, we do finally get full-on thought balloons bubbling out of Man-Thing’s head, and…frankly, it feels a bit strange getting insight on Man-Thing’s motivations from something other than second-person perspective captions.

By the way, I haven’t read a whole lot of Man-Thing from the last couple of decades. My primary sources on the character remain the Gerber material, so if there were instances of Sallis returning to human form or regaining his mind within the monster in more recent comics, I don’t know about them.

This is a very odd thing to be writing about, I realize.

12 Responses to ““Where am I? My mind…dulled….””

  • Tim O'Neil says:

    The best Tad Sallis story was the first issue of Marvel Two-In-One wherein both the Thing and the Man-Thing are restored to human form – written by Gerber I believe.

    I remember it being really, really sad because while Ben Grimm didn’t want to become the Thing again, he looked over at Sallis – who was terrified of becoming the Man-Thing once again and losing all but the most dull and vestigial flicker of intelligence – and realized he didn’t have it quite so bad.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    “This is a very odd thing to be writing about, I realize.”

    For this blog? Not really. :)

  • googum says:

    For a long time, I didn’t like Man-Thing, because he kinda depressed me. Also, if you’re anywhere near Marvel-Florida, you are going to run into Manny. To Marvel, apparently, the whole state’s nothing but swamp, gators, and rednecks.

    There was an appearance somewhere (Quasar, maybe?) where by standing next to the Nexus of Realities (or something) Man-Thing was starting to turn human…except he was too dumb to even realize it, so he wandered off. Yeah, depressing.

  • Masonic Youth says:

    One of my earliest comics memories was reading Defenders #98 — part of that Six-Fingered Hand story — that involves Man Thing.
    Dr. Strange astrally projects into Man Thing, where he finds Sallis, who I think gets in a fight with Unnthink who maybe was a member of the Six-Fingered Hand?
    The details are fuzzy for me now but I remember it enthralled me as a kid.

  • A.L. Baroza says:

    I miss Steve Gerber.

  • Scott Rowland says:

    I miss Steve Gerber, too.

    I haven’t read the Jeff Parker version of Man-Thing in Thunderbolts yet, (but may pick it up thanks to the postive reviews here), but as far as the solo Man-Thing stories go, Gerber’s are not only the best, they’re probably the only ones worth reading (although, I’ll throw in the Gerry Conway ones, since he created the character).

  • Leroy Hart says:

    Scott Rowland: I’ve read those older stories, and let me tell you, the Man-Thing featured in “Thunderbolts” – especially his interactions with Luke Cage and Moonstone – are coming really darn close to classic itterations themselves.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you should give the book a try. I’d hate for any oldschool Marvel fan to miss this book.

  • Anonymous says:

    You forgot the final Thog story where Man-Thing became Sallis, and Chris Claremont became Man-Thing!

    “Man-Thing Week”, indeed! You’ll need an entire month to cover everything!

  • adam ford says:

    there was a later thing written by dematteis where man-thing was silver and completely sentient, wasn’t there?

  • Tom Cherry says:

    My question: Who would win in a fist fight, Alec Holland or Ted Sallis?

  • You know, for years, I said that Ted and Alec were mis-named: Alec was still largely a “Man”-Thing, while Ted was mostly “Swamp”.

    Then Alan Moore came along and threw THAT assumption out the window.

  • Scott Rowland says:

    @Leroy Hart: OK, you’ve added just enough motivation for me to reach the tipping point. I just ordered the first two Jeff Parker Thunderbolts trades.