Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Whatever Knows Fear...




Savage Tales #1 (May 1971)
"Man-Thing" (Third story in the magazine)
Roy Thomas/Gerry Conway-Gray Morrow

Doug:  I'm back with another look at a black and white gem from the early Bronze Age.  You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I asked you to be the reviewer and help in an evaluation of the first appearance of Satana.  Today we're going to go through it together, with me giving just an impression here and there.  We're providing scans for the Man-Thing story that appeared in Savage Tales #1; the source I'm using today is the Marvel Firsts: The 1970's, volume 1 trade paperback (buy this book!).  As the story is only 11 pages long, I'm hoping you'll find time today to read it and chime in with a comment or three.  So without further ado...

   

Doug:  Talk about art driven storytelling!  How many of you are familiar with the work of Gray Morrow?  I'd say I'm familiar with him, but wouldn't classify myself as a connoisseur, or really even a fan.  But this is some beautiful illustration.  I've always felt that John Buscema was a true master at drawing animals; Morrow is every bit his equal in this scene.


Doug:  A little mystery, a little intrigue above.  Ted Sallis is one hairy dude, and while I can accept that fact, hair sure isn't easy to draw.  That just really looks off.  Ellen -- not so difficult to draw, however.  And women apparently really did wear outfits like the one she has on when they leave the lab; you'll see Mary Jane Watson similarly "garbed" in Monday's Spidey/Goblin installment.  It is only slightly less-revealing than Ellen's negligee!


Doug:  So did you see this coming?  I would say that this is somewhat formulaic as far as twists go -- how many cop/lawyer/mystery TV shows use plot devices like this?  And that Ted Sallis is going to use this mystery drug on himself?  Didn't we just see this when we reviewed the first appearance of the blue & furry Beast?


Doug:  Ah, so Sallis was working on a sort of Super-Soldier formula.  I'm not sure about the effects of the swamp water -- at least Barry Allen got whacked by lightning and a whole bunch of chemicals.  But the results are impressively rendered -- sort of gives off a Bigfoot vibe on the page with the car approaching.


Doug:  This is told like many an EC of yore, isn't it?  And doesn't it just exude Bronze Age?  Monsters, lots of skin, the re-imagining of the art in the B&W format, mature themes...  Good stuff!

Doug:  OK, so you take it home -- fill in any gaps I left in my comments, give an overall evaluation, discuss the Man-Thing as a character (this is his inaugural outing on the BAB, to the best of my fading memory) -- whatever you have to say, lay it on us!



Doug:  I'm not sure Karen or I want to get into the business of making endorsements, but maybe just this once I'd like to pass on some information about a nice sale taking place at Tales of Wonder.  These are some fine folks who always give a great discount -- I've dealt with them personally and they were a pleasure to give my money to.  Karen and I are aware that we've been getting some increased Avengers-centric traffic over the past two weeks -- well this sale is for you, friends!  Check it out -- after you've left a comment on the Man-Thing post.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someday, I really need to get into Man-Thing. I don’t know why I never have, except that he always seemed a bit peripheral. But given that he was almost all written by Gerber and drawn by some of the best (Morrow, Adams, JB, Brunner, Starlin, Ploog....) well, what more could you ask for?

There was supposed to be a TPB written by Gerber and drawn (or painted) by Kevin Nowlan....did it ever get published? I only know Nowlan as a cover artist on Defenders, but I imagine it could have been spectacular.

Regarding drawing negligee-clad females (or males, probably), it’s definitely a particular skill. Seem to recall Sal Buscema doing it well. Seem to remember Byrne’s Sue Richards looking rather fetching too. You’re right about the art on the animals – it’s wonderful. I also like Ellen’s hair in the kissing panel. He does great things with light...the boat on the water, and again Ellen’s hair in the big panel where MT jumps in front of the car. Not too sure how falling out of a car made all her clothes fall off in rags, but I won’t argue too much.

Was the Man Thing movie any good? I mean.... at all?

Richard

Edo Bosnar said...

Have this story in my Essentials volume. It's good on its own, i.e., it's a nice EC-style horror tale as Doug noted, but also introduces an unexpectedly solid character/storytelling device that would be put to such great use by later writers (esp. Gerber).
Richard, that Man-Thing TPB by Gerber and Nowlan apparently has yet to be published, even though it was announced last fall. Don't know what the hold-up is. Another thing that bothers me is that the Essentials volumes do not contain Gerber's Man-Thing story from Marvel Comics Presents #1-12 - apparently the new Omnibus does not include it, either. I really can't figure out why that story has apparently never been reprinted anywhere - it was drawn by Tom Sutton for Pete's sake!

Doug said...

I think the Essentials format is the perfect vehicle for Marvel's horror mags. The only suggestion I'd make, and this would take more pennies out of our pockets, is that they be published at tabloid-size as the original B&W magazines were. Now that would be cool.

Doug

Doug said...

By the way, if anyone out there actually has this magazine, I'm dying to know about the "Violent Voluptuaries" advertised on the cover. What the heck??

Doug

Anonymous said...

Easy there, Doug. You know what the doctor told you. R.

Doug said...

"My name is Doug, and I'm a recovering Voluptuary addict."

:)

Anthony said...

I believe it refers to the Femizons story.

david_b said...

I just know Mr. Morrow from his Space:1999 issues. The interior story art was uneven at best by different artists, but the Morrow-drawn stories had many of the similar concepts, especially drawing/showcasing the female form (not much left to the imagination...).

His covers, on the other hand, some rendered from photos and preproduction material, were simply fantastic.

I am a big fan of how he sets up scenes, as an accomplished story-teller should. Natural flow, nice expression, good pacing and perspective.

Yep, he did awesome work.

david_b said...

One additional note, it was always funny when he drew the character of 'Paul Morrow' from the 1st year 1999 cast (played by British soap star Prentis Hancock), he drew himself in instead of the actor's likeness.

Back in the day, I always pondered how he captured everyone else's likeness, yet he was so off on drawing Paul Morrow. It wasn't until years later that I read he simply drew himself.

Artistic license indeed.

Doug said...

Ah, yes -- saw that the Femizons story was included in this magazine when I was collecting the vitals for the Man-Thing story. Those of you who have the old Origins book The Superhero Women will know of the Johnny Romita-illustrated story of which Anthony speaks. another B&W short story that was a gem. Maybe that will make its way onto the docket for the future.

Doug

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for posting this, that Morrow art is gorgeous.
I love Gerber, but I've tried to get into the Man-Thing, and I just can't.

When you have a protagonist that can't speak and can barely think, that gets old quickly in my book.

But one of my favorite stories of all time is still 'The Kid's Night Out' from Giant-Size Man-Thing #4.

Inkstained Wretch said...

J.A., I had the same reaction as you - initially. Gerber's solution to this admittedly vexing storytelling problem was to make the Man-Thing a supporting player in his own comic. Jennifer Kale and others were the real stars. It worked pretty well, and I think those stories stand up as some of Gerber's most distinctive work.

'Course even he struggled with this after a while and gave up with - what was it - issue #22?

Oh, and add me to the chorus oohing and ahhing over Morrow's art. It is gorgeous. Can anybody think of any other work he did that I might have seen? I'm not familiar with him at all.

Karen said...

I think the same technique was used in the Hulk's title at different times, with the focus more on Ross, Betty, Jim, etc. Although the Hulk is not so mindless as Man-Thing. It's still difficult to give him angsty problems when he's got the mind of a 6 year old.

Garett said...

I've always appreciated Morrow's art, for the realism and flow, but felt that it gets boring over many pages. This B+W art is great, and I'd like to see more. I remember reading and enjoying a Hercules miniseries he drew in the early '80s, that had action and humour and some sexy ladies. Also I still have a Buck Rogers book that reprints his newspaper strip, much of it in color--didn't actually read through, but nice to look at now + then.

J.A. Morris said...

I'm curious about the "Ka-Zar Kills!"
cover blurb. I guess Marvel thought there was a big market for Ka-Zar fans who'd always wanted to see him terminate with extreme prejudice, as the kids say.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Karen, that's why I never read the Hulk much back in the day outside of Defenders stories.

I much prefer the characterization they use on Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes of the Hulk as a sullen, even somewhat thugish brute of average intelligence. Essentially they gave the Hulk the role Wolverine played in the classic X-Men tales: The team's resident loose cannon/badass.

I loved the bit in the recent cartoon when the Hulk cracked his knuckles while talkin' trash to the Executioner.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, Garett, I may be mistaken, but I don't recall Morrow ever doing the art on a Hercules mini. If you mean one of the two Hercules 4-parters published by Marvel in the early '80s (1982 and then 1984), those were written, drawn and even inked by Bob Layton.

Anthony said...

I believe Garett may be referring to
Edge Of Chaos by Pacific Comics.

Garett said...

That's the one, Edge of Chaos.

Anonymous said...

The only Man-Thing stories I've seen before this were in Daredevil and Marvel Team-Up. And was he in a Howard the Duck once?

Not my cup of tea.

--Matt alias Anonymous

Fred W. Hill said...

I'd only seen this story on copies posted to the web and while I didn't collect Man-Thing regularly during it's first run, I did get a couple of his appearances in Fear and later issues of his own series. Now I have most of the regular size mags and volume 2 of the Essentials. Gerber wrote some classic stories and it never bothered me that the title character was essentially mindless because Gerber made good use of other characters and his stories were pretty varied. As compared with Wein & Wrightson's Swamp Thing, although Wrightson's art was magnificent, the stories themselves were too formulaic for my tastes. I do wonder if Wein & Conway, who were roommates when they wrote the intros for Manny & Swampy, colluded at all in their updates of the old Heap, even if just to make sure that the creatures, their origins, and their settings weren't toooo similar. As a name, Man-Thing doesn't really evoke swampiness, but I can't really think of a good alternative that hadn't already been used or would have had the right dramatic tone (The Bog Monster doesn't quite cut it).
BTW, does anyone know if Ellen ever showed up in another story after this origin?

J.A. Morris said...

@Fred W. Hill, yep, Ellen made other appearances:

http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix2/brandtellenmt.htm

Rip Jagger said...

This is some of Gray Morrow's best work. He was never a fave of the Marvel set because he drew with a more realistic tone than the house style or superheroes in general usually demand. But he really knew how to draw a sexy broad, someone with sometimes provocative but actual proportions, not the typical comic book bimbo.

Morrow was excellent at DC on stuff like Vigilante, heroes and such with a more realistic grounding.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett & Anthony - sorry, my bad. Almost completely forgot that "Edge of Chaos" series because I never read it - I just remember seeing the house ads in other Pacific books.
And yes, Fred, as J.A. noted, Ellen made more appearances, although judging by that summary at the link provided, she probably shouldn't have. Her next appearance was in Monsters Unleashed #5, which was a kind of nice redemption story (by Tony Isabella) - apparently later Marvel writers could not leave well enough alone...

Anonymous said...

I liked Man-Thing much better than Swamp Thing, especially after Alan Moore got all pretentious with the latter. Parliament of Trees, my butt!

--Matt alias Anonymous

Anonymous said...

An excellent trade paperback that Gray Morrow did in the 70's is The Illustrated Roger Zelazny.

http://www.biblio.com/roger-zelazny/the-illustrated-roger-zelazny~36431542~title

I've still got the original on my bookshelf. It's well worth seeking out. There was a companion piece for Harlan Ellison by various illustrators that I mistakenly lent to somebody in the early 80's. I'm still waiting for it's return.

James Chatterton

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