The Man-Thing is a fictional character in the , created by writers Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway and artist Gray Morrow in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971). He went on to be featured in various titles and in his own series, including Adventure into Fear, which introduced the popular character Howard the Duck. In 2005 Man-Thing was produced as a TV movie for the SciFi Channel.
In the final issue, writer Gerber appeared as a character in the story, claiming he had not been inventing the Man-Thing's adventures but simply reporting on them and that he had decided to move on. Gerber continued to write Man-Thing guest appearances in other Marvel titles, as well as the serialized, eight-page Man-Thing feature in the omnibus series Marvel Comics Presents #1-12 (Sept. 1988 - Feb. 1989).
A second Man-Thing series ran 11 issues (Nov. 1979 - Jan. 1981). Writer Michael Fleisher and penciller Mooney teamed for the first three issues, with the letters page of #3 noting that Fleischer's work had received a great deal of negative criticism and that he had been taken off the book. He was succeeded by, primarily, writer Chris Claremont and illustrators Don Perlin (breakdowns) and Bob Wiacek (finished pencils).
J.M. DeMatteis began writing the character in a backup story in Man-Thing vol. 2, #9, which opened with a fill-in by Dickie McKenzie. DeMatteis would go on to write Man-Thing stories in Marvel Team-Up, The Defenders, Marvel Fanfare, and the limited series Daydreamers, as well as the eight-issue Man-Thing vol. 3 (Dec. 1997 - July 1998), illustrated by Liam Sharp. The two would re-team for the Man-Thing feature in the two-issue Strange Tales vol. 3 (Sept.-Oct. 1998).
In the 2000s, Man-Thing has starred in a handful of stories appearing in one-shots and limited series, including Marvel Knights Double Shot #2 (July 2002) and Legion of Monsters: Man-Thing #1 (May 2007).
Visitors to the swamp soon discovered it was a place of mystical properties known as the Nexus of All Realities, and the Man-Thing visited an extra-dimensional world and met the benevolet Dakimh the Enchanter. Man-Thing then first encountered Wundarr (later known as the Aquarian), and then Howard the Duck. At one point Man-Thing first encountered the Thing. Later, he first encountered the Foolkiller.
Man-Thing became the Guardian of the Nexus of Realities, and found himself facing demons, ghosts, and time-traveling warriors, while continuing to encounter such non-supernatural antagonists as rapacious land developers, fascist vigilantes, and common criminals. Regular visitors included Thog the Nether-Spawn, Dakimh, Howard the Duck, and several humans, including members of the Cult of Zhered-Na (led by Jennifer Kale's father, Joshua). Developer Franklin Armstrong Schist attempted to build an airport in Citrusville. Dakimh declared that he, Man-Thing, Jennifer, Korrek Warrior Prince of Katharta, and Howard were the chosen five needed to defeat Thog.
Twenty-something radio DJ Richard Rory moves to Citrusville. He and nurse Ruth Hart become involved in defending Man-Thing from Schist's attempts to destroy the creature. Rory in particular formed a bond with Man-Thing, while Hart left Rory for Hell's Kitchen, New York City.
In time, reality set in and the energy crisis prevented Schist from completing his airport. The reason for the airport was then revealed: Schist wanted to find the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately, he learned the hard way that the desired effects of the fountain's water come from bathing in it, not drinking it, and with a newly fragile body, was done in by Man-Thing.
Gerber also wrote five longer issues of a parallel series, Giant-Size Man-Thing, whose unintentional double entendre title became a common joke among comics readers (a "giant-size" comic is one with more pages than a standard comic book). The first issue introduced the Cult of Entropy, who would later be foes of the Incredible Hulk and Howard the Duck, even reaching the latter's newspaper strip. Man-Thing first encountered Yagzan and the Cult of Entropists. In the second issue, Schist's widow and daughter arrange to have the Man-Thing captured, but he escapes and runs amok in Manhattan. The third issue featured the death of Dakimh's physical form, though his spirit would continue to appear, while the fourth began the solo adventures of Howard the Duck. In the fifth issue, we see that Ted Sallis had prior knowledge of his future as Man-Thing from a fortune teller, who outraged him rather than making him pay heed.
At one point, an astral pirate ship headed by Captain Fate, ended up in the Nexus. A scientist, Dr. Maura Spinner, was the reincarnation of a pirate queen and both were linked with a satyr named Khordes. In a controversial ending about which Gerber expressed regrets with having written, Spinner stayed with Khordes.
Soon, Gerber was delving into Ted Sallis's past. In a text story in Monsters Unleashed #8 and #9, it was revealed that Sallis had slept with an underage girl, whose father sought to kill the current occupant of his shack. In Daredevil #108, Gerber introduced Foggy Nelson's sister Candace, who was being harassed over research she was doing at Empire State University. In issue #113, this was revealed to be about the Sallis Papers, research that could have turned the human race into smog-breathing monsters and allow industry to proceed unchecked. In Man-Thing #15, we are introduced to Sainte-Cloud, a young woman who helped Sallis decide to abandon the project. Sometimes this has been erroneously cited as the project that created Man-Thing, though it is made clear in the stories that this is an earlier project.
The final arc of the Gerber series (16, GS4, 17-22) dealt with a hypermasculine laborer named Sorensen forced into retirement at age 65. He went on a rampage as a Mad Viking, killed his daughter Astrid's artist boyfriend, and allied himself with Olivia Selby, who led a book burning riot at Citrusville High School, leading to the slaughter of several teachers. Man-Thing's involvement led to him being dumped in the local sewage treatment plant, which only increased his ability to leave the swamp, while Richard Rory got fired by the local radio station for speaking out against the book burning on air. Rory attempted to leave for Atlanta, and Man-Thing and Carol Selby, Olivia's daughter, demanded to go with him. In Atlanta, they met Robert Nicolle, a man with neither feeling nor physical sensation, who appeared as the costumed criminal the Scavenger, and whose sister, Dani Nicolle, had her sensations on overload and must project them into objects called Nightmare Boxes.
A scientist, Dr. Oheimer, attempted to restore Ted Sallis's mind, now scattered about in ganglia throughout Man-Thing's body. A love triangle then took Man-Thing to the Himalayas. Chris Claremont, the writer by this point, introduced himself as a character in the final issue of Volume 2, as Steve Gerber had in the finale of Volume 1. Additionally, Claremont temporarily became the Man-Thing after being stabbed to death by possessed-Sheriff John Daltry. His and other characters' deaths were later resolved with the intervention of the War is Hell series lead, John Kowalski, now an aspect of Marvel Comics' manifestation of Death. Man-Thing later appeared briefly alongside the superhero Cyclops, aiding him in a battle against the supernatural villain D'Spayre.
Man-Thing became embroiled in a U.S. government conspiracy involving Ted Sallis's "super-soldier" serum. Later, the extra-dimensional Quagmire came into this reality through the Man-Thing's body.
The Man-Thing possesses a variety of superhuman powers that are derived from the interaction of the scientific formula created by Ted Sallis and the mystical energies of the Nexus of Realities.
Man-Thing's superhuman strength varies considerably in his comic book appearances. Initially, the Man-Thing is only slightly stronger than Captain America, but in later appearances, the Man-Thing possesses sufficient superhuman strength to stand toe to toe with much stronger villains.
The Man-Thing's body is practically invulnerable to harm. Because his body is not entirely solid, but composed of the muck and vegetative matter of the swamp, fists, bullets, knives, energy blasts, etc. will either pass entirely through him or will harmlessly be lodged within his body. Even if a vast portion of the Man-Thing's body were to be ripped away or incinerated, he would be able to reorganize himself by drawing the necessary material from the surrounding vegetation.
The Man-Thing is also able to ooze his body through openings or around barriers that would seem too small for him to pass though. The smaller the opening, the longer it will take for him to reorganize his mass upon reaching the other side.
Unusual psychic and mystical forces react in what passes as the "brain" cells located throughout his body. These unique forces render the Man-Thing extremely sensitive to emotions. Emotions that are mild and generally considered positive arouse curiosity and the Man-Thing will sometimes observe from a distance. However, emotions that are often viewed as negative, such as violent emotions, rage, anger, hatred and fear, cause the Man-Thing great discomfort and might provoke him to attack. Once provoked into violent actions, his body secretes highly concentrated sulfuric acid that can burn human beings to ashes within a matter of seconds. Even individuals that have high levels of superhuman durability have proven unable to withstand this potent acid (except, perhaps the Hulk). While the Man-Thing is devoid of violent emotions, his body produces a type of foamy, soapy mucus that neutralizes the acid.
The Man-Thing is dependent upon the swamp he inhabits for his continued survival. He is able to leave the swamp, and has done so on many occasions, sometimes for a considerable length of time, although the Man-Thing does not willingly travel outside the environment of his swamp. However, his body will slowly weaken and eventually lapse into dormancy if not returned to the swamp or exposed to clean water. His exposure to the Citrusville waste treatment plant greatly enhanced his ability to leave the swamp.
Although the Man-Thing is non-sentient, Ted Sallis possessed a PhD. in biochemistry.
The Foolkiller, a vigilante who used a ray-gun to disintegrate not only criminals but anyone he considered foolish, was introduced in issue #3 of this series, bent on slaying disc jockey Richard Rory, introduced in the previous issue. When Rory served time for trumped-up kidnapping charges, he accidentally created another Foolkiller when he revealed too much detail about the previous incarnation and the whereabouts of his gear. This Foolkiller became an occasional villain in other Marvel comics. Both Rory and this second Foolkiller, along with nurse Ruth Hart (who appeared in Man-Thing # 2-5) were supporting characters in Gerber's Omega the Unknown, while David Anthony Kraft made Rory a potential love interest for She-Hulk. A third version of the character, who was in internet communication with the second, starred in Gerber's 1990 Foolkiller miniseries.