‘Man-Thing’ by Gerber & Nowlan 20 Years Late but Worth the Wait [Art]
Coming next month from Marvel is the first of a three-issue miniseries called The Infernal Man-Thing. I do not know anything about the Man-Thing. I presume he’s kind of like Swamp Thing, but perhaps more man than swamp. But despite the fact that I don’t know a thing about Man-Thing, I await the arrival of this comic book with uncommon anticipation because it represents not only the completion of a graphic novel project that was initiated over 20 years ago with the late Steve Gerber, but also one of the few full-length comic book stories drawn and colored completely by Kevin Nowlan himself. As you can see in the preview pages below, this is going to be a truly beautiful comic book.
Originally announced as a graphic novel in the 1980s, what was then called “Screenplay of the Living Dead Man” existed only as an undrawn script collecting dust all these years. Gerber’s famous for his work with the Man-Thing character in the 1970s, and the writer’s death in 2008 prompted Nowlan’s completion of the long-delayed book, which Marvel will be releasing in three-issue installments. Speaking with Marvel.com’s Jim Beard, Nowlan remarked, “I hope [Gerber] would have been happy [with the final product], Maybe a little annoyed that it took so long.”
As I said, Man-Thing is a hole in my comics-reading history. I didn’t even know the character was created by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gary Morrow and Stan Lee until I looked it up just now. I’m doubly sorry to confess that another hole in my history is the work of Steve Gerber. The comics for which he’s best known were published mostly before I was born, and it’s sometimes difficult to know what material is collected in what paperbacks. But I almost always find that I enjoy art — which is to say, comics, novels, films and albums — more when I go in without any preconceptions. I’m looking forward to reading The Infernal Man-Thing because I’ve loved Kevin Nowlan’s work for as long as I’ve been reading comics, sure, but also because I don’t know anything about Man-Thing and because I don’t know anything about Steve Gerber.
That is an extremely rare feeling to have with respect to a Marvel or DC comic book, I think, because we’re always going in with our own ideas and prejudices about how these endlessly recurring characters are meant to be presented or have been portrayed in the past. That’s how they’re sold to us too, via interviews where writers or editors promise us that the work will either confound expectations or constitute a return to form. For me, there’s no expectation and no form. As with an original, creator-owned work, I’m going to dive in to a mythology that’s new to me, courtesy of one master whose work I’ve followed most of my life and another whose work I have yet to truly discover. It’s impossible to refuse that invitation, especially when you see the evocative artwork below, which includes covers by the similarly talented Art Adams and the late Gil Kane with John Romita.