By Jim Beard
You've got to admire a writer who's not above a bit of mudslinging.
Jai Nitz, along with artist Ben Stenbeck, slinks into the swamp with an untold tale of the macabre Man-Thing, in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #12, out August 27. The story promises all the muck-raking you've come to expect from the Man-Thing—with a topical twist.
"The plot is my response to CIVIL WAR," Nitz explains. "I love [writer Mark] Millar, and I like the idea of registering superheroes, but if you buy into that, you have to take it all the way. You have to register everybody
. Even non-sentient plant monsters in the swamps of the Everglades.
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"Now, that must be a sucky job, right? So who gets to do it? The plot is about the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that have the thankless job of registering Man-Thing and how things go horribly awry."
The mobile mud-mound known as the Man-Thing first rose from the bogs in 1971, courtesy of Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Morrow, but gained popularity in his own title crafted by legendary writer Steve Gerber and such unique artistic visionaries as Val Mayerik and Mike Ploog.
Despite the swamp monster's long and ripe history, Nitz assures interested readers they need only bring themselves to the action.
"I took the core conceits of the character: he used to be Ted Sallis, a scientist, and he roams the Everglades," the writer sums up. "Other than that, I didn't have a lot of room to fit in more continuity. I would love to sometime. I think Man-Thing and the Nexus of Realities are both wonderful toys in Marvel's sandbox."
Roaming the darker corners of the Marvel Universe, Man-Thing's been a magnet for those creators who see the near-mindless, attracted-to-emotions character as both a challenge and a joy to tackle. Nitz heartily falls into that category.
"Man-Thing is awesome," he enthuses. "Writers are, by nature, verbose, so it's a good exercise in self-restraint to write a mute, mindless character. You don't have to 'get in the character's head,' you have to get in the heads of the people that react to Man-Thing. How others react to Man-Thing will always drive Man-Thing stories."
Encountering the Initiative, as in Nitz's MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS story, represents a typical day for the Man-Thing as much as serenely wading through tepid waters.
"I like the idea that he's just a big force of nature," notes Nitz. "He's a walking Venus Flytrap. He doesn't have a mind, or muscles, or blood—he's just a plant that reacts to fear. It's a simple yet endearing concept."
As much fun as he derived from penning the tale, the writer acknowledges the elements that to him make for the greatest Man-Thing stories.
"Steve Gerber + Mike Ploog = The Best Kind of Man-Thing Stories," Nitz opines. "Ben Stenbeck did a masterful job with my story, but we don't hold a candle to Gerber and Ploog. It could be a story about 'how to make a Man-Thing sandwich' but I'd read it if it came from Gerber and Ploog.
"In fact, I want someone to go back in time and give Gerber that idea in the '70s. I'd love to read that story. I might call up Ploog and pitch it myself!"
If you dare to peer around the cypress trees, knowing full well that "whatever knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!" you may find what you seek in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #12, due on August 27. And for classic tales of the Man-Thing check out the new ESSENTIAL MAN-THING Volume Two, due this Wednesday, August 6!