By Jim Beard
War makes for strange bedfellows, but fear can create the strangest match-ups of all.
Spider-Man and the Man-Thing have joined forces before, but writer Stuart Moore's aiming to shock us anew on January 7 with SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF, the latest team-up of super hero and swamp heap.
"It opens as the Man-Thing is running wild across the Florida Everglades—a very unusual kind of behavior for the monster," explains Moore of the one-shot. "Man-Thing is normally peaceful and nearly mindless, except when he senses fear, which drives him half-mad. But now, suddenly, he's wrecking homes and cutting a swath of destruction across the swamp.
"Peter Parker happens to be in the area along with Aunt May, who's visiting some retired friends. [He and the Man-Thing] fight, and that encounter winds up changing them both profoundly as the story develops."
SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF not only presents a tale rooted in Spidey's past but also sends tendrils into the ongoing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN saga by featuring some of its supporting cast and themes.
"The special fits in with events regarding Aunt May, particularly Peter's anxiety at moving out of her house, leaving her on her own," Moore notes. "She doesn't mind living alone, but he worries about her.
"I also had fun with Officer Carlie Cooper, Peter's maybe-love interest who works as a body hauler for the NYPD. She has a small but pivotal scene."
Moore says the story grew from his fascination with the Man-Thing character and legendary scribe Steve Gerber's classic take on him. Citing the swamp beast as a "living embodiment" of fear, Moore's creative mind focused on the type of characters whose lives intersected the Man-Thing's in the past and were put to the test—and often got burned.
"I started thinking: What if you put Spider-Man in that role?" he elaborates. "What's his
greatest fear, and how would he react when forced to face it? From there, the story fell together in—I hope—a really interesting way.
"I've written Spidey a few times. I've got a story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #3. I love him; in many ways, he's the identification character of the whole Marvel Universe. He knows the score, he's not a kid anymore, but he's still a down-to-earth, neighborhood kind of guy. He's also got a great voice—we all wish we could spontaneously come up with cutting insults and clever jokes every time a tense situation comes up."
But SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF rests heavily on the intriguing combination of Spider-Man and the Man-Thing, a duo that on the surface seems odd but when scratched reveals a swampy world of possibilities.
"Man-Thing is the perfect foil for Spider-Man because the monster is just the opposite," claims Moore. "He doesn't laugh at Peter's jokes, he doesn't adapt to new situations—he barely even thinks. How do you deal with someone, some thing
, like that?"
Artist Joe Suitor joins the writer on the double-sized special, bringing with him a lush combination of heroics and horror.
"Joe's an amazing new talent with a gorgeous, fully realized style," enthuses Moore. "His Man-Thing is huge and wild-looking, his Spider-Man looks like the modern animation equivalent of Steve Ditko's version, and his 'little Peter Parker'—age 3 or so—will break your heart. He brought the whole story beautifully to life."
Get bogged down with Stuart Moore and Joe Suitor on January 7 in the abundant pages of SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF. And check out more with the Man-Thing on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited
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