Man-Thing #5-6 (1974)

First off, shout out to the splash page and title of this issue.  I can’t imagine anything better as the first page for Man-Thing: A truly scary picture, a monster emerging from the muck, and then a title that pays tribute-tongue in cheek-to the greatest horror movie ever made: Night of the Laughing Dead!

Gerber and Ploog were truly on another level, far above nearly all their compatriots.

Then you turn the page and you find a sad clown, with words of empathy surrounding him.

This blending of expectations, the complexity of Man-Thing’s emotional life, and the vividness of every single character in every single story are what make this book so dense, so different, and such a joy to read.

Then the clown kills himself, and the fun begins.

After his death, his memories haunt Man-Thing and regular castmembers Richard Rory and Ruth Hart, turning them into childhood associates of the clown, and the character’s traumatic young life is reenacted, until the clown is redeemed for having killed himself and is allowed to escape Hell.

The idea, of course, that suicide is a sin, is Catholic-so this is another example of Gerber using religion as a backdrop against which he plays out modern themes of morality.

Note: This story became a record.  Seriously.  A kids’ album based on Man-Thing in which a clown is abused as a kid and kills himself.  Awesome.

Creators: Steve Gerber and Mike Ploog
Grade: B
For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.

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