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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Whoever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing. If your Man-Thing burns at the touch, you should look into Prozium: it's about suppression.

Chemist Ted Sallis was assigned to "Project Gladiator," an experiment aimed at the lost "super-soldier" serum that had spawned Captain America during World War II. Sallis attempted to modify the "super-soldier" serum with another serum, one that had historically transformed people into monsters and got close to success. But he was betrayed by his wife, Ellen. To guarantee that the secret would not fall into the wrong hands, Sallis injected himself with the only existing sample of his modified Super Soldier serum, and fled into the nearby swamp. Sallis should have died, but over the course of several hours, mystical forces combined with the chemical science to transform him into the monstrous, misshapen creature who would be dubbed the Man-Thing.

A lot of people consider Man-Thing to be Marvel's attempt to rip off DC's own stagnant muckman, Swamp Thing. Not so. The two were developed independently; in fact, Man-Thing debuted a month before Swampy. However, both of them were probably influenced by the Heap, an old Hillman Comics character who most of us know through McFarlane Toys' figure.

So why is Alec Holland more popular than Ted Sallis? Well,
despite what Alan Moore said, it's probably because he's more human. Swamp Thing thinks and acts like a man, while Man-Thing really is a shambling lump of goo. While Swamp Thing can talk (and often does, at length) and therefore more easily support adaptations in other media such as tv and films, Man-Thing has always relied on narration to keep us apprised of what it is he's going through.

Hard as it is to believe, this isn't the first time Man-Thing has had an action figure: ToyBiz repainted their Sasquatch figure green and gave it a new head for the 1999 Dark Side line, but this is much, much better.

To say that the sculpt is detailed is an understatement. You can barely find a spot on the figure that doesn't have some sort of texture on it, whether viney tendrils, pitted stones or just plain spongey moss. There are several branches jutting from his back, and his "face" is formed by the distinctive three-pronged root framing bulbous red eyes.

Manny is a big figure (almost... "giant size," one might say?), looming 6¾" tall (plus another full inch if you count the logs on his back). He moves at the cross-swivel/hinge neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel wrists, hinged hands, swivel thumbs, hinged fingers, hinged torso, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel biceps, double-hinged knees, hinged and rocker ankles, and hinged toes. The vegetative detailing makes most of the joints disappear, ensuring that this guy looks almost as good as DC Direct's Swamp Thing.

At Toy Fair, Man-Thing was shown with the same re-used base that was included with Series 1's Toad: not a bad choice, but not too impressive, either. However, the figure actually includes an all-new circular swamp base. With two tree stumps, a splash of water and a bit of muck, the base looks very nice - it's more "bayou" than "forest," which is just what you'd want. There's a slot on the back to hang it on the wall, but that really doesn't make any sense.

Man-Thing comes with a reprint of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #4, a story which also features the origin and only appearance of Ultimate Lizard. It's decent, but it doesn't really explain anything at all about who or what Man-Thing is. He just shows up, burns the Lizard and leaves.

There was some question about why we were getting a Man-Thing figure as part of Marvel Legends, when there were so many other characters still waiting to be made. Well, obviously, because Manny's getting the movie treatment some time this year. It's been more than 20 years since Swamp Thing graced screens, and the characters are so different that it just might work. Swamp Thing is basically a superhero with leaves; Man-Thing has the potential to be a great old-school movie monster, the kind that doesn't get all chatty during the final reel.

-- 02/03/05

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