Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book of the Dead #1: "The Origin of the Man-Thing"

The inspiration for Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, and other walking compost piles, the Heap emerged from the muck in the third issue of Air Fighters Comics (December 1942) as the antagonist in a yarn about an aviator known as Sky Wolf. After a couple more skirmishes with Sky Wolf, who wore a white wolf's head as a hat while in the air, the Heap was eventually promoted to a feature of his own. That occurred in the thirty-second issue (October 1946). By then the magazine was calling itself Airboy Comics. The Heap remained until the final issue in 1952. Sky Wolf, on the other hand, had been grounded in 1947.

Harry Stein was the scriptwriter who first invented the Heap, Mort Leav was the artist who first brought him to life visually. It seems that during World War I a German flying ace named Baron Emmelman had crashed in a lonely swamp and been seriously injured. Instead of dying, his body merged with the vegetation, and he eventually became "a fantastic HEAP that is neither animal nor man." An ambiguous fellow, when the Heap finally left the swamp he tended to be anti-Nazi. And by the time he starred in a feature of his own he'd mellowed a great deal. He wandered from place to place, becoming involved in the lives of assorted people and usually helping them out of their problems and predicaments before shambling on. A sort of vegetarian Fugitive.

Script: Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway
Pencils, inks and letters: Gray Morrow
  • from Savage Tales (Marvel, 1971 series) #1 (May 1971). (Pictured below).
  • in Monsters Unleashed (Marvel, 1973 series) #3 (November 1973).
  • in Book of the Dead (Marvel, 1993 series) #1 (December 1993).
  • in Essential Man-Thing (Marvel, 2006 series) #1.

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