Monday, July 15, 2013

"Decay Meets the Mad Viking!" Oh, and Man-Thing.


So I thought last week's Morbius comic written by Steve Gerber was crazy, but it's not a patch on today's comic: from 1975, Man-Thing #16, "Decay Meets the Mad Viking!" Written by Steve Gerber, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Tom Palmer.

"Decay" is a fixation of shock-rocker Eugene "the Star" Spangler, who concludes a Radio City concert with an announcement that he will spend the next year, in seclusion, to "compose my ultimate opus, a most profound and cosmic operatic tribute--to ruin, to rot, to all the gorgeousness of dirt and decadence! To you, my beautiful freaks, to you!" I'm pretty sure Spangler is a caricature of Alice Cooper, but Cooper was a showman, and Spangler seems like a true believer so far, closing with the proclamation that he'll be at the "house of murders," which is actually a bit more truth than hyperbole...

One page and three weeks later, a young woman is being chased through the swamps of the Florida Everglades, because it wouldn't be a Man-Thing comic without a young woman being chased through the swamps of the Florida Everglades. A gator nearly gets her, but it's stopped by the Man-Thing (mostly just to shut the girl up, since Manny is generally mindless here) and then Man-Thing is attacked by the girl's pursuer: the mad viking of the title, who rants about men, and hits the confused and uncaring Manny with a battle-ax.

Meanwhile, Spangler and his entourage have taken up residence at the nearby "House of Murders," which comes with a total of three editorial footnotes today; not the least of which being it was the site of Ted Sallis's research lab before he became the Man-Thing. Spangler has his own little rant about how there is nothing in life to aspire to, only mud; when the chased woman shows up. The woman recognizes Spangler, though; and immediately realizes he's in danger as well, from her grandfather, the mad viking. A former longshoreman and a brute of a man, he was going to be forced into retirement after his sixty-fifth birthday, but felt that "a man's gotta work, or he dries up an' dies!" When an executive tries to force him out, with the cops, the viking attacks and pummels everyone there, calling them "toy men--not a backbone in the lot!"

At home, the viking disapproves of his granddaughter Astrid's choice of men--a young artist, whom the viking throws out a third-story window--and then he really starts to lose it, beginning a crusade against men he considered weaklings and sissies, and the women that supported them. Where he would've gotten a viking outfit and battle-ax, I couldn't guess; but he next murders a guitarist during a concert, and sends a list of his prospective targets to the papers, which includes Spangler. Spangler answers Astrid with his own story, how his own grandfather was a mean man who hunted parakeets for sport, his mother was a hunting dog, and his father a Nazi submarine commander. (...what?) Astrid doesn't think Spangler is taking the situation seriously, when the viking attacks. Still, Spangler's crew aren't "gentle hippies," and are willing to fight.

As the battle rages, and the Man-Thing shows up again, Spangler is inspired, scrawling frantically away at his magnum opus. He probably should've done so a bit further back from the action, since he catches a battle-ax in the chest. The viking turns on Astrid, but is stopped by the Man-Thing, who realizes the viking is just as helpless in the grip of the unknown as Spangler, as Astrid, as anyone; and is driven by insecurity and fear--all together now--"and whatever knows fear--burns at the Man-Thing's touch!!" The viking goes down, "impotent and harmless," (if not armless) as the Man-Thing lurches back into his swamp. He doesn't understand, but does anyone?

A surprisingly dark, dense issue; while still hitting the notes usually used in a Man-Thing story. And of course, Buscema knocks it out of the park.

4 comments:

Dale Bagwell said...

Oh man, I have this one too, and it's a fucking riot! It was the Buscema artwork that sold it for me, and persuaded me to keep this one.

vancouver mark said...


I remember Steve Gerber saying in a letters page or somewhere that the decadent rock star character was based on David Bowie.

googum said...

Really? I wonder if that explains the story about Spangler's parentage...

Dale Bagwell said...

I didn't know that. How cool:)