Man-Thing: Why Monsters Are Marvel’s Ultimate Nexus

Apart from being a mysterious and terrifying force on Earth, the Man-Thing is also the Nexus of all realities in the Marvel Universe.

Steve Orlando, Francesco Mobili, Marco Failla, and Andrea Broccardo’s recent crossover event Curse of the Man-Thing reminded Marvel heroes of the mysterious power of the Man-Thing. Since his first appearance in Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Morrow 1971 “…Man-Thing! But, he was much more than just a sluggish beast. He is also the hub of all realities in the Marvel Universe.

Before taking on the monstrous form he was familiar with, Ted Sallis was a chemist who worked for the army and SHIELD to recreate the super serum that created Captain America. He works and lives in the everglades Florida with his wife Ellen Brandt. But when members of a rival agency try to steal the serum he’s been working on, he escapes into the swamp where he crashes his car and injures himself. Ted is about to die, but in desperation – he injects himself with serum. Experimental chemicals combine with marsh magic to transform him into the Man-Thing — a powerful giant with no memory of his life as Ted Sallis, but with a keen sense of people’s emotions and intentions.

In 1972’s Fear #11 by Steve Gerber, Rich Buckler, and Jim Mooney, a young wizard named Jennifer Kale takes her little brother into the swamp to cast a spell. Unbeknownst to him, he summoned a demon who was trying to kill him. Fortunately, Man-Thing sensed his fear and saved him from the monster. He and his brother thanked him and befriended the monster. Later, Jennifer’s grandfather, who is also a wizard, reveals that the Man-Thing and its swamp exist as a crossroads between all possible realities and that other demons have been using Man-Thing as a kind of doorway since Jennifer’s spell.

As the link of all realities, the Man-Thing can move from one plane of existence to another and can help others do the same. This power is a great tool for swamp monsters, but it is also a great burden. In Fear #19, instability on the nexus inadvertently pulls a barbarian named Korrek and Howard the Duck out of their world and into the world of Man-Thing. The monster eventually helps the ducks and warriors return to their world and restores “reality balance.” Unfortunately, that balance is always under attack.

Man-Thing’s relationship with the nexus of all realities causes him all kinds of trouble, but it also helps him sometimes. When K’ad-Mon, the spirit of the shooting star possesses the Man-Thing body in JM Dematteis, Liam Sharp, Al Rio, and Peter Parker: Spider-Man Annual 1999 by Dan Schaefer, Ted Sallis’ spirit can take refuge in the nexus. Sallis fuses with the spirit of his wife Ellen at the crossroads where reality meets. In this way, Sallis was able to survive even without his body. He finally returns to the Man-Thing after K’ad-Mon’s death at the hands of the evil wizard Scrier. Marvel’s monsters, the spirits of Ellen Brandt and Spider-Man can use their knowledge of tunnels between worlds, and the nexus to defeat Scrier.

Man-Thing rarely spoke and there were times when his awareness of the world around him seemed weak. But in truth, he probably has the strongest understanding of reality in the entire Marvel Universe. At times, his status as the Nexus of all worlds puts him in grave danger — but it is also often the solution to saving himself and all existence.

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