Published September 13, 2022

Meet Man-Thing, Marvel’s Fear-Inducing Swamp Creature

Who is Man-Thing? Read on to learn more about Ted Sallis, whose failed Super Soldier Serum turned him into the swamp-dwelling creature that is the Nexus of All Realities.

Those who feel fear, beware! Once a man called Ted Sallis, the creature known as Man-Thing has played a key role in the Marvel Universe’s history and remains a fixture of the spookier side of that world. Here’s everything you need to know about Man-Thing.

Created by Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow, Sallis debuted in SAVAGE TALES (1971) #1. Prior to becoming Man-Thing, Sallis was a biochemist working on Project: Gladiator, which was an attempt to re-create the Super-Soldier Serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America

The project meant Sallis and his new wife, Ellen Brandt, had to move to the Florida Everglades. Despite struggling with his work, Sallis eventually finished his formula. However, it was later revealed that he did so with help from the demon Belasco. That dark entity used magic to finish the serum in exchange for an unspecified ruin that followed pretty much immediately.

Due in large part to Sallis’ neglect, Brandt betrayed her husband to Advanced Idea Mechanics, AKA A.I.M., which wanted to obtain the formula for itself. Sallis ended up destroying his research and fleeing from A.I.M. As he was driving, the scientist injected himself with the only remaining vial of the serum and crashed his car into the swamp. That combination of the serum, magic, and the properties of the swamp itself turned Sallis into Man-Thing and created the Nexus of All Realities. 

Transforming into Man-Thing altered Sallis in major ways. His body was changed from human to vegetable matter, making him essentially indestructible and malleable enough to slip through such objects as fences. However, his intelligence and capacity for language disappeared, leaving him a being of almost pure instinct. While Man-Thing generally helps those on the side of good, fear provokes him, and those he touches while feeling that emotion are burned, sometimes whole – hence his tagline, “Whoever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!”

In one of Man-Thing’s earliest adventures, the remaining members of Project: Gladiator hired Ka-Zar to help track down the missing Sallis. At the same time, they were forced to deal with A.I.M. agitators attempting to turn the local populace against them. In the end, Ka-Zar and Man-Thing defeated A.I.M., though Dr. Wilma Calvin – the leader of Project: Gladiator and one of the earliest people to realize Man-Thing and Sallis were one in the same – was gravely injured in the process and ended up in coma.

From there, Man-Thing became a fixture of the swamp and a nearby town called Citrusville. One of the character’s most important encounters came early in the pages of ADVENTURE INTO FEAR (1970), which was home to his earliest stories. There, Man-Thing met Jennifer Kale, a young sorceress who inadvertently summoned a demon named Thog to the area. Man-Thing defeated Thog, but soon after, reality began breaking down, with characters leaving their own realities and arriving on Earth-616. As Man-Thing and Kale learned, the swamp was the Nexus of All Realities, a location that essentially serves as a portal between dimensions. 

Subsequent appearances and eponymous series centered on the character explored Man-Thing’s role as the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities. One of his major early foes was F.A. Schist, a construction mogul who wanted to develop the swamp. However, he was also forced to deal with such villains as Foolkiller and others who did evil in the vicinity of his realm. 

As Man-Thing’s adventures continued, more people become aware that the creature was Sallis, though stripped of his intelligence. One of them, Dr. Karl Oheimer, nearly succeeded in restoring the mind of his fellow scientist, though he was murdered before he could complete his work. 

In general, Man-Thing has remained on the side of the heroes – despite a few instances in which he’s been manipulated or co-opted into helping villains. During DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION (2018), Man-Thing joined a version of the Midnight Sons, helping to free the titular Sorcerer Supreme and Las Vegas from the grip of Mephisto. He also was part of Dum Dum Dugan’s Howling Commandos in S.T.A.K.E., a special S.H.I.E.L.D. division designed to handle supernatural threats.

One particularly important storyline saw Man-Thing serving as a sort of transportation system for Luke Cage’s iteration of the Thunderbolts. In that story, Man-Thing helped save Chicago from an invasion and received a major upgrade from Satana. After she wrote the Worldsong on him, Man-Thing’s abilities were greatly enhanced, and he was, among other things, able to transport his allies through time and speak a universal language called X'zelzi'ohr. Still, many of those new powers later faded or disappeared entirely.

In the MAN-THING (2017) limited series, Sallis regained his personality and attempted to start acting in Hollywood. However, he was rejected for being too horrifying to look at. Soon, Man-Thing began degenerating back into his old mindless form. By the time he returned in WEAPON H (2018), he was once again inarticulate. In that series, Roxxon enhanced him with some of Groot’s DNA and he helped the titular character face down an incursion from Weirdworld before rescuing some missing scientists.

Most recently, AVENGERS: CURSE OF THE MAN-THING (2021) story saw an eco-extremist villain named the Harrower essentially hijack Man-Thing to wipe out humanity. The story introduced an area called the Dreadscape, which is a world inside of Man-Thing. Sallis’ personality still exists in this realm, and Man-Thing essentially locked him in there due to the aforementioned deal with Belasco. However, at the end of the crossover, Kale returned and summoned Belasco to the Dreadscape, finally allowing Sallis and Man-Thing to get revenge on the demon for his trickery. 

As for his future, Man-Thing is set to team up with Wolverine in a story by Adam Warren in CRYPT OF SHADOWS (2022) #1. That book, which is available for pre-order now, goes on sale October 19.

Don't miss Man-Thing's next adventure in CRYPT OF SHADOWS (2022) #1, on sale October 19!

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