In addition to being a mysterious and intimidating force on Earth, Man-Thing is also the Nexus of all realities in the Marvel Universe.
Steve Orlando, Francesco Mobili, Marco Failla and Andrea Broccardo’s recent Curse of the Man-Thing crossover event recently reminded Marvel’s heroes of the mysterious might of the Man-Thing. Since his first appearance in Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow’s 1971 “…Man-Thing!”- a story in Savage Tales #1 – The monster of the swamp has struck fear and awe into the hearts of all he encounters. But, he is so much more than just a lumbering beast. He is also the nexus of all realities in the Marvel Universe.
Before taking the monstrous form he’s known for, Ted Sallis was a chemist working for the army and S.H.I.E.L.D to recreate the super serum that created Captain America. He worked and lived in the Florida everglades with his wife Ellen Brandt. But when members of a rival agency tried to steal the serum he was working on, he fled into the swamp where he crashed his car and severely injured himself. Ted would have died, but in an act of desperation – he injected himself with the serum. The experimental chemicals combined with the magic of the swamp to transform him into Man-Thing — a gigantic, powerful creature without any memory of his life as Ted Sallis, but a keen sense for emotions and people’s intentions.
In 1972’s Fear #11 by Steve Gerber, Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney, a young sorceress named Jennifer Kale takes her younger brother into the swamp to cast a spell. Unbeknownst to her, she summons a demon that tries to kill her. Fortunately, Man-Thing senses her fear and saves her from the monster. She and her brother thank him and become friends with the monster. Later, Jennifer’s grandfather, who is also a sorcerer, reveals that Man-Thing and his swamp exist as crossroads between all possible realities and that other demons have been using Man-Thing as a sort of doorway ever since Jennifer’s spell.
As the nexus of all realities, Man-Thing is able to move from one plane of existence to another and can help others do the same. This power is an incredible tool for the monster of the swamp, but it is also an incredible burden. In Fear #19, instability in the nexus accidentally pulls a barbarian named Korrek and Howard the Duck out of their own worlds and into Man-Thing’s. The monster eventually helps the duck and the warrior return to their worlds and restore the “balance of realities.” Unfortunately, that balance is always under attack.
Man-Thing’s relationship with the nexus of all realities causes him all sorts of trouble, but it has also helped him on occasion. When K’ad-Mon, the spirit of the fallen stars possesses the body of Man-Thing in J.M. Dematteis, Liam Sharp, Al Rio and Dan Schaeter’s Peter Parker: Spider-Man Annual 1999, Ted Sallis’s spirit is able to take refuge in the nexus. Sallis merges with the spirit of his wife Ellen at the crossroads where realities meet. In this way, Sallis is able to survive even without his body. He eventually returned to Man-Thing after the death of K’ad-Mon at the hands of the evil sorcerer Scrier. Marvel’s monster, the spirit of Ellen Brandt and Spider-Man are able to use their knowledge of the tunnel between worlds, and the nexus to defeat Scrier.
Man-Thing rarely speaks and there are times when his awareness of the world around him seems tenuous at best. But in truth, he may have the firmest grasp on 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 of existence.
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