Man-Thing #4: "The Making Of A Madman!"

Man-Thing #4
 "The Making Of A Madman!"
 April, 1974

 Steve Gerber: Writer
 Val Mayerik: Artist
 Jack Abel: Inker
 Dave Hunt: Letterer
 Linda Lessmann: Colorist
 Roy Thomas: Editor

 First, the Foolkiller shot a helicopter out of the sky -- in the belief the helicopter pilot was... someone else. And then, he opened fire on the -- Man-Thing! It was pre-ordained that the Man-Thing would perish at the hands of the Foolkiller. And this has come to pass. The Man-Thing has been slain -- by heaven's great warrior!

 When the helicopter pilot demands to know why this is so and what's this about heaven, the Foolkiller has had enough of this -- fool! Having pronounced sentence, the Foolkiller carries it out! The helicopter pilot dies and quick -- and horrible death. As the flood victims stare in stunned silence, they have seen firsthand what happens to those who suffer the wrath of the Foolkiller! The sound of his name seems to hang in the air... mingling with the stench of the helicopter pilot's burning flesh!

 But although the Foolkiller's name lingers... the man does not. After running to the edge of the swamp -- he leaps into his red "chariot" -- and drives off. The Foolkiller believes he has gotten rid of two more "fools" -- two less on this blessed Earth. And while the Foolkiller continues on his way --the success of his mission is debatable. The Foolkiller's purification ray drained the Man-Thing of his moisture... and he had lain in the fen waters. Now that his strength is restored -- the Man-Thing rises once more from the murky swamp. And although the flood victims are pleased to see that their rescuer has survived, they still shrink in fear at the sight of him. The Man-Thing feels their plight and what remains of Ted Sallis responds to their need.

 While the Man-Thing struggles to recall what "help" he may offer to the mother and her children, the Foolkiller is racing south along the swampside highway... heading for another important meeting! His eyes are upon the road ahead and his mind replays the moment he "slew" the Man-Thing... of how he triumphed! Ruth Hart and Richard Rory are traveling northbound, grateful for the guy who loaned them some gas -- or else they would still be stuck somewhere. With Richard's luck, they could have spent the rest of their lives with the alligators! The Foolkiller is so absorbed in his thoughts of triumph -- that he doesn't notice Richard Rory's minibus until his "chariot" is nearly upon it and even so... he swerves only slightly. As Ruth comments about their close call, Richard Rory claims to know the costumed maniac -- and knows he has come to see him die!

 The Foolkiller knew he would be passing Rory on the road! He has other things to do and must tell Mike about his latest work. If not for Mike, there would be no Foolkiller! The truck is ahead and he is home to rest... and to pray. A finger presses the red button on the dashboard --! The parked truck opens its rear and the red "chariot" goes up the ramp and into the trailer! Once inside, the doors are sealed by electric eyes! The Foolkiller is now weary from a day of killing...! He has come home to talk to Mike. This evening, the Foolkiller is both fatigued and assailed by doubt.

 The Foolkiller has come to receive reassurance from what lurks in a glass and metal cylinder. The mortal remains of a man of the cloth -- perfectly preserved in formaldehyde. He tells Mike about the first mistake he ever made in his life! His father died in the final days of World War II. His mother gave her own life in Korea on his ninth birthday. He was born a cripple -- who could never hope to give his own life for his country. He had worshipped his parents -- and his bedroom became a memorial to them. He read book after book about the military -- until his grandmother said he knew more about its history and traditions than the generals.

 An army has no use for a soldier who cannot march. Even he knew his grandmother couldn't look after him forever. She had brought him to Mike in hopes of being healed. He was afraid of Mike -- of the power he seemed to possess--! He had wanted to march and had wanted that more than anything. So he let Mike lay his hands upon him -- and he trembled as Mike called on the Lord's power -- and he prayed. One moment later -- he was standing and then realized his true calling -- as a soldier of the almighty! He begged Mike to make him a disciple -- and when Mike agreed, he vowed to become as great a preacher as him. And because he believed in Mike -- he never strayed from his chosen path. Two years later, people were falling at his feet, calling him a new messiah. And he knew they were right.

 Although he could see that he was winning over those who heard his voice -- he was still deeply troubled. The eighteen-year old saw the world coming apart around him! These criminals... these protesters... these protesters were all fools who were mocking the lord and the military! He had watched and had wondered why he could not save the world -- asking himself what he had done wrong! The answer came when he realized their times called for a different kind of savior -- an agent against the fools! He and Mike were in a Louisiana hotel that evening, the evening he decided to become the Foolkiller. He had sewn his attire and wanted to show it to Mike...and tell him he was leaving the revival. He had never thought to knock before entering Mike's room... for they had been like father and son for a long time. Until that very evening, he had no notion that Mike was not a believer! He had met other preachers while he and Mike were still together -- good and honest people. But he had always thought Mike was the best, but he had been blind. But then he saw it all, Mike sitting there with wine, a woman, and a song!

 He will never forget Mike's words to him that evening! Mike thought he took life far too seriously, that he should relax -- and stop fighting the entire world. Then he realized that Mike had become one of the fools! And that left him no choice but to kill Mike! Mike had been the man who gave the world its redeemer. So he made Mike a shrine and the symbol of the route to heaven! And now he has come to Mike -- for he had become fearful that he might not be the...! He sees in Mike's eyes that he need not fear, for he has not forsaken him. The money Mike brought in from the caravan -- paid for all of this! The computer and the purification ray...! That -- and Mike's death -- atoned for all of his sins. Many have fallen before the Foolkiller since Mike. Fools like the ones he has come to kill. F.A. Schist, Theodore Sallis, and Richard Rory. Ted Sallis has already met his fate. The Foolkiller vows before dawn that both Schist and Rory will be gone from this world. And may this be the way with all fools!

 On the edge of the swamp, the flood victims see a car approaching, and the Man-Thing can sense the psychic vibrations of its occupants. The Man-Thing stands out in the road -- directly in the path of the jeep. F.A. Schist orders the driver to do his job -- and run him down!

 There is a collision but there is no clangor, no bending of metal -- only the sickeningly loud sound of SQUOOSH -- as the jeep's grill is swallowed whole into the Man-Thing's form, and the monster remained unmoved.

 The driver spins the jeep's wheels in vain for a few moments. As he does so, the Man-Thing oozes off the front of the vehicle! When the flood victims ask for a ride to the nearest town, F.A. Schist begins to object to their heartfelt request, and is then reminded by the Man-Thing's impassive visage of what is at stake! He then allows the jeep to go on its way and is momentarily sad that he cannot accompany them on their journey.

 It is most unfortunate the Man-Thing cannot accompany them. For his mere presence would have been sufficient to avert the disaster -- which is set in motion when the jeep passes an ordinary truck parked on the shoulder of the highway. The truck driver recognizes the flood victims and F.A. Schist! Since Schist has chosen to ignore his warning, the fool has forfeited the last few hours remaining to him! The truck follows the jeep until it is right on top of its victims!

 The truck roars and bears down upon the jeep, whose occupants are struck by the sheer force of its sudden onslaught! There are screams during the sound of metal scraping metal -- and the breaking of bones -- and the booming voice of the Foolkiller. F.A. Schist has spent his entire life amassing a personal fortune -- caring little for others -- caring nothing for the works he has vandalized! Schist wanted to destroy the swampland and build an airport -- as a monument to his ego! The swamp has claimed him! The ravaging of the Earth has ended for this fool! At Ben's Eats, Richard Rory is telling Ruth Hart about the Foolkiller, who hates the disc jockey for making jokes about him. He had sent Rory a threatening note for playing blasphemous music on his radio show! Rory had thought that was very funny and read his note on the air -- then dedicated a song to the Foolkiller --

 The George Harrison song, "The Art of Dying." Rory received another threatening note -- right after the Foolkiller blasted the Ohio station to smithereens. Richard Rory lost his girl -- who was the daughter of the station owner -- and almost his own life! If not for what happened to her with the Skullcrusher bike gang, Ruth probably wouldn't believe him, but --! Richard and Ruth see the guy who loaned them the gas, then see the car he rode in on. Richard Rory recognizes the red car as belonging to the Foolkiller! As Rory tells Ruth to call the police, a green truck turns in the diner's direction!

 The green truck does not stop in the parking lot! Ruth Hart figures the truck's brakes must have failed, then sees the driver's face! He is destiny's agent and acts on heaven's behalf! It pains him that one so young as Richard Rory must die -- but the Foolkiller does not question the one whom he serves. He acknowledges one authority -- and considers all who defy his will as fools who must perish! The gas-giver realizes that Rory mistook him for that -- that maniac! If he is not stopped, Richard Rory will die!

 Leaving the wrecked diner behind, the diesel truck returns to the highway towards the swamp and its driver is startled to see that his chosen victims have survived! F.A. Schist hopes to flag down this truck, only to see his pursuer emerge from the cab! This is the last thing Schist sees before he is knocked unconscious and taken away from the others. The truck continues on its way to the swamp's edge where no one may witness what is to come. When Richard Rory tries to remind the Foolkiller about the commandment about not killing, F.A. Schist tells the young man to stop antagonizing their captor. He is about to destroy them and he will do it where Mike can see it.

 This time, no one will stand in his way This time -- two more fools shall die! Rory and Schist can only stare at the massive figure looming behind the Foolkiller -- who feels the Man-Thing's hand upon his shoulder! The purity ray had killed the Man-Thing -- burned him away! If he has returned from the dead, that would make him the messiah, and the Foolkiller would be nothing -- nothing! As F.A. Schist makes a hasty exit, the Foolkiller finds nothing holy about the walking mockery of life in front of him! The Man-Thing senses his fear and this fear has come from the Foolkiller's broken faith in his own divinity! The swamp monster grasps his hand and whatever knows fear -- burns at the Man-Thing's touch!!

 He asks why the Man-Thing was able to hurt him? As Richard Rory tries to get him to put the gun down, the Foolkiller is determined to purify and prepare the world for the day of judgement! Richard Rory manages to prevent the ray from striking the Man-Thing... but cannot prevent the purification ray from striking Mike's glass tomb! The jagged shards of inch-thick Plexiglas flies about wildly in the trailer! The Foolkiller whirls about in horror and one of the plexi-glass shards lodges itself in his heart. The body of Mike falls across that of his protégé... and the Foolkiller's holy war has ended. Richard Rory finds this to be poetic justice... even if he and the Man-Thing will never know what the rhyme was.

 I enjoyed Steve Gerber's run on Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, the Defenders, and Omega the Unknown.

 I've enjoyed Val Mayerik's art on Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, and the Frankenstein Monster.

 Jack Abel inked Adam Austin (Gene Colan) as Gary Michaels on Iron Man in Tales Of Suspense.

 Dave Hunt has worked as an inker, background artist, and colorist.

 Linda Lessmann has colored the Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Hero For Hire, Man-Thing, Fantastic Four, and Tomb of Dracula.

 The Foolkiller's mantle was inherited by Greg Sallinger, who met Omega the Unknown, the Defenders, and Spider-Man.

 I've heard of putting a tiger in your tank, but a Man-Thing on your grille?

 The Man-Thing reminds F.A. that the mother and children are worth the weight or else the Schist will really hit the fan.

 Richard Rory should have dedicated a different George Harrison song to the Foolkiller, "My Sweet Lord."

 Steve Gerber was the gas-giver and the guy who got beat up by Richard Rory at Ben's Eats.

 Mike's emergence from his tomb lent a touch of glass to the Foolkiller and his heart was truly in his work.

 Steve Chung
 "The Making Of A Review!"