Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #108
This is the one-hundredth and eighth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: J.M. DeMatteis finished the story from a canceled Marvel comic series in a DC comic series.
Our old pal, SanctumSanctorumComix, asked awhile back about J.M. DeMatteis’ run on Man-Thing in the late 90s, which was cut short by cancellation not ONCE, but TWICE! SanctumSanctorumComix was curious about some similarities between Man-Thing and DeMatteis’ next project, The Spectre, for DC Comics (particuarly Mr. Termineus and Monsieur Stigmonus), and wanted to know if DeMatteis basically continued his Man-Thing story in Spectre, and if not, what was DeMatteis going to do with the book?
Luckily for us, J.M. DeMatteis is a wonderful sport, and supplied me with this amazing look back at the series, to which I am extremely grateful.
Here is what Mr. DeMatteis had to say:
I am extremely proud of the work I did with Liam Sharp-and editor Mark Bernardo-on on Man-Thing. Liam is one of the most amazing collaborators I’ve ever worked with. I look back on the series with great affection.
In order to understand how screwed up the end of the series was, you have to realize that we weren’t cancelled just once, we were canceled several times! First we were told that the Strange Tales line was pretty much over and that our monthly book was being killed (this was after only four or five issues had been out, so you can see how much faith they had in us! Marvel was really in turmoil in those days and people were hitting the panic button very quickly). But, at the same time, we were also told that Man-Thing were being folded, along with Werewolf By Night, into a new oversized split-book called…Strange Tales. So we were canceled and uncanceled at the same time.
Liam and I kept working, but we got word early on-I think before the first issue had even come out-that Strange Tales was being canceled after, I think, the fourth issue, so could we please wrap up our story? We sighed, banged our heads against the wall and set to work wrapping up. Only then we were told that the book was being canceled after the second issue. Well, we’d pretty much finished the third issue…I’d plotted, the fourth…but the series was left hanging. Bob Harras had Liam finish up the art on the third story…thinking that we could bring it out in some form down the line. I don’t think he ever drew the fourth…but I’ve got the plot in my files, so I know I wrote it!
As for what we did, and were going to do, in the following issues: We had many wonderful ideas, many wonderful ways to use the characters and create new incarnations for the Man-Thing himself. We intended to take our time, but we squeezed some of those ideas into our final, never-seen issues. Ted (free of the Man-Thing forever) and Ellen were sent off into the Nexus itself to be its guardians. And we had plans for the albino Man-Thing that began to evolve in our final issues, which would have ended with a brand-new Man-Thing, nothing like the old one, in the swamp. And then there was a whole universe of new characters-Termineus, Sorrow, The Fallen Stars-that we wanted to develop.
There’s a fairly pathetic endnote to this story. Ralph Macchio, a wonderful editor, called me up one day, not long after our cancellation, and asked if I’d like to bring the Ted Sallis Man-Thing back in a Spider-Man annual. Ralph’s thinking was, “Someone’s gonna do it…and probably soon…so it might as well be you.” Ralph’s heart was in the right place…but I really should have said no. At the time I still believed our last stories would come out-and, I hoped, relatively soon-so I thought, okay, let’s give it a try.
I ended up writing a story that picked up where our last, unprinted issues left off: first big mistake, right? I mean, we’re footnoting stories that no one has ever read! And then, of course, by bringing back the Sallis Man-Thing, I undid the whole point of our final stories. Dumb, dumb, dumb. But, as Ralph noted, it was going to happen anyway, so I might as well be the guy who did it. Very Big Mistake. On top of that, Liam was only available to draw half the story and the other artist’s style, although quite strong in its own right, was diametrically opposed to Liam’s, so the art was incredibly inconsistent, to say the least.
The whole thing was a disaster. An incoherent mishmosh…and I have no one to blame but myself. Let’s all just pretend it never happened, okay?
As for the Spectre connection: I have to say that I loved the Man-Thing character of Termineus and pretty much decided that he had a distant cousin in the DC Universe. And that’s how Monsieur Stigmonus was born.
They weren’t the same guy, but they were certainly related. (At one point, after Ryan Sook left the book, I even lobbied for Liam Sharp to take over Spectre. Sadly, it didn’t work out.) There were some similarities, I suppose, between Hal’s niece Helen and Sallis’s son, Job, but they weren’t intentional. Helen’s arc wasn’t a continuation of the Job story, although, looking back on the stories, I can see some thematic similarities.
Thanks for the question, SanctumSanctorumComix, thanks for the scan of Mr. Termineus, Unofficial Index to the Marvel Universe (and specifically, in the case, Snood) and thanks so much for the history lesson, Jean Marc!!