Spoilers for Avengers #41 ahead!
Man-Thing’s name has been the img of numerous dirty jokes and double entendres over the years, and now Marvel is finally calling it out. In Avengers #41, by writer Jason Aaron, artist Javier Garron and colorist David Curiel, Man-Thing makes a guest appearance, and Luke Cage has some thoughts on the creature’s name. The issue, part two of the Enter the Phoenix storyline, available now.
Man-Thing first appeared in Savage Tales #1 in 1971 and was created by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow. Originally bio-chemist Ted Sallis, he was transformed into Man-Thing after injecting himself with an experimental serum and crashing his car into a swamp. The serum combined with the swamp’s magical forces to turn him into a monster. He has been a constant presence in the Marvel Universe ever since, on hand for the latest team-up and sometimes even headlining his own titles. Despite the character’s age and popularity, the jokes about his name did not start until the rise of internet and meme culture. Most often, these jokes draw a connection between the character’s name and male genitalia; this is something not lost on Luke Cage, who makes a comment on it in the latest issue of Avengers.
The Phoenix Force has returned to Earth, seeking a new permanent host. It has been possessing heroes at random, including Shanna the She-Devil, the Red Widow, Howard the Duck and Man-Thing among them. A Phoenix-possessed Man-Thing is running amok in Wakanda and Black Panther must stop him. Also in possession of the Phoenix Force, Black Panther uses it to burn Man-Thing, confident in the knowledge that he will regenerate later. After it is over, Panther reunites with his fellow heroes, and Luke Cage is about to ask about Man-Thing before catching himself, saying “ain’t saying that name,” and then referring to Man-Thing as “the other guy.”
Luke’s joke was not only a call-out to a popular internet meme, it served to lighten the mood in what is an otherwise bleak story. The Phoenix Force is one of the most destructive forces in the Marvel Universe, capable of destroying not only its host but also whole star systems, so some levity was welcome. The idea that the Phoenix Force is now up for grabs and anyone can have it is terrifying, and Luke’s comment on Man-Thing’s name breaks that tension.
It is neat to see comics acknowledge the jokes and memes that exist about them in the real world—Man-Thing among them. His name has been the img of internet comedy for over a decade now, and Marvel is finally acknowledging it.