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Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained

The new Disney Plus Halloween special Werewolf by Night has introduced a new monstrous side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but who is Man-Thing?

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

Who is Man-Thing? Marvel Studios has been very kind and given us all an early Halloween treat, Werewolf by Night. Based on the comic book of the same name, the Marvel series (Editor: technically, it’s a one-off special) tells the story of Jack Russell, a monster hunter afflicted with a terrible curse.

When the full moon is in the sky, Jack’s transformed into a terrifying savage werewolf. In the show, Jack and his fellow monster hunters gather following the death of Ulysses Bloodstone at the family home. While there, they enter a deadly contest to get their mitts on the mystic Bloodstone fragment, which gave Ulysses his powers.

Forget all that, though. The real star of the show is the hulking muck-encrusted monster Man-Thing. But who is Man-Thing? Well, we’ve broken down his history in the MCU and the comic books, established his powers, and worked out who came first, him or Swamp Thing?

Man-Thing in Werewolf by Night

Man-Thingg, aka Doctor Ted Sallis, made his MCU debut in Werewolf By Night. Man-Thing is being kept prisoner by Ursula Bloodstone, who wants her monster hunter guests to kill the unfortunate beast.

The mighty Man-Thing would normally be a match for any of these hunters, but the Bloodstone that’s attached to him has greatly weakened the creature.

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Jack runs into Man-Thing and reveals he’s not there to hunt the supposed monster but save him. Jack, with some help from Elsa Bloodstone, removes the bloodstone from Ted, allowing him to burn his pursuers and escape.

When Elsa is caught later in the episode, Ted shows up again and kills Ursula before heading off to find Jack, who’s transformed into his furry alter-ego. At the end of the episode, we see Man-Thing did find Jack and has taken him to safety and in the morning, the pair joke about getting sushi.

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

Man-Thing in the comics

Doctor Ted Sallis was part of a group working to recreate the super-soldier serum that gave Captain America his powers. AIM, a group of evil scientists, learn of Sallis’s work and hatch a plan to steal the formula.

The Marvel villains convince Ted’s own wife, Ellen Brandt, to betray her husband and steal the formula. Brandt and AIM were too late, however, and by the time they make their move, Sallis had already destroyed his notes and fled.

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

As they chase Ted, he resorts to injecting himself with the experimental serum but loses control of his car in the process. Crashing into the swamp, the serum and natural magical forces inherent to the wetlands combine to remake Ted’s damaged body.

What emerges from the swamp wouldn’t be out of place in a ’50s monster movie. It’s part man, part swamp, much with only dim memories of its former life. This monster is incapable of speech, but it remembers those who wronged it, and it takes terrible revenge on Brandt scarring her face.

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

Ted, now known as Man-Thing, returns to the swamp he was born. It was later revealed that this was no ordinary swamp; however, it was the Nexus of All Realities where inter-dimensional across the multiverse is possible (Sounds like he’ll work well in Marvel’s Phase 5, which is exploring the multiverse).

Since his creation, Man-Thing has mostly served as the guardian of the Nexus and regularly crops up when the Avengers need help with a mystical threat. He even joined a super team, The Midnight Sons, a group of supernatural and musical heroes.

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

Man-Thing’s powers and abilities

Man-Thing possesses superhuman strength and endurance, he can control plant matter, plus he is completely immortal. As his body is mostly made of vegetation, he can rebuild any lost limbs or damage done to his body by absorbing nearby plants.

His greatest powers, however, are his supernatural empathetic abilities. MAn-Thing can sense emotion and reacts violently to fear and anger. These negative emotions also cause him to secrete a powerful acid that burns anyone who touches the Man-Thing. As the Guardian of the Nexus, he is capable of opening portals to other realities at will.

Werewolf by Night: Man-Thing explained.

Who came first, Man-Thing or Swamp Thing?

Man-Thing first debuted in May 1971 in the pages of Savage Tales #1, while Swamp Thing appeared two months later in July’s House of Secrets #92. Despite the obvious similarities between the two characters’ names, powers, and origins, neither Marvel nor DC ever tried to sue the other over the characters.

Why? Well, anecdotally, both characters are allegedly reimaginings of a previous comic book character from the ’40s known as the Heap, so neither can claim to be the original swamp monster, really.

If you loved Werewolf by Night, then check out our list of the best horror movies, or if you prefer the cape and cowl crowd, then we have an article all about superhero movies.