It’s right in that weird zone I associate mainly with Killraven and Omega: pure 70s science fiction, which did not fit for one red second into the Marvel superhero scene, as all such tries totally washed out. I’ll grant you, it had nowhere to go, more of a portrait than a story, and in retrospective post-1980 terms, radically inappropriate for anything resembling a shared-universe franchise defined by superheroes. It didn’t even offer anything much different from the childlike Hulk of the time, aside from lacking the latter’s (i) coincidental failure to kill anyone ever and (ii) pants. It also boasts one of the true idiot plots of all time on the part of every single character except Woodgod himself.
I don’t care. It’s a gaudy and lovely blend of pagan romanticism, pastoral idealism, and anti-establishment, yet also techno-fetish because how cool is it to be a surgical-genetic hybrid satyr. Oh, and also an angry hippie Jesus in full, with FATHER cried out in crane shot. Shall I go on? Sure – it’s also that the crazy one is the one who sees clearly, you get that part; plus there’s the whole hate-my-fetish love-my-doom thing going on with technology. Not to mention some truly kickass ass-kicking, unsullied by silly things like “won’t kill people.”
These are merely special moments in an unstopping orgy of Woodgod Rips Everybody a New Asshole. Not that his berserker madness is all that disturbing, red eyes and all; each time he’s responding to a gratuitous and vicious attack, and every attacker is an unqualified completely unsympathetic butthead so it’s positively thrilling to watch him stomp them thoroughly with much crunching of bone.
It’s a triumph of genuinely excellent art by Giffen: the camera-eye panel flow is superb, the motion of bodies through them likewise, including a startling range of zooms, angle switches, and panel overlay techniques. Something about it is perfect with a curious mix of the gas’ stillness and the crashing action, such that the dust-gas getting kicked up in heavy little clouds from its ground-level cover is incredibly disturbing. The human faces are just “off” the Sal Buscema template enough to reinforce the weirdness, and I fancy I can even see in them the forerunner of Giffen’s switch to a José Muñoz-like style a decade later. It’s in the sweet spot of Janson’s career for me as well, as he just began to grade into heavy impressionist inking yet had not begun to overwhelm the pencils.
What the fuck is that ending supposed to be? The only way to say it is that these guys weren’t writing superhero continuity or universe at all, and not even writing toward the success of the franchise. Instead, they had somehow decided they were science fiction short-story writers with the world’s first auto-publication outlet. Woodgod’s very few later appearances include a Marvel Team-Up issue which is only noteworthy in that I cocked my head at a surprising new artist, and also, in the Hulk, Mantlo’s brief invocation of The Island of Doctor Moreau, just as Thomas had done in Warlock. Although I don’t like to speculate too, too much, this once I will and say that Mantlo clearly cared greatly about this creation of his and wanted it to mean something.
I owned FOOM #13 which included Mantlo’s entirely un-ironic … interview? more like a scrawled missive found amid the wreckage of unspeakable acts … and find today to my surprise that I had literally memorized it. It may be a formative document for me. It may also serve as the anthem for this single historical year, and as the perfect connector between Superstar and Buddha on the road, Steve! Get’im! I mean … the Woodgod mythos?! It is a crime that he never cut loose with this material in the Epic imprint or something like that. Can you imagine? Sinewy goat-leaping beatdowns with lots of gore splat. Whole pages of ranting schizophrenic visions bringing enlightenment, or maybe the other way ’round. No shaggy-shadowy hiding for WG’s crotch, and extending the Freud of it all to the next step when he discovers g-g-girls.
Reading between the lines, including the “explain Scream” box in the Marvel Team-Up issue, it’s patently clear that Shooter axed this nonsense as quickly as possible, and likely decreed that Mantlo cease partying with Englehart this instant. Reasonably so too, from any standpoint including a business model, wearing pants, a line of toys (you can’t include shadow to hide an action figure’s dick), justifying a title to the company’s owner, storytelling as skill or art, and perhaps ordinary morality. This isn’t Dangerous Visions 2 Illustrated, now is it.
Still. Mantlo wanted to do this sort of thing and there was in fact a target market. It was me. In memory of him and in thinking of the comics he didn’t write while buried under the avalanche of fill-in-the-blank franchise assignments, I wish there’d been more of us out there for him.
Next: The orgasm that saved the world
Posted on November 1, 2015, in The 70s me, Vulgar speculation and tagged Bill Mantlo, FOOM, hippie Jesus, Jim Shooter, John Byrne, Keith Giffen, Klaus Janson, Marvel Premiere, Marvel Team-Up, Scream, Woodgod. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.