As fate would have it, mere weeks after finishing up my multi-part Man-Thing opus, TwoMorrows finally… finally put out the “Swamp Men” book they’d been promising for the last DOZEN years. Sure enough, it had an extensive interview with Gerber conducted over ten years ago that sheds some light on the ending of the original Man-Thing series:
CBC: Did you just not want to do it anymore, so they stopped the book?
Steve: No, they decided to cancel the book. Sales had dropped on it and they decided to cancel it. But we knew when the last issue would be, so we did an issue to close out the series…. The book by then was not selling quite as well…. I did feel very personally about that book. I had written about 40 different stories with that character at that time, and it was by far the most difficult thing I had ever worked on, and I wanted to make some kind of little statement before I left it
Steve Gerber, “A Man, a Duck, and a Monster,” Comic Book Creator #6, 2014 Annual, Jon B. Cooke, ed., November 2014 (Raleigh, N.C.: TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 121.
Based on the choice of words here, I remain inclined to stand by my original thesis. Note that Gerber never said that the book had become a poor seller; he said “sales had dropped” and that it “was not selling quite as well.” I still believe they might have tried to keep the title going had Gerber been willing, but the man himself verified just how burned out he was later in the same interview:
I think by the time we finished with Man-Thing, I was actually kind of glad it was over. I probably could have continued with it, and I did, later, with that graphic novel and then the story for Marvel Comics Presents. But boy, did I need a break from it. The break lasted almost ten years, but if it had been several years, I wouldn’t have minded. It was the kind of strip that I always felt I could return to at any time, but doing it that intensely over a period of a few years was very difficult and really exhausting.
Ibid., p. 123.
My only gripe with the Swamp Men book is that I wish it had come out earlier so I could have used it as a source in my original blog series! In addition to the Man-Thing material, it’s got fantastic stuff on Swamp Thing as well (among others). The Alan Moore interview is a must-read for any serious comics aficionado, and the ones with Bissette, Totleben, and Veitch are equally enlightening.
It’s 192 pages and you can get the pdf from their website for just $9.95—a terrific bargain. Just hustle on over to twomorrows.com.
Happy New Year, everybody!
EDIT: More info on the subject of Man-Thing’s cancellation here.