man-thing origins

Origins: Man-Thing

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From Hugh of @hughv302

Werewolf By Night introduced the realm of monsters and monster hunters to the MCU and as a result many people are craving to learn more of this realm and the characters that inhabit it. One character in particular that was introduced in the special seems to have gained massive attention from everyone. That character being Man-Thing aka Ted. But who is Man-Thing? Why is his name Ted? Where did he come from? Find out below!


Man-Thing has had multiple origins, incarnations and adaptations to his character but for this overview we are going to focus on his first incarnation that is the one we had introduced to us in Werewolf By Night. As with most live action comic book adaptations, not everything you will read here is guaranteed to be accurately depicted future MCU installments as there might be many changes made based on the filmmaker’s creative liberties or influences from other comic book stories involving Man-Thing. Before he became a beastly swamp creature he was once a human named Dr. Theodore Sallis or Ted Sallis for short. Ted Sallis was a biochemistry professor from Empire State University before recruitment into the US army for Project Sulfur. The project was dedicated on allowing soldiers to withstand bio-chemical warfare, and Sallis developed the SO-2 Serum to grant immunity to all known toxic biochemicals. However, it became unusable upon a discovered side effect of turning users into monsters. Ted meets with fellow scientist Curt Connors during his time in the army and the two began discussing nano-scaffolding and Ted’s attempts to create “Captain America 2.0”, a project that aimed at re-creating the lost super soldier serum that had created Captain America. While unable to afford to hire Curt once they returned stateside, Ted still aided him in his cell regeneration research, which soon led Connors towards using lizard DNA in an attempt to regenerate his lost arm. Ted Sallis fell in love with one of his students, Ellen Brandt, and the pair eloped following a secret affair. After their honeymoon, they visited the fortuneteller Madam Swabada, who foretold a catastrophic change. Due to his own research needing to be moved somewhere more secluded, he discussed with Ellen the idea of moving to the Everglades so as to be closer to Curt. Sallis was then reassigned to Project: Gladiator, a SHIELD research program based in the Florida Everglades and Sallis modified his SO-2 formula as the basis for a new Super-Soldier Serum. The subversive organization AIM wanted the serum and conspired with a bitter Ellen, whom Ted had long neglected since their honeymoon. Upon completing his new serum, Ted committed its formula to memory and burnt his records, but he soon fled when Ellen led Ted into an AIM ambush, and attempted to reach Curt Connors’ lab. While fleeing, he injected the only existing sample of the serum into himself just before his car crashed into the swamp. He should have died, but the mysterious magical energies of the swamp combined with the serum as well as some of Curt Connors regeneration serum, transformed him into the hideous creature later known as the Man-Thing, a swamp like beast that would guard the swamp and its magic due to it’s importance towards the multiverse. His human intelligence rapidly fading, Sallis then slew the AIM agents and horribly burned half of Ellen’s face as a result of an acidic power he gained. Sallis’ mind was apparently lost, although on rare occasions he could briefly return to consciousness within his monstrous form. Despite losing his conscious and being forced to be the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, Man-Thing would go on to commit heroic acts, such as fighting demons and aiding superheroes such as Thing, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor in fighting multiple villains. He would also end up joining the group the Midnight Sons which also has Jack Russell aka Werewolf by Night as a member. 

Powers & Weaknesses

After injecting himself with the serum, Sallis became a being composed of vegetable matter formed by a mixture of mystical energy and swamp mutagens. He is capable of passing through objects via oozing, and can also shape and elongate his limbs or create weapons from bark-like material. He also possesses superhuman strength, being able to lift a 2,000-pound automobile, and was capable of fighting the Hulk. Due to his transformation, Ted’s brain is no longer centrally located as it was when he was human and therefore his brain is incapable of thoughts, reason, or long-term memory. Despite this, he does have a sensory apparatus, which is able to empathically sense the emotions of other organisms. When he senses emotion, he will seek out the source, as mild emotion provokes “curiosity”, as violent emotion provokes him to attack. In response to emotional provocation, his body produces fuming sulfuric acid, which can cause severe burns when in contact with the flesh of emoting beings. When the being ceases to radiate emotion, his body ceases production of acid and secretes a mild, soapy mucus that tends to neutralize the acid. Ted will only attack a being that emotionally provokes him. He is also capable of regenerating his body from plant and vegetable matter, especially that found in his swamp. He is able to remake his body even when believed to be near death and can form tendrils to seek out any matter with which to aid his regeneration. And due to his role as the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, Ted is capable of traveling through dimensions and can open portals to other realities. As for weaknesses, Ted is largely dependent on the swamp environment for vitality; if removed for a significant length of time, he lapses in dormancy. Significant magic can also have an effect on him since he is a being of magic. 

Man-Thing had a movie? 

Believe it or not there was actually a live action adaptation of Man-Thing that was made and released in 2005 by production company Artisan Entertainment. The film had Man-Thing depicted as a murderous creature protecting the swamp and was a graphic R-rated horror film that never had a theatrical release in the US but a straight to TV and home video release. It was absolutely hated by both critics and audiences not only for its poor portrayal of the character but for the fact it was just an awfully made creature feature in many ways. The character’s film rights, along with the other Marvel characters whose film rights were previously acquired by Artisan Entertainment, ended up reverting back to Marvel as a result of the film’s failure.

MCU Debut 

A more accurate and beloved depiction of the character was introduced in Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf By Night that released earlier this month. While his full origin is not yet explored it is confirmed that this Man-Thing is indeed the Ted Sallis incarnation since Jack Russell says his name is Ted and that he is a good friend of his. Ted and Jack’s friendship in the special is also reference to their partnership in comics are part of the Midnight Sons. His design and powers are completely comic accurate but whether he is the guardian of Nexus of All Realities remains to be seen. 

What to expect going forward 

With Man-Thing’s introduction to the MCU there are many possibilities presented. He is one of several beings capable of traveling the multiverse and given that the multiverse is the common theme of this saga it is likely we could see him appear in future MCU installments involving the multiverse and will probably have encounters with other MCU heroes. With his already established friendship with Jack Russell there is also the possibility of seeing an adaptation of the Midnight Sons in the MCU given that several members of the group now exist in the universe and another member, Blade, is getting a solo film. There are a lot of paths this character could take but I think it’s needless to say everyone wants more of Ted regardless of where he shows up next.

Werewolf by Night is now streaming on Disney+.

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