It begins! Technically, it re-begins. There’s a “Man-Man 1.0” out there somewhere; likely James has it. It was definitely a first draft. I don’t know how long we ran it before rebooting like this, but the writing is definitely better on this second pass. I’m pretty sure in v1 Man-Man’s head wasn’t actually a sentient mutant growth.
Art by the inestimable James Duncan, who is still creating great art in Montreal, both online and off. One of the weird coincidences of my life is I opened the Tiniest Gallery at right around the same time as James started leaving tiny pieces of art, calling it #LeftArt, around Montreal.
We’re friends, but we’re not “talk frequently” friends, so there’s no chance we would have overtly influenced other directly — just one of those weird synergies.
I’m dead serious when I tell people that writing a daily strip that was supposed to be a gag strip and also a longform story and parody of superhero culture with an eventual cast of dozens of characters. James was pretty adamant about keeping word balloons down to 1 or 2 per panel, and 10 or fewer words per balloon — I learned a lot about economy of language, serialization, and the delicate relationship of words and pictures doing this.
That said — it’s not very funny, at least for a while. I think there are funny ideas in here, and I think it’s sometimes wry and charming, but whatever the magic gene that good comic strip writers have to hit the button every fourth panel? I definitively didn’t have it in the first year. It gets better; by episode 9 or 10 I hit a groove and the rhythm starts to kick in.
It was a webcomic when they were still in their infancy, got me to a place where James and/or I were doing guest spots for Ryan North and Jon Rosenberg and others, led indirectly to The License and Dead Eyes Open, and for a while were part of the late end of the early wave of a new art form. That’s cool.
And the characters! Man-Man himself, a man who was bitten by a radioactive man and gained the proportionate strength, speed and agility of a man. That was 100% James, when he approached me. No credit here. I can claim co-responsibility for the rest of the gang, though: Frenchy, Gutsy: The Man With Guts, Dr. Vivisectus, The Quizzler (a combination of game-show villian and candy-themed villain), the Bob Newhart in Newhart stand-in, long-suffering protagonist Paul; Basilica, whose superpower is to turn into a basilica. God, I loved ’em all. I loved this world.
These are thanks to (again) the amazing JR Conlin. Man-Man was part of the extended United Heroes family, and he somehow managed to archive six years of these strips and keep track of them. Which is more than I, the writer, managed to to.
Important note: James put, like, 5x more time into these strips than I did, and that included the word balloons, and he was usually uploading same-day to try to stick to a schedule. The word balloons were often dropped in last, and placed in a way where they infrequently end up mildly scrambled — so if the strip ever makes less sense than usual, look at the panel you’re in and flip the dialogue around, like in this strip, third panel, and read top-down rather than left-right:
PAUL: So rather than fighting villains, let’s just pair them!
MAN-MAN: How do we do that?
It’s not that common — a single panel every twenty-five strips or so? — but if you ever find yourself really scratching your head, try it.
- Chapter One (Man-Man meets everyman Paul)
- Chapter Two (Paul loses his job and goes staggeringly into debt, causing him to move into the Man-Mansion)
- Chapter Three (introducing the other two main cast: Doctor Vivisectus and Frenchy)
- Chapter Four (the cast grows: government agents Bindle & Spine, Daredevil analogue Gutsy: The Man With Guts, and Chiroptera, our Batman proxy.)
- Chapter Five (Bindle & Spine, Grumpy Squirrel, some revelations about Head).
- Chapter Six (Chuck Canuck, Dick Shamus, more Head, meet Garth)
- Chapter Seven (Head is a villain, Giant Robo / Robbo, Mud Madlock (Gutsy) is a terrible lawyer, Garth saves the day)
- Chapter Eight (Manny’s broke, the Giant Robbo saga continues, enter Officer Hemingway)
- Chapter Nine (Man Helsing, a Van Helsing riff. Not great. Sorry.)
- Chapter 10 (Man-Man takes over the world, then tries to join the Ultimate Power Squad).
- Chapter 11 (taking a swing at Peanuts, and grenade-hurling mystic Oblonius Odd).
- Chapter 12 (JR Conlin guest-writes; pirates! And generally better jokes)
- Chapter 13 (A clips episode?!? Mercifully short.)
- Chapter 14 (I’ve been uploading these like a fiend, so I think I’m going to just link here without the summaries going forward…)
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26 – Things get really weird and timey-wimey; JR Conlin guest-draws (!!) some episodes.
- Chapter 27 – Time Hijinks! And the return of Cowboy! Howdy howdy howdy.
- Chapter 28 – A new purpose for Man-Man, and the return of various funny animals. Well, your mileage may vary on the ‘funny’ part.
- Chapter 29 – Log and Order II. Buckle up.
- Chapter 30 – the old villain-hero switcheroo! Lots of Gutsy and Chiroptera in this one.
- Chapter 31 – Paul becomes a super-hero! Sort of.