Man-Man: Chapter 01

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.