Full spoilers follow for Marvel Studios’ Werewolf by Night.
Werewolf by Night has clawed its way onto Disney Plus – but the lycanthropic superhero isn’t the only new supernatural creature to make its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut in the TV special.
The MCU Phase 4 project introduces us to a number of new and potentially important characters, including Elsa Bloodstone. However, Elsa, Jack Russell (aka the titular Werewolf by Night), and company are overshadowed by the emergence of another superpowered being in Marvel’s first special presentation: Man-Thing.
Who is Man-Thing? What are his abilities? And why might Man-Thing be as important to the MCU’s Multiverse Saga as Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Strange 2’s America Chavez, Wanda Maximoff, The Watcher, and trickster god Loki?
Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the fan favorite character known as Man-Thing. That includes his Marvel comics origin story, every superpower at his disposal, how he holds another key to the MCU’s multiverse, where he could crop up next, and more. Strap in and let’s begin.
Man-Thing explained: Marvel comic book origins
Created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gary Morrow, Man-Thing made his comic debut in May 1971’s Savages Tales #1.
Real name Theodore ‘Ted’ Sallis, Man-Thing was a biochemist who worked in the Everglades as part of a project dubbed Gladiator. Alongside his fellow researchers, Sallis worked on a project to recreate the super-solder serum – yep, that stuff that made Captain America. Again. When will people learn?
Anyway, the villainous organization known as A.I.M – the very same one from Marvel’s Avengers videogame – attempted to steal Sallis’ research so they could use it for nefarious means. Conspiring with Sallis’ bitter wife Ellen Brandt, who Sallis had been neglecting due to his studies, A.I.M, well, aimed to rob Sallis of his work, with Ellen leading Ted into an ambush where A.I.M’s armed personnel would procure his research at gunpoint.
What they didn’t realize, though, was that Sallis had already concocted a formula, dubbed SO-2, and he planned to test the first vial on a test subject. To prevent any stealing his idea, Sallis burned his research notes after committing the formula to memory.
After being ambushed, Sallis managed to escape. Fearing for his life, he injected the serum into himself, only for the resulting transformation to cause him to crash his car in the Everglades. Here, a combination of the SO-2 serum, the swamp’s mystical energy, and a regeneration serum developed by Doctor Curt Connors – he of Spider-Man fame – resulted in Sallis turning into the Cthulhu-style, vegetation-covered creature known as Man-Thing.
Man-Thing explained: what superpowers does he possess?
A simpler answer would be to list the abilities Man-Thing doesn’t have.
Man-Thing possesses your typical superpowers, such as superhuman strength, durability, stamina, and regeneration. However, based on Man-Thing’s makeup, the last two of those are based on chlorokinetics, a plant-based regenerative factor. He’s also able to turn his body into a fluid, allowing him to pass through small spaces – although, the smaller the gap, the longer it takes for his body to reorganize itself. He’s also immune to most diseases and physical weapons thanks to the vegetative matter he’s comprised of. Due to his affiliation to plant life, Man-Thing is also able manipulate vegetation around him.
Man-Thing’s most famous abilities, though, are his empathetic nature and the power to traverse the Marvel multiverse.
The first of those is down to how matter is organized in Man-Thing’s body. Due to his physical makeup, Man-Thing’s brain, sensory organs, and nervous system are randomly scattered throughout his body. This reorganization means he can’t communicate properly, but he’s still a sentient being. Coupled with the mystical and psychic forces that flow through him, Man-Thing is able to perceive emotions at a heightened state compared to humans.
Positive emotions arouse curiosity in Man-Thing and usually result in him observing humans from a distance. However, if he’s engaged by someone exhibiting negative emotions – typically fear, but others, such as anger, also work – Man-Thing has a tendency to violently lash out. This leads to Man-Thing secreting a highly concentrated form of acid, which burn humans and can turn them to ash in seconds. We get a glimpse of this power being used on Ursula Bloodstone and Jovan in Werewolf by Night. Incidentally, Man-Thing is unharmed by the acid he secretes thanks to a foamy, mucus substance that neutralizes the corrosive fluid.
Lastly, the mystical part of the Everglades that helped birth Man-Thing also grants him to ability to travel interdimensionally. Man-Thing can open portals to other realities – more on how this affects the MCU later – and interact with other multiversal creatures in parallel dimensions. Currently, he’s the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities in Marvel comics, too, which is the interdimensional gateway to every other realm in the Marvel multiverse.
We’ve previously seen the Nexus of All Realities in the MCU animated series What If…?. The Nexus has also been referenced in other MCU projects, including Thor: The Dark World and Loki season 1. And speaking of the MCU…
Man-Thing explained: making his MCU debut in Werewolf by Night
If you’ve seen Werewolf by Night – why wouldn’t you have if you’re reading this? – you’ll know that Man-Thing makes his MCU debut here.
About 20 minutes in, Gael García Bernal’s Jack Russell leans against the plant-based wall of Bloodstone Manor’s maze, only for him to be grabbed by a monstrous being. Russell, though, isn’t afraid of this creature, who turns out to be Man-Thing. In fact, Russell has joined the monster hunting party to rescue Man-Thing. He was captured and imprisoned by Ursula Bloodstone with the aim of seeing which monster hunter would successfully kill him and retrieve the magical, monster murdering item known as the bloodstone.
Unfortunately, Man-Thing can’t fight back against those who hunt him. With the bloodstone attached to his body, he’s weakened and can’t use any of his abilities. However, Russell, who teams up with Elsa Bloodstone, manages to remove the bloodstone from his friend, blow a hole in a wall of Bloodstone Manor’s grounds, and help Man-Thing escape.
That isn’t the last we see of Man-Thing. He turns up later on to save Elsa from Ursula, killing Elsa’s stepmother with the same corrosive acid he used on Jovan earlier. With Elsa now the rightful owner of her family heirloom, Man-Thing departs to find Russell who, after being transformed into his feral alter-ego and killing Ursula’s guards, fled into the night. The special’s final scene is reserved for a heart warming reunion between Russell and Man-Thing, who share a joke and discuss where they’ll go next.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Man-Thing has appeared in a live-action capacity. The character received a standalone, non-MCU film in mid-2005, which premiered on the Sci Fi channel in the US and earned a paltry $1 million from a small international theatrical release.
Man-Thing explained: what role could he have in the MCU’s Multiverse Saga?
With Marvel Phase 4, Marvel Phase 5, and Marvel Phase 6 all exploring (or set to explore) the multiverse, Man-Thing could be an incredibly important character in the MCU.
His ability to open portals to other dimensions – like America Chavez – makes him one of the few superheroes who can traverse the multiverse. With Kang the Conqueror, another time-traveling individual who can do likewise, installed as the Multiverse Saga’s chief antagonist, the MCU’s Earth-bound heroes will need all the multiversal help they can get if they’re to defeat Kang. Man-Thing, then, would be a very useful ally to have.
So, where could he crop up next? That’s hard to say. Marvel’s Phase 5 slate is pretty much locked in at this point. Ant-Man 3, What If…? season 2, and Loki season 2 aside, it doesn’t appear as if any Phase 5 movies or MCU Disney Plus shows will examine the multiverse in great detail. Well, on the surface anyway. There’s always the possibility that other projects will contain multiversal elements, but we don’t know which ones might do so.
What about Phase 6 then? This appears more likely, what with Deadpool 3, Fantastic Four, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and Avengers: Secret Wars all positioned as multiversal superhero films. Maybe Man-Thing will appear in one of these movies? If not, he could feature in a Phase 6 Disney Plus series or another TV special.
Simply put, we shouldn’t discount Man-Thing turning up in a future Marvel Studios production. After all, MCU president Kevin Feige has teased that Werewolf by Night will “ultimately become quite important to the future of the MCU”. Reading between the lines, Man-Thing has to be part of the conversation. He’s too important, from a multiverse perspective, not to be. Here’s hoping, then, that we see the lovable but dangerous Man-Thing in the MCU again.
For more Marvel-based content, check out our Marvel movies in order hub. Alternatively, read up on everything worth knowing about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, or find out how we’ve ranked every MCU film to date.
By Tom Power