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excellent writing
skilled art
historical bonus 3
total score 8
The Man
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2nd Printing / June, 1972 / 28 pages / The Print Mint
First Printing 1966
Vaughn Bodé created the character known only as "Man" in 1963, around the same time he produced Das Kampf in Utica, New York. At the time, he and his wife Barbara were living on welfare in a shitty little apartment. Bodé drew 17 pages of comics featuring Man, but figured nobody would really like it, so he shelved the project.

Two years later, after Bodé had enrolled in Syracuse University and become its resident superstar cartoonist, installments of The Man ran periodically in the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange. After completing its run in February, 1966, the university's Office of Student Publications compiled the strips into a book (with close to 2,000 copies) that was sold on and off campus. It was one of the first commercially produced underground comics. In 1972, The Print Mint produced a second edition of the book and printed 20,000 comic books, followed by another 10,000 copies three years later.

The Man is about a simple-minded caveman who possesses the power of language but not much else in the way of advanced intellect. Man leads an ordinary caveman life of hunting, killing, eating and sleeping. He does not have any companions or friends, but he is very fond of his lone weapon, a spear, which he named "Stick." He calls Stick his friend and has one-sided conversations with it. Without any human companionship or interactions, Man struggles to contemplate what his life means. He tries to formulate deeper thoughts about his empty stomach or a night sky filled with stars, but he can't articulate what he is feeling.

One day Man captures a lizard-like beast about the size of an average dog. He decides not to kill it but to make friends with it. Man names the lizard "Erg" after the sound that it makes. After initially resisting his captivity, Erg grows accustomed to being with Man and doesn't try to run away. Still, when he goes out hunting, Man ties Erg to a tree so that Erg doesn't scare away his prey. While tied to the tree, another caveman discovers Erg, kills him and eats him. Man rushes back when he hears Erg's howling as he is being killed, but it is too late. Man kills the other caveman, but, being a bit thick-headed, he doesn't recognize that Erg is actually dead.

The book closes with Man sitting on a tall pile of rocks, waiting for Erg to come back home. But as a cold wind whips over the rocks through the night air, Man realizes he has been fooling himself and that Erg is not coming back. Unable to cope with this mysterious feeling of loss, Man throws Stick down the pile of rocks, spreads his arms wide and howls out to the night, "I am alone."

The Man reads like a parable about the elusive meaning of humanity and the power of human relationships. Not just our relationships with each other, but those we hold with any entity that we deem meaningful to us. Man may not be a character we can relate to on an intellectual level, but he is one we can identify with because his humanity is so sincere and transparent.

When I read this book, I think of family pets who died and even inanimate objects, like Stick, that were once so important to me that I used to think I would never live without them because I loved them so much. A teddy bear. A bicycle. An old wood desk. When all of these things are lost, and there is nothing of importance to replace them with, it is easy to feel utterly alone. Fortunately for me, I have many relationships of importance that have replaced the ones I have lost. But I can imagine that one night in the future, I might find myself sitting atop a pile of rocks with a cold wind blowing and have nothing but myself.
There are three printings of this comic book. The 1st printing (1966, 1,500 to 2,000 copies) is 24 pages and was published by the Syracuse University Office of Student Publications. The 2nd printing (1972, 20,000 copies) and 3rd printing (1975, 10,000 copies) are both 28 pages and were published by The Print Mint. The 2nd printing has a 50-cent cover price and the 3rd printing has a 75-cent cover price

Vaughn Bodé - 1-28