Marvel Studios Werewolf By Night might be the first time Man-Thing has been present in the action, but breadcrumbs, hints and Easter eggs of the existence of the creature have existed for the better part of a decade. With Man-Thing, who Jack so lovingly refers to as Ted, now in the spotlight, a brief look back at his history, both recorded and imagined, is in order.
Iron Man 3
No, you didn’t miss Man-Thing in Iron Man 3; however, clues to his origin story could be found. In the comics, Ted Sallis was a scientist working on Project Gladiator, one of a billion attempts to recreate the Super Solider Serum flowing in the veins of Steve Rogers. Sallis’ research partner and lover, Ellen Brandt, was turned by A.I.M. and eventually tried to steal the research. Ted said no, Ted drank the formula, she shot Ted and Ted fell into the swamp. When he emerged from the swamp, he had become Man-Thing, obviously. Ted and Ellen had a less than happy reunion that led to Ellen’s face becoming horribly disfigured by the touch of Man-Thing because, as we all know, whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!
In an MCU that’s seen a few attempts at recreating the Super Soldier Serum, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find out that Project Gladiator went down at some point in time. More than that, however, A.I.M. agent Ellen Brandt had a gnarly facial scar and a missing arm that could easily be retconned to have been the result of an encounter with Man-Thing! Given that Iron Man 3 took place in 2013, we can deduce that Ted has been Man-Thing for at least a decade assuming Werewolf By Night takes place in the MCU’s present day of 2025.
Having (not really) established that Ted operated as Man-Thing as early 2013 really does little to explain away how his face ended up on the Grandmaster’s palace on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok. As the Grandmaster says, time works a little differently there, but what you can be sure of is that at some point before the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Man-Thing was one of the Grandmaster’s Champions. It’s not clear under what circumstances he found himself participating in the Contest of Champions, but from Jack’s dialogue in Werewolf By Night, it’s clear that Ted has a bit of a habit of getting himself captured. Perhaps he found himself unwillfully part of the Contest, became champion and won his freedom. Whatever the case may be, assuming Werewolf By Night takes place in the MCU’s present day, Manny eventually found his way back to Earth.
Werewolf by Night
Man-Thing finds himself the prisoner of the vile Verusa as the events of Werewolf By Night begin to unfold. And while he has his revenge on her by burning her up and tossing her body across the great room of Bloodstone Manor, what’s more important in giving us clues about Ted’s excellent adventure is his heart-warming relationship with Jack. Michael Giacchino did a fantastic job of retrofitting Jack, Ted, Elsa and other characters, both seen and unseen, into the MCU’s history. The timeline isnt’ clear, but Jack’s been around for a while and he’s known Ted long enough to not only become besties with him but also save his butt more than once.
The existing relationship between Jack and Ted makes one ponder what other monsters exist within the shared universe who have also been on the receiving end of Jack’s help. If saving monsters, like Ted, is what Jack does in the MCU, it seems like he, Man-Thing and their new friend Elsa, might be likely to team-up again at some point. Putting those 3 together is enough for the foundations of The Legion of Monsters.
It’s also possible that Marvel Studios chooses to explore Man-Thing’s identity as the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, a gateway located at a point where all of the many realities of the multiverse interest and can be accessed. The Multiverse Saga has just begun and isn’t set to end for three more years, meaning further exploration of the concept is sure to happen. Perhaps Man-Thing could appear in a project such as Loki Season 2 in a little less-monstrous capacity.