Swamp Thing #5 (August 1973)
“The Last of the Ravenwind Witches” marks the fifth issue of the Wein/Wrightson run of Swamp Thing’s first volume, and it brings the muck-covered wanderer back to the United States. Only he finds himself amidst the trial of a local woman, accused of witchcraft. Monsters, witches, and Maine? Quite a classic mix here.
Like most in our run, this issue is credited to Len Wein as the author, Bernie Wrightson on the art. Joe Orlando is credited as the editor, while Gaspar Saladino handles the lettering (I did find more complete credits for the series, and it seems like I was neglecting poor Gaspar over the previous four issues – I feel terrible about it). You can, as always, find this issue in the collection Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis. Please order it through your local comic shop!
Swamp Thing #5 – Issue Impressions
Issue five opens with Swamp Thing discovered aboard a ship to the US that he has stowed away on. We get a nice recap of his travels and situation to this point, and the scene on the ship serves as an excellent way to reaffirm the mistreatment of Swamp Thing by the world. Forced to jump into the ocean, Swamp Thing finds himself washing ashore off the coast of Maine near the town of Divinity.
Swamp Thing wakes up in a cave where two Divinity locals are hiding – Rebecca and Timothy Ravenwind. The pair are being hunted by the townies as Rebecca is accused of witchcraft. Swamp Thing finds himself owing the youths a favor as it turns out the two end up getting caught. In the end, we learn this is merely the latest chapter in a centuries-old grudge between families. Again, the inhuman Swamp Thing bears witness to the inhumanity of everyday people.
The thing that throws me about a lot of the early Swamp Thing stories is how anachronistic everything feels at times. The story seems rooted (forgive the pun) in the 1970s, but Swamp Thing’s odyssey takes him to locations that feel out of time. The Europe of the previous few issues feels like something out of the 1800s, whereas we have the same feeling as what should be 1970s Maine in this issue.
That also plays into the story here, a direct example of local, antiquated superstition that can be explained through modern science. Specifically, what seems like a curse is just a case of genetics. The problem? The grudge is too strong to see that.
Another aspect of this early run that I admire is the level of hokeyness. Swamp Thing can be subtle, but it wears its lessons on its sleeves more often than not. That is not a bad thing and is perfectly fitting for when the comics were published. These days they can come off as a bit eye-rollingly on the nose, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The earnestness is charming. That is why I am so fond of the book’s usage of repeated narration. It’s a little old-fashioned and dramatic, and it fits the tragic nature of Swamp Thing’s story.
The “twist” of Swamp Thing #5 isn’t entirely shocking, especially for a modern-day reader, but it is fun. It is good that the issue went the direction it did, mainly because it sets up trickery of perception. It also plays into the final page as the twist ending was sure to get fans of the comic talking early in the run. Is that Alec and Linda Holland? Probably not… or are they? It’s a great way to generate mystery and intrigue as Swamp Thing’s European vacation comes to a close.
One aspect of the art in this issue that I love are moments of “power-poses” where Swamp Thing’s strength and presence dominate the panel. These panels are also oversized and would make cool tattoos. Honestly? Bernie Wrightson’s art in this run is an excellent source for nerdy tattoos. There are a crazy number of great Swamp Thing poses in each issue, but this one has a couple of favorites of mine. Him ripping up the tree? Iconic.
Rebecca also gets a power pose moment that is very satisfying to see. Rebecca Ravenwind’s look is a lot of fun – while relatively simple in design, she ends up being one of the prettiest of the Swamp Thing girls in the run so far. Not that the worth of a female character is dictated by their appearance, of course. Rebecca’s nature and the misdirection created by her characterization is a fun twist on the “witch trial” trope.
Wrightson is very keen on using contrast when it comes to character designs. While Swamp Thing is monstrous, he isn’t necessarily grotesque. Especially as the series has gone on, he appears less malformed, and his heroic nature shines through his pose, posture, and proportions. Meanwhile, the true villains of the story appear as gross caricatures, their faces distorted by hate. Rebecca and Timothy, meanwhile, look good – they read as good people. It is a clever bit of visual shorthand.
Here are just some general notes and observations for Swamp Thing #5. We have a few recurring things that will pop up later on in the saga of the Swamp Thing.
- I sometimes find myself looking to see what other people have written on the issues I cover, so it is fun to see a blog post circa 2013 covering this issue from “Rip Jagger’s Dojo.” I am not sure about the rest of the material they cover, but I expect I’ll compare notes with some of the other posts as we go forward.
- If the name Ravenwind seems familiar in this issue, well, that is because Timothy Ravenwind will return later on, as a much more conflicted character. He is next seen in Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #166. We won’t be catching up with Timothy again for a quite a while.
- This wont be the only time we spend in Divinity, Maine. There is a really cool story that is set up in this issue and it involves an injury Swamp Thing takes here.
- Do you like robots in your swamp monster stories? I’m just asking. You’ll see why soon enough.
- No Matt Cable, Abby Arcane, or Mutt the Dog this week.
And with that, we’ll return to the regular world of Graphic Content comic reviews next. Thanks for checking out this installment of “Just Swamp Things.” Please let me know what you think. I would love to hear from other Swamp Thing fans about my impressions of the issue.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5
Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…
Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)
“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.
The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.
Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…
Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”
Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)
This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…
Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!“
Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!
And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.
Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 4
Wow, I can’t believe you’ve stayed the course through four whole strange story posts of these creepy comics collages. But this is the final frontier, the last segment, the standing ovation as it were. So here goes…
Creepy Comics Story 7: The Grave (shallow enough for ya?)
“It should take longer, it seems to all of them. Such holy flesh should not give before a blade so easily.” “His brow is growing so cold.” “Yes it would be. He’s dying.”
“My god… I’m not dead.” Put the shovel down. “Life is a no-win situation. Besides… You’re already dead!”
“I’m not dead. I’m not dead!… Oh, Oh my god… I can’t move… What’s happened to me?” Buried alive. Or maybe not.
“Dead?” Perhaps I am actually dead. I was expecting something… I dunno… different.
“I’m not hungry, I’m dead. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, in fact.” At least I’m not a zombie. That seems a small consolation right now though. “My organs are shutting down. It is a relief.”
“Three days have already passed.” We’re just sitting here, rotting. Like Norman Bates’ Mother. At least someone was kind enough to supply a rocking chair. “Oh, one last thing before I go… You’re doing my fucking head in.”
Creepy Comics Story 8: Adrift Afterlife (why you save the best gold coins for the ferryman)
How’d we get here? “I do not stand alone. I am sat in a boat.” “.. to be millions of miles away from any care in the world.” Was that the Ferryman? “Only liberty I know.”
“He does not remember arriving here, or if he has been here before. It is not the island he grew up on, though it feels so very familiar… He has been waiting for the night tides to come in, for they will bring starfish. He has always liked watching them cling to the beach before the current pulls them back into fathoms.”
“And the ocean brings him starfish… Perhaps his father had nothing to do with this place at all.” The ferryman stands on the far shore. It makes no difference now.
“Beneath the ocean, razor-sharp coral grows and plunges towards the surface, sent by a green place that would not like to burn.” “The sand is soft between his toes and he is not ashamed of anything.” The ghosts are here, contentedly it seems.
Thank you for joining us for these creepy comics collage art stories. But here’s where we have to leave it off. Trust me, it’s best that way. Besides I’m out of creepy comics to collage with.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 3
We’re ba-ack… Are you ready for the next creepy comics collages graphic story overload? After the last time and the intermission I wasn’t sure I’d see you again, but here we are, together again. You’d almost think we put something in the water – wink.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, the world was going to hell… or was it?
Creepy Comics Story 5: Alien Invasion (A Fist Full of Physics!!!)
“Elsewhere… months… earlier…” “It begins as a flicker pin-point of light getting closer ever closer until it takes form.” The sky is falling, damn you Chicken Little.
“…unconfirmed rumors of extraterrestrials have surfaced this evening following reported sightings in upstate New York earlier today.” There’s the news for you. Always blowing things up to increase viewership ratings.
“Then I would suggest a test immediately.” ‘K Doc, we get it; maybe there’s cause for concern. Guessing these aren’t friendlies based on intel, or that the government pissed them off. “Where’s William Shatner when you really need him?”
“Next morning… City Hall…” “A Fist Full of Physics” Blamm-o! “As if that’s some kind of homage.” It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I was feeling fine but now I’m not so sure. “All of this is on your head.” You can thank the world governments with their shoot first, ask questions later policies for that.
“The act was deplorable. It’s ramifications were permanent.” Doc looks unamused. “And the doctor drones on in his cold monotone… ‘Then we all die.’”
Creepy Comics Story 6: Werewolves (Londoners, eat your hearts out)
“Fables Werewolves… no one can hear you howl.” So now we’re elbow-deep in lycanthropy? This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder…
“… I feel so… disoriented… is this vertigo?” No, you wouldn’t be so lucky. Once bitten, twice shy. It’s The Change. Prepare yourself for the transformation.
“What now?” Enough with the damned interruptions already, can’t you see I’m at work?!
“Shall we start a war?”
“No! No! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! No!“
“I know one thing.” “Never will you suffer the indignity of this animal’s touch again.” The wolf seems somewhat offended by that statement. No really. And probably rightly so.
“Maybe it’s just an excuse, a fucking cop-out for when we inevitably fuck-up our lives and hurt people… We’re not cursed, we’re rotten, or mad or…”
“I don’t deserve this!” he howls. Stop blaming the werewolves for your own human indecencies. Teacups get broken and the London werewolves get angry.
Thank you for going all in with us over this series, there’s… one… more… final… huzzah… In the meantime, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.