I decided that I wanted to mix things up with Graphic Content. Normally I review about three titles per installment. However, I also want to go beyond reviews and revisit classic horror comics. I won’t exactly be reviewing the titles so much as experiencing them and sharing my thoughts, issue to issue. I figured there is no comic book monster more deserving of a thorough re-read than the Swamp Thing.
So, welcome to Graphic Content: Just Swamp Things…
Swamp Thing is a particular favorite character of mine. While I have a great deal of background with the character, I don’t know everything about every version/continuity, nor have I read every single comic. My comic knowledge mostly revolves around Alan Moore’s run with the character, the movies, and the shows. So, a lot of material I am likely to cover is going to be new to me. I find that exciting.
Swamp Thing’s recent DC Universe show, now canceled, was my first real foray into special projects here at Haunted MTL. If you are unfamiliar with the character, you should read the primer I wrote prior to the premiere of the show.
Anyway, let’s trudge through the muck…
Swamp Thing #1 (1972)
We’re starting with the first issue of the first Swamp Thing series, published clear back in November of 1972. This first series, spanning 24 issues, began as a collaboration between Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson (“Berni” in the issue credits). As we make our way through the series we’ll note talent changes.
This wasn’t the first appearance of ol’ Swampy, however; that distinction goes to DC’s House of Secrets #92. I may go back and cover that story in the future. If you are looking for this issue to read yourself, I would check your local comic shop or DC Comics. Look for the collection Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis. It features the first 10 issues of the series as well as that House of Secrets short.
“Dark Genesis” opens a vengeful Swamp Thing who waits for his chance to get revenge on those who wronged him. It also serves as an origin story, depicting how, exactly, he became the Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing was formerly Alec Holland. Alec, his wife Linda, and their contact Matthew Cable, a federal agent, arrive in bayou country to work on bio-restorative research for the U.S. Government. After a few days of work and success in creating accelerated plant growth, they are approached by a man, Ferrett, along with thugs, who wish to purchase the Hollands’ experimental formula, possibly through force.
We are introduced to the mysterious figure who sent Ferret, Mr. E, who is connected to a group known as The Conclave. They seek to either control or destroy the bio-restorative compound. The end result: Mr. E’s thugs blow up the lab, sending a flaming Alec into the swamp.
I do not want to cover the entirety of the plot, but I want to discuss how solid this is as an origin story for the character. The issue does a good job seeding future conflicts, particularly elements such as The Conclave, the nature of the bio-restorative work that Alec and Linda were working on, and the introduction of Matt Cable, who is hugely important to the series. I also appreciate Wein’s very dramatic writing. It’s all very much of the period where characters need to speak out on how they are feeling in poetic ways. Yet, there is a gothic charm about the writing, such as when the birth of Alec into the Swamp Thing happens. Following Matt’s comment about the rain, the narration takes over, as though God himself is commenting on this strange birth.
Wrightson’s art is stunning, particularly for a 1970s horror comic. Specifically, Wrightson’s art evokes the 1950s EC Comics style, utilizing strong and dramatic shadows. The comic, had it not been in color, would be well suited to the pages of any issue of Tales From the Crypt. The shadow work does a lot as Swamp Thing seems almost always in shadow in the first issue, and second to the color green seems to be the color black. As far as the linework goes, the hatching is effective, not overdone, working to create that key transition from total darkness to the colored forms on the page.
And, oh, the colors. Comics of the 1970s sometimes have a sort of muddy coloration, comics of the 1970s weren’t exactly big business and of the best quality. But the color choices in this issue are strong, particularly between the past and present. The colors of Swamp Thing himself are still so effective. That strange olive green with brown roots is offset by the dramatic bright red of his eyes in sunken black pools of shadow. It’s gorgeous to this day.
As for where this series fits in with the lore of Swamp Thing, here is a very brief list.
- Alec’s quip about “a dozen Frankensteins” (p. 4) is pretty funny in that Swamp Thing is a sort of Frankenstein parable and other Frankenstein figures find their way into the series and the larger DC Universe.
- I am likely to mention The Incredible Hulk and Frankenstein‘s Creature a lot over the course of this series as the former and Swamp Thing pull heavily from the latter.
- We get our first “glimpse” of Anton Arcane, who would become Swamp Thing’s nemesis, though we see little beyond a cryptic final panel featuring a gnarled hand. Still, not a bad tease for a second issue.
- Of course, Anton Arcane’s family becomes a key component of the Saga of Swamp Thing as well. Exciting times ahead.
- We get a nice example of an unglued Matt Cable who blames Swamp Thing for the loss of Alec and Linda. Matt’s role starts as an antagonist derived from dramatic irony, but he comes much more to the larger DC Universe later on.
And that is our first installment of Graphic Content: Just Swamp Things… I hope you enjoyed this diversion from the usual review series. For those of you Swamp Thing fans, or even those of you who know little about the character, let me know what you think as we make our way through.
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.