I started reading Swamp Thing from the very beginning... sort of. When I was a kid, I liked superhero comics and not much else (no western, no war, etc.). I also gravitated toward Marvel, so Swamp Thing had two strikes against it right out of the gate (to mix a metaphor or two). I remember seeing titles such as Swamp Thing and Kamandi on the spinner racks but not giving them a second look (or even a first). Even when I walked into a comic book shop for the first time in my life several years later, it took some time for me to overcome my preconceived notions regarding such titles as Daredevil (Frank Miller's) and Swamp Thing (Alan Moore's). Then, in 1986, DC released the Roots of the Swamp Thing reprint series and i started at the very beginning (#1) if not exactly from the very beginning (1972).
Skip ahead 15 years. I'm now married. My new bride is not wholly unfamiliar with comic books and is willing to read more. I recommended a list of 8 or 10 of my favorites (including the Wein/Wrightson and the Moore/Bisette/Totleben runs of Swamp Thing), most of which she read. I had tens of thousands of comics in my collection at that time, enough to keep us busy reading and discussing for years. But she became interested in comics I didn't have, such as the post-Moore Swamp Thing as well as the complete run of Fables (which I myself still have not read). We spent the next however-many-it-was months collecting backissues of Swamp Thing plus I added those two titles to my pull & hold.
At this point Tracy has read literally hundreds more issues of Swamp Thing than I have. We don't have every issue (she finally lost interest after the "New 52"), but we have quite a few. Ironically, it was "Brightest Day" which reignited my own interest, so some of the more recent issues she has not read. I like to "prorate" the cost of my comics by a) reading them multiple times, or b) giving them to my wife to read. We get the best value from those comic we both read multiple times. To that end, we have decided to work our way through every issue we own from 1972 to 2018.
We recently led a discussion through every issue/series in Terry Moore's "SiP-verse" but, if we complete it, this project is more than twice as long. We invite you along for the ride.
Wein/Wrightson - p1
Nestor Redondo - p2
The "Mopee Thing" - p3
Miscellaneous - p4
Martin Pasko - p5
Alan Moore - p8
Rick Veitch - p25
Doug Wheeler - p31
Nancy Collins - p33
ISSUE #24 - "Roots"
Alan Moore's description of the the Justice League (and their satellite headquarters) is worth transcribing verbatim: "There is a House Above the World, where the Over-People gather. There is a man with wings like a bird. There is a man who can see across the planet and wring diamonds from its anthracite. there is a man who moves so fast that his life in an endless gallery of statues. In the House Above the World, the Over-People gather... and sit... and listen... and there is silence in the House Above the World."
While the Justice League weigh their options, the Floronic Man's rampage continues. "[He's] uglier than death backin' outta the outhouse readin' MAD magazine and crazy as a football bat," opines one bystander, who then goes home to fetch Evangeline. "Evangeline" ends up being a chainsaw, which "Wood-Rue" ironically (or perhaps fittingly) confiscates and begins to use on the "meat." The Swamp Thing talks the Floronic Man down while the JLA just talks. It also helps that Woodrue is coming down from his "tuber high" at right about this time. After the threat has been neutralized, Superman and Green Lantern arrive to take the Floronic Man into custody. "Let's just be grateful," Superman says, "that there's someone watching out for the places no one watches out for," in unintentional answer to Green Arrow's earlier question, "Who was watching out for Lacroix, Louisiana?"
The Swamp Thing tells Abby the truth he has learned about his existence, then symbolically stands, arms akimbo in the setting sun, in acceptance of his new reality. This is the end of the transitional storyline begun by Martin Pasko in #16. Pasko's initial arc was 16 issues, but this is just the beginning of Moore's. This is a good place to stop for the day. I don't want to get too far ahead of Tracy.
As I mentioned previously, I had purchased the several TPB editions that cover the Alan Moore run on Saga of the Swamp Thing a while back but had not made the time to read them. This is my first reading of these issues.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
ISSUE #21 - "The Anatomy Lesson"
Moore likened the Swamp Thing's genesis to the manner in which planarian worms in an experiment learned to navigate a simple maze, which set up an interesting parallel later on as Sunderland becomes like unto a worm navigating the maze of his office building.
The detailed explanation of the “never was a man” version made me a believer when previously I had been skeptical.
When Sunderland is running for his life the art reminded me of Graham “Ghastly” Ingels of EC.
ISSUE #22 - "Swamped"
They find him lying on his back, rooted to the ground, with water pooling in his face. He is covered with moss and insects and some kind of tubers are growing out of him. He is in a catatonic state and is experiencing a series of symbolic, hallucinogenic dreams.
Meanwhile, Woodrue eats one of the tubers, makes contact with "The Green" and is driven over the edge of sanity.
As my wife would say, "a short drive."
We are also treated to Abby’s almost stumbling upon Matt’s manifesting monsters and exotic female visitors. These don’t seem to be hallucinations because Abby hears one of them speak.
ISSUE #23 - "Another Green World"
Nothing to add.
ISSUE #24 - "Roots"
The Swamp Thing talks the Floronic Man down while the JLA just talks.
I understand why Moore did this, but it’s out of character for the JLA to run their mouths while people are dying.
It also helps that Woodrue is coming down from his "tuber high" at right about this time. After the threat has been neutralized, Superman and Green Lantern arrive to take the Floronic Man into custody.
Making arrests after the fact and presumably picking up bodies, not unlike any non-fascist police force.
This is a good place to stop for the day. I don't want to get too far ahead of Tracy.
….and I’m doing my best to stay slightly ahead of you.
"This is my first reading of these issues."
I'm glad to have you participating! If this is your first time reading this run, I envy you the experience.
"When Sunderland is running for his life the art reminded me of Graham “Ghastly” Ingels of EC."
That's an apt comparison. The panel at the bottom of of page 20 is particularly effective, as Sunderland is sweating, crying and snot is dripping from his nose.
"These don’t seem to be hallucinations because Abby hears one of them speak."
What you said about Matt manifesting monsters is spot on: these are more than hallucinations, they are physical manifestations.
"...it’s out of character for the JLA to run their mouths while people are dying."
It is, but it's also unlike them to go in without a plan. This time through I noted how they took time to assess the situation, they didn't simply fly off half cocked.
"...and I’m doing my best to stay slightly ahead of you."
I had planned to do #25-27 tomorrow, but I just couldn't wait. I logged on just now to write up my thoughts on #25 because I couldn't shut off my brain. Tomorrow I plan to stop (for the day) at #27.
"The Anatomy Lesson" became the first major "Everything You Know Is Wrong" story or an EYKIW. Later examples include the true origin of the Red Tornado, the backstory of the Demon and, of course, Black Canary. This is the best of them. At the time, I was very put off by it as it made Swamp Thing's journey up to this point, a man trying to cure himself from being a plant-creature, almost a waste of time.
Alec Holland being dead this whole time and Swamp Thing being a different character would only be the initial twist of Moore's lengthy run.
Look up Brandon Tenold Swamp Thing on youtube! It's a hoot!
The Baron said:
ISSUE #25 - "The Sleep of Reason..."
This issue's title comes from Francisco Goya's "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters".
This second storyline in Alan Moore's first story arc ends (#27) with the following:
"Dedicated with Awe and Affection to JACK KIRBY."
The first time I read this story (#25-27) I must admit: I didn't get it.
Here's how I remember it. the first "Demon" I ever read was Matt Wagner's four-issue mini-series followed closely by John Byrne's Action Comics #587. Somewhere along the way i had acquired a copy of Amazing Heroes #93 which featured a "Hero History" of Etrigan the Demon. I used that article as a guide to future backissue purchases and, as soon as I read Swamp Thing #25-27 I went back to my LCS and bought the entire original series in one swell foop. I paid $1.00 for the first issue and 50 cents apiece for the rest, so for eight and a half bucks I had Kirby's entire run. I didn't get it.
I didn't get it, but I did know enough at the time to listen to others who knew better than I did. For example, I discovered Alex Toth through Howard Chaykin, and Goseki Kojima & Moebius through Frank Miller. Plus, Walt Simonson (who was doing Thor around this time) raved about Kirby. I had long been aware of Jack Kirby, but I didn't really start to appreciate him until DC reprinted New Gods in 1985. Even in 1986 (or so, when I first read Swamp Thing #27), "awesome" was a word diluted from overuse (as well as misuse). But I was pretty certain Alan Moore used it quite deliberately when he dedicated the story to Kirby "with awe and affection."
The plot was one of nine story suggestions sent to Martin Pasko by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben shortly after they started work on #16: "An appearance by the Demon is necessary when an overzealous but sadly inexperienced student of the Black Arts conjures up the Kamara--"The Fear Monster!" See Kirby's The Demon #4... using its abilities to embody the victim's deepest fears, the Kamara... scares his conjurer to death,and is so left free to wander the swamps, feeding on its reign of terror. Swamp thing is confronted by the beast, and meets his match..."
SRB: "From the very beginning of our collaboration Alan made it clear that he was open to hearin gour ideas, and with that in mind John and i rushed him a carbon copy of the story suggestions which we had originally mailed to Marty Pasko. This new draft included some additions: our Demon story had evolved to include the nasty notion of the Kamara insinuating itself every night into a place like Green Meadows, where it would embody the inarticulate fears of the children with autism and feed off their intense emotions. While some of our story concepts didn't make the cut, many did, and were fleshed out by Alan into scripts that went beyond our wildest nightmares."
As #25 opens, Abby visits Swamp Thing but Matt has refused to come along. She tells him about her new job at the Elysium Lawns Center for Autistic Children. Meanwhile, Matt is in their motel room, manifesting. All of the elements of this story tie together: the parents of the first autistic boy Abby meets who accidentally released the Kamara which killed them, their personal effects (Ouija board, lawn furniture, swordfish) and the people who bought them.
SRB again: "Writing and drawing comic books was still considered a pretty weird way to try to carve out a freelance existence; our domestic partners all had full-time jobs. For Alan and me, we were the stay-at-home-dads who took care of the kids while our wives were at work... This is relevant because you need to understand that once Alan came on board as the series writer with issue #20, it was our lives that informed his characterization of how our heroine, Abby, lived--her employments ups and downs, her living paycheck to paycheck, her wearing T-shirts and cut-off jeans, her existance revolving around a swamp monster that the neighbors weren't to know about: yep, that was us, pretty much...
"Marlene was working at Green Meadows, a boarding school for children with autism that was situated on stowe Hill Road; it was this setting that inspired the demon story in SOTST #25-27, and Marlene even arranged for Alan to tour Green Meadows when he visited us in August of 1984."
#25 ends with the Kamera going from room-to-room feeding on the children's fears.
ISSUE #26 - "...a time of running..."
This non-linear story tells of Abby's first day at Elysium Lawns. the night before, she meets Jason Blood and they have coffee together. That night, as we know from last issue, is the night the Kamera terrorized the children. When Abby arrives at work the next day, she finds the place in a state of chaos. (Deanna French is her boss; Tim Carburton her co-worker.) All of the children have drawn pictures of a frightening, little white "monkey". Paul, the boy she met last issue, tells her of the "Monkey King" and foreshadows her death. The fears of the children are presented in truly disturbing imagery. Abby reaches out to the Swamp thing for help, but he is already aware of the situation. They run to the Home, but the place is already a madhouse. The three-page introduction of the Demon into the story is a masterpiece of words and images combined. Later writers would have difficulty maintaining the level of Etrigan's poetry established by Moore here. A drunken Matt goes out in search of Abby in their car and the scene ends with a simple verse, in contrast to the poetry spewed by the Demon. He crashes his car next to one of those famous signs, Alan Moore providing the rest of the verse: "The night can make a man more brave - But not more sober - Burma Shave."
ISSUE #27 - "...by demons driven!"
This issue's introduction/recap is provided by the Demon, and this issue's title is taken from that poem. Before I get into the summary, I just thought I'd mention that, after the Jack Kirby series, the Demon had a four-part serial in Detective Comics #482-485 (which I learned about initially from that Amazing Heroes article and snatched up on the backissue market), written by Len Wein and drawn by Steve Ditko (mostly). Parts two through four have been reprinted in the second volume of the Steve Ditko omnibus. Unfortunately ("unfortunate" only because it wasn't included), the first part was drawn by Michael Golden. "Unfortunately" it wasn't included in Michael Golden's "Batman" collection, either, because no Batman. I would really like to see it collected and reprinted one day on better quality paper stock than the original newsprint.
#27 is a very action-oriented conclusion. while Swamp thing fights the Kamera/Monkey King, Abby flees to Paul seeking safety. Meanwhile, Matt, bleeding out and near death after his accident, "hallucinates" a "Lord of the Flies" (or does he?) who makes him an offer, culminating with the fly flying down Matt's throat. While the Swamp thing is otherwise engaged, the Demon catches up with Abby with the intention of destroying Paul, the Kamera's human host. Swamp thing arrives just in time to save him. Abby and Paul flee, but run smack dab into the Monkey King. (We learn that Swamp Thing's fear is the fire which killed Alec Holland, and Abby's is... Matt.) Paul stand up to the Kamera, rejects it, and it shrinks to bug-size. Then Etrigan eats it. Before he departs, he leaves Abby with the hint that Paul's parent's summoning of the Kamera might not have been entirely accidental.
The Swamp Thing takes Paul back to Elysium Lawns, and Abby runs into Jason Blood in the woods and deduces that he is, in fact the Demon. (In a few deft strokes, Alan Moore also redefines the relationship between Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon.) Later, she meets Matt on the road. His car is no longer totaled and he seems perfectly normal. this is the issue that ends with the dedication I mentioned a few posts back. I didn't get it then, but I get it now.
This story arc (25-27) was very impressive. I was never a big fan of Etrigan but he works well as a guest star. It didn't take long for Matt to fall the rest of the way down.
ISSUE #28 - "The Burial"
Alan Moore does a good job of mixing the lengths of his stories. This single-issue yarn is relatively light in tone in comparison to the one before (and certainly the one up next). Abby seems to be doing well (the key word here being "seems"): her job is going well and she and Matt are in a "happy place". The main thrust of the story is Swamp Thing coming to terms with the nature of his existence by finding Alec Holland's skeleton and giving it a proper burial. Honestly, I didn't care for this issue when I first read it. Oh, I liked the story well enough, but I deemed guest artist Shawn McManus's work too "cartoony." I have since reassessed my opinion. #28 being in such close proximity to #33 (a reprint of the first "Swamp Thing" story from House of Secrets #92) makes it easy to compare how similar in style McManus and Berni Wrightson truly are. One thing I noticed this time through are Abby's malapropisms: handwriting for handwringing, glasshouse for greenhouse, and so on. I never noticed that before, or indeed, not this time up until this point. I'll have to keep an eye peeled going forward. I wonder if he was imitating the manner of speech of one of the team's wives?
"Heads Up" to Richard: I plan to cover "Love & Death" (#29-31 & Ann. #2) in its entirety tomorrow.
The only problem I had with "The Burial" was that skeletons in display cases and museums hang together perfectly. Skeletons found in lakes, swamps and attics aren't in one piece.