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

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ANNUAL #2:

Swamp Thing uses his newly discovered abilities to go "Down Amongst the Dead Men." His first stop is the "Region of the Just Dead" where he meets Deadman.

Before he meets Deadman, Swamp Thing encounters a mother who was distracted and just died in a car accident. She is worried about her little boy. He shows up almost immediately, saying he couldn’t follow her right away. He also says he’s been there before, hinting that he was reincarnated.

Deadman makes a sideways reference to Challengers of the Unknown

What reference is that?

Swamp thing meets the shade of Alec Holland himself, who thanks him for burying his mortal remains.

Interestingly, Swamp Thing doesn’t want to meet Linda Holland. I am reminded that he has Alec Holland’s memories, so meeting her might be traumatic.

It is the Spectre who first recognizes Swamp Thing as an "Earth Elemental."

Later, one of the demons also does so, after learning he’s not easy pickings.

When meets Arcane, Arcane asks how many years he has been in Hell. The knowledge that he has been there only a day drives him mad.

I really enjoyed that!

Stephen Bissette’s recounting of their demands to be free of the Code was enlightening. Fortunately, breaking with the Code had already been done in baby steps, allowing their freedom.

The suggestion of being direct-market-only like Camelot 3000 apparently wasn’t taken. I see by the GCD cover gallery that they always had a newsstand edition going forward.

"I suspect that management demanded that the Monitor and Harbinger be shoehorned into every comic at that time."

Early on, the title of the series was to have been DC Universe, incorporating the DC "bullet" into the logo.

Check out this two-page ad from DC Sampler #3: page one; page two.

"Who was later known as Louise 'Weezie' Simonson."

Artists frequently use friends as models. 

Check out Frank Miller as Juliet's father, "Frank", in chapter three of Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis Odyssey.

"He also says he’s been there before, hinting that he was reincarnated."

Alec does more than hint at it later on when he says, "That's why I'm not anxious to take up the option to reincarnate for a while, even though Linda wants to."

"What reference is that?"

On page eight when introducing himself. Swamp Thing says, "Who... are you? I do not... remember you..." to which Deadman responds, "You wouldn't. In your world I'm invisible. I've run into you once or twice, though." That could have been at any time, really, I suppose, but I took it as a reference to their run together in Challengers of the Unknown.

"The suggestion of being direct-market-only like Camelot 3000 apparently wasn’t taken."

I took that as an offer (or a veiled threat?) to do an original series direct-market-only, not Swamp Thing

ISSUE #32:

Despite the cover, this issue is a seriocomic and not-so-thinly-disguised tribute to Walt Kelly's Pogo drawn by guest artist Shawn McManus. As you might guess, I didn't truly appreciate #32 when i was in my 20s, although I had been a big fan of Pogo as a child. (I even had the bubble bath.) You might think I deemed it too cartoony, but no, the art actually suited the story quite well. My objection (at the time) was that I found it too "unrealistic". The more familiar one is with Pogo, the more one is likely to get out of this issue. Not only does Alan Moore have the patter down, but practically everything has a double meaning, from "Find the Lady" to "Dark, a soul wind blasts so chilly" to "It's hard to configure the angles on a faureigna, especially when he's invertically inclined." 

The story itself is a cautionary tale which takes an Orwellian twist as a group of anthropomorphic creatures, driven from their world by a group of primates, seek a new home, but end up encountering dangers they never imagined in the Okefenokee. Steve Bissette didn't have anything to do with this issue and doesn't mention it in his afterword, but I would like to know a little more about it. I think I can reasonably conclude that, after a few issues in Hell, Karen Berger wanted s story lighter in tone as a change of pace. But who's the Walt Kelly/Pogo fan? Was the idea Berger's or Moore's? I can imagine the inventive use of language appealing to Moore, but how familiar would he have been with the America comic strip? I suppose he could have had a copy of Ten Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo

At this point I'm going to slow down to the rate of one issue per day for the next three days (including today) until Tracy gets home on Sunday. She usually uses the weekend to catch up, but I don't want to get too far ahead of her. 

I should really dig out my Swamp Thing trades and follow along. 

You should!

ISSUE #33:

This issue is a reprint of the first Swamp Thing story (from House of Mystery #92) with an all-new framing sequence. On the cover, Abby Cable takes the place of Louise Jones Linda Olsen. I purposefully did not begin this discussion with HoM #92 because I knew Swamp Thing #33 would fold it into continuity. I have to remind myself that Alan Moore wrote this issue four years before Neil Gaiman created "The Dreaming" because it fits so perfectly into Sandman continuity. I have read some House of Secrets/Mystery (and have a cople of omnibus editions on the shelf waiting to be read), but not enough to know whether or not Alan Moore invented the "dream" aspect of the houses. I have read stories in which the main characters stay as guests in one house or the other, but was it established earlier that they entered via dreams? If not, Cain and Abel are two additional characters Alan Moore redefined. I always thought of the two titles as being more or less interchangeable (and in our world they may have been), but Moore clearly and cleanly differentiates between them here. I also like the idea that both the hosts are being punished: Cain for being the first murderer, Abel the first victim. 

I only read a few issues of HoM and HoS back in the day, but I don't remember the "dream" bit being in the original stories.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #32:

Despite the cover, this issue is a seriocomic and not-so-thinly-disguised tribute to Walt Kelly's Pogo drawn by guest artist Shawn McManus.

Believe it or not, the title “Pog” and the look of the characters didn’t immediately tip me off to this Pogo tribute. When I took a good look at the Albert Alligator character and saw the rafts it all clicked. The letterer, John Costanza, should have been paid double to letter all of the crazy words. Of course, if he made a mistake who would catch it? 

I don’t think Pogo was carried in the local papers when I was growing up. I probably saw a strip or two along the way. My earliest back issue purchases in the early 70s at Cons were beaten-up Pogo trades, which I still have somewhere.

I can imagine the inventive use of language appealing to Moore, but how familiar would he have been with the America comic strip? I suppose he could have had a copy of Ten Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo.

My guess is that Moore came across the earlier trade reprints like the ones I have.

At this point I'm going to slow down to the rate of one issue per day for the next three days (including today) until Tracy gets home on Sunday. She usually uses the weekend to catch up, but I don't want to get too far ahead of her.

Yesterday I took a break from reading Swamp Thing and from your comments to catch up with other things. I’ll still be staying a little ahead of you so I’ll be ready to comment when you do.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #33:

I have to remind myself that Alan Moore wrote this issue four years before Neil Gaiman created "The Dreaming" because it fits so perfectly into Sandman continuity. I have read some House of Secrets/Mystery (and have a cople of omnibus editions on the shelf waiting to be read), but not enough to know whether or not Alan Moore invented the "dream" aspect of the houses.

If I bought any of the HofM or HofS books, it was before Cain and Abel were introduced as hosts. Cain, Abel and (I understand) Eve were brought in as softened versions of the EC hosts. I had thought that Gaiman came up with the continuing murder of Abel and the dream aspect, but I guess Moore did.

Framing the reprint was well done. Reoccurring instances of Swamp Things over time elegantly explained the differences from the first story.

At the risk of seeming sexist, I was very impressed by how beautiful Abby was drawn in this issue by Ron Randall.

ISSUE #34 - "Rite of Spring"

We are now at the point in the discussion where the cover dates don't necessarily jibe with my memories. For example, I started off this discussion by saying that my first Swamp Thing was 1986's "Roots of the..." reprint series, but that is not the case; #34 is. I remember I had been hearing quite a bit about "Alan Moore's Swamp Thing" but, as with "Frank Miller's Daredevil," I had difficulty overcoming my preconceived notions. Then Alan Moore wrote a serialized back-up feature in one of my favorite First Comics series and I decided to use that as a test: if I liked it, I would try Swamp Thing; if I didn't, I wouldn't. As it turned out, I didn't like the back-up, but I ended up trying Swamp Thing anyway. 

The issue I chose to try was #34, a quite recent backissue. I had almost bought that issue when I first saw it on basis of the cover alone. This was some issue to choose as my first! Wow, was it good! This is the kind of comic book that makes me feel sorry for people such as my sister. I have mentioned how she refuses to even look at a comic book because she prefers getting the visuals from her own imagination. Setting aside the fact that, even with a novel, she's not getting the visuals from her imagination, in a good comic book the artist's vision is equally as important as the writer's words, and this is a case in which both are excellent examples of their respective arts. 

This is the issue in which Abby eats one of Swamp Thing's hallucinogenic tubers and her world, and the comic itself, is knocked sideways. There is another comic from right around the same time which attempts, and succeeds, in pulling off a similar trick. In Grimjack #15, writer John Ostrander and artist Timothy Truman depict a car chase through the transdimensional city of Cynosure in which the comic must not only be turned sideways, but also upside down and the story continues by paging "backwards". I don't know whether or not Ostrander and Truman came up with the idea independently or if they were inspired by Moore, Bisette and Totleben (Swamp Thing's cover date is MAR 85, Grimjack's is OCT 85), but if they were inspired, I'd say they upped the stakes a notch. 

Stephen Bissette mentions #34 twice in his afterword: "Other ideas for Saga of the Swamp Thing had been knocking around in our heads even before we took over as the title's official art team. Most memorably, it was rick and John who jokingly came up with the notion of Swamp Thing growing hallucinogenic tubers from his back in late 1982--we filed that idea away for possible future use. John later mentioned it in one of his first letters to Alan in May of 1983, and Alan loved the notion."

Then a couple of pages later he comes back to it: "As work continued on the series, Alan always remained receptive to our input. While we were finishing the Demon three-parter, I sent a postcard to Alan noting that if any sane person had undergone the tortuous ordeals we were putting Abby through, they'd end up stark raving mad in an asylum, and that it might be interesting to do a single issue in which nothing happens other than Abby and Swamp Thing enjoying a leisurely day together. Alan being Alan, he took that sliver of an idea and turned it into SOTST #34's 'Rite of Spring,' a grand experiment that allowed me to finally indulge my longstanding desire to emulate and honor the work of rock poster/underground comix/tattoo artist Greg Irons; I was specifically building on the bedrock of Irons' full-color underground comic Light Comitragies (June 1971)--particularly its transmuting page-to-page abstractions of organic form and color."

This is the end of the first Absolute edition, and it also happens to be where I left off reading my last time through, in 2017. Tracy will be returning home later today and will find herself some 16 issues behind (including the annual), but she read Martin Pasko's entire 17-issue run (excluding #14-15) the day before she left, so it's doable. I'm just not sure how much she's going to feel like reading after a week away and two days on the road. 

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