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

Grant Morrison & Mark Millar - p37

Mark Millar - p38

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ISSUE #95: Another "done-in-one," this one set against a backdrop of toxic waste. The environmental group Chester and Liz belong to meets to discuss their next priority. One project on their list is marine shale, processed waste turned into pellets used for roadbeds, but leach into the soil when it rains. Of more immediate concern, however, is the toxic waste currently being dumped by the Sunderland corporation. They decide to protest that plant first, but one man is killed when a truck refuses to be stopped. Trying to save the man at the last minute, Chester has both his arms broken.

Meanwhile, Swamp Thing and Abby cope with trying to read a baby Elemental. While they have [their version of]  sex, Tefé wanders off an encounters a little patch of "baby swamp things" grown from the tubers of Swamp thing's discarded bodies (due to the chemicals from the sunderland plant). Liz arrives and tells them about Chester and Swamp Thing leaves to destroy the Sunderland plant. By the time he returns, all of the little "babies" have died. When Abby asks him if everything has returned to normal, he responds, "Everythin... has returned to normal." 

ISSUE #96: We now begin Doug wheeler's first multi-part Swamp Thing story. It begins with a seven-page sequence in Hell to show what Anton Arcane is up to these days. (He's bucking for a promotion to demon.) Back in the swamp, a game of "peek-a-boo" turns dangerous when Tefé follows her father into the Green. (Of all the comic books I have read concerning babies, Swamp Thing is, perhaps ironically, the most "realistic.") After two more pages in Hell, Swamp Thing returns to find Abby cradling a little skeleton (which is all Tefé left behind when she leapt into the Green). Then five more pages in Hell, which is where Tefé ended up. Swamp Thing follows Tefé as he once followed her mother (in Swamp Thing Annual #2). On the slopes of Heaven he encounters the alien from v1 #9, its wife from v2 #81, and their offspring, now hatched. He is also reunited with the "Albert the Alligator" character from v2 #32, who accompanies him on his search. 

I agree that this story arc for ST is getting to be a mental slog. I am ready for him to return to Abby. 

In this issue, he grows another huge brain to puzzle out the process of meeting the first elders and how to get home. It makes for good art. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I've been trying to pick up the pace, but I just can't seem to get motivated.

ISSUE #89: In the present, Abby's and Constantine's stories proceed apace. In the distant past, Swamp Thing encounters the three most ancient members of the Parliament of Trees. One of them is the Yggdrasil of Norse mythology; the other two are the Biblical trees of knowledge and wisdom. I'm trying to decide whether I like this issue or not. Is it deep, or merely wordy? I'm ready for more narrative and less philosophy at this point. In the present, Abby goes into labor, so maybe that'll jumpstart the plot. On the letters page, Karen Berger addresses the Rick Veitch situation again. It seems last issue she took it for granted that fans of the series were familiar with the ins and outs of the situation. Turns out that wasn't the case across the board. 

Of course, even with the conclusion, the wonderful reunion, the birth of their daughter, Hell is still featured. The head of Arcane is screaming about escape and killing, giving the artist a chance to draw more grotesque tortures. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #90: Throughout Swamp Thing's "frightening and uncertain journey into the past" he has been guided by the Claw of Aelkund, but now he is so far in the past he has predated it. Finding a metaphysical way to transfer his consciousness, he actually becomes the piece of amber grasped by the claw. His journey back to the present is spent mostly in stasis.

While Abby is in labor in Louisiana, Constantine is in Vienna tracking down the Claw of "Elkhound" (as he has known it)... or "Aelkund"... or "Alec Holland." With that final piece of the puzzle in place, he serves as the anchor through which Swamp Thing returns the the present. Immediately leaving to join Abby, Swamp Thing arrives just in time for the birth of the daughter, whom they name Tefe. 

ISSUE #97: Swamp thing's trip to Hell to find Tefé (sound familiar?) continues. Bartle (that the "Albert the Aligator" character) speaks in a kind of "Walt Kelly twice removed" patois (Wheeler imitating Moore imitating Kelly), but the really annoying dialect is is Beezlebub's in Hell. I was really tempted to skip all of the "in Hell" sections, but I felt I owed it to the discussion to read them so I at least skimmed them. 

As Swamp thing enters the afterlife, the first to greet him are a Durlan and a Daxamite. This is because, for all the aliens killed during the Invasion to far to make to the home planet's afterlife, they were drawn to Earth's. Then there's four pages in Hell. (Like Tracy, I'm getting really tired of Anton Arcane.) Then Swamp Thing meets Abin Sur, who has been stuck in Earth's afterlife since Showcase #22. Then there are eight more pages set in Hell. In the final two pages, Swamp Thing and his companions, Bartle and Abin Sur and Kel Gand (the Daxamite), arrive at the Gates of Hell.

ISSUE #98: Guest artist this issue: Tom Sutton. Back in the swamp, Abby is having coping with Tefé's disappearance. The rest of this issue is set almost entirely in Hell. In the end, Swamp Thing returns with Tefé's ectoplasmic spirit.

ISSUE #99: Swamp Thing seeks Constantine's help reuniting Tefé's spirit with her body. That's a bit beyond Constantine's forte, but he promises to send a woman named Brenda. Before she shows up, though, the Inuit shaman who delivered a prophecy once before shows up.

ISSUE #100: This issue is one big metaphysical EYKIW. It's what I've been afraid the post-Moore issues would be like all along. the Rick Veitch ones were all quite good, and I really enjoyed the early Doug Wheeler "done-in-ones," but the whole Tefé-needs-a-body plot is not even resolved. 

Jeff and I watch a variety of movies and television, older shows that talk about conservation and man's destruction of the planet. I've seen this topic used as the moral of the story for several decades. I've read about dedicated people who have tried to make changes, educate us all, to no avail. This story is no different. Many of the stories written for Swamp Thing show how we never learn. 30 years after this comic was written, the world is suffering from unprecedented heat, drought, and fires. I despair for this planet. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #92: The abuse of the bayou as seen through the eyes of a Cajun family. The Swamp Thing becomes involved when  the grief of one man causes the dead to rise from their graves. A cautionary tale. Wheeler is concentrating on self-contained stories, at least for the time being. 

After Abby has recovered from her post-partum depression, it's Swamp Thing who seems a little less together. Watching Tefé has an interesting effect on Alex. He's completely focused on her but fails to see her reacting to the two strangers wandering through their home. Several times, she watches them take photos, even points at them, but ST never knows they are there. 

When he seeks out the disturbance at the music festival, he has to concentrate to find both of the killers, the demon and the man. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #93: The photographer who caused Abby so much trouble back during the Alan Moore run is back, this time with his cousin. His cousin doesn't seen like such  a bad guy, though. Abby gets her job at the nursing home back... but just barely

ISSUE #94: An ax which served as muse for a serial killing blues musician back in the '20s now latches on to a guitarist in a jazz band. 

Tracy of Moon-T said:

Jeff and I watch a variety of movies and television, older shows that talk about conservation and man's destruction of the planet. I've seen this topic used as the moral of the story for several decades. I've read about dedicated people who have tried to make changes, educate us all, to no avail. This story is no different. Many of the stories written for Swamp Thing show how we never learn. 30 years after this comic was written, the world is suffering from unprecedented heat, drought, and fires. I despair for this planet. 

A letter from a representative of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana appeared in #99 thanking DC for publishing the story.

ISSUE #101: Guest written by Andrew Helfer; guest-penciled by Mike Hoffman; Karen Berger's last as editor. Tefé inhabits a doll belonging to a special child.

ISSUE #102: Stuart Moore's first issue as editor. Eyam, one of the earliest elementals, is Swamp Thing's ally. Matango, whose head and hands are branches, is the high priest of the Grey, the fungus-based lifeforms. Hurricane Jenny is approaching Louisiana. An abortion rights protester is beaten (to death?) with a baseball bat by a "patriot" (another lesson we never seem to learn). The shaman's name is Najagarjuk. Constantine's friend, Brenda, appears on the scene pretty much without introduction; she's just there. Brenda is a coroner and it is thought her knowledge of anatomy will aid in reconstructing Tefé's body. The four of them proceed with a very unusual ceremony, but the hurricane and the Grey's forces both hit simultaneously preventing its completion.

ISSUE #103: In the aftermath of the storm, Najagarjuk lies dead. Swamp Thing convinces Abby that the safest place for Tefé right now is with the Parliament of Trees. He can take her there through the Green and return in a matter of minutes, then he and Abby can return later via a more conventional mode of transportation. On his way, though, he is attacked by Alan Hallman, the previously unknown elemental who directly preceded Alec Holland, but he is now on the side of the Grey. Swamp thing defeats him and returns to Louisiana just in time to save Abby and Brenda and Tefé from Matango.

NEXT: "The Quest for the Elementals" 

"Matango"  is the original name for the movie known in this country as "Attack of the Mushroom People".

Kel Gand, from #97, has some larger significance.  He had a small but important role in the "Invasion!" miniseries.  And as his surname should hint, he is the father of Lar Gand, better known as Valor and mainly as Mon-El of the Legion of Superheroes.

Brenda from #99 strikes me as an attempt at having an alternative character to play Constantine's role without necessarily having to coordinate efforts with his book.  I don't think she turned up again after this storyline concludes, though.



ISSUES #104-109 - "The Quest for the Elementals"

#100's EYKIW is explained by an outer and an inner circle of the Parliament of Trees, the inner circle being the most ancient and the only ones who truly know the secret of their origins. The first 13 broke off from all subsequent ones so as not to break the time loop created when Swamp Thing traveled into their past. The 13th Elemental, Matango, was the last to share the secret. He was to have been the link between the Green and Man, but he betrayed his trust. The roots (you should excuse the expression) of this story go all the way back to Doug Wheeler's first issue, #88. 

The search for Tefé's body (begun back in #96) comes to its conclusion in #104 and ends up being a big ol' Hitchcockian MacGuffin that leads into "The quest for the Elementals." (She regains her body on her first birthday, BTW.) Leaving Abby and Tefé in the care of the Parliament of Trees, Swamp thing goes in search of the rest of the inner circle. Eyam is one; Yggdrasil is another; this issue takes him to Canan Kax, the eighth. Meanwhile, deforestation in Brazil has reached within a mile of the Parliament of Trees. Mercenary soldiers find Abby and kill her. this so enrages Tefé that she kills all animal life within a 22 mile radius, causing 68 species to go extinct and killing 6000 people. Tefé then uses her powers to reconstruct her Abby's body and reunite her mother's soul with it.

The conflict stretches back to the Green (Neanderthal) and Gray (Homo sapiens) species of Man. Tefé is prophesied to be the mother of a new race. Swamp thing is captured by the Grey and held in a unique trap. In a desperate bid for freedom, he makes his escape. Ever since the battle of Eden, Yggdrasil (which grows in the shape of a double-helix) has been half-destroyed. Actually, it has been half-subverted by the Grey. "The climate will be changed," says one of the Elders. "though it may happen gradually over a few decades." This speaks to what Tracy posted yesterday, namely, how could a comic book writer have known that more than three decades ago, but certain politicians deny it still? 

In any case, this is Doug Wheeler's last issue. I liked his done-in-ones and I liked the beginning of the quest to restore Tefé's body (although I didn't much care for the sections set in Hell). His final storyline was well-structured and thought out well in advance, but nevertheless failed to hold my interest in the long run. 

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