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 #34 - "Rite of Spring"

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.

I’ve grown to like the character of Abby and this issue only serves to add to what I like about her. Abby and the Swamp Thing are fictional characters, but I can’t help being happy for them.

I love the line “does this mean we’re going out?

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. 

Speaking for myself, I have never been a fast reader. Back when paperback books were 50 cents I began buying them rather than checking out library books because I couldn’t seem to finish the books before being required to return them. Plus, the books I wanted to read were seldom in the library.

If a story is very interesting and the writer has a fluid style I read a lot faster. Stephen King and Martin Cruz Smith have very fluid writing styles and tell very good stories, so I read them faster. I find that Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore fall into this category also.

Tracy got home around eight o'clock last night and, as I suspected, she wasn't in the mood to read 16 comic books. I intend to continue at this slow leisurely pace until she has a chance to catch up. I have now moved on to volume two of the Absolute edition. The extras in this volume consist primarily of the entire type-written script and the un-inked pencil pages of #40 as well as some sketches and whatnot. SRB didn't have as many behind-the-scenes stories to tell about the comics in this volume (except #42), but he did mention issues #35-37 in volume one. 

Volume two also includes the three-page "house ad" from DC Sampler #3 which can been seen online here: page one, pages two & three.

ISSUES #35-36 - "The Nukeface Papers"

The plot for this issue was one of those submitted by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben shortly after they began work on SOTST #16. As you may recall from my treatment of #29, the script had been completed for some time but was pushed back on the schedule by Karen Berger. Here is the original plot presentation:

"The setting is a long-abandoned Pennsylvanian ghost town, decaying under the shadow of a pillar of fire: the nearby coal strip mines, once the town's livelihood, caught fire, and have gone on burning for nearly a decade. The only remaiing signs of life are in a local hobo town, and in the spectral presence of an enigmatic, ghostly figure the bums have dubbed 'Nukeface.' When a bum disappears from the hobo villages, the inevitable conclusion is that 'Nukeface' has taken him as a drinkin' buddy... a fatal proposition considering Nukeface's rumored stock of 'spirits': leaking barrels of chemical wastes buried in landfills around the ghost town..."

Here is the Wikipedia article about the Centralia mine fire upon which this story is based. 

As indicated on #36's cover, Swamp thing's body is destroyed in this issue.

We interrupt this discussion to bring you the following special announcement:

This ships this week.

"I’ve grown to like the character of Abby and this issue only serves to add to what I like about her."

Oh! I was going to say that one of the things that really impressed me about #34 (my first ever Swamp Thing) was the dialogue. There is another writer today who has been touted for his "realistic dialogue." That writer's dialogue is certainly unique, I'll give him that, but all his characters sound the same and none of them speak like any I have ever heard. Imagine #34 being your very first exposure to Swamp Thing (not to mention Alan Moore) and you can see why I was hooked. 

ISSUE #37:

As I mentioned Sunday, the first issue of Swamp Thing I ever bought, #34, was a recent back-issue. At the time I bought it, #35-36 were already on sale; #37 was the first issue I bought new. It really was a good place to start. For one thing, Swamp Thing grew a new body for the first time. The process took him 17 days, but he would soon become much faster. His old body had been "wearing a bit thin," and some odd things are happening around the world as he grows a new one. #37 also introduces a new character, John Constantine, who would come to teach him more about his own existence than he had learned so far. For example, it is John Constantine who points out in this issue that, now that the Swamp thing can "regrow" himself, he can do so anywhere in the world. Also, #37 begins a new arc of stories (collectively known as the "America Gothic") which will run through the series' 50th issue. Lastly, Alan Moore and Rick Veitch (not to mention Mr. X) make a cameo appearance on page 22. 

Here is what Stephen Bissette has to say about the introduction of John Constantine: "By the summer of 1983, this exchange of ideas had become quite organic and free-flowing, with now-untraceable cross-pollinations happening over telephone conversations as well as written correspondence. Among those documented in out letters was the first discussion of brining Batman into the fray (I wrote to Alan, 'Dare I say, the Batman himself, as John especially has a love and fresh vision of this character...')and the first suggestion for the character that would become John Constantine (in the same 1983 letter, I described out desire to draw an individual who resembled Sting of the Police: 'Jesus, what a face on that fellow. Did you by any chance see Brimstone and Treacle... you might design a character with his face and features in  mind, or you might find us interpreting one of your creations in like manner regardless...)'." 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I have now moved on to volume two of the Absolute edition. The extras in this volume consist primarily of the entire type-written script and the un-inked pencil pages of #40 as well as some sketches and whatnot.

This is the beginning of volume 3 of my TPB collection. My volume 2 erased the in-issue page numbers. My volume 3 brought them back but dropped the full-page printing of covers. Of the eight issues in my volume 3 only four covers are reproduced as quarter-page images on a single page. (This is not the worst thing. I can see large cover images on GCD.) Whoever was packaging these TPBs must have thought they had to justify their job by making unneeded changes.

ISSUES #35-36 - "The Nukeface Papers"

When a bum disappears from the hobo villages, the inevitable conclusion is that 'Nukeface' has taken him as a drinkin' buddy... a fatal proposition considering Nukeface's rumored stock of 'spirits': leaking barrels of chemical wastes buried in landfills around the ghost town..."

I guess Nukeface mixed some alcohol with the liquid waste to make it appealing to the bum.

As indicated on #36's cover, Swamp thing's body is destroyed in this issue.

If I was reading this month-to-month in 1985 I would have been a little worried.

I am intrigued by the very pregnant woman, Treasure*, whose compassion caused her to have close contact with Nukeface.

* I actually knew a woman named Treasure years ago.

ISSUE #37:

The process took him 17 days, but he would soon become much faster. His old body had been "wearing a bit thin," and some odd things are happening around the world as he grows a new one.

The hairstyle of the character Judith (long on one side, crew cut on the other) made me think of the later character, Delirium of the Endless.

"* I actually knew a woman named Treasure years ago."

I knew one named Princess.

ISSUES #38-39:

I have lived in Texas for 20 years now. I cannot always remember precisely when I last read a particular story, but I can generally differentiate between "B.T." and "A.T." For more recent rereads, I may not be able to differentiate between 2005 and 2015 (let's say), but I can place such things firmly A.T. Sometimes, if I can tie a reread to a particular collection, I can verify the publishing date. For example, because I last attempted an Alan Moore Swamp Thing reread after read the Bronze Age omnibus and the omnibus was published in 2017, I know that I haven't read this run of issues since the 20th century (or B.T.); it's been more than 20 years, but I can't say how long.

It is the two-part story in #38-39 which gave me such a profound feeling of deja vu when I first read Martin Pasko's SOTST #3 in 2017 (until I figured out I was recalling this story from however-many-years-it-was B.T.). Tracy will be pleased there  is no footnote interrupting the flow of the story. Last week I talked about the difference between horror and terror, and this story is definitely horror. Before I get into that, though, I'd like to point out the level of consistency inker John Totleben brings to the table. We've seen him ink Steve Bissette (of course), Ron Randall, Rick Veich, and now Stan Woch, 

I am not a huge fan of vampire fiction, especially not modern vampire fiction. There are no "good guy" vampires, and they certainly don't glow in direct sunlight. I can make exceptions (Preacher's "Cassidy" comes to mind), but Alan Moore gets it. If I am going to willingly suspend my sense of disbelief, this is how vampires must be portrayed: as enemies of mankind who cannot co-exist alongside humanity. Swamp Thing helped flood the town of Rosewood, Illinois back in #3, but some vampires survived and have now set up a settlement in which their kind can breed. John Constantine has called upon Swamp Thing to clean up his mess.

Incidentally, the town of Alamo Crossing, Arizona was flooded in 1968 when Lake Alamo was filled. Tracy and I visited there once, and it brought to mind images of this story. We were there during daylight hours, though, so we weren't too worried about underwater vampires.

Swamp Thing "regenerates" twice in this story, once in #38 (a few hours) and once in #39 (51 seconds), so he has greatly improved upon his previous record of 17 days. 

At the end of this story, Constantine gives him his next "assignment": Kennescook, Maine in two weeks. 

With the introduction of Constantine, Moore begins to weave his major epic story that will reach its peak in around 12-14 issues. In my opinion, this is one of the best truly eventful epics in superhero comics history. 

Yes, and although it is occurring in tandem with the Crisis on Infinite Earths, it is not the Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't think you'll find too many writers who enjoy being forced to write "event" tie-ins, but the best of those are the ones in which the writer takes the premise and somehow makes it his own. (Otherwise, the term "red skies" tie-in was coined for COIE.) We'll how Alan Moore handles actual COIE tie-ins presently, but at this point he speaks of obliquely of "the people who are behind all this! They're planning something very big, but they need the right sort of atmosphere to make it happen. They're picked the right time, too... what with all the red skies and funny weather patterns we've been having."

Randy Jackson said:

With the introduction of Constantine, Moore begins to weave his major epic story that will reach its peak in around 12-14 issues. In my opinion, this is one of the best truly eventful epics in superhero comics history. 

People make a lot of John Constantine's resemblance to Sting, but nobody notes that in his earliest appearances, he often was drawn to look like Billy Idol, too. 

Richard Willis said:

* I actually knew a woman named Treasure years ago.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I knew one named Princess.

I knew one named Crystal Cleer.

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