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

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Can't say as I've read a lot of Swamp Thing, although I do remember enjoying reading some of the early Wein/Wrightson stuff and a later story where justabout every magical hero DC ever had fighting some huge threat.

My first exposure to Swamp Thing was in that stage that was before Alan Moore, but after Berni Wrightson, when Nestor Redondo was the artist. Then I only grabbed an issue here or there, and wasn't on board for "The Anatomy Lesson" and all the wonderfulness that followed. I did acquire that issue and became a regular reader through the end of that original run.

That was Alan Moore, and one of the best non-evebt "events" I've ever read. 

The Baron said:

Can't say as I've read a lot of Swamp Thing, although I do remember enjoying reading some of the early Wein/Wrightson stuff and a later story where justabout every magical hero DC ever had fighting some huge threat.

That "Squish Thing" splash, taken from Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #11 (I had to look it up), is an homage to the splash of the very first "Swamp Thing" story in House of Secrets #92.

That was one of the better ToH issues.  The "Squish Thing" story was paired with this:



Jeff of Earth-J said:

That "Squish Thing" splash, taken from Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #11 (I had to look it up), is an homage to the splash of the very first "Swamp Thing" story in House of Secrets #92.

WEIN / WRIGHTSON:

ISSUE #1:

Location: Louisiana (bayou country)

Characters: Alec & Linda Holland, Matt Cable, Ferrett, Bruno, Louisiana Blue, Mr. E, other assorted thugs. 

Husband and wife scientists are sequestered in a Louisiana swamp to work on their bio-restorative formula. Their government liaison is Lt. Matthew Cable of an unnamed security agency. He has moved the Hollands to "this suburb of nowhere" to keep them safe from foreign agents... then he leaves them there, essentially unguarded. Ferret, Bruno and another thug representing a "private organization" show up to make them "an offer they can't refuse." When a car pulls up, the trio departs leaving them to think it over.

Cable arrives and criticizes them for not alerting the "patrol guard", then leaves them alone again. Next to arrive is a mangy old hound dog, which the Hollands immediately take in. Little do they know, but the dog has had a radio transmitter implanted in its head by the villainous Conclave, headed by the mysterious "Mr. E." Then Ferrett and his cohorts return and, when the Hollands refuse to cooperate, set a bomb to blow up the lab. Alec bears the brunt of the explosion and, set afire, goes running into the swamp. 

His body is not found but, a few days later, Matt and Linda hold a funeral service for him. That night, the radio-controlled  dog draws Matt away while Ferrett and his crew kill Linda. The Swamp Thing appears too late to help, but he does stop Ferrett and Bruno. He says, "Noooo!" and "Linda!" and "STOP!!" in #1, "I... care!" in issue #2, "No!!" again in #6, and that's the extent of the Swamp Thing's dialogue for Wein and Wrightson's entire tenure. Matt Cable swears revenge on the monster for the death of Matt and Linda Holland, whom he barely knows but will soon come to think of as his "best friends."

The last panel of the last page foreshadows Anton Arcane and his "un-men".

I have read Swamp Thing several times since 1986, but it never really occurred to me until now how bad Cable is at his job. Moving the Hollands to the swamp for secrecy was one thing, but once they were discovered and the barn-converted-to-a-lab proved indefensible, he should have moved them out. Also, the way he comes to think of them as his "best friends" is kind of pathetic.

ISSUE #2

Location: The Balkans

Characters: Anton Arcane

This series may be titled "Swamp Thing" and it may have begun in the swamp, but it certainly doesn't stay there! Immediately after the first issue recap, Swamp Thing is captured by a group of synthetic "un-men" and flown out of the country. Matt Cable witnesses the adduction and takes charge of the Holland's dog. The Swamp Thing is flown to a castle in the mountains where he meets Arcane, who knows all about him from his "ancient mystic mirror." The (seemingly) "kindly" Arcane convinces "Holland" to switch bodies with him.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Cable arranges to work in conjunction with Interpol so that he may track down the plane which abducted the Swamp Thing. All the while, Mr. E listens in via the transmitter in the dog's head.

Back in Arcane's castle, the transfer is a success; Arcane's body has been transformed into the Swamp Thing, and the Swamp Thing has reverted to Alec Holland. He wanders the castle in his restored human form until he comes across Arcane ranting about his plans to destroy the village below. "Holland" turns against him and destroys the "soul jar" which permitted the transfer in the first place, thereby reversing it. the Swamp Thing pursues him to a tower in the castle where where Arcane falls to his apparent death. The last panel shows one of the un-men following Swamp Thing.

I don't want to get too far ahead of the discussion here, but it's plain to anyone who has read Alan Moore's "Anatomy Lesson" that the Swamp thing's "reversion" to Alec Holland is clearly impossible. My theory is this: Arcane's ritual didn't transform their bodies as indicated in the story; it switched their minds. The whole time the Swamp Thing thought he was in his own human body (i.e., Alec Holland's), he was actually in Arcane's. There was a component to the transfer which allowed Arcane to articulate in the Swamp Thing's body; there could easily have been another component to convince the Swamp Thing he was in Alec Holland's body, not Anton Arcane's.

ISSUE #3:

Location: The Balkans

Characters: The "Patchwork Man" (Gregor Arcane), Abigail Arcane

While attempting to depart the castle, a portion of the floor caves in and the Swamp Thing falls through. The "Patchwork Man" (the un-man from last issue) attempts to save him from falling but fails. Meanwhile, Matt Cable (with the dog) has traced the plane to the Balkans and is about to land, while Mr. E of the Conclave listens in on his every move. Cable soon meets Abigail Arcane, Anton's niece, who agrees to accompany him to the castle. they arrive just in time to see it explode. she lost her father some time ago when he accidentally wandered through an old mine field. Unbeknownst to her, her Uncle Anton turned her father Gregor into a synthetic "Patchwork Man". 

The Patchwork Man (unable to speak) abducts Abigail from Matt. the Swamp Thing pursues them and they fight. Meanwhile, Cable has whipped the villagers into a frenzied mob. The Patchwork man sacrifices its life to save Abigail, and Swamp Thing turns her back over to Cable. With her father and her uncle both dead, Abigail decides to accompany Cable back to the states to seek her fortune there. The Swamp Thing stows aboard their plane.

ISSUE #4:

Location: Scotland

Characters: Angus, Jenna and MacCobb, Paul Rodman 

The issue opens with the plane having crashed on the Scottish moors. Angus and Jenna MacCobb. an older couple, arrive in a horse drawn cart to render what assistance they can. The Swamp Thing follows them back to their home. (The dog is still with Cable, BTW.) Paul Rodman, the pilot, goes out to check on the damage to his plane and is killed by a werewolf. the MacCobb's son Ian (who has mysteriously hairy palms) arrives and introduces himself. At sunset, the dog freaks out and Matt goes outside to investigate. Abigail joins him and they are attacked by a werewolf. The Swamp Thing saves them, but is caught and sinks in quicksand.

Back at the MacCobb's, they elderly couple drugs Matt and Abigail's wine. It was they who caused the plane to crash but stringing up landing lights where there was no runway. Their plan is to transfuse Cable blood into Ian, thus curing their son of his lycanthropy. Apparently they're tried this scheme before on a foggy night, but no one has ever survived the plane crash. No one would have this time if it hadn't've been for the Swamp Thing. As one might expect, the Swamp Thing frees itself from the quicksand and impales the werewolf on a chandelier with a silver pointy thing on the bottom.

This story (Apr-May 1973) reminds me quite a bit of Jack Kirby's werewolf story ("The Howler") from The Demon #6 (Feb 1973), another series I saw but would not read at the time of its initial release. It's interesting to compare how two such  diverse artists as Jack Kirby and Bernie Wrightson handled such similar material. For an even closer comparison to Jack Kirby's Demon, wait until we get to the Alan Moore issues. But again, I'm getting ahead of the discussion.

ISSUE #5:

Location: Divinity, Maine

Characters: Rebecca and Timothy Ravenwind, Gideon, Jocko

The story begins aboard a ship at sea. the Swamp Thing has been discovered an is about to be forced off. The narrative quickly flashes back to how he came to stow away aboard a boat after leaving Manor Mac Cobb. Luckily the muck monster is close enough to shore that he makes it without too much trouble beyond the breakers crashing on the rocks. He is soon befriended by a teenage girl named Rebecca Ravenwind and her little brother Timothy (who is a little "simple"). The children are on the run from a group of villagers led by Gideon who think she is a witch. A particularly nasty villager named Jocko cuts off Swamp Thing's arm with a scythe. 

After a "fair trial", Swamp thing's arms grows back just in time for him to save Rebecca from being burned. In a final twist, it is Timothy who ends up being the witch. Issue #3 was essentially Frankenstein's monster, #4 a werewolf, this issue it's time for a witch. Next issue foreshadows... Alec and Linda Holland?

ISSUE #6:

Location: Burgess, Vermont

Characters: Hans Klochmann

Abigail is still hanging around with Cable and Cable is still obsessing over finding the Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, the Conclave is still listening in on their every conversation. Cable is assigned to investigate a small, deserted town which has mysteriously sprung back to life, but none of the residents have ever paid taxes. Mr. E decides to send a team as well to see if the Conclave can somehow profit from it. The Swamp Thing tumbles off a vegetable truck, coincidentally in the same town Cable and the Conclave are on their way to investigate. He is met by none other than Linda and Alec Holland, who escort him to the town's mayor, Hans Klochmann. 

Klochmanm is a Swiss artisan, a maker of clockwork toys, who immigrated to the United States after World war II. He found a deserted mining town, rebuilt in in the style of his homeland, and populated it with clockwork people whose images he got from the obituary pages. The long arm of coincidence reaches out once again because two of those people were Alec and Linda Holland. The Conclave goon squad arrives with a Wrightson-designed robot and wreaks havoc. Klochmann is killed in the conflict, and all the mechanical people destroyed. this story is so fanciful it's easy to forgive the wild coincidences. The last panel shows Swamp thing in a freight car bound for Gotham City.

ISSUE #7:

Location: Gotham City

Characters: Nathan Ellery, Bruce Wayne (Batman)

This issue opens with the Swamp Thing already in the city. He comes into conflict with the police when he breaks into the Salvation  army to steal a coat. Commissioner Gordon lights the Bat signal. Across town, Bruce Wayne is chairing a late board meeting of the Wayne Foundation. Also on the board is Nathan Ellery, whom we recognize as "Mr. E" of the Conclave. He is in the process of torturing Matt Cable and Abigail Arcane who were captured by the Conclave last issue. Ellery activates the dog's tracking device, which in turn leads the Batman (who had been advised by Gordon that Swampt thing was traveling with a dog) right to him. He shoots the dog but, when the dust clears, Ellery has fallen from the balcony of his penthouse, essentially bring the "Conclave" subplot to its close. 

The point of this issue, of course, is to show the Swamp Thing interacting with the Batman (which happens a lot this issue, I just glossed over it). Even though this story takes place in Gotham City, the Batman has, for all intents and purposes, wandered into the swamp Thing's own little corner of the DC Universe. Bernie Wrightson has his own distinctive way of drawing the batman, with foot-long ears and a cape that billows 15 feet in the wind in certain scenes where it just looks right. 

ISSUE #8:

Location: Perdition, a mining town somewhere in the heart of Appalachia,

Characters: Random townsfolk

While trudging through a snow-swept wood, the swamp thing comes upon a old man being mauled by a bear. The man crawled into the bear's cave seeking shelter, disturbing its hibernation. The Swampt thing is forced to kill the bear, getting mauled himself in the process, but is too late to save the man. This is Wein/Wrightson's take on a Lovecraftian monster.

ISSUE #9:

Location: Back in Louisiana

Characters: Brad Samson and a bunch of soldiers

This story opens aboard a night freight on its way from Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge. After a brief altercation with some bindlestiffs who try to roll him, Swamp Thing finds himself in the very swamp where he came into being. The old barn, coincidentally, is now housing an alien spacecraft. Meanwhile, Matt and Abigail are called from their vacation in Florida to investigate the sighting of a UFO. Matt was called because he's familiar with the area. He is to be an advisor and guide to Captain Brad Samson, who is in charge of "Operation: Space-Face." This issue pays homage to any old sci-fi movie (or EC comic book) in which short-sighted humans drive away a beneficial alien. In this case, however, the alien's ship crashes back to the ground upon takeoff. 

ISSUE #10:

Location: Louisiana

Characters: "Hunk" Dory, Auntie Bellum, Black Jubal, Elspeth, Samson Parmenter

Escaped convict "Hunk" Dory comes upon the camp of elderly Auntie Bellum (a name that could have been coined by Jack Kirby) and threatens her. the Swamp thing is nearby and intercedes. Dory drops dead of previously inflicted bullet wounds, and Auntie bellum proceeds to tell Swamp Thing the story of the slaves Elspeth and Jubal and their cruel owner Samson Parmenter in the antebellum South. Soon she feels the "eyes of unholy things" staring at them, and out of the nearby graveyard walks Anton Arcane and six of his un-men.

Every bone in his body was crushed after his fall in issue #2, but his minions were able to fan the "spark of life" into a flame and transfer his consciousness into a synthetic body. Because the un-men weren't scientists, the body they created was hideously deformed. As soon as he regained consciousness, he focused again on his mission of stealing the Swamp things body. Because their synthetic forms require no food or rest, they set about swimming the Atlantic. Once in America, the telepathic ability of the un-man known as Cranius led them to the Swamp Thing. It is then that Black Jubal and the other slaves buried in the graveyard arise and defeat Arcane and his un-men. The Swamp Thing then discovers the tombstone of Elspeth Bellum and realizes that "Auntie Bellum" was a ghost.

This last issue of the Wein/Wrightson run (possibly inspired by an EC horror comic, if #9 was by a sci-fi one), was plotted by Wrightson.

That's some good summarizin' there, Jeff.

ISSUE #4

I was on board for the entire first run of Swamp Thing. The memorable part to me was the Wrightson art and later the Nestor Redondo art. When I played catch-up with Sandman much later the reference to Matt Cable didn't ring any bells.

The Wrightson version of a werewolf with canine legs was later copied/homaged in movies like American Werewolf in London (also starting out in Scotland) and Wrightson's own collaboration with Stephen King on his book Cycle of the Werewolf, later adapted into the movie Silver Bullet (1985). Interestingly, the structure of Cycle of the Werewolf (holidays throughout the year) may have inspired Batman: The Long Halloween. (but I digress)

A while back I bought all of the Alan Moore Swamp Thing in TPB form. When you get to that I'll try to read along.

The last couple of times I attempted such a lengthy post I ended up accidently deleting it before posting, so I became increasingly paranoid but i saved early and saved often. I have read the Wein/Wrightson run over the course of the last 35 or so years, but I don't think it ever clicked with me as much as it did yesterday. I knew what to expect, having read the run many times previously, but it never before clicked with me that Wrightson and Wein were exploring multiple tropes on an issue-to-issue basis.

1. Swamp Monster

2. Mad Scientist

3. "Frankenstein"

4. Werewolf

5. Witch

6. Robots

7. Batman

8. Lovecraft

9. Sci-Fi

10. Horror

This discussion still has far to go. Tracy will catch up soon, but I'm not going to be in any hurry. We will probably continue at the rate of one arc (or "chunk") per week. 

Jeff mentioned that I eventually lost my joy in Swamp Thing. That's true. It was specifically Anton Arcane and his grotesque creations. You might say I lost not my taste for ST but certainly my stomach.

Re-reading from the beginning was interesting. I had forgotten how like EC horror these early issues were with their supernatural stories. I fell in love with Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Jack Davis, and the bunch. I much prefer these stories to the standard superhero comics. 

So, I was surprised that Arcane was introduced as quickly as ISSUE #2. His appearance so early has stolen a little of the joy I had for re-reading from the start.

Despite the utterly convincing grotesque creatures, the artwork is incredible. For example, one of the creatures is Ophidian, a long salamander that can hypnotize his victim and cause a deep sleep. Wrightson draws little white bubbles over the creature's eyes to convey his power in action. Wow! 

In ISSUE #3, the castle scenes and Patchwork Man are a phenomenal homage to the Universal Frankenstein movies.

Jeff of Earth-J said:



Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #2

Location: The Balkans

Characters: Anton Arcane

This series may be titled "Swamp Thing" and it may have begun in the swamp, but it certainly doesn't stay there! Immediately after the first issue recap, Swamp Thing is captured by a group of synthetic "un-men" and flown out of the country. Matt Cable witnesses the adduction and takes charge of the Holland's dog. The Swamp Thing is flown to a castle in the mountains where he meets Arcane, who knows all about him from his "ancient mystic mirror." The (seemingly) "kindly" Arcane convinces "Holland" to switch bodies with him.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Cable arranges to work in conjunction with Interpol so that he may track down the plane which abducted the Swamp Thing. All the while, Mr. E listens in via the transmitter in the dog's head.

Back in Arcane's castle, the transfer is a success; Arcane's body has been transformed into the Swamp Thing, and the Swamp Thing has reverted to Alec Holland. He wanders the castle in his restored human form until he comes across Arcane ranting about his plans to destroy the village below. "Holland" turns against him and destroys the "soul jar" which permitted the transfer in the first place, thereby reversing it. the Swamp Thing pursues him to a tower in the castle where where Arcane falls to his apparent death. The last panel shows one of the un-men following Swamp Thing.

I don't want to get too far ahead of the discussion here, but it's plain to anyone who has read Alan Moore's "Anatomy Lesson" that the Swamp thing's "reversion" to Alec Holland is clearly impossible. My theory is this: Arcane's ritual didn't transform their bodies as indicated in the story; it switched their minds. The whole time the Swamp Thing thought he was in his own human body (i.e., Alec Holland's), he was actually in Arcane's. There was a component to the transfer which allowed Arcane to articulate in the Swamp Thing's body; there could easily have been another component to convince the Swamp Thing he was in Alec Holland's body, not Anton Arcane's.

ISSUE #3:

Location: The Balkans

Characters: The "Patchwork Man" (Gregor Arcane), Abigail Arcane

While attempting to depart the castle, a portion of the floor caves in and the Swamp Thing falls through. The "Patchwork Man" (the un-man from last issue) attempts to save him from falling but fails. Meanwhile, Matt Cable (with the dog) has traced the plane to the Balkans and is about to land, while Mr. E of the Conclave listens in on his every move. Cable soon meets Abigail Arcane, Anton's niece, who agrees to accompany him to the castle. they arrive just in time to see it explode. she lost her father some time ago when he accidentally wandered through an old mine field. Unbeknownst to her, her Uncle Anton turned her father Gregor into a synthetic "Patchwork Man". 

The Patchwork Man (unable to speak) abducts Abigail from Matt. the Swamp Thing pursues them and they fight. Meanwhile, Cable has whipped the villagers into a frenzied mob. The Patchwork man sacrifices its life to save Abigail, and Swamp Thing turns her back over to Cable. With her father and her uncle both dead, Abigail decides to accompany Cable back to the states to seek her fortune there. The Swamp Thing stows aboard their plane.

If I was forced to pick a superhero I liked best, that wasn't Black Canary, it would be Batman, This was a fun issue for all the brilliant scenes with Swamp Thing and Batman. One scene in their battle, they are in opposite poses with fists out. My favorite panel is Batman in the building, walking up flights of stairs while outside, Swamp Thing is scaling the building. Perfect! 

Reading through Jeff's summary, it was difficult for me to correctly follow the "he" that shot the dog. It was Mr. E, Nathan Ellery. The Conclave story is over and the overall issue was enjoyable.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #7:

Location: Gotham City

Characters: Nathan Ellery, Bruce Wayne (Batman)

This issue opens with the Swamp Thing already in the city. He comes into conflict with the police when he breaks into the Salvation  army to steal a coat. Commissioner Gordon lights the Bat signal. Across town, Bruce Wayne is chairing a late board meeting of the Wayne Foundation. Also on the board is Nathan Ellery, whom we recognize as "Mr. E" of the Conclave. He is in the process of torturing Matt Cable and Abigail Arcane who were captured by the Conclave last issue. Ellery activates the dog's tracking device, which in turn leads the Batman (who had been advised by Gordon that Swampt thing was traveling with a dog) right to him. He shoots the dog but, when the dust clears, Ellery has fallen from the balcony of his penthouse, essentially bring the "Conclave" subplot to its close. 

The point of this issue, of course, is to show the Swamp Thing interacting with the Batman (which happens a lot this issue, I just glossed over it). Even though this story takes place in Gotham City, the Batman has, for all intents and purposes, wandered into the swamp Thing's own little corner of the DC Universe. Bernie Wrightson has his own distinctive way of drawing the batman, with foot-long ears and a cape that billows 15 feet in the wind in certain scenes where it just looks right. 

The sequence of plots makes sense to me now that you've stated it. My only wish is that when the series moved forward with arcs that lasted several dozen issues, they would have left Arcane buried in that cemetery. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

The last couple of times I attempted such a lengthy post I ended up accidently deleting it before posting, so I became increasingly paranoid but i saved early and saved often. I have read the Wein/Wrightson run over the course of the last 35 or so years, but I don't think it ever clicked with me as much as it did yesterday. I knew what to expect, having read the run many times previously, but it never before clicked with me that Wrightson and Wein were exploring multiple tropes on an issue-to-issue basis.

1. Swamp Monster

2. Mad Scientist

3. "Frankenstein"

4. Werewolf

5. Witch

6. Robots

7. Batman

8. Lovecraft

9. Sci-Fi

10. Horror

This discussion still has far to go. Tracy will catch up soon, but I'm not going to be in any hurry. We will probably continue at the rate of one arc (or "chunk") per week. 

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