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
"It was specifically Anton Arcane and his grotesque creations."
Tracy will dispute this but I had no idea she was so adverse to Anton Arcane. After further discussion, we determined it was the "New 52" version of Swamp Thing which turned her off. It will be some time before we get to that run, but we have 11 of the 40 issues (41 if you count the "zero issue"). I have a different memory as to why we dropped the series (which is not to say there couldn't have been more than one), but I don't want to get ahead of the discussion.
"We will probably continue at the rate of one arc (or "chunk") per week."
Tracy prefers to quote and respond to individual sections of my posts, and she finds that easier to do when broken up into smaller segments (plus I don't have to worry about losing a lengthy post) so, going forward, I will break the next sequence (which would have been twelve issues) into four "bite-size" chunks.
At this point, Swamp Thing begins a long slow slide to cancellation, the only consistent aspect being Nestor Redondo, who drew 13 of the next 14 issues. The stories during Redondo's run were written by Len Wein, David Michelinie and Gerry Conway. Nestor Redondo was one of an influx of Filipino artists engaged by both Marvel and DC in the 1970s. His first assignment was Rima the Jungle Girl, then he was moved to Swamp Thing. I personally most closely associate him with the "treasury edition" of the The Bible he did with Joe Kubert.
Let me first point out that, yes, I realize this cover is not drawn by Nestor Redondo. (it is, in fact, drawn by Luis Dominguez.) Dominguez's style is similar to Redondo's, plus I found this to be the most generic cover to represent the next phase.
NEXT: The first "bite-size" chunk of the "Redondo" period.
ISSUES #11-13: If one were reading this series reprinted in the Roots of the Swamp Thing mini-series as I initially did, the story would be over. If, however, one were reading Roots of the Swamp Thing hardcover from the DC Comics Classics Library as Tracy is, there are still three issues to go. This makes sense because #11-13 are all written by series co-creator Len Wein. I don't know if he purposefully changed his writing style of if I just perceive it differently because of the change in artist, but these three issues strike me as more superhero-y than they are EC.
#11: The Swamp thing's home waters are now infested with monsters, presumably the result of the bio-restorative formula, notably two giant mutant worms. They are under the control of Zachary Nail, crossing over from Phantom Stanger #14. [ASIDE: Len Wein wrote Phantom Stranger #20-24 which have been collected in The DC Universe by Len Wein HC.] This story is the first to make direct reference to the Swamp Thing being a plant as, after standing in one place for too long, his feet literally put down roots. (The mutant worms also refer to him as a plant later in the story.) He is taken to Nail's underground city where he meets four other captives (Luke, Kain, Ruth and Bolt), one of whom (Bolt) is destined to become a supporting cast member. Most importantly, Cable adopts a whole new attitude concerning the Swamp Thing; rather than hunting it, he wants to help and understand it.
#12: I don't know if Wein is still doing the "themed" issues as he was with Wrightson, but after #11's "underground city" he gives us "time travel" and an immortal being. Most of the Wrightson issues foreshadowed the next, and #11 did too, but #11-13 are more strongly linked with an underlying plot thread. The story has a lot of holes in it so I'm not going to dwell on it, but Swamp Thing was transported to the Jurassic era, Ancient Rome, Europe during the Black Plague and the American Civil War. In each of these time periods he meets Mobius, the Eternal Man. In this issue, Swamp thing speaks three words, bringing his series total up to nine.
#13: By this issue, Swamp thing still thinks of Abigail as Cable's "lady friend" but, it is this issue, too, in which Matt refers to her as "Abby" for the first time. One page one, Wein uses the phrase "a symphony of sound that suddenly ceases"... (I dig alliteration). We meet Cable's superior officer, Commander John Zero, as well as Professor Coolidge DeGrez (but don't get too used to him; he won't be around for long). The Swamp Thing is captured this issue, then Cable helps him to escape. Most importantly, Swamp Thing tells Cable that he's Alec Holland (speaking four more words in the process), bringing about a new status quo. As the Swamp Thing shambles away, Wein narrates that "if tears could come, they would," bringing the story full circle, in a sense, to the end of the first story from House of Secrets #92.
And thus, after three additional issues, original writer Len Wein follows original artist Berni Wrightson off the series. Wein went to Marvel shortly thereafter where he co-created Wolverine and the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men and wrote (among other titles) The Incredible Hulk. There had been plans to reunite Wein and Wrightson on a story featuring Marvel's muck-monster, the Man-Thing, but although they fell through, Wrightson did at least draw the cover.
The worms capture Cable and Abigail, then Swamp Thing follows their slime trail. They let Nail think he is their leader but they are using him. They want people to survive on Earth to be their food.
The time travel story was interesting because Swamp Thing starts thinking of Mobius as his friend. Around the same time, a witch curses Mobius to travel through time repeating mistakes until a friend kills him. Swamp Thing refuses to kill Mobius.
Nester Redondo's artwork is fantastic! He's also not afraid to draw a green bum. A lot of Wrightson's panels black or gray out the bottom half of Swamp Thing. Having a full figure in the panel or in motion gives the story a more genuine feel.
"The worms capture Cable and Abigail, then Swamp Thing follows their slime trail. They let Nail think he is their leader but they are using him. They want people to survive on Earth to be their food."
That is Tracy correcting/enhancing my summary (at my request).
"Nestor Redondo's artwork is fantastic!"
Tracy and I share an appreciation of Nestor Redondo. He can draw (a variety of different) faces as well as facial expressions; his anatomy is good, but so is his depiction of action and panel-to-panel continuity; he's also good on backgrounds and details; his fine linework and thin brush strokes foreshadow the kind of inking John Totleben will bring to the title in the future. Perhaps the best examples of Redondo's artistry are his splash pages, single page panels and double-page spreads. I think the writing during his run represents the law of diminishing returns, but the art is never lacking.
Having dealt with the art, when I next post I will look at the plot of the next "bite-size chunk" (and try not to make any more mistakes in my summaries).
In his "Superheroes Every Day" blog, Danny Horn has taken a day off from writing about the Swamp Thing movie to write about the comics, specifically Anton Arcane. [Tracy, you should read this.] That guy can write a summary!
I love Redondo's art. I'll need to check out his work on Swampy. I've enjoyed what I've seen of Rima, and I think much of my other experience with him has been on DC's "Mystery" titles.
ISSUES #14-18: The next five-issue chunk is written by Dave Michelinie and, per Tracy's request, I will be dividing it up into five bite-size chunks.
#14: "Dawn on the bayou: a pale sun crowns twisted treetops with halos of tentative gold, leaving little light to spill through the gnarled branches, to touch the rot and the slime below... rot and slime--and a brooding moss-draped mockery known simply as... the Swamp Thing."
With that bit of narration, David Michelinie's tenure begins with a story that serves as a metaphor for just about any kind of intolerance you'd care to put in its place. Years ago, outside the town of Prelude, LA, hermit Jeb Wheeler witnessed someone dumping a suitcase into the swamp. He fishes it out of the water to find three children inside, a little girl and her two younger brothers. Their skin is white, but not Caucasian white... fishbelly white. they also a sunken eyes, practically no noses, pointy ears and webbed fingers. The girl's name is Delta, and her brothers are Seth and Jeremy. They are also empathic, telekinetic and can manipulate nature to a degree.
Everything is fine until Mr. Wheeler dies and the children come into town. As the story opens, they are being chased by a mob led by Rafe Taggert. Swamp Thing routes them, but the townsfolk blame the children for the mutations running rampant through the swamp (which are caused by radioactive waste, not the bio-restorative formula it is established). the children have previously made friends with Jimbo, the son of Prelude's mayor. Taggert organizes another mob, this time equipped with flame throwers. They set fire to the the Wheelers' house, but only Jimbo, who had come to warn them, was inside at the time. Delta sacrifices herself to save Jimbo's life and, in "gratitude," he promises to build a cabin for the two boys somewhere out in the swamp.
#15: Cable, Abby, Bolt and Luke (their guide) search for the Swamp Thing, who has just been struck by lightning. He is found by Father Jonathon Bliss, who helps him back to the ruins of his church. His church, he explains, was attacks by vandals, "vandals" he admits who were once his congregation. All is not as it seems (as you may have guessed), but Swamp Thing's first clue should have been that all the crosses in the church are hung upside-down. Bliss has turned to black magic (and a demon named Nebiros) to bring about Armageddon so that god can take over and sort it all out. Nebiros' physical body cannot exist in this plane, so his plan is to take over the Swamp Thing's.
Cable, Abby and Luke (Bolt has gone off on his own by this point) see Swamp thing outside the church and approach him for a reunion. It is not Alec Holland's mind in the Swamp thing's body at this point, though; it is Nebiros'. Holland's consciousness is in a soul jar nearby, and the first thing Nebiros does is to extract Luke's soul, killing him. Cable breaks the jar, holland's mind returns to Swamp thing's body and Nebiros inhabits the priest. Bliss's body cannot stand the stress, however, and quickly burns out. Outside, Cable, Abby and Swamp Thing see Bolt's body dangling beneath a helicopter.
#16: This issue opens with a hijacking, one that makes very little sense, I must say. The hijacker already has a half a million dollars he was paid at the Miami airport. It's a 747, but the hijacker and a captive stewardess easily make their way to the cargo hold from the passenger compartment. (Abby and Matt are in the cabin, Swamp Thing is in a crate in cargo.) Swamp thing bursts out of his crate and saves the stew, but turbulence throws him and the hijacker against the door, which is smashed off its hinges by his weight. the hijacker was wearing a parachute, but it was not designed to carry two, much less when one of them is a quarter ton muck monster. They hit the water, hard, and that's the last we see of the hijacker.
Swamp Thing is knocked unconscious and we are treated to a flashback in which Cable, somehow, managed to track the helicopter to an island in the Caribbean, coincidentally the same one Swamp Thing is about to wash up on as fate (or David Michelinie) would have it. He awakens in the custody of the People's Liberation Army of the island of Kala Pago. One of the generals, Adam Rook, has a long boring history as a mercenary and initially came to the island to fight for the other side. the other general, who introduces herself as "Laganna, the high priestess of the people off Sepp," has come dressed for sword and sorcery cosplay. Her plan is to use her talisman to raise an army of zombies.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on Kala Pago, Bolt is being held hostage by a mysterious man in a wheelchair and a scientist by the name of Dr. Pretorius. I can only assume "Dr. Pretorius" is a pseudonym; he looks just like Emil Hamilton, later of S.T.A.R. Labs. (I like to think he is Emil Hamilton.) The attack by the P.L.A. fails, Rook dies on-panel and Lasanna off. At the very end, the mysterious mastermind holding Bolt hostage is revealed to me... Nathan Ellery of the Conclave!
#17: The Conclave didn't really have anything to do with the revolution/counter-revolution. Ellery and "Pretorius" are holed up in the Sanobel Mission. Ellery keeps pumping Bolt for information, and replies with such retorts as , "Spread butter!" and "Eat Moose!" Ellery has Pretorius/Hamilton send out the first line of the island's defenses against Swamp Thing, a robot that looks like a cross between a Steve Ditko and a Berni Wrightson design. The robot has treads, plus long tentacles for arms, which it uses to pull its victims into giant rotating fan blades housed in the middle of its chest.
Meanwhile, Abby and Cable (who have obviously made their way to the right island by this time), find Bolt and meet Mr. E face-to-face. He admits that he did die from his fall, adding by way of explanation, "But you didn't think the Conclave would give up one of its operatives that easily, did you?" If you're not satisfied with that, too bad; it's all the explanation you're going to get. He is apparently no longer loyal to the conclave, however, because his current plans call for him to become Emperor Nathan the First.
He ushers them to the ultra-cerebralocitor, which Pretorius/Hamilton has invented. (Note that this is not merely a cerebralocitor, but the ultra-cerebralocitor, and Nestor Redondo has thrown himself into it's design. It looks as if it were designed by Jack Kirby and inked by Berni Wrightson. Between this and the fan/tentacle/tread robot, we can safely add "design" as one of Redondo's many talents.) Pretorious/Hamilton has discovered "E-waves," which relate directly to the ability of leadership in human beings. Simply put, those who have E-waves lead, and those who don't, follow. (It sounds to me about as plausible as Amos fortune's "luck glands," but I'm no scientist.) The plan is to use the cerebralocitor (the ultra-cerebralocitor, excuse me) to wipe out all other E-waves except Nathan Ellery's. Pretorius/Hamilton is going along with this because he feels humanity's only chance in for one strong leader to take control.
After defeating the fan/tentacle/tread robot, Swamp Thing first exploits a design flaw in the Mission's second line of defense (flying saucers with heat rays) then defeats the third (a pack of robot wolves). I feel constrained to point out that Matthew Cable remains the only member of the supporting cast Swamp thing recognizes; he refers to Abby and Bolt here as "the others". I should also point out that Ellery's wheelchair is electric; we know this because it has a long power cord extending from the back. This aspect would tend to limit his movement, I would think, but maybe the lab isn't very big. the power cord presents another problem as well, however, because as soon as Swamp Thing begins wreaking havoc in the lab and Ellery ties to flee, the cord becomes tangles in machinery and he electrocutes himself (and I don't think the Conclave will be resurrecting him this time).
Cable and "the others" steal one of Ellery's helicopters to fly to the mainland, only to run out of fuel. "The tanks must be rigged to leak gas slowly if certain security switches aren't thrown," invents Cable on the spot, "switches we knew nothing about!" Sounds to me as if he forgot to check the fuel gauge before they took off, but "the others" buy it.
"Yeah, that's it, that's the ticket! Mooooorgan Fairchild!"
Jeff of Earth-J said:
"The tanks must be rigged to leak gas slowly if certain security switches aren't thrown," invents Cable on the spot, "switches we knew nothing about!"
#18: This issue begins with Swamp Thing and his supporting cast walking away from the crash of the helicopter. Swamp Thing is carrying the unconscious Bolt, but I don't think he and Abby have exchanged five words at this point. They soon come upon a little village described alternately as a "fairy tale gone mad" (by Michelinie), a "geriatric Disneyland" (by Cable), "Bedlam" (by Bolt) and the "ultimate retirement facility" by Aubrey Trask. Trask runs Serenity Village, a retirement community designed like a storybook village because "somewhere along the line, someone figured a return to a childhood environment would ease the jolt of being put out to pasture." Trask is probably in the 30s but, out of sight of the rest, he puts a lip-lock on Marion (his wife as it happens) who looks to be about 80.
Having decided that "Cable and company" (his words) are safe, the Swamp Thing leaves. (They are in Florida, BTW, but "a swamp's still a swamp.") Before too long he is attacked by a demon-like creature, then saves a man being attacked by another. The man flees to Serenity Village, but is soon knocked unconscious from behind and awakes to find himself chained to a wall next to Cable and company. He introduces himself as Nicholas Trask, and Bolt asks if he's related to the "head loony." Nicholas says that his parents are there, but as patients.
Well, you probably see where this is going. Aubrey and Marion are Nicholas's parents, and Nicholas is using the "Ebon Tome" to transfer the life essence from young people to old people, unleashing demons in the process. To make an already-too-long story short, Nicholas breaks free and throws the the magic book in the fire, killing his father. His mother still lives, though, and blames her son (whom she tried to kill) for her husband's death. the Swamp Thing slinks away.
TOMORROW: A "bite-size chunk" of Gerry Conway.