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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"Combat-Happy is an oxymoron."

I accept "combat happy" as a euphemism for the condition known at the time (WWII) as "battle fatigue."

Here is George Carlin on PTSD euphemisms

ISSUE #83:

I really like this cover. the story is "Bothers in Arms, Par One" ("Part Two" was #82). Swamp Thing continues his trip backward in time. I consider this story canon for Swamp Thing, but not for the Enemy Ace, necessarily. Hans Von Hammer (as it happens) turns out to be the cousin of Abigail Arcane's grandmother, Anais. (They are dead ringers for each other.) This issue explains how Anton Arcane, Anais' eldest son, came to be in the German army. Anais has fled their homeland with her two other children,  Aniela and little Gregori, when the Prussians invaded. When her cousin shoots down a French plane and the pilot survives as some sort of a plant-creature, Anais travels to the front to seek Anton's assistance nursing him back to health. Anton, however, has other motives. 

The Swamp thing's fate appears to be tied to an medieval artifact known as "The Claw of Aelkund" (which was in the previous issue as well). Hans Von Hammer puts Anton Arcane's experiments to a stop, sending Swamp Thing further on his journey into the past. Back in the present, it's the Phantom Stranger's turn to tell Abby that her (second) husband is dead. Chester arrives with her latest, and last, payment from the government.

ISSUE #84:

Another really nice cover , painted by Totleben; the interior is by Mandrake and Alcala. I said before that the post-Moore run (which I bought as backissues) cost me mostly two bucks a piece or a quarter over cover. This issue is the only exception: it cost me $10. That is because, not only does Neil Gaiman's Sandman cross over, not only is it the very first time Sandman crossed over into another title, but it is also very early on (circa Sandman #3) in that series' run. I thought I had read this issue when Tracy bought it but, after reading I realized only pages 15-16 were familiar. This issue serves to exonerate Matt Cable of his past misdeeds prior his transformation into Matthew the raven who lives in The Dreaming. 

The first thing I noticed when I opened the cover was the "publishorial" by Jenette Kahn touting DC's mystery/horror-not-quite-yet-Vertigo line. (This editorial will become extremely ironic in another three or four months.) 

This is another "unusual-if-not-unique" issue in which the title character does not appear. First, Abby learns that the notice she received about Matt's benefits being cut was not sent in error, and she owes medical bills of nearly $3 million dollars. (Matt's care costs $12K every day.) The hospital administrator suggests that she can defray the costs by admitting Matt to the "neo-mort" division, which is essentially organ harvesting. Also, the paperwork he gives her to sign requires that "the patient's legal rights to refuse treatment" be suspended. When Abby mentions that, in her home country, all citizens receive free medical care, the administrator assures her that America's healthcare system is "second to none."

She bumps into Adam Strange, who is bit less insistent than the other superheroes who have contacted her about her about Swamp thing being dead; he even goes away feeling inspired by her faith. Later, Constantine helps her understand Matt's medical benefits have ceased. (It was basically a cover-up by the defunct DDI to expunge all records of its existence.) After his encounter with Dream, Matt Cable comes out of his coma just long enough to pull his own plug (literally). 

The first thing I noticed when I opened the cover was the "publishorial" by Jenette Kahn touting DC's mystery/horror-not-quite-yet-Vertigo line. (This editorial will become extremely ironic in another three or four months.) 

I hate to inflict more work on you, but can you possibly transcribe this?

It's kinda long (three columns instead of the usual two). How 'bout if I just summarize it?

During an editorial meeting shortly after Hallowe'en, Paul Levitz brought up the topic of how DC's mystery/horror titles had changed over the years. Also in attendance were Karen Berger, Joe Orlando and Mike Gold. (I imagine Dick Giordano was there as well, but he wasn't quoted.) Started with House of Mystery and House of Secrets, Berger notes that they were much tamer than the books she edits and were referred to as "mystery" rather than "horror" because of the CCA. 

At this point, Jenette Kahn editorializes about EC Comics (misidentifying Two-Fisted Tales as a "horror" comic). Orlando  jumps in and says, "We did horror stories about things that made us mad. If we read a story in the newspaper, like one about police forcing teenage girls into sexual acts, we'd write a horror story about it. If we saw an injustice, we'd address it in a story." Then Berger praises EC and Kahn elaborates about Wertham, SOTI, the Congressional hearing and the CCA. Orlando saw the Code as a challenge: "The driving force that kept me coming to work every day was to find ways of annoying the Code."

Then Kahn touts the non-code titles DC was publishing at the time: "Hellblazer, Swamp Thing and Wasteland can rightfully be called horror books, deserving the 'for mature readers' label that each one bears." Berger continues: "Since comics have tended to evolve, the horror stories we do now are for an older reader and involve sophisticated horror and suspense. Psychological horror, intense fears that are exaggerated, graphic horror--all these are part of today's horror books." She goes on to discuss in further depth the types of stories being told in Hellblazer and Swamp Thing and the controversy that sometimes surrounds them.

"We get a lot of mail," Berger continues, "accusing us of being anti-Christian because a lot of the stories in Hellblazer deal with heaven and hell or with corrupt religious factions. Although this created a lot of unrest among our readers, it wasn't our statement on religion but the perverse expression of the characters in the book." Kahn concludes by drawing a direct line from the EC horror titles of the '50s through the DC mystery books of the '70s to to not-yet-Vertigo books of the '80s.

I don't want to get ahead of the discussion, but the irony of her praise will become evident on Thursday.

ISSUE #85:

This issue's story deals with DC's western heroes: Hawk (Son of Tomahawk), Jonah Hex, El Diablo, Bat Lash, Firehair, Johnny Thunder, Madame .44 and Super Chief. Except for Jonah Hex, all of DC's western heroes bore me to tears. Two German aristocrats have come to America seeking the Claw of Aelkhund, now know as the "Claw of Elkhound" [which reminds me of Gnaw Bone (originally Narbonne], Indiana. the "German aristocrats" end up being Jason Blood and Otto Von Hammer. Swamp Thing, in an effort to send some sort of a message to Abby, allows his picture to be taken.

In the present, the police arrive at the home of Chester and Liz looking for Abby, whom they suspect of "pulling the plug" on Matt. Meanwhile, Liz finds the picture of Swamp thing taken in the 19th century.

Seems to me, a couple of weeks ago (and I don't recall if it was this discussion or another), someone mentioned a character who was out of date in today's world. (Adam Strange?) It strikes me that I doubt we'll be seeing a new Jonah Hex series (a former Confederate soldier) any time soon. 

ISSUE #86:

Tom Yeates returns. The issue begins, surprisingly, with Rip Hunter bumping into Swamp Thing in the time stream. I was not reading Swamp Thing in 1989, but if I had been, this would have been my first encounter with the Time Master (COIE notwithstanding). The majority of this issue takes place in 18th century America and features Tomahawk. Apart from "The Black Cougar" (from Star Spangled Comics #113, 1951, reprinted in The Greatest 1950s Stories Ever Told, this is my first "Tomahawk" story. 

[The Greatest 1950s Stories Ever Told is a great collection, one that eschews the appellation "Silver Age" (as I do) in favor of the term I use, the 1950s, in which post-Code publishers threw everything they could think of against the wall to see what would stick. It ended up being super-heroes (again), but not until Julius Schwartz brought a few of his revived heroes together with those who stuck it out in a similarly revived version of the Justice Society.]

Swamp Thing #86 is the kind of issue I would like (and others would dislike) if I were more familiar with Tomahawk in the first place. As it is, I don't really care. Jason Blood makes an appearance, and a cave beneath the mansion being built by Darius Wayne in Gotham Town also plays a role. This issue tells the origin of the Claw of Aelkhund. In the present, Liz is reverting to her "bathrobe and slippers" self due to the authorities seeking Abby, and Abby learns (from a book) of Swamp thing's presence in the 18th century.

ISSUE #87:

Swamp Thing's next time trip lands him in Merlin's garden (just his head, like a cabbage) at the time of the fall of Camelot. There are strong continuity ties with The Demon #1. Surprisingly, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant and Sit Gawain make a cameo appearance on page 11. Morgaine Le Fay is drawn more-or-less in the foster tradition as well, but with the headdress Jack Kirby  provided for her in The Demon #1 (minus the mask). It is interesting to see Tom Yeates draw comic book versions of these characters in 1989 because he has just passed his ten year anniversary drawing the Prince Valiant Sunday page. In the present day, the time-travelling Sir Justin brings Abby confirmation that Swamp thing is alive, but lost in time.

Immediately following the story is a full-page photographic ad (with an environmental message) for The Return of the Swamp Thing movie. 

This month, Jenette Kahn's "publishorial" hypes The Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor one-shot by James Hundall and Eduardo Barreto. In answer to the question why a biography of Lex Luthor, editor Mike Carlin replies, "Why a biography of Donald Trump? Not to compare Trump to Luthor personality-wise, but they're characters similar in importance in the business world. they are also similar public figures, philanthropic in their public images, and the public cares about them."

"Philanthropic in their public images"? That is one word I have never before heard applied to Donald Trump, not in 1989, not ever. Hundall sees Luthor as a sociopath: "He's obsessed with power: financial, political and sexual power, and power over individuals. He wants to control people's lives in a god-like fashion just by picking up the phone." That sounds more like the Donald Trump I know. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"Philanthropic in their public images"? That is one word I have never before heard applied to Donald Trump, not in 1989, not ever. Hundall sees Luthor as a sociopath: "He's obsessed with power: financial, political and sexual power, and power over individuals. He wants to control people's lives in a god-like fashion just by picking up the phone." That sounds more like the Donald Trump I know. 

In their "public images," yes. But as James Hudnall shows in The Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor, the public image is markedly different than the reality, and that applies both to Luthor and the other guy.

 

Of course, it includes Anton repeatedly raping his little sister to show how evil he is. As if the writer and artist weren't doing a fine job detailing that in other ways. Disgusting, lazy storytelling. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

#83 explains how Anton Arcane, Anais' eldest son, came to be in the German army. Anais has fled their homeland with her two other children,  Aniela and little Gregori, when the Prussians invaded. When her cousin shoots down a French plane and the pilot survives as some sort of a plant-creature, Anais travels to the front to seek Anton's assistance nursing him back to health. Anton, however, has other motives. 

The Swamp thing's fate appears to be tied to an medieval artifact known as "The Claw of Aelkund" (which was in the previous issue as well). Hans Von Hammer puts Anton Arcane's experiments to a stop, sending Swamp Thing further on his journey into the past. Back in the present, it's the Phantom Stranger's turn to tell Abby that her (second) husband is dead. Chester arrives with her latest, and last, payment from the government.

ISSUE #88:

Issue #87 was cover-dated June 1989, but there was no Swamp Thing dated July nor August either. I'm sure most of you reading this are at least tangentially aware of what happened: what would have been #88 was cancelled at the last minute, truncating Rick Veitch's just short of its conclusion... only three months after Jenette Kahn touted DC's non-code titles. Rumors started to circulate that "Veitch had penned a blasphemous and heretical story revealing an encounter between Swamp Thing and Jesus." 

"In Magician's Mysterious Sleeves": Rick Veitch and the Censoring o... by Cole Hornaday

The article I linked above is probably the best, and the most recent, treatment of this situation I have ever read. If you follow the link, you will be able to read not only the article about the story which was supposed to have been Swamp Thing #88, but also a plot synopsis and surviving art. If you are not one to follow links, here is what Veitch himself said in an open letter published in CBG #803 (quoted from the article): "Veitch stated, 'I certainly do not believe anything I wrote in the script for Swamp Thing #88 to be worthy of [censoring] of any kind.' He further notes he did not deviate from the New Testament in any way and was only taking cues from culturally embedded storytelling tropes that have been SF staples for decades. 'If anything, I believe my story to be an affirmation of the rather elegant symbolism of Christ’s personal sacrifice and crucifixion. It was written not as a challenge to those who possess deep faith in Christian doctrine, but as an exercise in possibilities, aimed at those who do not.'"

I understand why DC refused to publish Swamp Thing #88 as scripted in 1989; I do. To tell you the truth, all throughout the second half of the '90s I was convinced Preacher was going to lead to the next comic book witch hunt. By that time, Vertigo existed as a haven for such storytelling, but I could easily envision a right wing evangelical Christian getting ahold of a copy and raising a stink. Luckily, that didn't happen. Like I said, I understand why DC didn't publish the story in 1989; what I don't understand is why they haven't published it since. According to Veitch in a 2020 interview (quoted in the linked article), "There had probably been at least 5-6 serious attempts to get Swamp Thing #88 done.” 

The most recent attempt was tanked by the pre-publication controversy surrounding Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s series Second Coming, originally considered by DC, eventually published by AHOY! (not Image): "Veitch claimed the latest attempt to publish the story was as recent as 2019. '(DC) were going to do a Rick Veitch Omnibus, like the new Swamp Thing Omnibus with Alan’s stuff,' he recalled, 'And part of that would include Swamp Thing #88 in order to finish the time travel story. I actually wrote a plot and discussed it all. Then they got into trouble with a comic book they were putting out where this superhero meets Jesus. It ended up at Image I think, but DC was going to publish it, or Vertigo was going to publish it and this Christian organization got 400,000 signatures against it. So, that killed any possibility of having Jesus in a comic book at DC, I think. So, pretty much a dead issue now. But, part of me is still there, guys. I’ve got that story in my head. I want to finish that one.'"

Upon reviewing Swamp Thing #88’s story and rough art, CBG's Don Thompson had this to say: “I think this is a magnificent and entirely Christian story. It is no more blasphemous than Ben Hur or The Robe or Barabbas…It is appalling that, more than a century after Ben Hur was written, a work of fiction done with comparable reverence was to be suppressed out of fear of reprisal by zealots. This is not progress. It’s too bad you’ll never get to read this comic book. It’s an excellent story – and might well have succeeded in getting across to some horror-fixated youths that there is a deeper meaning to blood than seeing it splattered across a page or movie screen.”

"ISSUE #87 1/2"

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Issue #87 was cover-dated June 1989, but there was no Swamp Thing dated July nor August either. I'm sure most of you reading this are at least tangentially aware of what happened: what would have been #88 was cancelled at the last minute, truncating Rick Veitch's just short of its conclusion... only three months after Jenette Kahn touted DC's non-code titles. Rumors started to circulate that "Veitch had penned a blasphemous and heretical story revealing an encounter between Swamp Thing and Jesus." 

In 1969, Michael Moorcock published a novel adapted from his own 1966 novella titled Behold the Man. It deals with a time traveler from the distant year 1970 (!) who crash-lands in Judea in the year 28. He winds up becoming Jesus.

Marvel printed a 23-page adaptation from Doug Moench and Alex Niño in its magazine Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #6 (NOV75). I've read the novel and the Marvel adaptation, which I believe was a faithful adaptation. No pitchforks and torches were in evidence at Marvel.

Behold the Man (novel) - Wikipedia

GCD :: Issue :: Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #6 (comics.org)
 

It was the cover story:

Yeah ... but the black-and-white books were never aimed at kids. 

To the Blue Nose Mothers of America, if it's in a four-color format, it must, perforce, be for kids and must, perforce, be banished if it doesn't have kid-friendly content as they perceive it.

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