DC History Club, Muck And Magic Double Feature: Swamp Thing, polls, quiz, discussion


Back cover for this week’s Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular. Strong Swamp Thing tv show vibe to me.

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I have started off week 2 by watching the Alan Moore interview above and reading The Anatomy Lesson.

About this book? Wow! You just can’t say enough good things about this book. This is the type of book a person gets nostalgic over. It is exactly what you would want a horror comic to be like, no matter what time. As relevant now as, what, forty years ago? It is so grim and foreboding. Filled with impending doom that will have lots of blood. The narration coming from the Fioronic Man is a great perspective to tell this story. The flow of the story is wonderful. I never had to go back and reread something to see if I got the meaning or the action right. I was with the writer the whole way. Not a pause. Not a bump. Totally engrossed.

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Just read it again last month and feel like I should read it again.

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It’s like a Lay’s potato chip. Can’t eat just one.

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Swamp Fact: Wein Len Wein talks about working on a project he was developing into a series. He referred to it as “that swamp thing.” When he needed to name his creation, that morphed into The Swamp Thing.

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Before we transition fully to Moore a few more items to the originators of Swamp Thing.

From Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics:

Bernie Wrightson: :Wrightson only took on one series --Swamp Thing – during a five year run at DC. 'Gimme a good story that’s just a few pages long and I can really pour on the steam and do a real bang-up job." Wrightson declined an offer from DC to revive the Shadow in 1973.

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The Phantom Stranger #14, with its Neal Adams cover, introduced the hoax swamp creature who was actually Zachary Nail. Wein gives nod to this inspiration by introducing a Zachary Nail character in Swamp Thing #red-hood-and-the-outlaws-2011
-Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics

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I read Saga of the Swamp Thing #32, Pog. This being 11 issues into Moore’s run, this was probably a nice break from the norm found in this mag. The homage is lost on me due to my unfamiliarity with the Pogo comic strip. This decidedly answers the question as to whether I feel this comic is still relevant. I don’t know that many would recognize these characters today. I remember seeing them, but I don’t know where.

The art was top notch. Just enough cartoon flavor. The story was good. I spent some time going back to pick up names of the characters. Outside of that, I assume much of the story line was derived from the comic strip. The dialogue was fun trying to figure out what they are trying to say. And there was a jaw dropping moment for me. I didn’t expect it to go that far. But we are talking about the Swamp Thing book.

I had a good time reading this, but I do wish to get back to the scary stuff.

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@Wilks That’s interesting because I didn’t think about the perishability of this particular story when I picked it, I was looking for a change of pace to show the breadth of Moore’s work. But, you’re entirely right about this not having the impact it would have had when published. Most people today are probably unaware of the homage taking place. Here’s a quick para on Walt Kelly and Pogo

–During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

And some of his wonderful art a 1971 Earth Day poster. Also shows the political slant of the comic strip.
Pogo_-_Earth_Day_1971_poster
Finally, what’s difficult to appreciate today is how important newspaper comic strips were for a hundred years. They made artist rich and famous, they drove newspaper sales in a day and age when a larger cities not only had multiple papers, they had morning and evening editions. And everyone read the paper, and as a kid you started reading the paper because of the comic strips and didn’t stop as an an adult.

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Also the popularity
of comic strips
Caused the
first comic books
As reprints of popular strips

Superman was first created by Siegel and Shuster as a comic strip years before the comic book Action 1.

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On issue 40
Read the story first

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Thanks for the info on Pogo. That is very interesting. I know so little about them. I remember Doonesbury. I was a kid that dug into Sunday newspapers for the Sunday funnies. My personal favorites early on were Garfield, and Peanuts. A little later, I really liked Bloom County and the Star Wars strip.

I read #34, Rite of Spring. Even not having read a whole lot of Swamp Thing, I had heard of this issue. It is a seminal issue. The artwork is breathtaking. The two page spreads of psychedelics mixed with nature leap from the page and Alan Moore’s storytelling is unmatched. For an issue regarding their union, allowing Abby to feel what Swamp Thing feels, his connection with the earth and everything, is a great idea. And to have that happen from a fruit he spontaneously grew? Good stuff.

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That’s the issue that most strongly sticks in my mind as having read to my wife. It was just so unlike anything else I had ever read.

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Working my way through Swamp Thing’s entire run, I’m up to the Wheeler issues following Moore, then Veitch. Have to be honest. It’s a chore. Veitch started off pretty good and though he eventually stumbled I think his run is worth reading. Wheeler on the other hand is a very pale imitation of what he thinks Moore was trying to be. Just compare two issues with very similar themes (minor spoilers).

In Swamp Thing #35 Moore addresses nuclear waste through a drunk, nuclear waste swilling hobo who has no idea the damage he is causing. It’s scary, funny, interesting and makes a clearly political/environmental point. A+

In Swamp Thing #96 Wheeler deals with toxic waste with all the subtly of the tanker truck that plays a role in the story. Characters are introduced just to lecture about toxic waste and the damage it does. Nothing about these lectures is interesting and they have all the panache of the hack line you can see below.
wheeler

This also gets back to the politics in comics discussion. Of course politics has always been in comics. But, it’s fun when Superman smashes car dealerships up for selling lemons, or Wonder Woman punches Nazis for being Nazis. Getting lectured on any topic is just a drudge.

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On the polls question I posted.
-I agree with the unanimous vote the creating Constantine was a significant accomplishment. DC has a long line of magical characters that stretch back as far as Zatara and Dr Fate in the Golden Age. Constantine may now be the most famous, if not the most impactful, of those characters.
-I voted for Abby and Swamp Thing’s romance because it changed the basic nature of Swamp Thing. He was no longer the wandering plant monster/hero, he had a tie to humanity and his humanity that changed how he interacts with his world.
-For the third pick, many have spread their votes across 4 different options. I choose American Gothic because it was among the first long-form stories told in monthly DC titles. Across thirteen issues, Swamp Thing’s knowledge of himself and the Rising Darkness grow.
But, none of these options are wrong. Moore accomplished a lot in his run.

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I read issue #40. Another great one-shot. @TurokSonOfStone1950, thanks for the added article. It was nice to get some outside reaction to this issue. I would be interested in seeing a woman’s reaction, as well. It is a really good story.

On the polls, I agree with you regarding Constantine. What a great character. I was immediately drawn to him with his gumshoe detective style working on exorcisms and spells and whatnot.

On the second poll, I just chose really the only three characters I could make a judgement on, Abby, Swamp Thing and Dr Woodrue. I thought those three characters transferred to the series just fine. The third poll I didn’t answer because I just didn’t have a good enough frame of reference in the books to make a call.

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@Wilks, glad you liked #40. That was one that stuck in my mind from my first reading it 30 plus years ago.
On the second poll question, who did the show translate well we agreed on all three.
Abby: Think the show actually did a better job. In the books through Wein and Moore’s run Abby’s role is damsel in distress and/or love interest. The only thing that changed is who did the saving and the loving. And, I really liked the book version. It isn’t till Veitch’s run the Abby starts getting some agency of her own, initiating action, forcing Swamp Thing to act a certain way. Making her a doctor with the CDC puts in her a position to drive the narrative on discovering what’s happening both to the swamp and Swamp Thing. And Crystal Reed is great. Only downside, no white hair. And not just because it looks cool, but it permanently marks her as an outsider.
Woodrue: Show gives him so much backstory, personality, motive. That would have really played out well if the show had gotten a season 2.
Swamp Thing: Looks great. Mears really acts through all that makeup and costume.
Talk about what they didn’t do well later.

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What didn’t the show translate well?
-Everyone agrees they completely bungled the Phantom Stranger. It’s not just that most of probably weren’t even sure that’s who he was at first, he lost every bit mystery and coolness the character ought to have. And, wouldn’t he have been cooler to show up in swamp looking like this:
192920-53078-phantom-stranger

rather than this:
ps st

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Abby actress interview

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Crystal is definitely making the interview rounds on the CW airing of the show. Clearly, she’s passionate for the role. While she’s honest that the expense of the show is an obstacle to any renewal, clearly she’s thinking that there’s at least a chance.

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