Thursday, October 3, 2013
Mucking About #0 - House Of Secrets!
The Swamp Thing story begins famously in House of Secrets #92 with a small eight page story by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson. According to Wein, he concocted the story pretty much completely while on the New York subway, then quickly got Joe Orlando let him and Wrightson produce a somber period horror story. It worked, like gangbusters and soon DC wanted more. Wein and Wrightson resisted at first until they found a way to intelligently move the story forward. More on that later.
This story, simply dubbed "Swamp Thing" concerns a loving married couple who fall into the clutches of a narcissistic murderer. Alex and Linda Olsen are freshly and happily married when Alex's research results in an explosion which seemingly kills him. What we learn quickly enough is that Damian Ridge, Olsen's evil partner actually planned the explosion and when it did not kill Olsen, Ridge dragged his body and buried it still barely living into the swamp. Then Ridge proceeded to woo the widow with great success until as our story opens he fears she is beginning to suspect his involvement in the tragic death. He sets out to murder his new bride when suddenly a hideous green shambling hulk of a creature breaks through the window and stops him for good. The creature is of course Alex, transformed by the swamp and his experiments but unable to communicate with Linda he leaves her transfixed in horror as he shambles back into the muck.
And that's it.
The story is a simple one, but potent. First it has the still fresh but nonetheless potent artwork of Berni Wrightson, the ideal artist at the time for a period story of this nature. His Swamp Thing is pretty much man-sized and not so muscular as we would come to know another version of the creature. This Swamp Thing is more a thing of pity and less a creature of power and possibilities. Wein's story is a neat little nugget with true love and murder and madness, all neatly contained in a pure eight pages, plus a haunting cover.
In fact, though the scene depicted on the magnificent cover doesn't unfold in the story quite that way, it nonetheless captures the essence of the tragedy of the Swamp Thing while at the same time adding a sense of menace never truly felt in the story itself. I daresay that cover is the driving force for more of this curious creation, the cover which is most evocative as they often could be.
The story has been reprinted countless times. I've bought it many many times. Below are a few of those instances.
More to come as my reading of Roots of the Swamp Thing continues.