Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mucking About - Final Swamp Things!

It has been fascinating slowly trudging through the muck and mire alongside the tragic mossy form of Alec Holland. The series was memorable and has proven to be one of the rare true iconic Bronze Age additions to the DC Universe.

The classic horror influences which permeate the first ten issues of the series are clearly the result of Berni Wrightson's vintage artwork, work informed by classic Graham "Ghastley" Ingels comics and Universal horror flicks. Berni outdid himself rendering some damn fine beasties to gyre and gamble across the unlucky path of the Swamp Thing.

Basic humanity can be seen clearly in the utterly fantastic image above by Wrightson, apparently his first of the creature after his House of Secrets version gave way to the modern Alec Holland variation. There is a lot of humanity in that rough shape.

It became increasingly clear to me as I read the stories that Swamp Thing is misnamed. He clearly should've worn the title "Man-Thing" while "Swamp Thing" more snugly fit Marvel's mossy monster. There is more of the man in Swamp Thing, more of Alec Holland aware and present in the  moments which form the narrative. Ted Sallis is lost in the miasma of Man-Thing's emotional boil, more purely a creature wrought of the swamp. Swamp Thing ironcially has more of the man and less of the swamp.

One of my favorite moments is when Swamp Thing as rendered by Nestor Redondo in issue eleven stands too long in one spot in the swamp and begins to throw down roots. It's a moment clearly intended to showcase his inhuman nature, but showed me a creature still at odds with the swampy regions he inhabits. He lives in the natural world like a man, he is not of the natural world like a plant, at least not totally, though he himself seems to begin to doubt.

Also I got to thinking that I have overlooked the role Joe Orlando played in this series. Clearly he had something to contribute to the brew which emitted the Swamp Thing, but as is often the case with editors his role remains mildly mysterious, at least to this reader. It must've given him though a pleasant tickle to once again be producing quality atmospheric horror comics akin to those of the Atomic Age. Here's an interview with Wrightson talking about his years at DC, including his stint on Swamp Thing. In the interview he really gives a lot of credit to Orlando for developing his storytelling skills.

It's been a hoot this past month to read these classic books, some for the first time. I feel like I know Swamp Thing or Alec Holland if you will, better than I ever have before. Sadly I feel the likes of this wonderful comic will not shamble this way again.

Have a Happy Halloween!

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  1. Great series Rip and that illo at the top is the first time I've seen this! Thanks

  2. I debated what awesome Berni art I wanted to headline the last post, but I'm very pleased I went with that one, it's beautiful. I used it as a desktop image for quite a while.

    Glad you enjoyed the romp though the swamp; it was fun and enlightening for me. Sometimes I find I misremember more about some comics that I remember correctly.

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