Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume One


By Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson, Nestor Redondo; with Michael Wm. Kaluta & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8440-4 (TPB)

The first fan-sensation of the modern age – now officially enshrined as the Bronze Age – of American comicbooks – Swamp Thing has powerful popular fiction antecedents and in 1972 was seemingly a concept whose time had come again. Prime evidence was the fact that Marvel were also working on a man-into-mucky, muddy mess character at the very same time.

Both Swampy and the Man-Thing were thematic revisions of Theodore Sturgeon’s classic novella It and bore strong resemblances to an immensely popular Hillman Comics character dubbed The Heap. He/it slurped through the back of Airboy Comics (née Air Fighters Comics) from1943. My fan-boy radar suspects Roy Thomas’ marsh-monster the Glob (debuting in Incredible Hulk #121 from November 1969 and promptly returning in #129, June 1970) either inspired both DC and Marvel’s creative teams, or was part of that same zeitgeist. It should also be remembered that Skywald (a very minor player with big aspirations) released a black-&-white magazine in their Warren Comics knock-off line entitled The Heap in the Autumn of 1971.

For whatever reason, by the end of the 1960s superhero comics had started another steep sales decline, once again succumbing to a genre boom and horror/mystery resurgence: a sea-change augmented by a swift rewriting of the specific terms of the Comics Code Authority. At DC, With EC veteran Joe Orlando as editor, House of Mystery and sister title House of Secrets returned to short story anthology formats and gothic mystery scenarios, taking a lead from such TV successes as Twilight Zone and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.

Referencing the sardonic narrator/storyteller format of EC horror titles, Orlando created Cain and Abel to shepherd readers through brief, sting-in-the-tail yarns produced by the best creators, new and old, that the company could hire. Artists Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta, and especially Bernie Wrightson produced their best work for these titles, and the vast range of successors the horror boom generated at DC.

The twelfth anthology issue of the resurrected House of Secrets cemented the genre into place as the industry leader. There writer Len Wein & Wrightson produced a throwaway gothic thriller set at the turn of the 19th century, wherein gentleman scientist Alex Olsen is murdered by his best friend and his body dumped in a swamp. Years later, his beloved bride – now the unsuspecting wife of the murderer – is stalked by a shambling, disgusting beast that seems to be composed of mud and muck…

This epic trade paperback and digital compilation gathers material from House of Secrets #92, and the contents of Swamp Thing #1-13 (cumulatively covering June/July 1971 to November/December 1974) and perfectly encapsulates the changing face and taste of the times, opening here with that so-pivotal gothic vignette…

‘Swamp Thing’ cover-featured in HoS #92 (June-July 1971), and struck an immediate chord with the buying public. The issue was the best-selling DC comic of that month, and reader response was fervent and persistent.

By all accounts, the only reason there wasn’t an immediate sequel or spin-off was that the creative team didn’t want to produce one. Eventually however, bowing to interminable pressure, and with the sensible idea of transplanting the concept to contemporary America, the first issue of Swamp Thing appeared on newsstands in the Spring of 1972. It was an unqualified hit and an instant classic.

Wein and Wrightson produced ten issues together, crafting an extended, multi-chaptered tale of justice/vengeance and a quest for answers that was at once philosophically typical of the time and a prototype for the story-arc and mini-series formats that dominate today’s comics production. They also used each issue/chapter to pay tribute to a specific sub-genre of timeless horror story whilst advancing the major plot…

Here, the saga resumes with a fresh origin as ‘Dark Genesis’ finds Alec and Linda Holland deep in the Louisiana Bayou, working on a bio-restorative formula that will revolutionise global farming. Working in isolation, they are protected by Secret Service agent Matt Cable, when representatives of an organisation called the Conclave demand that they sell their research to them – or else.

Obviously, the patriotic pair refuse, and the die is cast. The lab is bombed and Linda dies instantly but Alec, showered with his own formula and blazing like a torch, hurtles to a watery grave in the swamp. He does not die…

Transformed by the formula (and remember, please, that this is prior to Alan Moore’s landmark re-imagining of the character) Holland is transformed into a gigantic man-shaped monster, immensely strong, unable to speak, and seemingly composed of living plant matter. Holland’s brain still functions however, and he vacillates between finding his wife’s killers and curing his own monstrous condition. Cable, misinterpreting the evidence, also wants revenge, but he thinks that the monster is the cause of death of his two charges…

Over the next nine issues, Swamp Thing travelled the world, encountering the darkest outbreaks of classic supernature and the insatiable greed of human monsters.

The first was black sorcerer Anton Arcane and his artificial homunculi The Un-Men (eventually the grotesque stars of their own Vertigo series), in ‘The Man Who Wanted Forever.’ The wizard transported Holland to his Balkan castle and sought to mystically trade places with the stupendous swamp beast. The temptation proved too great, but when the restored scientist realised the cost, he violently recanted…

The next issue introduced Abigail Arcane and her tragic Frankenstein-influenced father ‘The Patchwork Man’ in a classic case of monster misunderstanding, which results in her joining free agent Cable in stalking the mossy misanthrope. As Holland makes his torturous way back to the USA, hunters and hunted are waylaid and encounter a Scottish werewolf in ‘Monster on the Moors!’ before at last returning to America and finding ‘The Last of the Ravenwind Witches!’ as well as even more mob-handed human intolerance…

In the wilds of Vermont, he encounters Paradise on Earth, courtesy of an old clockmaker but when the idyll is turned into ‘A Clockwork Horror’ by the voracious Conclave, his torment is transformed into sheer rage, leading to one of the most evocative and revered team-ups of the 1970s.

Swamp Thing #7’s ‘Night of the Bat’ featured the final showdown with the remorseless robber-barons of The Conclave in their Gotham City HQ: a landmark collaboration with the resurgent Batman, himself finally recovering from the hyper-exploitation of the “Campy” TV show era.

Wrightson’s rendering of the superhero through the lens of a horror artist inspired a whole generation of aspiring comics professionals and firmly set the Caped Crusader to rest, replaced with a grim and moody Dark Knight.

Somewhat at a loss after the end of his quest (Swamp Thing came out bi-monthly, so the tale had taken well over a year to tell – unprecedented at a time when most comics still had two or more complete stories per issue), the Moss Monster shambled aimlessly through America’s hinterlands encountering a Lovecraftian horror in the New England town of Perdition. ‘The Lurker in Tunnel 13!’ After dealing with eldritch cancer god M’Naagalah, Holland (as well as Abigail and Cable) were drawn into a US military cover-up involving a marooned and benevolent alien in ‘The Stalker from Beyond!’ which benefitted from supplemental inking by Michael Kaluta before the classic run concluded with #10’s ‘The Man Who Would Not Die!’: a tale of ghostly retribution amidst the graves of unquiet plantation slaves with unliving atrocity Anton Arcane making his first of many demonic returns…

The issue was plotted by Wrightson and marked his swansong on the title: the next chapter in the Swamp Thing saga was still dictated by Wein but the miraculously gifted hands of Nestor Redondo: possible the only artist who could have matched the visual intensity of the feature’s visual originator.

Nestor Redondo was born in 1928 at Candon, Ilocas Sur in the American Territory of the Philippines. Like so many others he was influenced by US comic-strips such as Tarzan, Superman, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon which were immensely popular in the entertainment-starved Pacific Archipelago.

Drawing from an early age Nestor emulated his brother Virgilio – who already worked as a comics artist for the cheap magazines of the young country. The Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935, and achieved full-independence from the USA in 1946, but maintained close cultural links to America.

His parents pushed him into architecture but within a year Nestor had returned to comics. A superb artist, he far outshone Virgilio – and everybody else – in the cottage industry. His brother switched to writing and the brothers teamed up to produce some of the best strips the Islands had ever seen, the most notable and best regarded being Mars Ravelo’s ‘Darna’.

Capable of astounding quality at an incredible rate of speed, by the early 1950s Nestor was drawing for many comics simultaneously. Titles such as Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Hiwaga Komiks and Espesial Komiks were fortnightly and he usually worked on two or three series simultaneously, pencils and inks. He also produced many of the covers.

In 1953 he crafted an adaptation of MGM film Quo Vadis for Ace Publications’ Tagalong Klasiks #91-92. Written by Clodualdo Del Mundo, it was serialized to promote the movie in country, but MGM were so impressed by the art-job they offered 24-year old Nestor a US job and residency. He declined, thinking himself too young to leave home yet.

If you’re interested, you can see the surviving artwork by Googling “Nestor Redondo’s Quo Vadis”, and you should because it’s frankly incredible.

Ace was the country’s biggest comics publisher, but by the early 1960s they were in dire financial straits. In 1963 Nestor, Tony Caravana, Alfredo Alcala, Jim Fernandez, Amado Castrillo and brother Virgilio set up their own company CRAF Publications, Inc., but the times were against them (and publishers everywhere). About this time, America came calling again, but in the form of DC and Marvel Comics. By 1972, US based Tony DeZuñiga had introduced a wave of Filipino artists to US editors, and Nestor produced short horror tales for House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Phantom Stranger, Secrets of Sinister House, Witching Hour, The Unexpected, Weird War Tales, fill-ins for Marvel’s Man-Thing, an astonishingly beautiful run on Rima the Jungle Girl (a loose adaptation of W H Hudson’s seminal 1904 novel Green Mansions) before being tapped to take over as illustrator on Swamp Thing. He also worked on Lois Lane and Tarzan and in 1973 produced adaptations including Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Vincent Fago’s Pendulum Press Illustrated Classics: later reprinted as Marvel Classics Comics.

In later years he moved to Marvel where he inked and eventually fully illustrated Savage Sword of Conan.

During that DC period he was tapped to draw an adaptation of King Arthur which DC killed before it was completed (once again some pages survive and the internet is your friend if you want to see them) and illustrated issue C-36 of the tabloid sized Limited Collectors’ Edition: The Bible. (please link)

Sporting a Luis Dominguez cover, Swamp Thing #11 was cover-dated July/August 1974 and sees the monster back at last in his Bayou home, with Cable and Abigail close on his root-riddled heels. When mutant beasts and ‘The Conqueror Worms!’ attack his human pursuers, Holland rushes to the rescue and the relationship between hunters and prey alters forever…

The carnivorous Worms have suborned crazed survivalist Professor Zachary Nail and taken captives and when their secret plans are exposed war breaks out for possession of Earth…

In the aftermath, Swamp Thing is sucked into an arcane time-loop locked on constantly-killed and perpetually-resurrecting Milo Mobius …until Holland finds a way to break the circle of ‘The Eternity Man’

This initial collection then concludes with Cable, Abigail and new recruit Bolt instigating ‘The Leviathan Conspiracy’ to liberate the Federally imprisoned Swamp Thing and put him beyond the reach of government scientists forever…

A genuine landmark of the art form, these stories are also superb examples of old-fashioned comics wonderment, from a less cynical and sophisticated age, but with a passion and intensity that cannot be matched. And, ooh, that artwork…

If you love comics you must have his buried treasure.
© 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Swamp Thing


By Len Wein & Berni Wrightson (Tor/DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-523-49012-7

In my perpetual quest to highlight the rare and odd (or “show off” as my mum used to call it) I’ve unearthed a few more nostalgically tangential and “comicbook-adjacent” little gems that will gradually make their way into these reviews whenever I’m feeling a little bit halcyon or backwards-looking.

Take this little treat from 1982, released to coincide with the then still-Big-News of a movie based on a comic book character…

The first fan-sensation of the modern age of comics (or perhaps the last of the true Silver Age?), Swamp Thing had powerful popular fiction antecedents and in 1972 when the character first appeared, was seemingly a concept whose time had come again. Prime evidence was the fact that Marvel were also working on a man-into-mucky, muddy mess character at the very same time.

Both Swampy and Man-Thing were thematic revisions of Theodore Sturgeon’s classic novella It and bore strong resemblances to the immensely popular Hillman character The Heap, who slushed his way through the back of Airboy Comics (née Air Fighters) from1943; bridging the first death of superheroes and rise of horror and crime comics.

My fan-boy radar suspects that Roy Thomas’ marsh-monster the Glob (from Incredible Hulk #121 and #129 (November 1969 and June 1970) either inspired both DC and Marvel’s creative teams, or was part of that same zeitgeist. Skywald, a minor player patterned on Warren Comics monochrome magazine hits Eerie and Creepy, released a new black-&-white title The Heap in the Autumn of 1971.

For whatever reason, by the end of the 1960s superhero comics had started another steep sales decline, once again making way for a horror/mystery boom: a sea-change facilitated by a swift rewriting of the Comics Code Authority. At DC, House of Mystery and its sister title House of Secrets returned to short story anthology formats and gothic mystery scenarios, taking a lead from such TV successes as Twilight Zone and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery with EC veteran Joe Orlando as editor.

The twelfth anthology issue of House of Secrets cemented the genre into place as the industry leader. In it writer Len Wein and Berni Wrightson produced a throwaway gothic thriller set at the turn of the 19th century, wherein gentleman scientist Alex Olsen was murdered by his best friend and his body dumped in a swamp. Years later his beloved bride, now the unsuspecting wife of the murderer, was stalked by a shambling, disgusting beast that seemed to be composed of mud and muck…

‘Swamp Thing’ (cover-featured in HoS #92, June/July 1971) struck an immediate chord with the buying public. The issue was the top-selling DC title of that month and reader response was fervent and persistent. By all accounts the only reason there wasn’t an immediate sequel or spin-off was that the creative team didn’t want to produce one.

Eventually however, bowing to interminable pressure and with the sensible suggestion of transplanting the concept to contemporary America, the first issue of Swamp Thing appeared on newsstands in the Spring of 1972.

It was a magnificent hit and an instant classic.

Wein and Wrightson together produced ten issues, crafting an extended, multi-chaptered tale of justice/vengeance that was at once philosophically typical of the time and a prototype for the story-arc and mini-series formats which dominate modern comicbook production. They also used each issue/chapter to pay tribute to a specific sub-genre of timeless horror story whilst advancing the major plot.

This nifty little monochrome digest reprints their first three collaborations from the solo title and begins with the revamped origin of a contemporary mire-monster in ‘Dark Genesis’ as husband and wife biologists Alec and Linda Holland move deep into the Bayou Country, working on a “bio-restorative formula” that would revolutionise World Farming. Working in isolation, they were guarded by Secret Service agent Matt Cable.

When representatives of an organisation called The Conclave demanded that they sell their research to them – or else – the patriotic pair refused and the die was cast. When the lab was bombed. Alec, showered with his own formula and blazing like a torch, hurtled to a watery grave in the swamp.

He did not die.

Hideously altered by the formula (and remember, please, that this is prior to Alan Moore’s landmark re-imagining of the character) he was transformed into a gigantic man-shaped horror; immensely strong, unable to speak and seemingly made from living plant matter. Cable and Linda, misinterpreting the evidence, believed that the big mossy ogre killed Alec…

Whilst the G-Man hunted the mossy beast through the swamp Conclave agents returned and attempted to force the secret from Linda. When the monster doubled back he found her body and exacted a terrible vengeance on her killers…

Cable, having failed twice over, determines to hunt the Swamp Thing to the ends of the Earth…

The second tale ‘The Man Who Wanted Forever’ introduced diabolical sorcerer Anton Arcane and his artificial homunculi, The Un-Men (subject of their own Vertigo series in recent years); an aged, seemingly benevolent savant who shanghaied Swamp Thing to the doom-laden Balkans and offered to cure Holland’s vegetable state. However the mage had his own ghastly plans for the vacated green body and Alec had to make a tragic choice to save the world…

As Cable tracked down the plant pariah and began an obsessive vendetta, this stunning collection concludes with the powerfully moving ‘Patchwork Man’ which introduced romantic interest Abigail Arcane and her tragic Frankensteinian father Gregori: the thwarted sorcerer’s dead brother and his earliest experiment in extending life beyond medical and moral limits…

The mini-revolution in the “Camp-superhero” crazed 1960s saw four-colour comicbook material migrate briefly from flimsy pamphlet to the stiffened covers and relative respectability of the paperback bookshelves and the nostalgic wonderment these mostly forgotten fancies still afford long ago showed that there was a proven market for such items beyond the brief attention spans of bored kids.

This terrific little black and white tome, part of National Periodical Publications’ decades-long efforts to reach wider reading audiences, is particularly appealing as Swamp Thing is one of the most sensitively reformatted books of its type and Wrightson’s art – like the work of Steve Ditko – is actually enhanced by the removal of the standard comicbook colouring.

Hard to find but definitely worth it…
© 1982 DC Comics Inc. All Rights Reserved. Swamp Thing is a Trademark of DC Comics Inc

Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis

Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis
Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis

By Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson (Vertigo/DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-044-4

The first fan-sensation of the modern age of comics (or perhaps the last of the true Silver Age?), Swamp Thing has powerful popular fiction antecedents and in 1972 was seemingly a concept whose time had come again. Prime evidence was the fact that Marvel were also working on a man-into-mucky, muddy mess character at the very same time.

Both Swampy and Man-Thing were thematic revisions of Theodore Sturgeon’s classic novella It and bore strong resemblances to the immensely popular Hillman character The Heap, who slurped his way through the back of Airboy Comics (née Air Fighters) from1943. My fan-boy radar suspects that Roy Thomas’ marsh-monster the Glob (from Incredible Hulk #121- Nov 1969 and again in #129 – Jun 1970) either inspired both DC and Marvel’s creative teams, or was part of that same zeitgeist, and it should also be remembered that Skywald (a very minor player with big aspirations) released a black-&-white magazine in their Warren Comics knock-off line entitled The Heap in the Autumn of 1971.

For whatever reason, by the end of the 1960s superhero comics had started another steep sales decline, once again making way for a horror/mystery boom: a sea-change augmented by a swift rewriting of the specific terms of the Comics Code Authority. At DC, House of Mystery and its sister title House of Secrets returned to short story anthology formats and gothic mystery scenarios, taking a lead from such TV successes as Twilight Zone and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery with EC veteran Joe Orlando as editor.

Referencing the sardonic narrator/storyteller format of the EC horror titles, Orlando created Cain and Abel to shepherd readers through brief, sting-in-the-tail yarns produced by the best creators, new and old, that the company could hire. Artists Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta, and especially Berni Wrightson undoubtedly produced their best work for these two titles and the vast range of successors the horror boom generated at DC.

The twelfth anthology issue of House of Secrets cemented the genre into place as the industry leader. In it writer Len Wein and Wrightson produced a throwaway gothic thriller set at the turn of the 19th century, wherein gentleman scientist Alex Olsen is murdered by his best friend and his body dumped in a swamp. Years later his beloved bride, now the unsuspecting wife of the murderer, is stalked by a shambling, disgusting beast that seems to be composed of mud and muck…

‘Swamp Thing’ cover featured in HoS #92 (June-July 1971), and it struck an immediate chord with the buying public. The issue was the best selling DC comic of that month, and reader response was fervent and persistent. By all accounts the only reason there wasn’t an immediate sequel or spin-off was that the creative team didn’t want to produce one.

Eventually however, bowing to interminable pressure, and with the sensible idea of transplanting the concept contemporary America, the first issue of Swamp Thing appeared on newsstands in the Spring of 1972. It was an instant hit and an instant classic.

Wein and Wrightson produced ten issues together, crafting an extended, multi-chaptered tale of justice/vengeance and a quest for answers that was at once philosophically typical of the time and a prototype for the story-arc and mini-series formats that dominate modern comicbook production. They also used each issue/chapter to pay tribute to a specific sub-genre of timeless horror story whilst advancing the major plot.

The origin ‘Dark Genesis’ finds Alec and Linda Holland deep in the Bayou Country, working on a “bio-restorative formula” that will revolutionise World Farming. They are working in isolation, protected by Matt Cable, a Secret Service agent, when representatives of an organisation called The Conclave, demand that they sell their research to them – or else. Obviously the patriotic pair refuse, and the die is cast when their lab is bombed. Linda dies instantly but Alec, showered with his own formula and blazing like a torch hurtles to a watery grave in the swamp.

But he does not die.

Transformed by the formula (and remember, please, that this is prior to Alan Moore’s landmark re-imagining of the character) he is transformed into a gigantic man-shaped monster, immensely strong, unable to speak, and seemingly made from living plant matter. Holland’s brain still functions however, and he vacillates between finding his wife’s killers and curing his own monstrous condition. Cable, misinterpreting the evidence, also wants revenge, but he thinks that the monster is the cause of death of his two charges…

Over the next nine issues, Swamp Thing travelled the world, encountering the black sorcerer Anton Arcane and his artificial homunculi, The Un-Men (recently the subject of their own Vertigo series), Abigail Arcane and her tragic Frankensteinian father The Patchwork Man, and a werewolf on the moors of Scotland, before returning to America and finding ‘The Last of the Ravenwind Witches’. In the wilds of Vermont he encounters Paradise on Earth, care of an old clockmaker but is attacked by the voracious Conclave, leading to one of the most evocative and revered team-ups of the 1970s.

Swamp Thing #7’s ‘Night of the Bat!’ featured the final showdown with remorseless robber-barons of The Conclave in Gotham City, and a landmark collaboration with the resurgent Batman, himself finally recovering from the hyper-exploitation of the “Campy” TV show era. Wrightson’s rendering of the superhero through the lens of a horror artist inspired a whole generation of aspiring comics professionals and firmly set the caped crusader to rest, replacing him with a Dark Knight.

Somewhat at a loss after the end of his quest (Swamp Thing came out bi-monthly, so the tale had taken well over a year to tell – unprecedented at a time when most comics still had two or more complete stories per issue) the Moss Monster shambled through America’s hinterlands encountering a Lovecraftian horror in the New England town of Perdition, a ghastly but misunderstood alien and finally the unquiet ghosts of slaves and plantation-owners. This grim and powerful closing tale also featured the return of Arcane and the grotesque Un-Men.

The initial series staggered on under some very capable and talented hands (up until #24), but the fever of inspiration was never re-kindled, meaning that the very best of that iconic saga can be easily contained in one volume. This is a superb slice of old-fashioned comics wonderment, from a less cynical and sophisticated age, but with a passion and intensity that cannot be matched. And, ooh, that artwork…

© 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Swamp Thing: Spontaneous Generation

Swamp Thing: Spontaneous Generation 

By Rick Veitch & Alfredo Alcala (Vertigo)
ISBN 1-84576-260-6

The post-Alan Moore Swamp Thing comics have long been overlooked, and DC’s inevitable collecting of these tales is a genuine treat for fans of the muck monster and horror-fans in general. Writer-artist Rick Veitch, aided by veteran inker Alfredo Alcala, produced a run of mini-classics with these stories from Swamp Thing issues # 71-76 that built on Moore’s cerebral, visceral writing as the world’s planet elemental became increasingly involved with ecological matters.

Having decided to “retire”, Swamp Thing (an anthropomorphic plant with the personality and mind of murdered biologist Alec Holland) is charged with facilitating the creation of his/its successor, but the process has become contaminated by consecutive failures and false starts, leading to a horrendous series of abortive creatures and a potentially catastrophic Synchronicity Maelstrom.

Alec, his “wife” Abigail and the chillingly charismatic magician John Constantine have to combine forces – and indeed some body-fluids – to create a solution before the resultant chaos-storm destroys the Earth. ((see Hellblazer: Original Sins ISBN 1-84576-465-X and Swamp Thing: Regenesis ISBN 1-84023-994-8)

More than a decade and a half after the initial run, and with some necessary distance from grossly unfair comparisons to his predecessor, Veitch’s Swamp Thing stories can be seen as innovative, sly and witty, by a creator capable and satiric, but still wedded to the basic tenets of his craft, “keep them surprised, keep them wondering, keep them spooked”. You can do all this to yourself just by buying this book.

© 1988, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved

Swamp Thing: Regenesis

Swamp Thing: Regenesis 

By Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala & Brett Ewins (Vertigo)
ISBN 1-84023-994-8

With renewed interest in the big green guy due to his return to the DC Universe it seemed inevitable that all those issues not written by Alan Moore should eventually find their way between the glossy, stiffened covers of compilation albums.

This batch (Issue’s 65 – 70 of the second series) follows the plant elemental’s return to Earth and his lover Abby, and their complicated plan to have a child together. This they can only accomplish, with the grudging assistance of modern mage John Constantine (see Hellblazer: Original Sins ISBN 1-84576-465-X).

Also encountered along the way are DC stalwarts Batman, Jason Woodrue, Solomon Grundy and even 1950s hero Roy Raymond, TV Detective, as well as Moore’s eccentric cast of supporting characters. At time of publishing these tales were handily and unfairly dismissed, but they hold up very well and it’s good to see them aired when they can be assessed on their own merits. Trippy, but eminently enjoyable.

© 2005 DC Comics

Swamp Thing: Love in Vain

Swamp Thing: Love in Vain 

By Joshua Dysart, Enrique Breccia & Timothy Green II (Vertigo)
ISBN 1-84576-195-2

Swamp Thing is gradually trudging back to its horrific roots as Joshua Dysart touches all the old bases of exotic Louisiana Bayous, lonely women in rotting plasterboard shacks, do-it-yourself homunculi, and the latest return of arch-enemy Anton Arcane, whose periodic escapes from Hell are a guarantee of world-threatening gore and deplorability.

Also on show is a tent-Revival Evangelist whose congregations have a habit of disappearing in a volume of tales that although strikingly illustrated by the venerable Enrique Breccia (“Love in Vain”) and Timothy Green III (“A Measure of Faith”) seem to temporarily – we hope – treading water.

All punned out. Stopping now.

© 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Swamp Thing: Bad Seed

Swamp Thing: Bad Seed 

By Andy Diggle & Enrique Breccia (Vertigo)
ISBN 1-84023-954-9

This revival of the Swamp Thing sees a return to the basics of the pre-Alan Moore version (against which all others must inevitably be measured), whilst keeping much of the extended continuity and what has become the Vertigo sensibility.

The plot ties up all the loose ends that floated about after the demise of the previous series wherein the daughter of the Bog God took over his mantle whilst he (it?) became the avatar of all the elemental configurations of Earth. Author Diggle brings back the original, re-establishes relationships with Alec Holland, Abigail, their daughter Tefé and flavour of the month John Constantine. More importantly, he and comics veteran Breccia return the sometimes overly cosmic lead character to – you should excuse the pun – his horror roots.

This one starts slow but I suspect, if following creators keep their feet firmly planted on or below the ground, we could all be in for some good reading in the seasons to come.

© 2005 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Swamp Thing: Healing the Breach

Swamp Thing: Healing the Breach 

By Joshua Dysart, Enrique Breccia, Ronald Wimberly & Richard Corben

(Vertigo)  ISBN 1-84576-235-5

Although starting strongly, this current revival of the evergreen (sorry, I’ve resisted that long enough now) franchise has started to falter, if not positively meander, in its spooky journey through the nastier corners of America. Reprinting issues #15-20 of the monthly comic, we find a no-longer omnipotent Earth God tripping back to his college days and consorting with his old mentor, even whilst he tries to deal with the imminent destruction to his Bayou habitat from both assorted creatures from beyond and the construction of a huge refinery.

The scripts might be in need of some attention, but you can’t fault the pictures. The astounding Breccia is supplemented by Ronald Wimberly and, for the final two chapters, the legendary Richard Corben, as Swampy/Alex Holland delves deeper into his formative years.

Since this is merely a portion of a much larger story-arc, perhaps the next volume will get the narrative back on track and deliver some of the metaphysical chills and wonderment that fans have become accustomed to.

© 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Swamp Thing: Infernal Triangles

Swamp Thing: Infernal Triangles

By Rick Veitch, Jamie Delano, Stephen Bissette, Alfredo Alcala & Tom Mandrake

(Vertigo)  ISBN 1-84576-395-5

The reprinting of classic Swamp Thing continues as a coterie of guest creators detail the increasingly cosmic adventures of the planet’s Earth Elemental. From issue #77 Jamie Delano scripts and Tom Mandrake and Alfredo Alcala illustrate Infernal Triangles, a reconciliation of sorts with the street wizard John Constantine, used as a semi-witting sperm donor in the creation of the plant creature and his human wife’s baby.

The next issue To Sow One’s Seed in the Wind, written by Steve Bissette, details Abby’s and Swampy’s preparations for that impending happy event, and Veitch returns to write and draw the tale (Waiting for God [Oh!] from # 79) of Superman’s attempts to stop the Bog God’s revenge attempt against Lex Luthor, who almost destroyed him back when Alan Moore was writing the series.

From here things might get a touch confusing, so bear with me.

The Longest Day, from Swamp Thing #80, is a prequel to the Invasion cross-over event that ran through all the DC comics that year. For our purposes suffice it to say a coalition of alien races decide to wipe out humanity, and, as one of them uses plant-based technology, they decide to remove Swamp Thing in a pre-emptive strike. Warned by the Parliament of Trees, our soggy hero nonetheless vanishes from the planet and is presumed dead. Veitch and Alcala handle the creative chores for this and the next part, Widowsweed (issue #81). A frantic and desperate Abby has to deal with an alien bounty-hunter trying to destroy her nigh omnipotent – and missing — husband. The continued tale breaks off at the end of this moving and engrossing chapter as, for no logical reason, the previous year’s Swamp Thing Annual is wedged in to fill up the volume, utterly destroying the mood and the tension that should have carried over to the next volume. These aren’t periodicals, guys! They’re books! Give some thought to narrative flow when you compile these things, or you’ll never expand into the “real” world audience.

That story by the way, Distant Cousins which could have fitted in anywhere before The Longest Day, is a grimly whimsical and dark tribute to DC’s publishing obsession with monkeys and apes over the years and features such luminaries as Angel and the Ape, Monsieur Mallah, Gorilla Boss Dyke, Titano, Janu the Jungle Boy, Gorilla Grodd, Bwana Beast, Roy Raymond, Congo Bill and Congorilla in one attempt to correct evolution’s biggest mistake. Veitch scripts and is joined by a coterie of fun-loving nostalgists including Shawn McManus, Jim Fern, Stan Woch and Tom Yeates on the art.

These are fine stories, provocative and memorable, and deserve to be read – preferably in some semblance of dramatic order

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