And heeeere’s Part Two to “Mike Talks About Swamp Thing Because Someone Asked, and Not Because He’d Do It Anyway.” You can find Part One here, or pretty much most of the last 13 years on this site.
Let me be frank…I haven’t read the earlier Swamp Thing series in a while. Aside from poking through some older issues here and there for writings on this here blog, the most recent Swamp Thing comics I’ve read have been the New 52 run and other assorted recent endeavors. Now, that’s not to say I haven’t read many of those comics about a billion times and have a lot of the events in them committed to memory…in particular, the original ’70s series and the ’80s Saga of… relaunch. The series afterwards I can probably use a refresher on, and…well, more on that later. But ultimately, I am mostly giving general impressions here on the assorted runs, as asked by Rich a couple of weeks back.
And last time I left off at the end of the Marty Pasko run on Saga of the Swamp Thing. This was where Steve Bissette and John Totleben took over as artists, prior to their partnership with Alan Moore on the title. We get a standalone story that would have fit in nicely in the original series, about strange goings-on in a mysterious town, and then we get the return of Arcane and Matt and Abby, which, as I said last time, sets the stage for Moore’s run. It’s nice to have short-run, high-impact stories after the year-long…well, saga, as it were, and Pasko sends off one of his cast members in his final stories, leaving Moore to write out the other Pasko-created supporting cast in his first issue. As a whole, I think Pasko’s run with his various collaborators is quite entertaining and effective, bridging the gap between what could be called the original, classic Swamp Thing and the more modern take on the character we’re accustomed to now. A little text-heavy at times, perhaps, but I don’t mind that so much when it’s good writing, which this was. With a high-end reprint coming of those issues, we might be a little closer to current audiences rediscovering that work…though a single paperback reprinting Pasko’s run would be better for those purposes, I think.
As to the other major runs on this particular series (and I’m skipping over fill-ins and such, like I did that Mishkin/Bo & Scott Hampton Phantom Stranger/Swampy story in the middle of Pasko’s stretch):
- Rick Veitch had the unenviable task of following Alan Moore on the title, but he did so quite well, with stories that were perhaps a little weirder, creepier, and sometimes grosser than Moore was. A solid run, one that I would probably put at third place in the “classic Swamp Thing runs” contest here, marred only by Veitch not getting to complete his run as planned when DC balked at the last moment over his “Swamp Thing Meets Jesus” time-travel story.
- Writer Doug Wheeler had the even more unenviable task of following Veitch, trying to wrap up his storyline before moving into his own direction. It wasn’t bad, with some nice art by Kelley Jones here and there, and a “trip to Hell” story that was interesting. His run wrapped with the “Quest for the Elementals” storyline, that had great covers but I seem to recall that the art in some of these being a bit disappointing, like it was super-rushed. I mean, it’s been a while, and I’ll need to reread these to get a firmer opinion on them after all this time. Overall, I’d give this run an “OKAY.” Some good moments and issues here and there.
- Nancy A. Collins’ run (with some great art by Tom Mandrake and Scot Eaton, among others) was up next, focusing on Swamp Thing’s domestic life with Abby and their daughter Tefe in the swamp, with lots of weird monsters, and ghost pirates, and a crazy ongoing subplot with tiny flower people, created by Tefe, and the evolution of their society. Said domestic life is essentially dissolved by the end of this run, leaving Swamp Thing a solitary monster living in the swamp again…basically back to basics, setting up the next sequences of stories on the book. Would probably rank this above Wheeler, below Veitch.
- And seeing out this iteration of the Swamp Thing series was Mark Millar (kicking off with a four-parter cowritten by Grant Morrison), primarily illustrated by Philip Hester. His run of stories cranked up the horror again by quite a bit, with a hard-to-forget image of Swamp Thing trying to pass as human in the guise of Matt Cable, his human-ish face showing leaves and branches poking through. It’s basically about the alienation of Swamp Thing, as his grasp on what was left of his humanity slips away and others have to gather and put a stop to him. Would probably place this run just behind Veitch’s, but it’s very close.
And for now I’m going to have to beg off ranking the other Swamp Thing series that followed, for the most part, since those aren’t quite as firm in my memory. I enjoyed them, as I recall, though I can’t really nail down specifics at this point. There was one story about an underground cartoonist that I quite liked. As for the more recent comics…that mini-series that popped up just before the New 52 was not great, unfortunately; the New 52 series wasn’t bad, though I thought the back half of the series by Charles Soule felt more like classic Swamp Thing; and the recent mini was good but felt a little off in places.
So, Rich, in answering your question this made me realize that it’s probably time to do a thorough rereading of all my Swamp Thing comics again, since my mastery of the information contained within has slipped a little in recent years. And here is what I am going to do about it:
As I mentioned a while back, I was planning on some Patreon-only content, to maybe boost contributions there a bit. Like I’d said, it wouldn’t be exclusively Patreon-only forever and ever…like, contributors would get to see each post there first, and then a few months down the road, I’d put that post publicly on this site.
I was wondering what to do, when blogging sister Tegan made the suggestion that I do an issue-by-issue review of every Swamp Thing comic. And, you know, that’s a fine idea. One of the things I first did when I got my first Mac and access to Hypercard was try to create a stack-database of Swamp Thing comics, with artist/writer info, first appearances, significant events, etc. etc., that I could trade with all my Mac-owning, Hypercard-using, Swamp Thing-enjoying friends, of which I had none. But, now that I’ve successfully suckered…er, attracted readers to my site, some of whom may even be interested in Swamp Thing, maybe now I’d have the audience for this oddball project of mine.
Thus, starting probably next month sometime, will be Mike’s Swamp Thing-a-Thon, a Patreon-only series available on Patreon for Patreon contributors who contribute through Patreon. That seems like a long title, so I’ll probably just shorten it to “Mike’s Swamp Thing-a-Thon.” I’m still hammering out the details, like exact formats and timing and such. I’m planning on at least two entries a month, maybe more as time permits, so that’s the next decade or so sorted, pretty much. This will be available on Patreon for anyone contributing at least a dollar a month. The posts will eventually be made available here, so if you want to wait, you’ll get to see each entry eventually, probably six months or so after being posted for contributors. The first entry (about House of Secrets #92, natch) will probably be available for free, just to give you kids a taste. A nice, minty taste of Exclusive Swamp Thing content.
So hopefully this is a good compromise…I didn’t want permanently exclusive content on Patreon, but exclusive enough that people might want to drop a buck on me to get to see it early. Thanks for reading all this, pals, and I’ll be back on Friday with more…stuff.