So the Heap’s kid “partner,” Rickie Wood, is written out of the Heap’s continuing adventures, and in come the Roman deities Ceres and Mars, dueling each other via this Golden Age muck-encrusted mockery of a man. That only lasted for a handful of stories, long enough to establish that it was Ceres who was initially responsible for the fallen pilot Baron von Emmelman to rise up again from the swamp as the Heap.
And then, in a following story it was revealed that, no, in fact it was the ghosts of babies, cruelly slain centuries ago by a terrible warlord, who facilitated the transition of man to monster:
And then Mother Nature pops up a few issues later and says, hey now, ’twas I done the deed:
I’m only partway through Roy Thomas Presents The Heap Vol. 2, so I don’t know if I have more origins waiting for me in later stories. I’m assuming if there are, they probably don’t include the one in this comic.
The Heap comics so far have been pretty enjoyable: lots of gangsters and crime stories and revenge plots and plenty of stories hinging on the Heap’s vague recollections of his previous life. Also: sure are a lot of old friends and relatives of Von Emmelman hangin’ around swamps, triggering plots and getting what’s coming to them thanks to the Heapster.
So, your pal Mike is enjoying a comic about a swamp monster. GO FIGURE.
So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:
And, well, I did have it in the shop as a new item before, but I never really did sit down and give it a good looking-at then, despite my enjoyment of Don Newton’s Batman. Thus, before putting it out for sale I thought I’d take it home and give it a read…what, it’s going to get more
used? …Well, okay, yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve the gentle touch of a professional comics handler, and can easily peruse this volume without causing further discoloration, dogearing, spine stress, or, God help us, foxing.
Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.
And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.
As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.
• • •
One of my readers was kind enough to point out that, in an old post of mine…I mean, really old, within the first month of this site’s life…one of the links I’d posted way back then had apparently since gone feral and now pointed to a porn site. Okay, first off…porn on the Internet? When did that start? And secondly…yeah, link rot. This site is on the verge of turning nine years old, and I’m sure many links in a lot of my old posts now go to destinations I did not originally intend. I mean, if I was sending you to a dirty filthy dirty site
, I was usually pretty good about warning you up front.
I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.
I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.
However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.
• • •
Reader d asks
“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”
Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.
That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.
The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.
• • •
On a related note, in that it’s asked in the same comments section, Casey wonders
“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”
Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.
Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.
• • •
And then sometimes I repost a gag I already made on the Twitter
, such as presenting this gag header from Archie’s Joke Book
#134 (March 1969 – hey, my birth month!) and lamenting the fact that in no way does the story live up to this title:
…which is just as well, since Archie couldn’t participate anyway:
Oh, scatological humor! You’re the best
• • •
To bring things back around to the nostalgia of Young Mike from the beginning of this post, just before I soiled it all with continuity nitpicking, porn, poop jokes, and Man-Thing innuendo, I found myself the other day discussing the joys of Omega Men
with a customer of mine.
Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.
As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.
The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.
I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ’em cheap, which they usually are.
• • •
Just to let you folks know, I’m probably entering Low Content Mode for the rest of the week, or at least lower
content mode…the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and I’ve also got another project I’m working on at the moment that requires the focus of my creative energy, he said in a hopefully non-New Agey way, so probably you’ll not be seeing much more out of me this week aside from maybe a pic or two. Or you can follow me on the Twitter
where I’m still likely to spout off about something. At any rate, I’ll see you on the other side, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving, where applicable, and everyone else, enjoy your Thursday. Thanks for reading!
• • •
the end of the post! I was wondering where that was.
So I checked my email yesterday morning and immediately received about, oh, a billion emails telling me about these limited edition Swamp Thing movie poster prints that are going on sale today (or may have already gone on sale by the time you read this) from Mondo Tees. The regular edition is handnumbered and limited to 230 copies at $45 a pop, and the even more limited (90 copies) glow-in-the-dark edition is $90. You can get a better look at the crazy amounts of detail in these posters right here.
Apparently the sale will be announced at some time tomorrow on the official Mondo Twitter feed, so keep your eyes peeled there if you need one of these on your wall. I’m tempted, particularly by the glow-in-the-dark poster (which wouldn’t be the first glow-in-the-dark Swamp Thing item I own), but I’m not really a poster guy. I already have multiple Swamp Thing posters still rolled up and sitting in a closet (including one of these) and don’t really want to drop a c-note (or even half a c-note) on something that probably wouldn’t be displayed.
But I want to thank everyone who emailed, Twittered, or commented to let me know about this new bit of Swamp Thing merchandise. I really do appreciate it, and if you see any new goodies, don’t be shy about letting me know! …It’s a bit amusing, and a tad intimidating, to know that people all around the world, that I’ve never met, think of me whenever they encounter anything Swamp Thing-ish. I’m internationally recognized for my nerdly obsessions!
Also, special thanks to my Canadian twin Steven for being first in line to let me know about these posters.
In other news:
A commenter asked in yesterday’s post if I’d read the new Heap comic yet. Oh, do you mean…this one?
The latest revival of the swamp monster originally introduced in the Golden Age Airboy comics
, I thought it wasn’t bad. The monster looks different enough from his four-color brethren, what with that hideously creepy mask, and it’s more mystical in nature than scientific, like Marvel’s Man-Thing. Without getting into any spoilerish detail, it does follow the four-color swamp creature tradition of a man trapped within a hideous monster body, but approaches it in a fashion different enough from Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, and even previous versions of the Heap, to make it feel reasonably new. There is a character in the story who has bit of a John Constantine-y feel to him, and fills a similar role as John did in his earliest apperances, but…again, it’s presented in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a retread.
So, yes, I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to future issues. Still not a patch on this work of genius, however.
The Heap #1 (Skywald, Sept. 1971) by Bob Kanigher, Tom Sutton & Jack Abel
So a woman, fleeing a lion escaped from the zoo, stumbles over the Heap, who apparently is just kicking back in the middle of a field:
After dispatching the lion, the Heap leans over the now-unconscious woman, painfully reminded of his own lost humanity, and, quite frankly, creeping the rest of us out, man:
The woman awakes, and the Heap makes a startling realization:
Just then, a trio of hunters happens upon the pair, and attack, naturally assuming the Heap means to do the woman harm. The Heap responds in kind:
After knocking out the hunters, the Heap takes his leave of both them and the woman, and takes a moment to remember for the sake of the reader the accident that resulted in his current monstrous form:
Eventually, his wanderings take him to a cemetery, where he is accosted by a group of supernatural creatures lead by Master Scythe:
Refusing to join their merry band, the Heap briefly fights them, but they vanish without a trace. This encounter only reminds the Heap of his horrible solitude:
In the meantime, the woman from the beginning of the story is seeking a cornea transplant from a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, who just happens to have a townhome in the area, and who refuses to perform the operation until he can duplicate his ancestor’s greatest success:
After the woman departs, the Heap, who coincidentally happened upon the doctor’s home in the middle of the moors, wanders in and scrapes a message into the wall (with not bad penmanship, considering):
The Heap pleads with the doctor to restore the woman’s sight, and the doctor agrees, but on one condition (and, from all appearances, the doctor apparently doesn’t recall how things worked out for his famous ancestor):
An agreement is reached, and Dr. Frankenstein immediately begins the operation, in his safe and sterile environment, aside from the HUGE FREAKING SWAMP CREATURE CHAINED TO THE WALL. And say, are those assistants robots?
Why, yes, they are.
After Dr. Declarative finishes his operation, the woman (needing “no recovery period” due to the controlled environment, inc. 1 swamp monster) immediately wakes and reacts in horror to the Heap. Despairing, the Heap goes berserk and busts out of the operating room:
Too late, the woman realizes that this silent monster is the person that rescued her from the lion:
The Heap, not hearing the woman’s calls to wait, rushes out into the lightning storm and pleads for his own destruction:
And sure enough, he’s zapped into powder by lightning, but regenerates:
…And he wanders off into comic book obscurity, eventually to be revived in Eclipse Comics’ Airboy
series, retooled into a character for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn
, complete with action figure
, and one or two stealth appearances as a background character in Swamp Thing