So Former Employee Aaron (in that he’s no longer doing my cruel, heartless bidding…he’s still at my former place of employment) has a buttonmaker, and I’d featured some of his creations on the site before. Well, the last time I saw him, when I stopped by the old shop to do a little horse-tradin’, he had a surprise for me. Another handmade Swamp Thing pin:
Why yes, that is Swamp Thing as drawn by Steve Bissette and John Totleben from Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (1984). Now to await a formal occasion for which I may use said pin as the perfect complement to my coat and tails.
In other news:
So Brian Cronin over at Comic Book Resources put up an article discussing the old Nickelodeon TV show Video Comics, which I talked about myself, due to the Swamp Thing connection, about four years ago. Brian was good enough to link back to my old post, since I had a few additional memories about the show not covered in his article. Thanks, Brian!
There are a lot of fantastic illustrations by Bernie Wrightson in those early Swamp Things, but this is the one I keep coming back to:
The strange perspective, the incredible detail, the full page reveal coming late in the story after we’d already seen the werewolf a couple of times…all combining to make this an image that impressed itself into my brain for all time. Funny that it’s a pic from this series that doesn’t even feature the title character, but this splash from #1 does take a close second in the “Bernie Wrightson Drawings I Think of When I Think of Swamp Thing” category.
But flip through pretty much any issue of Wrightson’s Swamp Thing and you’ll see no end of intricately-detailed illustrations, their impact diminished not at all by the cheap printing and yellowing paper. If anything, the impact is enhanced, the drawings made even more moody and mysterious by the decaying pulp on which they are presented.
Wrighton’s covers from the period are eye-grabbers as well, looking like nothing else on the shelves. This Lovecraftian critter on this House of Mystery clearly represents something that should be unnatural and repellent, but Wrightson’s linework makes it endlessly fascinating. You want to pick this comic off the rack and see just what’s going on here:
…And this cover here…where do you even begin? This was 1971, and Wrightson, in his early 20s, had only been in the comics business for a couple of years. And here he is, already creating images as perfect as this:
And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the man’s work. These drawings are all from the early years of his career…his impossibly-detailed Frankenstein work was still ahead of him. His “Captain Sternn” stories, both the short in Heavy Metal and the later mini-series (plus the related back-ups in Dreadstar. The Weird. Batman: The Cult. National Lampoon strips and illustrations. Tons of horror shorts for Warren magazines. The Hulk/Thing graphic novel. Batman/Aliens. The “Howard the Duck for President” button. The Spider-Man: Hooky graphic novel. The comics adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, plus all the other illustrations he provided for King’s novels. Even Punisher comics…and much more, besides.
Saying “he was a great talent and he will be missed” doesn’t seem like enough. He embodied a particular aesthetic that took inspiration from horror comic artists and fantasy illustrators that preceded him, and formed it into something unique, something so his own that the term “Wrightson-esque” easily conveys its meaning. He didn’t just redefine the horror genre. He was his own genre.
So long, Bernie. Thanks for letting us see, for so many years, what your wonderful imagination created.
And you didn’t think I was going to let this go without at least one picture of Swamp Thing, did you?
images from Swamp Thing #4 (April-May 1973); House of Mystery #204 (July 1972); House of Mystery #195 (October 1971); Swamp Thing #6 (September-October 1973)
There were some good comments regarding DC’s “hardcover/softcover” publishing move for their comics in the 1980s. I plan on returning to the topic soon, but, like I said in that post, I still want to ask my old boss Ralph a question or two about how they sold for him/what customer reaction was like to this program, since that was just before my comics retailin’ time. What I’m really curious about is if anyone pooh-poohed that newfangled New Teen Titans comic on the fancy Baxter paper and just stuck with the regular Tales of the Teen Titans series, figuring the stories will get reprinted there eventually anyway, for a cheaper cover price. Anyway, I’ll see if I can get any more info about customer buying patterns on these books from Ralph, and I don’t see why I wouldn’t, since it’s only been a little over 30 years and surely still fresh on his mind.
In other publishing news, I’ve been emailed and tweeted at regarding the Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus, with plenty of details as to what said omnibus would contain at that link. Now, I’ve discussed this forthcoming volume before, about a year ago, at which point its Amazon listing described it (and still describes it) only as containing House of Secrets #92 and Swamp Thing (first series) #1 through the unpublished #25 (which was likely a typo).
The newer content listing contains a boatload of Swampy comics, much more than that older listing. It almost seems like it’s too much for one volume, but a quick comparison to what’s in my Man-Thing Omnibus shows it’d be about the same size. I forget how huge these volumes can be. Also, given what’s in the book means there won’t be a Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 since we’ll be well into the 1980s with any follow-up material, which is the Copper Age or whatever name people are trying to saddle that particular period of comics with in order to make them sound more marketable.
Anyway, this will be the first time the majority of the post-Wrightson issues of the original series will be reprinted, I believe (after getting #11 – #13 reprinted a few years back in a hardcover), and the first comprehensive reprinting of the pre-Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing, though leaving out #19, the conclusion of Marty Pasko’s run on the book. Maybe it’s seen as a…transitional issue, between Pasko’s run and the beginning of Moore’s run, though traditionally Moore’s first issue on the series, #20, has been seen as the transitional issue, left out of early trade paperback reprintings of his initial storyline. And #18 seems like a weird issue to stop on, as it was a reprint of #10 from the original series, with 4 pages of new wraparound by the then-current creative team, and something of a cliffhanger-y issue to boot. Does this mean Original Series #10 will appear twice in this book? Again, like the inclusion of issue #25 in the initial Amazon listing, maybe this too is just a typo and Saga of the Swamp Thing #19 will be in here. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.
So pretty much in every media adaptation of Swamp Thing, be it cartoon or live action TV show or two fantastic movies or video game, hearing him refer to himself out loud as “Swamp Thing” always sounds just a little goofy. Some kind of weird combination of self-importance and “…seriously, that’s the name you’re going by?” And look, I’m saying this as the guy that, some of you may know, kinda likes this Swamp Thing character. But sometimes, something that reads okay on paper just doesn’t seem to translate to actual spoken out-loud dialogue, and, well, what can you do. And maybe they hit the “I AM THE PROTECTOR OF THE GREEN” thing a little too hard. Still, though, it was nice to see an animated Swamp Thing that had purpose beyond selling toys. Would love to see a standalone Swamp Thing animated movie at some point, but it would have to probably have to shoehorn Batman or Superman into it like they do with pretty much all the direct-to-home-video DC cartoons, like they did with this one, so I’m not holding my breath.
Oh, and by the way, “this one” is Justice League Dark, as some of you probably surmised, teaming up DC’s spooky characters, like Deadman, the Demon, Zatanna, and John Constantine, mispronouncing his name as they have in, I think, every TV and movie version of him:
…but What Can You Do? Despite that particular issue only I care about, I enjoyed the film well enough. It’s still weird seeing Constantine just straight-up casting magical spells like Dr. Fate in an overcoat, which is not something you saw him really do too much in the early comics but is perhaps a bit more frequent in modern funnybooks. But beyond that, it was a good showcase for all the characters, all of whom got something to do, with a variety of action sequences and creepy locations, but that one scene with the cast being chased by a hurricane with a face felt more like something out of Scooby-Doo There was just enough left unexplained in characters’ backgrounds to maybe urge the more inquisitive viewers to Read More About It. Hopefully in the comics, that is, and not just on Wikipedia.
As mentioned above, Batman does appear in the film to help sell it to people for whom the “Justice League” in the title isn’t enough to entice them, but other JLA members appear as well. Alas, though we’ve all moved on to the “Rebirth” era in the comics, the movies are still in their “New 52” phase, so that’s the Superman we get, whose New 52 costume is somehow even worse in animation than it is on the page. Fortunately he’s not in there that much, since that costume more than anything dates the film (to, like, the early ’90s, frankly). Wonder Woman’s New 52-era costume makes an appearance, too, though that’s slightly more tolerable.
I haven’t really gone through the extra features (available on the Blu-ray version) just yet, beyond the “Story of Swamp Thing” short, in which Len Wein and Kelley Jones discuss the character’s origins and history. There are other short pieces titled “Did You Know? CONSTANTINE ORIGIN” and “Casting Deadman” and the like, plus a preview of the New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract cartoon, originally announced years ago, which is finally coming out. (Not that it was made years ago and has been sitting on a shelf, but…well, you know what I mean.) There are also the usual “From the DC Vault” cartoons, this time a couple of episodes of The Brave and the Bold featuring the Demon.
…And speaking of Deadman, Nick Turturro does the perfect voice for him. I don’t know that I ever imagined what Deadman would sound like as I was reading the comics, but now this is the voice. So great.
Overall, an enjoyable film, I thought. Not really expecting a sequel, despite the fact it would be nice to see some…resolution to the seemingly final fates for some of the characters. But, despite what I said above about the possibility, I’m still holding on to that faint hope that maybe, just maybe, now that we’ve cracked the seal, we might see some kind of solo Swamp Thing animated effort. Well, even if it does have to guest-star Batman…whatever it takes, I guess.
So I’ve had a couple of late nights over the last two days, and, for some reason, before going to bed last night, I thought “you know, I really need to learn how to make GIFs.” You know, as rational people do. And of course, all it takes is downloading the right program to do it for you, and then suddenly I seem to have a handful of Swamp Thing GIFs on my hands. What a shock to everyone, I know.
I ended up posting them to the Twitterers, if you’d like to pop over there and see what madness I’ve conjured up, and also let Twitter take the bandwidth hit instead of me.
First off is this, a variation on the old “Swamp Thing Approves” still pic I’ve posted over there from time to time. I love the little off-camera nod he gives before throwing the thumbs-up.
Then there’s this bit of insanity, identifying pretty much the exact spot in the film where I began to think “hmmm, this movie may be a little off-model from the comics.”
More thumbs-up action, this time featuring the kids to whom Swampy was responding back in that first GIF. That kid on the right doesn’t know how a thumbs-up works…or he’s so excited that he’s lost control of said thumbs-up.
Here’s an example of nature’s eternal battle of Jogging Men with Guns versus Jogging Swamp Creature.
Okay, so that was a couple of weeks of prediction coverage…hope you all enjoyed the last few posts while I took care of that. I’m still taking 2017 industry predictions in this post here, but we’re nearing the end of January, so I’m probably going to shut down comments there shortly. Get them in while you can! …I’m not sure if I’m going to take 2018 predictions after the next new year, but I still have some time to think about it. Your thoughts could sway this vital decision.
Let me catch up on a few things, here:
A couple or three weeks ago twitter pal Dan put up a picture of the cutest darn Swamp Thing that you ever did see, and one “uh, how much do you want for that?” DM later, I have it in my hot little hands:
Look at how adorable that is. …Dan also designed my Twitter icon, and you can see more of his swell art here.
Recently, I was pricing up a bunch of comics that, um, I may have acquired a while ago and am only getting around to processing now, when I came across this Richie Rich cover and the following thought got stuck in my head and I had to let it out:
…Well, I mean, he is hangin’ out with Casper and all. Also, I had to create the letters “T” and “H” by altering other letters in the same balloon. This is a dumb amount of effort, but now this exists so…um, there it is, I guess.
My blogging sister Tegan just celebrated her lucky thirteenth anniversary of her blog about a week ago, and I certainly wanted to point you in her direction for more of her great writing. Tegan said a few very kind words about me in said post, for which I am most appreciative and flattered. She’s always been one of the comics blogosphere’s (if I may still use the term) foremost essayists on the topic of funnybooks and the industry that mostly supports them, and is always worth reading. (And you can help fund her work via her Patreon.)
Speaking of Patreons, Dog Boy creator Steve Lafler just started one up to support a new series of political cartoons. I do like Steve Lafler comics, so I signed up, and maybe you can, too. I mean, yes, it is political in nature, so you may not see eye-to-eye with him, and that’s okay. However, if you do like his work, Patreon makes it easy to throw a dollar or two his way to directly support his efforts.
But one thing we can all agree on is that Nazis are terrible, and Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with Patriotism, brings us another of his Ten of a Kind posts featuring those lousy Ratzis getting what-for, and how.
I received a certain item in the mail this week…that item being the Blu-ray disc of the Suicide Squad movie from Netflix, which I never made it out to the theater for. Not sure when I’m going to make room in the schedule for it, what with Christmas looming in the very near future and me with shopping and wrapping to do still. (I haven’t even made it out to the new Star Wars movie, which makes the Ghost of 8-Year-Old Mike loom over me and shake his head in disapproval.) Anyway, I’ve been curious about the film, even though I’ve heard only generally negative things about it from other comic folks…but then again, I’m the Guy Who Liked Batman V Superman so maybe I’ll be more favorably inclined toward it. I will say that my initial reaction to trailers and stills is that it appears all dirty and grimy and sickly and yeccchh so the movie may have a struggle overcoming my visceral negative response to its looks.
Yes, I did watch the first episode of the new Justice League Action cartoon, and yes indeedy, it does contain the Swamp Thing/Plastic Man team-up the world has been clamoring for. Also featured: an all-ages appropriate John Constantine, who is more British than approximately 10 British men in, at least, this initial installment. There’s a story reason given for his particular style of dialogue, but I hope that’s how he’s portrayed consistently in the series because it’s hilarious…and probably can be read as a critique of how folks can kind of go overboard writing his dialogue in the comics.
Anyway, I had a hard time pulling a still of Swampy from any of the clips I saw online, so here’s a link to the trailer where the timestamp should take you directly to Swamp Thing getting clobbered by Solomon Grundy. Not his most dignified moment.
ATTENTION! THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Swamp Thing appears in this week’s Superman Annual #1:
Aside from the fact that this is the…fourth? “Superman Annual #1” to be released by DC over the years, it’s not a bad comic. Swamp Thing confronts Superman about the fact he’s not really from this universe, the harm that’s causing and what must be done to fix it. Somewhat reminiscent of DC Comics Presents #85, another story where Swamp Thing has to come to Superman’s aid, only this time Swampy is all up in Superman’s face, as opposed to surreptitiously doing so in that old team-up book. Maybe a little too heavy on the fight scenes, but it does establish Swamp Thing as being able to hold his own against the Man of Steel, which was fun to see.
So between this, Swamp Thing appearing in Batman in a month or two, and Swampy’s appearance in Wonder Woman a couple of years back, the old muck-encrusted mockery of a guest-star has completed his tour of the recent versions of the DC Trinity, post-Flashpoint/Rebirth. Now to get him to pop up for brief team-ups in DC’s other superhero books…like, I don’t think he’s been in The Flash ever. Well, the Flash has been in Justice League Dark with him a couple of times, but clearly we need a Flash/Swamp Thing race in the Flash comic itself.
Hey, in 2021 it’ll be Swamp Thing’s 50th anniversary. We gotta start planning for this stuff now.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Steve Dillon, artist of Punisher and Hellblazer, as well as the co-creator of Preacher, passed away over the weekend at the much-too-young age of 54. I’m sure I’d come across his work before this, but it was his run on Hellblazer (with writer Garth Ennis) that I really began to notice and appreciate his work. As I said on my post about his passing on the store site (where I scanned and posted a Preacher sequence that I particularly like), he had a very clean, uncomplicated style that managed to convey huge amounts of detail and wide ranges of emotion. In a way, his style reminds me a bit of Jaime Hernandez’s, particularly in his later work (as opposed to that slightly rougher-edged, but still wonderfully expressive, artwork on view in those panels above).
He was a wonderful artist, and judging by some of the tributes I’ve seen on Twitter, he seemed to be a pretty darn good guy as well. I mean, look at this swell Scarecrow he drew for a little kid.
My most sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. So long, Steve.