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Greater than a hecto-villain, but nowhere close to a yotta-villain.

§ October 9th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, swamp thing § 5 Comments

So I was digging through a few boxes of old comics promo materials when I found this, a 16 page black and white book of DC’s publishing plans for 1989-1990 that was given to retailers:


I only scanned half of the “cover” there, but you can see they were pushing the Batman movie pretty hard, as you might imagine. No, no, don’t worry, I’m not doing another round of Bat-talk just yet (though I did find a couple of relevant Bat-items that I may showcase here in the near future), but there are couple of interesting items of note inside.

First ,there’s this blurb for the sadly never-finished Swamp Thing: Deja Vu mini-series that would have reunited Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson:


Wrightson only drew a handful of pages before deciding the project wasn’t for him, and Wein’s attempt to get another artist to complete the book was met with the reaction of “not interested unless Wrightson was doing it” from the powers-that-were. (I believe I read about that particular bit of business in the Swampmen, which is where you can see some of the pages Wrightson did draw for the project.)

And then there was this story on the last page of the booklet:


Games being the Marv Wolfman/George Perez “final hurrah” as a team on the Teen Titans, which didn’t come out in 1990 as planned…and in fact didn’t actually show up until 2011, over twenty years later! Wolfman writes about what happened here.

But what I wanted to talk about was this:


…a big crossover event series planned for this publishing period, which I couldn’t recall ever having heard of. At first glance, I thought maybe it was a working title for some other event, but reading the synopsis, it didn’t sound like any crossover thingie DC had published. (Though, funnily enough, it reminds me a bit of the “children of the Justice League” storyline currently running in, er, Justice League.)

Did a little Googling, and there’s not much on the series to be found, as you might imagine. Turns out, according to Roger Stern, mentioned in the article as one of the writers involved, it never really got too far past “hey, here’s an idea.”

CLICK TO EXPAND MIGHTILY

And this excerpt from American Comic Book Chronicles that turned up on Google Books ties us back yet again to the Bat-Burton film:


And yes, I got screenshots as well as links there, as there’s nothing like sorting out dead links in decade-old blog posts to make one appreciate the mercurial state of the World Wide Web.

Anyway, what I find of interest in this article is how much is promised regarding this series, given that, as Stern says, it didn’t really get that far along in the creative process. A “new mega-villain” is probably a given for a big event like this, and “new characters,” I guess, so that’s a gimme. The format of the series, with increasing page-counts for each subsequent pair of issues, is…a little weird, and I don’t recall that specific idea being implemented any time later. I mean, sure, last issues of crossover comics can be double-sized or whatever, but that’s not exactly the same as what’s being described.

Now I realize what the world probably doesn’t need is yet another superhero crossover event on the books, but I am intrigued enough by this premise, and by the proposed writing team of Stern and John Ostrander utilizing DC’s major characters, and by the new characters that would have come out of it that I wouldn’t have minded seeing it. But it feels just a little weird, to find out now there’s a missing event series, a comics ghost flickering in and out of existence behind all the Batmania.

Yes, I know zombies in The Walking Dead don’t actually say “braaaaiinnns.”

§ September 8th, 2017 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, pal plugging, publishing, swamp thing § 1 Comment


So customer Ryan came by the store on Thursday with the above gift for me…a full page pencil drawing of Swamp Thing that he drew. He said “I began to realize that you kind of like Swamp Thing, so I thought I’d do this for you!” That was very nice of him. I actually have a bunch of art in frames ready to hang up, I just haven’t found time to do so yet…I do have this piece by pal Matt on display, but I’ve got several others that need to go up. Someone remind me to do so.

Also, I may need to redact part of my post from Wednesday, in which it turns out the extra story pages only present in the variant’s variant (sigh…) are in fact preview pages from the next issue, so readers won’t miss out on any material. It was just a little something extra to give me a headache for the lucky fan who was able to get their mitts on it. Anyway, glad I moved my copies already. I’m not sure how I’m going to edit that post, but I’ll put an explanation at the top so they’ll know to take my rantings with a grain of braaaaiinnns. Thankfully nobody reads blogs anymore, so I didn’t get many complaints.

In Patreon news…I will have a new installment in the Swamp Thing-a-Thon up soon. I’m just retooling the format a bit, oh, and also trying to find time to write it, which hasn’t been easy of late. I didn’t give up, I’m just a wee bit behind. I’m attempting to make the process a little less time-consuming, so that a biweekly schedule won’t become an enormous burden. I’ll let you know when the new one is up.

And in news that’s not all me me me me me me, Bully, the Little Funnybook-Pricing Bull, and his pal John are selling comics to support good causes! Plenty of photo evidence at the link! If you’re in the area, why not drop by and pick up some great comics at low, low, low prices…and that’s no Bull(y)!

Yeah, I know things don’t end well for the dog.

§ May 26th, 2017 § Filed under swamp thing Comments Off on Yeah, I know things don’t end well for the dog.


So blogging sister Tegan reminded me with her Twitter post about that poor ol’ mutt in the early issues of Swamp Thing, so anyway, there he is with our swampy pal.

I don’t think they ever called the dog anything other than “mutt” (or “hound dog” or “Linda’s dog”) for the entire time he was in the book. Hmmm…maybe “Bernie” would be a good name for that dog. Let’s just pretend that’s what Linda Holland named him off-panel.
 
 

image from Swamp Thing #2 (Dec 1972/Jan 1973) by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

PANTS STATUS: UNKNOWN.

§ May 17th, 2017 § Filed under swamp thing, this week's comics, watchmen § 1 Comment

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

I’ve had this ongoing fascination with the many ways Watchmen has been exploited by parties aside from the original creators. I mean, there were the wristwatches, the role playing game supplements, the Heroclix miniatures, these weird-ass shirts, the pseudo-crossover with The Question, the video games, the toaster, and I understand there was a movie at some point, too. Of course, the majority of it was all toys and tchotchkes and whatnot, and not actual comics, God no. Who could imagine Watchmen comics not by Moore and Gibbons? You’d have to be crazy to do something like…oh wait.

I had thought for sure the next step past Before Watchmen was going to be After Watchmen, the continuing adventures of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, and Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan, and maybe Seymour. And in a way, that’s what we sort of got, once the whole “DC Rebirth” thing kicked off with a special one-shot that explicitly referenced Watchmen that tied it into the current DC Universe.

Anyway (did I mention SPOILERS because here they come) I was as at least somewhat correct in my suspicions that any actual on-page appearances of Watchmen characters in this whole “The Button” storyline would be very limited, saving it, apparently, for the just announced Doomsday Clock series coming this fall (and given a big ol’ two-page ad in the back of Flash #22 — or a four-page ad if you count the button-to-S-shield sequence, or even a forty-page ad, if you count this whole “Button” storyline). Despite the arguments that can be made for the whole…misguidedness, perhaps, of the situation, I can’t deny there was a weird sort of frisson seeing even just the brief glimpse of that specific character at the conclusion, our first physical appearance of someone from Watchmen in the DC Universe “Rebirth” narrative. Well, unless Mr. Oz turns out to be anything other than a red herring. (Personally, I think he’s Bubastis.)

I do like the general conceit of the Watchmen tie-in to the DCU, in having the “New 52” reboot actually being an attack on DC’s regular continuity by outside forces (i.e. a certain big blue presumably still naked guy). And that’s all “The Button” was really about, letting our heroes know that their universe is screwed up and that some immense power outside their universe was responsible…and also letting the characters and we readers know what’s at stake…that there’s still so much of their old pre-reboot universe that’s still fighting to come back. I do anticipate the eventual in-story explanation they’re going to have for why any of this was happening in the first place, why the character would do what he apparently did, and so on. The real world explanation, of course, is that clinking, clanking sound that makes said world go ’round.


Oh, and Swamp Thing is guest-starring in Batman this week. There’s a very nicely done two-page spread in this issue, which you should point your peepers at. Usually I wince at that much square-footage being used for so little in the limited amount of space any given comic book has, but I’m going to let it pass. This time.

Just your average Halloween post in April.

§ April 28th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, halloween, swamp thing § 3 Comments


SPOILER: Super Friends #28 only sort of features Swamp Thing (and those other characters) as they were in fact party-goers changed by magic into the beings they were dressed as. Anyway, that was one brave dude who thought dressing as the Demon, an actual creature begat from the sulfurous pits of Hell, at least in the DC Universe in which they both live, was a good idea. Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly public knowledge that the Demon was really from hell, but honestly, anyone actually living in the nightmare world that surely any superhero-filled reality would be should know better.
 
 

house ad from DC Comics cover-dated January 1980 – so it was probably out the September previous…you know how it goes

More Swamp Thing talk, plus a big ol’ commercial at the end of the post.

§ April 12th, 2017 § Filed under reader participation, self-promotion, swamp thing § 4 Comments

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.

Top of the Swamps.

§ April 10th, 2017 § Filed under question time, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Okay, I asked you for questions and/or topics, and you gave me some, and I’m going to start taking a crack at ’em today. And, if you want to add to the list…feel free!

Anyway, Rich asks

“How would you rate each of the various eras of Swamp Thing, in terms of the work each writer-artist team did during their tenure?”

Well, sure, Rich, start me off with something easy, why don’t you?

Now there’s the thing…I think, almost inarguably, the two pinnacles for the character are the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightson comics from the 1970s, and the Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben/etc. of the 1980s. Trying to pick which one is better than the other is almost impossible. Perhaps the Moore-era books are more effective in evoking a more modern-seeming feeling of horror, but they wouldn’t exist without the groundwork of the Wein/Wrightson stories. Also, few are the people who were better horror artists than Bernie Wrightson. In a way, both runs tread similar ground, in that they explored some of the more traditional horror themes (witches, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, and so on) while giving their own particular twists on the topics.

Getting down to it, though, if I had to pick one over the other, I’d give the nod to Wein/Wrightson, setting the bar so high right out of the gate, which is probably mixing metaphors a bit but you understand what I mean. It’s because of them that we expect a certain standard of quality out of our Swamp Things, and it’s disappointing when that level isn’t reached. Moore ‘n’ pals would be a very close second, building on Wein/Wrightson’s creation and updating the storytelling for current sensibilities. Ideally, if someone were to ask me which Swamp Things they should read, these would be the ones.

As for the portions of the series by other creators…well, they all succeed at certain things in their own ways. The issues that followed Wrighton’s tenure featured beautiful artwork by Nestor Redondo…while the comics are not the legendary classics of the preceding issues, they are still excellent in their own right, and only probably overlooked now due to their lack of reprints (a situation about to change with the forthcoming omnibus).

The Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates run that opened the Saga of the Swamp Thing series that returned the character to newsstands is one worth revisiting as well. Its lengthier storyline, pulling together a new cast of supporting characters and giving more of a focus on ongoing subplots, was one that, if I recall some of the letter columns correctly, met with some resistance from older fans of the character. Things were maybe a little too wordy, and subplots stretched out a little too long, for their tastes, though I suspect that’s more a generational change in reader expectations from serialized comic books. Multi-part soap opera-esque stories were more the norm at DC as the 1980s rolled on, perhaps inspired by the success Marvel had along those lines in their own books. Looking back, the initial story wrapped up after only 13 issues, which…well, come to think of it, many stories nowadays come in 5 to 6 issue easily-trade paperback-able chunks, which are only approximately half the size of this Swamp Thing story. But, the point is, people are more used to not getting done-in-one stories in their comics today, which they weren’t back then, which may have affected their perceptions of this then-new Swamp Thing comic. Particularly since it couldn’t help but be compared to the classic ’70s run, which was mostly self-contained stories with only the barest minimum of subplots connecting issues together.

That’s all discussion about structure, not content, I realize. I think Pasko/Yeates put together a fine run, presenting effectively scary stories within the confines of the Comics Code Authority that weren’t necessarily variations on traditional horror topics…okay, there were the punk rock vampires, but there was also a story about Vietnam vets, a story inspired by a then-recent spate of child murders, a medically-themed body horror story, a weird alien-possession tale, and the whole storyline ending up with [SPOILER ALERT, I guess] Swampy going toe-to-toe with the Anti-Christ, which was probably not something anyone expected, but there it is. It wasn’t the Swamp Thing of the 1970s we were used to, but Pasko/Yeates certainly expanded the character’s scope, paving the way for the Moore/Bissette/Totleben stories to follow.

I hadn’t yet touched on the stories Bissette/Totleben did with Pasko pre-Alan Moore, but I think I’ll do so in Part II of “Mike Discusses How Good or Bad Certain Runs on Swamp Thing Were.” Yeah, there’s going to be a part two. At the very least. And I may eventually mention how this particular topic may be related to the special Patreon-only (at least temporarily) content I was talking about a while back. Stay tuned!

Ask and I shall receive.

§ March 28th, 2017 § Filed under archie, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Reader Steve from Palm Springs saw the subject line to yesterday’s post featuring his image, and realized that there was a need that had to be filled:


That we live in a world with sights such as these.

Looking forward to reading “Arcane and Me.”

§ March 27th, 2017 § Filed under archie, swamp thing § 5 Comments

Courtesy reader Steve from Palm Springs, who went above and beyond the call of duty to produce this for my benefit, and now for your benefit too:


Gaze upon it and weep, for you have never before witnessed such beauty.

Thanks, Steve! Now if only it were a real comic….

No, not actual horses.

§ March 24th, 2017 § Filed under buttons, employee aaron, pal plugging, swamp thing Comments Off on No, not actual horses.

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!
  • Hey, Matt Wilson is running a Kickstarter to fund his next comics project, Everything Will be Okay, done in conjunction with Joe Hunter, Rodrio Vargas, and Josh Krach. Looks like it would be fun, and they have a little ways to go yet on reaching their goals, so pitch in if you can!
  • Bully, the Little Punching Bull presents…Daredevil versus Hitler! (No, not that Daredevil.)

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