"Because you asked for it!"

§ May 12th, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized § 2 Comments

Swamp Thing, once a critically-acclaimed horror book, began to see its sales and fan base slide as the 1970s wore on and the pop-culture horror trends began to make way for science fiction (epitomized, of course, by Star Wars).

The solution? Why, make Swampy a superhero, of course:

Swamp Thing #23 (July 1976)

Thus did Swamp Thing get its first cover word balloons, its snazzy new sleek logo, and its first super-villain. The story, by Law & Order writer and Firestorm The Nuclear Man co-creator Gerry Conway and the late Nestor Redondo, opens with the fellow in the blue tights and red wading boots smashing a large image of our mossy hero with his sabre-hand, shouting “I tell you, the Swamp Thing must die!” Speaking to a red-hooded gentlemen on a monitor, Sabre insists that, for costing him his career and his hand (more on that later), Swamp Thing must…well, you know:

The red-hood guy, “Councilman Red,” says no, Swamp Thing (AKA Alec Holland) must be captured…and if Sabre can’t do it, then Thrudvang, The Earth Master, will! (More on Thrudvang when I cover issue #24, I promise.)

Meanwhile, in Oregon, we see Swamp Thing headed up a driveway to a lonely house…a house that belongs to Holland’s brother Edward. Upon entering, Swampy surprises Edwards beautiful red-headed friend, Ruth, who faints upon seeing the muck-encrusted monster. Edward enters the scene, and, fearing the monster before him had done harm to Ruth, attacks. Swampy easily subdues his brother, in order to tell him:

Swampy relates the tragic tale of his origin (criminals blow up Alec Holland’s lab, Alec plunges into swamp, on fire and saturated with his own bio-restorative formula, rises again as Swamp Thing, proceeds to hide from society instead of seeking medical attention). Edward hears the tale of woe, and agrees to help find a cure for Alec’s condition. Ruth wonders if it’s even possible, which provokes this modest reply from Edward:

Geez, Edward, your brother’s standing right there…he’s mossy, not deaf. Anyway, thus begin the experiments, and one page and one day later, Edward’s found the cure! In the meantime, Sabre has tracked down the Swamp Thing’s location, using a transmitter embedded in Swampy’s shoulder (“It’s a long story,” the captions say, as to how that transmitter got there, but they don’t tell us how it got there or how it eluded being detected by Edward during his examinations of his brother). Anyway, the solution involves reconstructing Swampy’s origin, down to the exploding lab apparently, and even a pool of “swamp water” sits outside. So loving Edward blows up his brother:

…and Swamp Thing plunges into the swamp…er, pool, and “as he did that time long ago, he feels a change occuring within him.” Just then, Sabre crashes the pool party, intent on destroying the guest of honor:

Pulling off his mask, Sabre reveals himself to be John Zero, a government bureaucrat who had been responsible for capturing Swamp Thing back in issue #13, but was also held responsible when Swampy made his escape. Swamp Thing was also seemingly responsible for Sabre losing his hand, too, but we never find out how, exactly. Anyway, Holland is weakened by the chemical bath intended to cure his condition, and Ruth grabs Sabre’s sword arm in an attempt to keep him from beating down on the former Swamp Thing. Sabre knocks her cold, and seeing Ruth struck down reminds him of how his own wife was offed by the very same criminals that originally blew up his lab:

The sight ticks Holland off royally, which gives him the strength to toss Sabre (and, as a result, himself) into the flaming chemical pool. Moments pass, and as Ruth recovers and sees to Edward, two figures come out of the flame: one is Sabre, flesh burned, his sabre melting (that must have been one hot fire)…the other is the cured Alec Holland!

And I think they missed a bet by not having the story “to be Swamp-inued” — hey, if Marvel can get away with “to be Hulk-inued….”

My discussion of the attempted transformation of Swamp Thing into a superhero will continue in a few days, with a look at the last issue of the original series, #24.

(As a personal aside…this was the very first issue of Swamp Thing I ever read, all those years ago. And yet, Swamp Thing became my favorite comic book character anyway. Go figure.)

2 Responses to “"Because you asked for it!"”

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    you know, Mike, I’m pretty sure this was my first Swamp Thing issue too. I never did find issue 24 on my local spinner rack, but when they began publishing the original Swamp Thing issues as reprints, I picked them up. So there was something in these goofy later issues that obviously worked.

  • […] As for the actual comic books themselves…at about the time I was discovering Swamp Thing on TV, my dad and I were frequenting some local used book stores, and one of the stores had boxes of old comics. It was there that I bought my first two issues of Swamp Thing: issue #16 (the zombie issue), and issue #23, the issue where they started to make Swampy into a superhero. […]