"More action than ever!"

§ May 20th, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized § 2 Comments

Swamp Thing #24 (September 1976)

When we last left Swamp Thing, Alec Holland has regained his humanity with the help of his scientist brother Edward Holland, and Edward’s beautiful companion Ruth. This issue (by the entirely new creative team of David Anthony Kraft, Ernie Chua, and Fred Carrillo) kicks off with the newly-human Alec having a nightmare about his fiery origins as that muck-encrusted mockery of a man. Ruth comes into his room and wakes him, and Alec relates to her his doubts about being able to adjusting to a renewed life as a human being. “Where do I start?” asks Alec. “Start with me, Alec — start with me.” Oh dear.

In the meantime, a gentleman by name of Soloman Smith collects Sabre from the local pokey:

…which raises some questions. See, Sabre was in an awful state at the end of the previous issue, “his body burned beyond recognition” — which apparently only needed a few bandages and a sling to help him heal. And, “shortly thereafter” according to the captions, Sabre is up and around with this group of winners:

Anyway, these representatives of the the super-criminal group COLOSSUS want Swamp Thing in order to learn about Alec Holland’s secret project, the bio-restorative formula, and create an army of unstoppable swamp-thing soldiers. However, another of COLOSSUS’s agents, Thrudvang the Earth-Master, is apparently running loose in Oregon:

So Thrudvang is super-strong, not very bright, and apparently has the telekinetic power to move earth…you know, create giant divots, open up chasms, etc. Anyway, we get a brief sequence of Thrudvang demolishing some loggers and their bigrig, followed by a short flashback to the Earth-Master’s origin (created by the COLOSSUS labs).

Back to our heroes…Alec and Ruth are heading out to the grocery store, after saying goodbye to Alec’s brother Edward. As they drive off, the romantic triangle subplot begins in earnest as Edward thinks to himself: “Alec and I have always been rivals. While he won all the research grants, government chemistry contracts and recognition, I went completely ignored. Now, he’s back from the ‘dead‘ and already the pattern starts anew — with Ruth! Well, it’s not going to happen again, Alec…not again!”

After shopping, Alec and Ruth are putting groceries in the car when Alec starts experiencing sudden sharp pains:

Alec refuses to see a doctor (probably a good idea, since he is legally dead and all), and thinks to himself about how those pains felt like the discomfort he had when, as the Swamp Thing, he had to regenerate a lost arm.

We then get a quick scene change to the remarkably-recovered Sabre talking with Solomon Smith, letting him know what the rest of COLOSSUS did not…that the Swamp Thing has now reverted to human form, and that Alec Holland had better be captured before Thrudvang finds him.

Unfortunately, as Alec and Ruth drive home, Thrudvang does find them, homing in on the homing transmitter still lodged in Alec’s shoulder (as mentioned last issue). Using his earth-moving powers, Thrudvang demolishes the car, and Alec and Ruth are thrown from the wreckage.

And here is the closest scene in the issue to what we see on the cover:

…except for the whole Thrudvang-talking thing, since inside the comic itself he doesn’t say a word. By the way…what kind of name is Thrudvang, anyway?

So Alec recovers the unconcious Ruth and hightails it, with the slow-moving Thrudvang in pursuit. Jumping over a chasm suddenly created by the big yellow guy, Alec depends on his speed and his enemy’s own apparent lack of cognitive abilities to elude him…unaware of the homing device embedded in his body.

While in hiding, Ruth wakes, and Edward’s fear suddenly comes true as Alec and Ruth completely ignore the immediate danger and start gettin’ it on, only to have a not-so-surprise guest:

So then there’s a bunch more running around and goings-on, ending with Alec leading Thrudvang over a rope bridge, pulling out a previously-unmentioned pocket knife, cutting said rope bridge, and sending Thrudvang to his doom.

The story ends with Alec and Ruth in an embrace, as Alec ponders his uncertain future and the troubles he has seemingly brought onto his loved ones following his cure.

We then get this promise:

…which never happened, since this was the last issue of the series. Rats. Though, as an aside, 20 or so years ago the Overstreet Price Guide did include the nonexistent issue #25 in their listings for at least a couple editions. Anyway, Alec Holland’s story picks up again in Challengers of the Unknown #82 (1977), which I’ll probably look at here in the near future.

Now, the combination of Alec’s body pains with the new more superhero-y direction of the series had made me believe that a possible eventual goal was to have Alec gain the ability to switch back and forth between human and Swamp Thing form. And a cape and some nice boots. Well, okay, maybe not with the costume.

As I mentioned here, these stories involving Swamp Thing regaining his humanity are officially ignored in the character’s continuity, as per an editorial reply in the letters column of Saga of the Swamp Thing #6. However (and I must warn you, this will officially be the Geekiest Thing Ever) I always figured there was a way to keep these stories in continuity, given what new things we learn about Swamp Thing in Alan Moore’s run.

Okay (spoilers ahead), we learn in that run that Swampy was never Alec Holland, but rather an Earth Elemental that used Alec Holland’s mind as a template for itself. So, therefore, in the issues I discussed, clearly the Swamp Thing couldn’t be cured of his condition and turned back to human form, since he was never human to begin with. We also learn that the Swamp Thing has the ability to generate human-like forms out of plants (introduced in Swamp Thing 2nd series #56, elaborated much later in Mark Millar’s run). Given that, perhaps we can assume, in the process of the “cure” in #23 of the original series, the Swamp Thing, still believing himself to be Alec Holland at his core, subconsciously constructed a human body for himself.

So there, a 30-year-old bit of Swamp Thing continuity is resolved. Who says I’m not cutting-edge?

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