I’m also a Fatman the Human Flying Saucer completist.

§ September 16th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, swamp thing § 28 Comments

Thom H. asks, in response to my recent post regarding House of Secrets #92 tribute covers:

“How many Swamp Thing completists are there or do you know of? I had never heard of that type of fandom until I started reading this blog. And I didn’t think to ask about it until I realized there were multiple people into collecting every appearance of ‘ol Swampy.

“I’m sincerely interested in knowing about the different degrees of completism and extensions of that completism to characters like Man-Thing and The Plot (I assume he’s swamp-based, as well?). Does it extend to other characters?

“And it sounds like it includes things like cameo appearances and mentions by other characters. I guess I’m wondering: what are the rules completists use to define the boundaries of their collections?

“No disrespect intended. I’m not a completist of any character, but I do buy multiples of comics I like so I can keep one ‘nice.’ I think all comic collectors have their own ways of collecting, and I’d like to know more about yours.”

Now, longtime ProgRuin reader John Lancaster had his own lengthy response, which I suggest you all read (since I’ve plugged enough quoted material from the comments into this post). I’ll try to answer Thom’s queries best I can, though I doubt my own notorious predilection for excessive typing can match Mr. Lancaster’s prodigious efforts.

First off, completism is a common trait among comic book collectors, even above and beyond the the standard “get every issue of the series” that’s pretty much built into the DNA of the hobby, what with things having issue numbers an’ all. (OF course, in recent years, with many long-running titles having their chains broken by reboots and relaunches, that sort of collection has become less prominent, or at least concerned with gathering every issue of a specific series while eschewing other iterations of the same title.

The “theme” collectors, the ones who want every appearance of a character, or every comic by a certain artist or writer…I’ve encountered many of those over the years, too. The fella who wanted every appearance of Taskmaster. That one guy who wanted to own every comic drawn by John Byrne. There can even be folks looking for things like “every comic where a superhero fights one of the traditional movie monsters, like Dracula or the Wolfman.” Former coworker Rob used to collect Archie comics that featured bowling on the cover. Pal Cully used to get every appearance of the Hulk. Right now I have a customer who wants every appearnce of Iron Fist and that ol’ master of kung-fu Shang-Chi.

So no, it’s not really uncommon. People collect lots of different things for different reasons, and, you know, whatever floats their respective boats. If it makes you happy, what the hell…go for it.

Now for me personally…after coming across Swamp Thing for the first time in the early ’80s, via found copies in a second-hand book shop as well as that proto-Nickelodeon TV show Video Comics. For whatever reason, the character appealed, and I spent a lot of time gathering Swampy appearances, both in his own title and otherwise. Plus, a brand new series, Saga of the Swamp Thing, started around the same time to tie in to what could only be the blockbluster success of that first film, so I had new stories to collect, too!

One of the things that helped was that there were a limited number of Swamp Thing appearancs in comics. Outside of his own initial series, which only ran 24 issues (despite Overstreet mistakenly listing a 25th issue for a few years, which was a little annoying), a couple team-ups with Batman in Brave and the Bold, one in DC Comics Presents, that weird run in Challengers of the Unknown, a cameo in Super Friends, and probably a couple others I’m missing.

One of the first signs this wasn’t just going to be an ordinary collection for me was that I sought out the reprints, too. I mean, sure, a couple of them had brand new covers by Berni(e) Wrightson, but the others didn’t, and besides, they were reprinting stories I already had (or was about to have, once I found those original issues for my collection). So, already, I was on my “every iteration of Swamp Thing” kick.

Eventually I got my copy of House of Secrets #92…I had it in reprint form, of course, but didn’t have my own original one ’til I actually started working at the comic shop in the late ’80s. It was…the worst copy, apparently used as a coaster for a can of shellac, but I had one! Some years later, I managed to trade up for another copy of #92, a much nicer one, sold to us by Jan, a longtime friend of the shop. …As far as I can recall, those were the only two copies that the shop ever saw during my tenure there.

(QUICK ASIDE: Former boss Ralph used to tell the story of going through some dealer’s quarter boxes at a convention he was working at sometime in the late ’70s. He went through most of the boxes, not finding much, stopping before he finished going through them. A day or two later, when the con was about to wrap up, Ralph gave those same boxes one last shot…and in the back part of the last box, there was a copy of House of Secrets #92, which had apparently eluded congoers the rest of the weekend.)

As to the topic of being a completist to the point of cameo appearances and such…well, yeah, sure, I do my best. I noted on this site years ago that I was picking up variants on Brightest Day because both covers featured Swamp Thing…even getting a variant Justice League comic because of a cover word balloon mentioning Swampy. So, yes, I was buying comics for even the barest Swamp Thing connections.

However, I made an exception not too long ago. I even made a big ol’ post about it, where I decided I wasn’t going to buy every single Convergence tie-in comic with that one tiny image of Swamp Thing with a woman who was sometimes Abby Arcane, sometimes not. Ever since then…well, I’ve still been picking up Swamp appearances in comics when they occur, as generally they tend to be a bit more substatial than those Convergence ones. Also, due to DC’s multi-cover publishing scheme, I’ve been known to pick up two copies of Justice League Dark because each cover had Swamp Thing on it.

Oh, wait, I thought of another exception…there was an issue of Wonder Woman some time ago which had a 1/100 ratio variant that I didn’t get. One, I wasn’t ordering a hundred copies of Wonder Woman, and wasn’t about to bump my orders just to get my mitts on it. Two, it was crazy expensive on eBay at the time, though to be fair I haven’t checked lately, and 3) as I recall the picture of Swamp Thing was pretty off-model anyway, so I felt no particular rush to acquire it.

So, as of right now, I will still get all comics featuring Swamp Thing as I notice them, though some of the more obscure ones (like dialogue mentions or tiny one-panel cameos or whatever) may slip past me. However, I’m pretty good about picking up everything that has Swamp Thing in an active role or even just decor, I guess (like that one Guy Gardner comic by Howard Chaykin). My limit is probably too much duplicated content all at once, like that Convergence thing I mentioned.

How I eventually ended up getting in Marvel’s own muck-monster, Man-Thing…well, I don’t really recall. I probably just thought “huh, another swamp monster, I’ll check it out” and that was that. I was something of a completist on Man-Thing as well, picking up all his early appearances, though I didn’t try to maintain a collection of all newer appearances. I picked some up here and there, as they caught my eye, but I wasn’t grabbing everything like I was with Swamp Thing.

This weird swamp monster thing does get me to pick up other related titles…I have all those nice hardcovers reprinting The Heap, the original muck-encrusted comic character. And there have been other instances, too, like maybe if a swamp monster popped up in House of Mystery or some other horror anthology title. Man, I don’t get it either. I don’t think I’ve ever even been to a swamp.

Like I said above, there weren’t a lot of Swamp Thing appearances to start with. It was like that for a while, especially during that time when Swamp Thing was under DC’s Vertigo imprint, which restricted the character from appearing in the regular line (though he occasionally would sneak by, like his hand in that one issue of Infnite Crisis). Once Brightest Day brought him back to the regular DCU, the floodgates opened and…well, I don’t have it as bad as the poor bastard who’s trying to collect every Batman appearance, but still, it keeps me on my toes.

There’s probably more detail I could go into, but that’s enough for now. I’ll try to touch on this topic again if any more thoughts come to mind…like parodies and homages, which just occurred to me. Oh, and foreign editions. SIGH…look, I gotta get to sleep sometime, so I’ll talk about those soon enough. Thanks for reading, pals, and we’ll be back at it on Wednesday.

28 Responses to “I’m also a Fatman the Human Flying Saucer completist.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Oh, man, this is a great topic. I’d love to read what all of your readers are committed to acquring in a completist fashion. I consider these sorts of things as projects and will occasionally add a “project” to my list to keep things interesting.

    I’m currently attempting to put together a complete run of Amazing Spider-Man (a years long venture that I will likely only complete when I win the lottery or a previously unknown-to-me rich uncle dies and leaves my his estate).

    I’m almost finished getting every appearance of Mysterio–just missing that first ASM annual #1 (see lottery comment).

    I also have every appearance of DC’s Scarecrow, except the first two appearances in the 1940s. (Lottery again.) Now Scarecrow has lots of group appearances–if he simply appears in a line-up of villains in an issue, I don’t worry about it. But if he has any dialogue or contributes any action to the comic, it counts.

    I have every appearance of Stilt-Man. Hey, don’t laugh!

    I’ve had tons of other, more limited projects–complete runs of the Spectre in Adventure Comics, the Liberty Legion in various Roy Thomas comics, a few others. That’s not even counting complete runs of certain writers on various titles (Byrne on Fantastic Four, for example, or Gerber on Defenders and Man-Thing).

    Since I’m almost done with Scarecrow and Mysterio, I’m thinking of starting a new project for Patsy Walker (as Hellcat only), who I think has one of the more fascinating histories of any comic character.

    How about other folks?

  • D says:

    I’m an collector of Doom Patrol and Howard the Duck comics and cameos (tho I draw the line at random Robotman appearances that aren’t DP related). There are a lot of series that have long runs that I’m slowly filling in without needing every non- series appearance. Fantastic Four, the Justice League (never going to find an affordable copy of that B&B 28 tho), all those damn Marvel silver age split books, etc…

  • Chris V says:

    I made sure to buy every appearance of John Constantine, up until the “New 52” relaunch.
    I considered it not the same character as the one from Hellblazer, so I didn’t feel as compelled to buy every random appearance he ever made anymore.
    I have still continued to buy the major appearances of JC.

    Otherwise, I find myself more of a completest when it comes to comic book writers, more than characters.
    I have a long list of creators who I have collected their every comic book work.
    Neil Gaiman
    Alan Moore
    Grant Morrison
    Steve Gerber
    JM DeMatteis
    A few others.

  • Thom H. says:

    Yay – thanks for answering my question, Mike! For the record, I knew that completism was a thing, but I had no idea Swamp-Thing completism was being practiced by more than one person.

    I find it so interesting where people draw the line. That post you wrote about the Swamp Thing appearances in Convergence has a lot of comments about what counts as an exception (or not) to different collectors.

  • Brad Walker says:

    So have you ever talked about Richie Rich and Casper #1?


  • John Lancaster says:

    Oh Boy! Here I go Typin’ Again:
    Just so you know Mike, I edited that down from about 3 pages. At some point I thought to myself “Why am I doing Mike’s job?” I’ve known a lot of completists in my own career slinging comics and they come in all flavors as you mentioned.

    Others that I’m personally working on, have completed, or somewhere in between:

    Every appearance of Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch – I’ve been at this one since about 1982. What makes this difficult after you have all of the obvious stuff, is finding incidental inside appearances. Archie was good with throwing random half page gags into most of their comics and there’s no way to know unless you page through every…single…one. Making the list is tedious as well since I also have to keep track of which Archie comics I’ve looked at.

    One that I may have mentioned here before; collecting every #1 issue of Spitfire and the Troubleshooters. As of my last count and based on publishing records, I own approximately 4% of the print run on this one. It’s not because I love that character or anything, I just want to wipe their existence off the earth. It’s basically a Scrooge McDuck gambit.

    Every cover and interior appearance for The Legion of Superheroes (this also includes any single members or small groupings in any fashion). This one is a little easier than it sounds on the surface and to the best of my knowledge, I’m complete up to the newest issues and will continue on.

    Complete runs of all of DC’s monster/mystery/suspense books. Things like House of Secrets/Mystery, Ghosts, Witches, Weird War…you get the idea. Although many of these started out as other things and sometimes had superhero stories, I only get the mystery stuff. I’d say I’m at 99% on this one.

    I completed an “every appearance of Taskmaster” and continue to add to it as new appearances arrive.

    Anytime there is a roller coaster or amusement park on the cover. Any comic, I’m not picky. These are just hit or miss as I run across them.

    Every cover and interior appearance of Arnim Zola. Started getting really hard in the last 10-15 years since the guys that grew up reading the 1970’s Captain America comics started shoving him in everywhere. I think I’m pretty close on this one. If there’s anything I’m missing it’s from the last decade. It’s also my go-to for commissions and sketches. Counting my Kevin Nowlan from last month, I’m up over 300 drawings.

    Anything with Creature from the Black Lagoon or a reasonable facsimile. This one’s pretty easy but I’m sure there are things out there I don’t know about.

    Every appearance of Composite Superman. Pretty sure I’m up to date on this one. Not a lot of uses.

    There’s probably a few small, odd ones I’m not thinking of. There’s probably also many things I’m completist on and don’t even know it just due to volume and breadth of the titles I collect. I’ve cut back a bunch in the last decade but I’m definitely the “Whale” at whatever shop I go to. I’m not rich and my job is just ok. I just literally don’t do anything else…and luckily I’ve been at it a while and filled stuff when it was still cheap(er).

    The completists are out there…and we’re coming for your comics next. And Brad, I’ve got that Richie Rich and Casper #1 in my Swamp Thing box.

  • John Lancaster says:

    My God, Apparently I was just saving up 15 years of commenting to dump it here over a couple of days. I’ll be quite for another decade or so to even it out.

  • Rob Staeger says:

    John, do you by any chance have a reference that you follow for your Creature from the Black Lagoon appearances? He’s a favorite of mine, and I’d be curious to see where he’s appeared.


  • Brian Foss says:

    I’ve been collecting on & off since the late 70s.
    Currently I only buy comics with certain characters, though I read a bunch of graphic novels via my local library.
    I buy every Deadman, Shang Chi & Elric (the Moorcock character) appearance.
    I also like Machine Man too, but I’m not so picky about those. I don’t need every cameo in Slotts current Iron Man.

    I do tunblr blogs about Shang Chi, Deadman and Elric comics, but I’m kinda behind.
    I do try to buy every Deadman toy
    but I ain’t gonna drop the $$$ for that Prime 1 Studio statue.

  • Brian says:

    I’ve been slacking in recent years on all my comics-buying (on account of both money and space), but I spent about fifteen years as a Tick completist and an Ambush Bug completist (the latter before the New 52 and his return in backmatter usage). I also put lots of work into collecting the Marvel UK Transformer magazines with additional stories after fillling out my collection of Marvel Transformers/Generation 2 books (part of my nascent adult collecting habit grew out of completing that run, which was cut short a few issues from the end as a child when my mother forgot to renew my subscription).

  • Andrew Davison says:

    In the past I’ve used GCD (https://www.comics.org/) to search for a character’s appearances.

    Any top tips for finding comics on a theme?

    – Andrew

  • John Lancaster says:

    Hey Rob-
    Sadly, I don’t really have a list going for the Gill-Man. I pretty much just found them as I found them, or others would hip me to them. Here’s a list of what I can think of off the top of my head that I know I have. There are many of these that are kind of generic Mermen but I like to throw them in there as well. I play it a bit loose on these and just use my gut when I’m deciding if “random merman” fits into my collection. Gill-Man and related probably fills a long box or so in my collection. (Thank God I didn’t get into gorilla’s)

    The two most obvious ones are the Dark Horse comic by Art Adams, and the 1963 Dell comic The Creature.

    There’s a few great Archie covers, the two I remember are Laugh #130 and Jughead #79

    From DC there’s Secrets of Haunted House #1 / House of Mystery #94, 101 / House of Secrets #46 / My Greatest Adventure #105 / From Beyond the Unknown #20 / various appearances by Lagoon Boy in Young Justice and other titles.

    Amazing Ghost Stories #14 (1954 St. John) this one is one of my favorites.

    There was an issue of Nightmare from Skywald comics that had a story in it but I don’t remember the number. Maybe #2?

    Fantastic Four #97. I’m sure there are other random Marvel Comics with Gill-Man types, but this is what came to mind.

    What the…? #16. There’s a tiny Gill-Man in a background panel. I was buying this series when it came out and just noticed it while reading.

    From Charlton there’s Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #30, another favorite of mine.

    Dell published a Munsters comic which I have a full run of but it’s been so long since I read them that I don’t remember if Uncle Gillbert made any appearances.

    There is of course, many great covers on Famous Monsters Magazine and other Monster mags, and various appearances by Mer-Man in Masters of the Universe comics.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Andrew – Grand Comic Database is a great resource. I also like to use mikesamazingworld.com
    Lot’s of fun stuff on there.

  • Paul Di Filippo says:

    What?!? No love for swamp monster Solomon Grundy?!?

  • JohnJ says:

    Used to have a nearly complete Neal Adams collection. The only one of his covers I could never find was a DC romance comic. This was all collected pre-internet so the Adventures of Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis books were among the hardest to find.
    Some of his variant covers are the hard to find versions so I’m no longer intent on getting everything, but I love his Batman mini-series. They’re among the very few Batman comics I can tolerate these days.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    You may have missed this, so I note that there is a new collection of Skywald’s Heap series:

    Qualifiers: This is made using Amazon’s print-on-demand program, and it limits itself to the black and white stories from PSYCHO and NIGHTMARE (the publisher has judged these to be in the public domain, while that one issue of the color comic is still under copyright). At least the price is moderate.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Hey, John Lancaster–You seem to have overlooked the Creature’s greatest comic book appearance, in SUB-MARINER #35 (1954). He is called Elmer there, but the likeness is unmistakable. This has been reprinted a few times.

    Bill Everett also did a full-page illustration of the Creature in Skywald’s NIGHTMARE #2. A later issue, #14, ran a rather peculiar adaptation by Al Hewetson and Ricardo Villamonte–only two pages long, and ending with the Creature killed but not before he (?) lays a batch of eggs.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    In case I have made anyone curious, here is that Sub-Mariner vs. the Creature story:

    …and here is Everett’s Creature pin-up:

    Checking further, I see that my memory conflated the NIGHTMARE adaptation of the movie with the Dell version; it was the latter that ended with the Creature laying eggs. Here is the Skywald story:

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I see that my last comment is awaiting moderation, presumably because of the numerous links I put in it. In case it does not go through, I want to repeat my correction of an error: My memory had conflated the Skywald adaptation of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON with the Dell version. It was in the latter that the Creature laid eggs.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Turan – ah yes, that Sub-Mariner was one I was forgetting for Marvel. Like I said, it was just off the top of my head. Sadly, the vast majority of my comics are in storage 200 miles from me so I cannot easily check. I remember picking up one of those Sub-Mariner #35 in the early 90’s. It was more of an accident that I ran across it and I figured I would add another Golden Age book to the collection. It’s an average Fine condition, think I got if for an even $100. Probably about 4 or 5 years passed before I even got around to looking inside.

    Nice to see my memory wasn’t too bad at guessing that it was #2 for Nightmare. I’ve got full runs on Psycho and Nightmare, so by default I ended up with all of their Heap stories. It’s neat that someone is doing those reprints, there’s some good stuff in those.

    I always wished Dell would had done a follow-up so we could see what happened with those eggs.

  • Adam Farrar says:

    I’m a completionist for a few characters:
    -Adam Warlock to the point that I need any stories that involve him of which they were many. For example, anything that involved the Infinity Gems prior to the Malibu merger.
    -Maverick (the Wolverine supporting character)
    -G.I. Joe but only from Larry Hama and his co-creators
    …I also really like Angel/Archangel but I can’t contemplate trying to get all his comics so I seek out the key issues.

    For creators, I’ll buy anything from Alan Moore, Ed Luce, Greg Weisman, John Allison, Michael Chabon, Stan Sakai.
    And most things from Alan Davis, J.H. Williams III, Jim Starlin, Matt Kindt, Sonny Liew.

    In smaller collections, I like adaptations of Alexander Dumas novels.

  • Randal says:

    Dead universes is my thing. Impact, Ultraverse, Milestone, New Universe, Triumphant, Defiant, Valiant take 1, Valiant take 2, 2099, Red Circle, that DC pulp franchise…First Wave? CrossGen.

  • John Lancaster says:

    I just remembered my other one – Adventures of the Big Boy. Between different publishers from the mid 50’s up through the 90’s there’s nearly 700 issues. Since they were something regional around the restaurants, they’re not easy to track down or fill in. I might have 300 of them scattered across the run.

    Speaking of which, I don’t hunt them down but I do tend to purchase any of the older Gold and Silver Age comics that were given away at Shoe Stores and have their names on them. I like it when I find the same comics but with different store names.

  • Rob Staeger says:

    John, thanks so much for that list of Gill-Man (and quasi-Gill-Man) appearances! That’ll start me off on a nice hunt at NYCC next month!

  • John Lancaster says:

    Hey Rob – Good Luck with the searching, that’s where the fun is. Sometimes I like to just go over to the Grand Comic database and pick a random title from the 50’s-70’s and then look through the entire cover gallery. I’ve found a few good comics that way. That’s how I found that Amazing Ghost Stories issue.

  • Robcat17 says:

    I have given up a lot of “complete” things. I still firmly believe comics should be read and enjoyed so as the 90s rolled around and I didn’t care for the storytelling, and renumbering hit, I was able to just let some stuff go. I now collect stuff to be read.

    Pre-internet I was able to scrounge a complete set of Ditko Question. That was the first and only series I ever had to go after. And I was fortunate Nexus, Grimjack, and Jon Sable ended so those are complete.

    And as much as I may question your Swamp Thing collection, I will buy Legion of Superhero books… every reboot, every time Giffen kills Karate Kid, I’m there. Which makes me ask other collectors “What’s your ‘sucker’ book?” You know the one. It may be bad, but you buy it anyway because you’re hopeful, or loyal, or whatever… but you really just love the character…

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    Besides the usual “every issue of a series” completism that we all suffer from, I’ve spent the last twenty years or so trying to get a complete run of all the Atlas/Seaboard output from the mid-1970s — both comics and magazines. My only stipulation is that they have to be reasonably priced.

    (Only missing VICKI #3 and 4, and GOTHIC ROMANCES #1, the last of which I’ve never seen at a reasonable price.)

  • Rob Staeger says:

    John, in case you ever come back to this post… there’s a great quasi Gill-Man appearance in the Scooby-Doo 50th Anniversary Giant (which is reprinting a story from Scooby-Doo 92, called “A Wolf in Creep’s Clothing,” by John Rozum and Leo Batic). It’s notable not for the Gill-Man appearance (here called “The Monster of Murky Lake”) but because the “ghost” is pretending to be the ghost of Patricia Millicent, based on Millicent Patrick, the designer of the Creature costume! That’s a really deep cut for a kid’s comic, and one I think you’d enjoy!