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Yes, technically this is answering two questions from the same person.

§ October 5th, 2020 § Filed under question time, swamp thing, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 3 Comments

Okay, boys and ghoooouls, let’s take a crack at the most recent batch of questions you fine folks decided to leave for me.

First off, Michael Grabowski reaches out with the following:

“Which are your favorite creative-combo takes on the Swamp Thing character in the comics?

“Actually, what I would really like to read would be a few blog posts with your deeper analysis of the more significant creative runs on the character & comic series, if I could make that request.”

Well, I’ve actually been asked this before! Probably not a surprise given how often I’ve been all “rah rah Swamp Thing-boom-bah” on this site, I suppose. About three years ago old friend of the site Rich had asked me to rank the creative teams, and I gave it the ol’ two-part college try here and here.

Now it’s not entirely comprehensive, but I hit most of the major teams of the first two series and touch a bit on the later ones (though I link to, and will link again here, extended discussions of that weird pre-New 52 mini and that Len Wein/Kelley Jones mini).

In that post I note I’ll need to do more of a re-read of the assorted Swamp Thing comic book series in order to have that material fresher in my mind for any sort of meaningful deep commentary. The plan was maybe to start rereading the comics that I hadn’t committed to memory, like, or, say everything published from the early 1970s until the early 1990s. The later runs were read and mostly enjoyed, but I’m not sure I can lay any details on you.

Anyway, my plan was derailed a bit as this was about the time I was beginning to have some vision issues (though I wouldn’t be properly diagnosed for another year). My reading was slowing down, and then stopped almost completely the following year. I couldn’t keep up with new stuff, much less re-read anything old.

Another thing my eyeball issues derailed was the plan for tempoarily-exclusive content on my Patreon, where I intended to do in-depth discussions of each issue of Swamp Thing in order. I talk about the Patreon at the end of that second Rank-the-ST-Teams post (and you can read the first installment for free here). But trying to read these comics in any real detail was becoming increasingly difficult, mostly because I thought I needed glasses (which yes, I did) but not realizing that I was having other severe physical issues with eyes beyond just poor sight.

Now that my vision issues have been stabilized and at least somewhat corrected, I would like to at least attempt at getting back to doing that issue-by-issue examination. Perhaps on a sporadic basis at first, just to allow for time issues, the fact that I am reading more slowly than I used to, and that I’m stupidly behind on new comics due to not having read anything for months. Except Doomsday Clock, I didn’t miss an installment of that.

At the very least I should publicly post the Patreon-only installments (still up at my Patreon!) like I said I’d do after sufficient time had passed. Maybe once I’m closer to starting that project up again. But my sincere thanks to everyone who kept contributing there.

So, Michael…no, I haven’t forgotten you in the middle of all this rambling nonsense…I did do something like you’d asked already, but more complete commentary on the other regular Swamp Thing creatives is still owed someday, pending my review of those documents.

Also, to answer your question from three years ago since I forgot to then:

“Was the Pasko/Yeates run published bimonthly? I seem to remember it that way but could be wrong. I do remember thinking that the big story took a long time to resolve, at least as 12-yr-old me processed time and waiting in those days.”

No, the Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates run of Saga of the Swamp Thing never went bimonthly. I was told at a comic book store around the time those comics were coming out, back when I was but a lowly and not the high-powered comic shop owner drunk with power I am today, that the series was about to go bimonthly, which worried me because that meant sales were lousy and the next step would have been cancellation. But then the Alam Moore era began and those bimonthly worries went away in short order.

As for the story feeling like it dragged on…that seemed to be a common sentiment at the time, as some fans weren’t thrilled with longish stories that demanded more patience and attention. (See also “The Trial of the Flash.”) But nowadays multi-part stories are more common than not, usually in six issue installments that entirely coincidentally make for a good trade paperback.

• • •

There we go, one question down that I think was answered somewhere in the midst of all that typing. If you want to throw a question in the hopper then hie yourself hither to this post to submit!

The newest Patreon-only post is up!

§ June 20th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon Comments Off on The newest Patreon-only post is up!

Installment #3 of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, featuring my look at Swamp Thing #2 (1972-3) is now up…contribute a minimum of one slim dollar bill per month to my Patreon to get access to these posts months before they show up here! (Free sample of the first installment, featuring House of Secrets #92, is right here.)

New post up at the ol’ Patreon.

§ June 6th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon Comments Off on New post up at the ol’ Patreon.

The second installment of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, featuring my look at the original Swamp Thing #1 from 1972, is now up for Patreon contributors. And as I keep reminding y’all, I will eventually post it here, but not for a few months.

Thanks for reading, pals!

So it begins…the Swamp Thing-a-Thon.

§ May 22nd, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 5 Comments

Okay, gang, I finally started it. My ideally-twice-monthly looks at every Swamp Thing comic, in order, available initially to Patreon contributors (for as little as a buck a month!) before eventually getting posted on this site several months later. Well, with the exception of the first post in the series, which I’m including here as a sampler for those of you previously unfamiliar with my excessive typing.

A couple of notes: I’m just going with the credits as listed in the book (or “borrowed” from the Grand Comics Database). I know Wrightson had some assistance on this first story, but, I don’t know, it seemed weird wherever I plugged those other names in there. Maybe I’ll add them in later…lemme sleep on it.

Yes, that’s a scan of my actual copy of House of Secrets #92. The plan is to scan the covers of my personal copies for each installment, so you can see how beat up my copies get while reading them in the bath, while eating barbecue ribs, etc.

I am not 100% certain what content I’ll be including for each “review.” You’ve read my reviews before, you should probably know what to expect. Maybe it’ll be story analysis, maybe it’ll be some personal recollection regarding that specific issue, maybe it’ll be something retail-related…we’ll see what each issue inspires me to write as I get to it.

Anyway, here it is…if you want more of it, and faster than waiting for it to show up here, then hie yourself hither to my Patreon account and drop at least a buck per month (or $100 per month, I won’t stop you) to get access. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back with More Stuff™ soon.

• • •

ISSUE: House of Secrets #92 (June-July 1971)

TITLE AND CREDITS: “Swamp Thing” – written by Len Wein, illustrated by Berni Wrightson, coloring by Tatjana Wood, lettering by Ben Oda. Cover art by Berni Wrightson.

IN BRIEF: Alex Olsen is believed dead, killed in a lab explosion secretly prepared by rival Damian Ridge, who then takes Alex’s widow Linda as his own wife. However, Alex rises from the bog in which he was buried, transformed into a hideous creature, a swamp thing, who must come to his wife’s rescue when Damian begins to have designs on her life as well.

MIKE SEZ: Well, here’s where it all begins. What struck me as I read this again for the first time in quite a while is the parallels between how this story starts and how the relaunched/rebooted Swamp Thing ongoing series starts about a year later. I mean, not just the premise, obviously, but just structurally. Both this tale and the later Swamp Thing #1 start with our muck-encrusted mockeries of men looming outside their homes (well, barn, in the latter case) worrying about the people they left behind as they continue their lives within, leading towards the record scratch/“yeah, that’s me, you’re probably wondering how I ended up here” flashbacks that follow.

What also impressed me was just how much storytelling and emphasis on character perspectives were crammed into these eight pages. You start off with the first-person narration from Swamp Thing himself, leading into Linda’s second-person narration (like “you smile because he expects you to” — rarely seen outside EC Comics, text adventure computer games and “Choose Your Own Adventure” books) and her recollection of the disaster that killed her husband, then back to first-person narration for Damian’s involvement in said disaster. If I can talk like an old person for a moment, nowadays we’re so used to stories stretched out over multiple months, decompressed into 5 or 6 or 8 issues that conveniently fit into a nice paperback collection, that it feels just a little weird to have this much narration, this much dialogue, squeezed into so little space.

And yet, it never feels cramped. Yes, it’s all very text-heavy, but not at the expense of Wrightson’s art, which shares the burden of the story’s emotional weight. The narration explicitly tells us what everyone’s feeling at any given point, but the illustration conveys so much. Linda’s downcast looks of quiet sadness, Damian’s crazed desperation as he decides to kill Linda to protect himself, Swamp Thing’s glance down at his wrist where the bracelet Linda gave him once was…and the long, thin panel immediately afterward of Swamp Thing’s eyes rolled upward in despair. It’s the ideal balance between writer and artist, creating a tiny little masterpiece in the short feature format that’s mostly forgotten by the Big Two companies.

Speaking of the art, there’s something to be said about the portrayal of Swamp Thing himself. The human characters are all very naturalistic, which is only how it should be given that heavy photo reference was used by Wrightson in laying out the art. But Swamp Thing himself seems almost…cartoony, by comparison. He’s a big misshapen lump, mostly hidden in shadow so that you can’t ever get a real feel for what he actually looks like, with the exception of those previously-mentioned eyes. They’re large, lolling orbs, perpetually sad, poking out of the top of a figure that we can only barely discern. He doesn’t look scary, even when he’s bursting through that window at the climax to stop Damian. He looks…pathetic. He looks every bit as despairing as he feels. Now the character goes through a serious redesign into a more muscular-looking “action hero” type (I mean, relatively speaking) once that ongoing Swamp Thing series starts, but here, Swamp Thing’s sodden, burdened mass reflects the weight and tone of this short piece.

I’ve stated in the past that Spider-Man’s debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 is the Perfect Superhero Origin Story. Everything you need is right there, and in fact the story needn’t have continued. If the only Spider-Man story Stan Lee and Steve Ditko ever produced was just those 11 pages…that arguably would have been all the Spider-Man the world ever needed. Nearly everything that came after that was just extrapolation from the original.

I bring that up because this story, “Swamp Thing,” is I think in the same upper echelons of comic book origins. Perfectly constructed. No threads left untugged. No need to continue. And, in fact, there was no intention to continue “Swamp Thing” (unlike Spider-Man, which was designed to be a new ongoing superhero character, even if they weren’t sure at the time he actually would continue). However, once the sales figures came in on House of Secrets #92, and after some convincing, Swamp Thing would return…but it wouldn’t be turn-of-the-century Alex Olsen, but the modern scientist of 1970s-today Alec Holland who would take up the mantle, as Wein and Wrightson didn’t want to dilute the power of their original short. Of course, a few decades later another writer would figure out a way to make Alex Olsen part of the latter Swamp Thing’s continuity, but that’s a Swamp Thing-a-Thon review for another day.

THE WRAP-UP: One of the all-time classics in the comic book medium, and almost certainly the best short horror comic story you’ll find outside of the legendary EC Comics oeuvre.