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Mostly I’m just mad we don’t have that much more Jennifer Beals as Sheriff Cable to enjoy.

§ July 15th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 1 Comment

[some SPOILERS for Swamp Thing episode 7, “Brilliant Disguise”]


So the weird thing about watching the Swamp Thing TV show for a longtime fan of the character like me, aside from the fact that there’s even a halfway faithful Swamp Thing TV show in the first place, is the way it mixes elements of the character from all across its history. Having the Conclave and Nathan Ellery (pictured above) from the original issue #1, in the same episode as the “hallucinogenic plant stuff lets Abby see Swamp Thing as Alec (from #34 of the second series) and all that Rot hoohar from the New 52…it’s just strange not having to wait for all this to gradually accumulate over decades. But then again, the show only has thre episodes left, they got a lot to squeeze in.

Oh, and yes, Avery Sunderland is there, too, as I mentioned when I covered a previous episode. Still a businessman, still involved in, y’know, bad stuff around the town while keeping up a positive public face…anyway, he gets shot out in the swamp for various plot reasons I won’t get into, and as he drags himself to shore, it appears he’s being taken over by whatever evil force has been lurking out in those dark waters and I’m pretty sure this is how we’re getting our Arcane for the series. Okay, he’s not really an actual Arcane, but he and his wife did take Abby in as a child and raised her, so I guess he’s kinda like her uncle now, if you kind of squint a bit? Oh, and the New 52 version of Arcane is tied into the Rot, which is, as previously noted, part of the TV show, whihc makes me think that we’re getting our Arcane-equivalent this way.

A customer asked me the other day if I liked the Swamp Thing show, and I said “yeah, it’s good,” and he was like “oh, I figured you were such a big fan of the character you’d be a purist about it,” and I was all “nah, they got the tone right, the specifics don’t have to be exact.” And I think I found my limit. I’m hoping we’re not seeing Sunderland’s origin as “Arcane.” Would not be a big fan of that.

Now, a couple of episodes back, there was a dream sequence where Abby, imagining her greateest fear, pictured some mysterious shadowed man dragging her off and, without going back to rewatch, I’m pretty sure it was implied this was someone she knew. I thought maybe that was foreshadowing an eventual Arcane appearance, sometime in Season Tw–oh, right. I mean, who knows…maybe that Arcane somehow is the dark force lurking in the swamp, and is possessing Sunderland’s body via the Rot, and thus will actually be Abby’s Uncle Arcane. …So welcome to Mike’s Fanfiction Corner, everybody.

I am trying to enjoy the show for what it is, and honestly, I do. But the part of my brain that contains the last five decades of Swamp Thing comics keeps pushing for certain things to happen. I want Arcane and his Un-Men. I want that alien from issue #9. I was Nathan Ellery controlling a big ol’ robot monster, oh, and also have a pet monkey. I want Chester Williams. …I’m grateful, and frankly amazed, at what we did get (again, pictured above, Nathan Ellery) that knowing the end is near for the show makes me sad for all the stuff we could have had but now won’t. Oh well.

And your DC Daily Update: I think one of the panelists on the show may have made a very, very slight reference to the Swamp Thing program’s impending ending. Nothing explicit, but a soft acknowledgement that maybe we don’t have that much more Swamp Thing to enjoy. I am really curious as to how it’s going to be addressed on the channel’s official “up with DC!” promotional outlet. I know I keep bringing it up, but I’m fascinated by this, and feel a bit for the panelists for eventually having to sell this cancellation as, well, maybe not a good thing, but perhaps not all that bad? We’ll see.

At the very least, we need the full on Blue Devil action we deserve.

§ July 1st, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 8 Comments


So in episode 5 of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing, we get a character I certainly didn’t expect to see in live action in my lifetime…though to be fair, the last few years have been filled with plenty of instances of “didn’t expect to see that character in live action.” But here we are, with a somewhat more down-to-earth Phantom Stranger, though still with the hat and medallion, popping up in our favorite TV show about a hideous muck monster. (You can see a snippet on the YouTubers here 0 yes, I said “YouTubers.”) It looks like, at least in this episode, he’s taking up the John Constantine role, as he shows up in the show to help Swamp Thing understand some of his new abilities.

As much as I love seeing the Stranger appear (complete with Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” playing on his boat radio, for that additional DC mystery comic/ reference to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman goodness), it just adds to the frustration. I wrote about it at length last time I typed excessively about the show, but knowing there’s an premature end fast approaching leaves bit of a bad taste, as getting to see all these characters and situations play out over time is absolutely out of the question. I’ll enjoy what we get, I suppose, but it’s simply going to stand as a big ol’ lost opportunity.

Just so I’m not completely down about this episode, I will note that we got a lot of clear shots of the Swamp Thing get-up, and it does look quite nice. I’m glad they remembered Swamp Thing’s red eyes. It all certainly looks a lot better than the “soggy diaper that leaks” look of the costume in that first Swamp Thing movies in the early ’80s. I’ll even give this new costume the edge over Swampy’s look in the second film, mostly because of the “red eyes” thing.

Last Monday, on the service’s DC Daily talk/news show, they ran a graphic listing topics for episodes later in the week, and for Friday they had listed “MAD ABOUT SWAMP THING.” “Whoa,” I thought or at least saying I though for ease of describing my general non-verbal feeling at the time, “I wonder if the DC Daily show is going to address the whole ‘Swampy Got Canned’ sitch.” Given that the program is a promotional tool for the DC Universe service, and for DC publications, movies and other TV shows, it seemed unlikely we were going to see any hard-hitting investigative journalism regarding the abrupt cancellation. But still, that “MAD ABOUT SWAMP THING” title had me wondering.

Well, okay, as it turned out, it was folks from Mad Magazine riffing on Saga of the Swamp Thing #29, the first part of the “Arcane Returns” storyline, so it had nothing to do wtih the TV show at all. But I do wonder…you’d think eventually the show’s ending would have to be addressed, somehow. I just wonder how they’re going to do it while still maintaining a positive spin on the whole endeavor…or if maybe episode 10 rolls around, and the DC Daily is all “that was great! Can’t wait to see where it goes from here!” and just straight up never mention it again. It’s a tricky thing to handle, and it has me honestly curious about how they would go about approaching an admittedly difficult topic. …I still think just calling it a “mini-series” is still a good idea.

I realize the phrase “following up on my Swamp Thing post” doesn’t exactly narrow things down.

§ June 14th, 2019 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, sterling silver comics, swamp thing, undergrounds § 1 Comment

Following up on my Swamp Thing post, I should note that there are further reports about what may or may not have happened regarding the show’s cancellation. First it was “somebody messed up the tax credit,” then it was “they weren’t getting enough tax credit,” and now it’s “powers-that-be thought the show was a stinker and cut their losses.” The show’s getting plenty of good reviews now, but it’s probably too late for them to change their minds. Anyway, I have no idea what the full, real story is, but in the meantime, one of the My Little Ponies, a “community manager” at DC Universe, tries to keep things upbeat, as is the way of said ponies.

ª ª ª

More Swampy follow-up: after noting here and discussing further here that DC’s digital versions of certain Swamp Thing issues feature incomplete artwork or missing captions, BobH asked if the same problem was still in the print edtion. And yes, after getting Swamp Thing Book One TPB back in stock, I was able to check and…the color-hold image is missing from the reprint of #21, and the “and meet the sky” caption is still missing from the end of #24. Don’t worry, everyone, I’m sure they’ll have this fixed by ther time Swamp Thing Season Two shows up on DC Universe.

ª ª ª

Hey, look at this thing that showed up in a collection on Thursday:


And here’s the back cover, because why not:


I immediately recognized this as an Ods Bodkins book, featuring the work of Dan O’Neill, but quickly realized it was one I already had, albiet in the diffeof trent edition. It was, in fact the first edition, from 1969, of Hear The Sound of My Feet Walking..Drown The Sound of My Voice Talking. I discussed the book, or at least my edition of same, a couple of times on the site, including way super-early on, back when people read blogs. And I brought it up again a mere 12 years later when I decided my site needed a nice big scan of the cover.

It’s quite a bit larger than my copy (it’s about the size of one of those treasury edition comics) and there appears to be a page half covers in red ink. Not “oopsie we splashed some red ink on this page,” but literally “here, have a giant solid block of red for just that one page for some reason.” I’ll need to take a closer look and see what’s up with that…or just straight up keep the book, since I love “Ods Bodkins.” …Yes, I’m the guy.

• • •

So about the Will Eisner “Spirit of Comics Retailing” award my shop was nominated for…well, you can read the whole tragic tale here on my store’s Facebook page. If you eschew Facebook, and if so I salute you, the short version is: got the paperwork a while back, decided to hold off dealing iwth it ’til my eyes were a bit better, checked the due date, waited a bit, eyes are reasonably better, got out the paperwork again, realized I misread or misremembered the due date and now it’s too late to enter. Well, great.

On the other hand, if I tried to complete the paperwork and take the necessary photos and make the necessary video for the award application on time, I would have had to done with eyes that on a good day were barely adequate for my regular day-to-day stuff, and occasionally completely obscured leaving me with hardly any vision at all. So, let’s call this a “mixed blessing,” and should someone make the horrible mistake of nominating me again next year, hopefully my eyes will be back in business for good and I can give the award whatever attention I can manage.

And like I said in my Facebook post…my eyes are finally getting better. Both eyes. At the same time. Not “one eye’s mostly okay, the other completely blind” or anything like that. This is the first time I’ve had reasonable, though still a bit to go, vision in both eyes at the same time in over a year. Barring any more surprise sets (crossing my fingers ande my corneas) everything should be good sooner rather than later. Yes, I realize I’m jinxing it.

I can’t really call myself an “Eisner nominee” since I won’t be in the running, but it’s nice that someone thought well enough about me to throw my name into the hat. I’m not the biggest or most media-present store out there, but I am a guy who likes to sell comics, has a store full of them, and has done this for a long time. That I still get to do it is certainly an award in and of itself.

• • •

Don’t forget…I’m still taking your funnybook-related questions and post topics! I’ll probably start on them next, so be sure to tune in on your Internet Radio Box for that.

Come to think of it, have we ever seen Swamp Thing immediately start trying to tear off all the muck ‘n’ stuff post-transformation? That’s what I’d do.

§ June 10th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

[SPOILERS for the first two episodes of Swamp Thing (2019)]


So the big problem with watching a show that you already know is doomed from the start is, basically, investment. I mean, yes, you can just watch it and enjoy what you got, sure, but it’s difficult to divorce yourself from your assumptions of abandoned potential, watching as plot threads and character developments are introduced and you realize they’ll never get the required time necessary to play out properly.

You could think of the DC Universe’s Swamp Thing TV show, which debuted at the very end of last month, as a “mini-series,” I suppose (and it’s really only a matter of time before the cheery hosts of that service’s DC Daily news show start referring to it as such), but a mini-series would imply a planned beginning, middle, and end, and not a suddenly assembled “well, tie it up best we can” final episode when the word came down a while back that the series order was cut from 13 episodes to 10. Now that we know this is all we’re getting with news of the show’s outright cancellation (for not 100% clear reasons just yet…there seems to be some contention over the popuarly-reported financial causes for the shutdown) it makes it hard to think about what could have been.

Because what we got so far? Not too shabby, thinks I. My eye troubles over the past week were maybe a good thing, at least for blogging purposes, as I’ve now had two episodes under my belt to reflect upon, given that Swamp Thing his own self doesn’t really even show up ’til the end of the first episode. (Another nagging thought…with only ten episodes left, the slow burn on Swampy action is a little frustrating…I want as much crammed in as possible. I want a Swamp Thing/Anton Arcane throwdown, complete with all the Un-Men, by episode 4 at the latest.)

But overall, all the elemnts are there, if shuffled around a tad. Abby Arcane works for the Center of Disease Cotrol, sent back to her hometown in Louisiana to investigate a mysterious swamp-borne virus. She meets Alac Holland, a dusgraced scientist who had been working for local Powerful Man up to No Good Avery Sunderland, but remained in town investigating the weird goings-on in the swamplands after Sunderland let him go. And Matt Cable is there, now a policeman and old schoolmate of Abby’s, and Liz Tremayne, a reporter introduced in the Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates 1980s run, is there as well, and still a reporter.

Alas, no Linda Holland or Chester Williams as of yet. But we do get Dan Cassidy, a local actor who, as we all surely know, is the Blue Devil in our beloved comics. Will he become the Blue Devil in the series? That feels like a season two or three thing–oh, right. And Madame Xanadu, DC’s mysical seer-type person, is there as well, and she establishes with Sunderland’s wife that there are some supernatural shenanigans happening involvin their long-desceased daughter (whose death is tied to Abby, who was their daughter’s friend). Oh, and did I mention Matt Cable’s mother is the local sheriff, played by Jennifer Beals?

So yeah, it’s not quite as simple a set-up as in the original comics. But some of those elements are still present. It’s established that Matt had a crush on Abby, and since Abby started to have feeling for Alec before…well, more on that in a second, but that had the makings of some kind of love triangle eventually, made to play out over the years to…um, anyway.

About Alec’s transformation. As much as I was hoping to get some version of this scene, with all the retooling of the premise I guess that wasn’t going to happen. While overall I’m fine with what they’ve done, I do have to admit it does bother me a little bit that Alec’s transformation into Swamp Thing is not due to his own experiments, but rather because of some outside force dumping “growth accelerant” into the water, causing the mutations and odd behaviors of the plant life out there in the bog. I’m not sure why that troubles me, aside from losing the inherent tragedy, and irony, of Alec falling victim to his own discovery. Instead, while out in the swamp investigating the dumped chemicls, he’s shot, the boat he’s on blows up, and muck-encrusted mockery ensues.

But, you know, I can live with it, at least for the eight remaining episodes. And everything is certainly moodily lit and plenty creepy. (A shot of the body of an early victiim of the virus, suddenly bolting upright during an autopsy with roots and such jutting out of it, stiffly jerking about, is particularly jarring.) And Swamp Thing, once we finally get a ood look at him in Episode 2, definitely looks like Swamp Thing, all planty and slimy and goopy and stuff. No ill-fitting green wetsuit here. We haven’t heard him speak yet, but episode three is titled “He Speaks,” so I’m guessing we will. It’s definitely caught my interest, and I think it does a good job updating the character and situations for a modern audience, laying the groundwork for what could have been several seasons of story. But oh well.

A couple other things…Tim Russ, AKA Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager had a bit part in the pilot. Some kind of weird Star Trek synergy goin’ on over at the DC Universe, what with Marina Sirtis showing up for an episode of Titans.

Also, there’s a little blonde girl, the daughter of one of the first victims of the swamp-virus, and appears to be affected herself, who’s present in the first two episodes. I don’t know if they were implying some kind of psychic connection between her and Swamp Thing (her tearing off wires while in her hospital bed, while Swamp Thing, immediately post transofrmation, similarly tearing at the roots and muck that have become his body), but it reminds me a little of the little blonde girl “Casey” from the early issues of this series:


I’m going to presume things don’t work out quite the same way in the TV show as in the comic. However, she does eventually meet our hero, who saves her life, and there’s a bit of offscreen bonding we learn about in the second episode’s cliffhanger (she tells Abby that creature says his name is Alec). I think it’s a nice callback to an overshadowed comic book run, whether it was intentional or not.

As may come as no surprise, I’ll be in for the duration of the series, but I can already see myself thinking “C’MON PICK UP THE PACE, YOU ONLY HAVE FOUR EPISODES LEFT” or whatever. Who knows, maybe this’ll be the killer app that gets everyone to finally sign on for the DC Universe service and the powers that be will strike some kind of new deal to make more episodes. A boy can dream.

The day of the show’s debut, the aforementioned DC Daily did a Swampy-focused episode, which began with this screen:

Kudos to whoever was responsible for that reference to the greatest superhero cartoon theme song of all time:

I can’t believe Swamp Thing said that about Batman.

§ May 30th, 2019 § Filed under doom patrol, swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

Your reminder that I, a glutton for punishment, have asked you, people what still read the comic blogs, for questions and topics for me to type a lot about, as is the way of my people. Please feel free to pop in over there and let your query flag quiver!

In other news…okay, what I had originally written here was this enormous rambling thing about the DC Universe original streaming shows and how much they embraced or did not embrace their funnybook origins, and boy did it get out of hand. “What, Mike typed too much?” I hear you asking in disbelieving tones. But yeah, it was a mess and too long and nobody wanted to read that. Instead, let me give you my much more brief opinions on the shows thus far:

Titans – while tonally…off, and with limitations on the characters that likely stem from budgetary/suspension of disbelief reasons (no flying for Starfire/only one animal option for Beast Boy) it still remains oddly watchable. The acting is solid, the ongoing plots about Robin trying to escape Batman’s shadow, and the stuff with Raven, are interesting, and the fight sequences are very well choreographed and easy to follow, which I appreciate. Plus, I love the fact that Hawk and Dove pretty much look like they were 3D printed directly from the comic books, even if they seemed to miss the point of, you know, Dove being a pacifist. Still, it’s enough to bring me back for Season Two, where I hope they shift a little more away from “WE’RE DARK AND ADULT, NOT LIKE THAT TEEN TITANS CARTOON YOU REMEMBER” and more toward the goofy superhero stuff. I mean, they don’t have to go all the way if they want, but a little more would be nice. The end-of-season tag gives me a smidgen of hope.

Young Justice: Outsiders – perfectly fine…if you liked the previous two seasons of this show, here’s more, and it’s a fun look at the DC Universe via the perspective of the younger heroes and sidekicks. Nothing against the Bruce Timm/DC Animated Universe style, but it’s nice to have a longform take on these characters that doesn’t look like every other DC TV cartoon. Good thing DC Universe spaces out the releases of their shows, because this would have been an easy one to just watch the entire initial batch of episodes straight through.

Doom Patrol: probably the breakout star of the streaming shows so far, approaching these weird characters and weird situations, often straight out of the comics, with humor and, well, the willingness to just throw the bonkers stuff at you and tell you “here you go, deal with it.” I know initially I thought for sure they’d figure out a way to have Robotman appear in human form most of the time thanks to some, I don’t know, holographic disguise or something, but nope, there’s Robotman, pretty much all the time. And I have to say, Brendan Fraser’s voicework on the character, as well as his dialogue and general demeanor, is just spot on perfect. That’s Robotman.

The other characters in the show are nicely done as well, though I’m hoping to see more of Rita Farr using her stretchy powers properly, rather than just occasionally melting down a bit. And Cyborg fit in better than I thought he would, supplying a contrast between the other Patrol members and himself while revealing to be nearly as messed up as the rest of them.

The metatextual commentary of Mr. Nobody, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Danny the Street and Flex MentallO, even the Beardhunter (somewhat in changed form)…this show really gave us something different and off-kilter in the superhero genre, which was desperately needed.

Forthcoming is Stargirl (about the show I know very little aside from seeing shots of the costume) and of course Swamp Thing (starting Frihay – here have a trailer). They look like they’re fiddling with the characters and set-up a bit, but I’m still willing to give it a go. What, you thought I wouldn’t? Here’s hoping it’s closer to Doom Patrol than to Titans…but let’s face it, I’d watch it regardless. I’ll report back after I get a chance to watch my own self.

Anyway, there’s my shorter take on the DCU TV shows. Aren’t you glad I kept it brief?

Quick. someone Ask Jeeves.

§ May 17th, 2019 § Filed under dc comics, how the sausage is made, publishing, swamp thing § 7 Comments

So the plan was to continue my dicussion of DC’s history of getting superhero chocolate into Swamp Thing’s peanut butter, and to do so I was going to, ahem, “borrow” some images from the DC Universe streaming app/service/comic library thing to save myself the time scanning the appropriate images. But lo and also behold, when I went to check out issue #23 of the original 1970s Swamp Thing series, this is what I found:

…It was in black and white. And so was #24. And when I checked other issues in the series, the available online scans from #14 ’til the end of that first run are all in black and white. Oh, and I eventually noticed the little, um, notice that was in the short text intro for each issue letting you know that, yes, this issue you’re about to read is in blcak and white.

That struck me as a bit…odd. I haven’t come across any other series on the service that was originally in color being presented in black and white. Granted, I haven’t done much of a deep dive beyond scattered issues of DC Comics Presents and some Silver Age Green Lantern, and there are literally thousands of digital comics recent thrown onto the service here, but it seems like this is weird.

Now there never was one of those black and white DC Showcase paperbacks for this series, and the entire run of the book was recently recolored and reprinted in that big ol’ Bronze Age Ominbus that came out not long ago. And other recently returned for regrooving and recoloring issues of other Swamp Thing series, like the 1982 run (also in that omnibus) is on the service, in full glorious technicolor. So why did the ’70s series get singled out?

There must be some kind of production issue involved here, though I have no idea what it is. The first thirteen issues are presented in color, and those same thirteen (representing Len Wein’s entire run of stories) were also recolored and reprinted in a hardcover some years back. So, I guess, maybe since those issues were reprocessed a few years back, they were ready for digitizing and uploading, but the later issues had yet to be recolored for that much more recent omnibus and weren’t ready when it was time to get all this online? But then, the pre-Alan Moore issues of the 1982 series had also never been reprinted before, but they’re all up and newly colored…so I have no idea. I’m really just guessing, and someone’s probably already explained why somewhere, but Alta Vista’s down and I know of no other way to search the World Wide Web.

Anyway, thought that was interesting. I’m still gonna talk about those issues soon, but I’m going to have to scan my own comics like some kind of caveman. I have talked about issues #23 and #24, the particularly superhero=y Swampys, on the site before, back in ye olden dayes of comics blogging, back before the meteor struck and killed 90% of Earth’s comics-blogging population. The scans I used then were tiny little things designed for dial-up, and not the glorious giant bandwidth-hogging pics I try to use now, so I’ll get on that in short order.

To follow up on BobH’s question from Friday’s comments section, about whether or not that final caption from issue #24 is in the currently-available print editions…my answer is “I don’t know.” I got pretty wiped out on much of my trade paperback stock during Free Comic Book Day, so I don’t have those Swamp Thing books readily available to peek at. I’m restocking best I can, and those Swampys are a priority what with the TV show about to debut. When last I investigated this important matter, that caption was missing from the then relatively recent hardcover printing, but present in the softcover edition. I believe we’ve had a repackaging of those issues since, so when my stock of those gets replenished, I’ll take a looksee.

In other Swamp Thing reprint news, DC has a series of “facsimile editions” (new printings of classic comics, ads and all, kind of like what Marvel’s been doing lately) coming soon. And House of Secrets #92, featuring the work of Jack Kirby and alos the first appearance of some swamp creature, is on the docket. That’ll make reprint number…man, I don’t know, I’ve lost count of how many versions of this I have. I made a list on this site long ago, and a later addendum or three, and I was up to, what, 15? 16? Whatever it is, it’s too many, and I’ll be adding to that collection soon, it seems.

Thank goodness I caught the typo in “makeshift lab,” that would have been embarrassing.

§ May 13th, 2019 § Filed under superman, swamp thing § 9 Comments

So when last we met, I had a lot to say about Swamp Thing comics and their treatment of superheroes, which hopefully you all were able to appreciate amongst all the typos*. I was a tad dismissive, in particular, of the Supeman/Swamp Thing “team-up” in DC Comics Presents #8 from 1979, which I described as a typical Superman comic that Swamp Thing happened to be in, and not reflective of the tonal shift superheroes would receive in the post-Alan Moore era of Swampy’s title.

Anyway, thanks to the DC Universe streaming service (as I’m not really able to read print comics due to my eyeball stuff) I was able to reread that issue for the first time in…gosh, a decade, maybe? And it turns out my memory of that book was just a tiny bit wrong.

I’ll explain, but just so we’re on the same page, as it were, and because there was some minor confusion over this point when I posted about it last Friday, the DC Comics Presents issue I’m talking about is not this one from 1985 by Moore, Rick Veitch and Al Williamson that everyone remembers:


…but, rather, this one from, as I said, 1979, by Steve Englehart and Murphy Anderson:


Now it does, on the surface level, look like a typical Superman comic. Supes is drawn in the traditional way (both inside by Anderson and on that greaet cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez), he’s fighting a supervillain, it’s in Metropolis, there’s Janet Klyburn from S.T.A.R. Labs, there’s Lois, etc. Oh, and there’s Swamp Thing, drawn in a style that fits right in with Superman’s world, the one concession to his mystery book origins being the drippy caption boxes:

Okay, and let me get this out of the way. The thing that bothered me about this issue when I first read it sometime in the early 1980s, more than anything else, and way out of proportion to the actual offense, is that Swamp Thing’s thought balloons are colored incorrectly. They’re supposed to be yellow on the inside, with the white outline. His speech balloons (all two of ’em) in this issue are drawn and colored the same way, and not as the jagged orange word balloons from the original comics. …I’m bothered less by it now, as I’ve mellowed in my old age, so let’s move on.

The general plot of the story is that Swamp Thing (who at this point still believes himself to Dr. Alec Holland, transformed by a hideous mishap of science into this muck-encrusted mockery of a man) learns about another swamp creature, Solomon Grundy, running around in Metropolis and causin’ trouble. Swampy wants to get his hands on Grundy and run some tests, hoping to find a cure for his condition, which brings him into conflict with Superman, who would take Grundy away and out of his reach:


As it turns out, there is some chemical hoohar in the sewers of Metropolis that is spontaneously generating dupblicates of Grundy, who are running amuck in the streets, forcing Superman to take drastic measures.

Eventually, Swamp Thing’s tests (using a makeshift lab he somehow built in the sewer tunnels) revealed what Superman already know, that Solomon Grundy and these duplicates aren’t really alive, but are instead, well…


I believe that would be the scientic term for it, yes.

Thanks to Dr. Klyburn at S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman has something-or-other that will destroy all these Grundy duplicates on contact that he can just fly around at super-speed and apply to them, saving himself the trouble of any more destructive brawls with a creature nearly as strong as he is. But when Swamp Thing hears of this plan:


He rushes to stop Superman from enacting this plan:


…but his attempt at getting the Man of Steel’s attention is futile:


…and Superman flies off and does the ol’ scrubbing bubbles thing on the Grundy menace:


Ultimately, in its way, this story is a definite precursor to the reinterpretations of DC’s superheroes we begin to see in the previously discussed Saga of the Swamp Thing #24. The Superman comics have always made a a big deal out of his code against killing, while also giving him regular “outs” to allow him to, well, kill things when he needs to (“oh, it’s just a robot,” “oh, it’s just some imitation of life,” “oh, it’s distorted weirdness”).

Solomon Grundy not being “alive” seems to be a case of splitting hairs…he moves, he thinks, he demonstrates understanding of concepts like “friend” and “foe” — that panel above, Swamp Thing realizes that it may not be specifically life as we know it, but it’s something. When Superman flies off to do his thing and save the day, freed by his belief that he’s not really kiling anything, the reader is forced, via Swamp Thing’s perspective, to consider that he is possibly (or, rather, probably) doing the wrong thing, that Superman is just straight-up fundamentally misapplying his code against killing, The story is one of failure: failure of Swamp Thing to prevent the destruction of the Grundys, and Superman’s failure to consider the possibility the Grundys may have some form of existence worth preserving.

I put “team-up” in quotes earlier as, while DC Comics Presents is “the Superman team-up comic,” Superman and Swamp Thing’s inabilit to team up is what leads to, if not a tragedy, at least a highly ambiguous ending. Without Swamp Thing’s involvement, if it were just a Superman story where he was coping with the same Grundy problem, the reader would likely think nothing of Superman’s solution. With Swamp Thing’s presence, with his point of view added into the mix, we suddenly get a superhero story where the flaws in the genre are brought forward and examined in the comic itself. This is as much a part of the lineage of the “realistic” takes on superheroes we see throughout the eighties and later as anything Moore or Frank Miller or Steve Gerber et al. have done. My mistake in dismissing this issue as long as I have.

Okay, the thought balloon thing still bothers me just a little bit.
 
 

* While my vision is improving, large blocks of text are difficult for me to process at the moment, and the irony that I seem to love writing large blocks of text is not lost upon me. Anyway, I’m proofreading best I can, but it ain’t easy…even the little squiggly red lines that the browser helpfully provides are hard for me to spot, so please bear with me.

No, I’m not counting that appearance in Super Friends.

§ May 10th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing § 8 Comments

So on the DC Daily show on the DC Universe streaming channel, they do a thing called “Book Club” (“tally-HO!”) in which several of the cast members discuss a storyline or series of comics, a few issues at a time over a number of episodes. It’s a thing to encourage viewers to read those same stories via the DC Universe digital comics library. The discussions are fun and spirited and entertaining to watch, and if you like comic books, like I know I do, it can be nice to watch a bunch of folks enthusiastically and positively chatting about funnybooks I like.

And speaking of which, the current Book Club reading material of choice is Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which of course certainly grabbed my attention. The started with the initial four issue storyline (plus a brief aside to #20, Moore’s first actual issue on the series), in which Swamp Thing discovers his true nature (or does he?) and squares off against the old Silver Age super-villain the Floronic Man.

Now, there’s a certain aspect to that story I kept expecting someone on the show’s panel to mention, but either they didn’t have time (it’s only a 15-minute or so segment, after all) or, speaking as an old person, perhaps they were just a bit too young to realize what a big deal this was. This is the storyline that just straight up puts the Justice League of America into a horror comic, and manages to make them fit into tonally into the proceedings, and what a precedent-setting event that was.

Swamp Thing, of course, had interacted with the larger DC superheroic universe at large prior to this, most famously in issue #7 of the original 1970s series where Batman appeared. Eventually there would be appearances in DC’s team-up books (twice more with Batman in Brave and the Bold, once with Superman in DC Comics Presents), plus an extended guest-starring role in Challengers of the Unknown.

The Batman appearances seemed more in line with Swamp Thing’s particular milieu, while the Superman adventure was more an off-model Swampy story (more like a bright super-adventure than one of DC’s mystery books). (EDIT: since there’s confusion, I’m referring to the 1979 Superman team-up by Steve Englehart and Murphy Anderson, not the later one by Moore and Rick Veitch). The Challs stuff was kind of a mix of the two, closer in style to the “weird heroes” DC comics of the late ’60s. What they all had in common was that they weren’t really trying to…re-present, I suppose, the superheroes in any sort of new context vis-à-vis the tone of a Swamp Thing story. These were generally straight-forward superhero adventures, and also here’s Swamp Thing. Batman feels like the closest fit mostly due to the usually darker nature of his own stories, especially in the post-1960s attempts at escaping the long shadow of the Adam West TV show.

When the second Swamp Thing ongoing series began in the early ’80s, the stories once again felt divorced from the DC universe. There were Phantom Stranger back-ups in the early issues, but were unrelated to the lead feature. Mr. Stranger would of course eventually team-up with Swampy in issues #14 and #15 of that series…possibly a more natural fit than even Batman, given the character’s supernatural nature.

So anyway, back to that Justice League appearance. That happens in issue #24. In issue #21, we get sort of our first hint of what’s to come with the introduction of Jason Woodrue, AKA the plant-themed super-villain the Floronic Man into the series. This is not a transgressive introduction of a superheroic element into the Swamp Thing comics, but rather Woodrue is redefined in horror terms, a twisted, shadowy monster instead of a sleekly costumed nemesis for the Atom or whomever. Swamp Thing isn’t made to fit into a superhero book (like he had been before, especially in that one Superman team-up)…it’s his book, these visiting characters have to play by his book’s rules. And the main rule is “you’d better be unnerving.”

Which finally leads us to the Justice League appearance. When issue #23 contained the line “and Washington called the Justice League,” I remember thinking at the time “whoa, hold on, this is Saga of the Swamp Thing, how the heck is the JLA gonna fit into this?” Y’know, despite the fact that we’d been reading about an old supervillain for the last couple of issues, but he fit in…he was a plant-monster, kinda like Swampy, he was creepy and murderous and didn’t feel like a goofy 1960s villain. But the Justice League, with, like, Superman and Firestorm and such, that seemed like a bridge too far.

But here it was, issue #24:

…with a cover blurb and everything, which you mostly didn’t get on the more horror-oriented Swamp Thing covers. And already you can see that this isn’t going to be a usual guest-apearance by Earth’s Greatest Super-Team, what with them being all dark and shadowy and stuff.

And sure enough, inside, they’re….all dark and shadowy and stuff. And the captions aren’t all flowery and upbeat and “hey look, it’s your favorite heroes.” It’s more along the lines of “these are weird beings dressed in strange ways and can do not-normal things.” Well, hold on, here are some representative panels:

I mean, they’re not even called “superheroes,” but the somewhat more terrifying “overpeople,” for Pete’s sake. You’re forced to reexamine these characters in the title’s horror context, helped along by the shadows and the coloring and their non-conventional portrayals…what is usually idealistic heroism is now creepy and a little upsetting.

Alan Moore had already been reexamining (or “deconstructing,” if you will) the superhero genre over in England with his reintroduction of original Captain Marvel 1950s knock-off Marvelman. What was once bright and cheery with that character is now menacing and mired in modern day goverment conspiracies and violence. But the JLA’s appearance in Swamp Thing set the tone for nearly all future apperances of superheroes in this series. They’re never just “as-is,” it’s always in the context of “what’s wrong with this,” or “here’s what’s really odd about them,” or “did you ever realize this?” They’re all recontextualized in the comic’s tone, designed to make you see them differently, to reconsider them, to be kept off-balance by them. Even when the metacommentary gets a little too much for DC editorial, requiring some changes, the “scary superhero” continues throughout the run.

And this idea of reexamination/descontruction spread to other comics, especially the Vertigo and proto-Vertigo titles like Sandman (itself using an Justice League villain as one of its initial antagonists) and Shade the Changing Man and Doom Patrol (which could be argued that, to an extent, it was sort of approaching this level of “superhero as an other to be feared” even back in the 1960s run). But I think it’s same to say this portrayal of the JLA was, as was described to me when I talked about this briefly on Twitter, one of “the most influential comics ever published.” It’s one of the first of the modern era of mainstream superhero comics to make us look at these characters in a different and disturbing light.

And that’s the thing I think was missed on the DC Daily discussion, just how surprising and shocking this version of the Justice League was. That sort of portrayal is more commonplace in comics now, but it was certainly novel back then. Pretty much a straight line from this to Watchmen, I think it’s safe to say.

Speaking of the DC Universe digital comics ( which I was way back at the beginning, if you remember)…if the DC Daily crew were reading this storyline via that digital library, I hate to tell them but they missed the very last line of the Floronic Man story. Like some of the print editions (previously: 1 2), the line “…and meet the sun” is dropped off that final splash page:


Along with that color-hold error in the digital #21…well, I don’t know what to tell you…you folks should have bought ’em off the stands back in ’83, like I did.
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ADDENDUM: I was also reminded on the Twitterers that we had some measure of Swamp Thing absorbing superheroic shenanigans into its milieu near the end of the original series, as well as a promised (but never published) appearance by Hawkman. This was, if not an influence, at least a precursor to what was to come. Oh, and Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing work in the ’70s should be part of this lineage as well, what with that Foolkiller character an’ all. But holy cow, I’ve typed enough tonight…further coverage to come, I’m guessing!
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cover art by Tom Yeates, interior art by Steve Bissette and John Totleben

“DO NOT BRING YOUR EVIL HERE.”

§ April 18th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing § 2 Comments

The good news – a teaser trailer for the upcoming Swamp Thing TV series guest-starring Blue Devil on DC Universe:

The bad news: due to some behind the scenes stuff, the series order was cut from 13 episodes down to 10:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/swamp-thing-order-cut-as-dc-universes-role-warnermedia-streaming-unclear-1202680

In which I have some minor spoilers for Teen Titans Go! To The Movies but don’t spoil the best joke.

§ December 31st, 2018 § Filed under cartoons, challs, swamp thing, teen titans § 1 Comment

So in my most recent attempt to make the money I’m spending on Netflix worthwhile, I’ve been getting a handful of discs…yes, actual physical media…from them a little more often than I have of late (for example, I finally watched and returned that copy of The Quick and The Dead I’d had in my possession since July), One of my recent borrowings was of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. a nice, gentle skewering of the superhero movie trend with plenty of laughs…the biggest being Robin’s final line in the film, which still makes me sensibly chuckle even now. Won’t spoil it here, and while it is revealed in the Wikipedia entry on the film, without its context and delivery it’s not nearly as hilarious.

Some of the film’s humor was clearly “not a joke for you, a guy who’s about to turn 50 years old” but I thought most of it was pretty accessible, and to be fair, the Challengers of the Unknown jokes were totally for me, so take that, kids.

Speaking of being totally for me, there was no small amount of Swamp Thing guest-starring action, and a big thanks to fine human being Kevin Church for GIFing up this sequence on my behalf:


We can only hope this is what he looks like in that upcoming TV series on the DC streaming service.

A couple of more things about Teen Titans Go! To Mike’s Blu-Ray Player:

Not a fan of fart jokes generally, but I gotta say, that was a good one in this film.

And, the “mid-credits” bonus scene featuring the original, not entirely-gag driven version of the animated Teen Titans, setting up a Teen Titans Vs. Teen Titans Go movie that is apparently still A Thing That Is Happening: well, that should be weird. It’s the battle between the fans who hated that first Teen Titans cartoon and the fans that really hate the new Teen Titans Go! cartoon!

Also liked the handful of gags aimed at Marvel’s direction (especially the Big Cameo which I’m very glad was actually voiced by him and not someone doing an impression). Frankly, I was a bit surprised not more was make with the comparison between Deadpool’s real name “Wade” and Slade’s real name (“Slade”)…I can see why they avoided the topic of their identical last names, given certain story events.

Oh, which reminds me, I thought the repeated gag of everyone rolling Slade’s name around in their mouths to appreciate how evil it sounds was a solid one.

Of course, the darkest laugh is one I already sort of knew about, when the Titans are travelling through time to restore superhero origins they had undone for, you know, reasons, in which Robin…facilitates Batman’s origin. Hoo boy. All those people in the late ’80s/early ’90s who mimicked only the grim ‘n’ gritty parts of Dark Knight Returns only wished they were that dark.

So anyway, it’s a good bit of fun, worth a rental if you haven’t seen it already. Or if you have, it’s worth it just to freeze frame on some of the movie posters that pop up in the background here and there. Plus, if you’re a Swamp Thing fan…well, I already showed you why it’s worth your time.

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