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Quick. someone Ask Jeeves.

§ May 17th, 2019 § Filed under dc comics, how the sausage is made, publishing, swamp thing § 6 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.

Why this wasn’t pressed on dark green/brown vinyl, I have no idea.

§ October 19th, 2018 § Filed under swamp thing § 5 Comments

Okay, I’ll get back to your questions next week (and feel free to add more to the list if you’d like!), but your pal Mike has an early morning doctor’s visit and thus is keeping it short so he can hit the sack a little earlier than normal.

So today I’ll just show off this copy of the original Harry Manfredini soundtrack to the first Swamp Thing movie from 1982, a sealed copy of which I’ve had in my collection for quite some time:


…Well, formerly sealed, as I recently purchased a new turntable to listen to a bunch of records I inherited from my grandparents, and have been going back and revisiting some old vinyl from my own collection as well. This particular record I bought online way back in the early days of eBay, if I recall correctly, and I never did get around to popping it open…so there it was, sitting in a box in the house, just waiting for the day I finally, carefully, slit open the shrinkwrap and exposed that platter to the light..and to the needle on my player.

Anyway, this turntable also has a built-in recording function, where you just slap in a flash drive and press the “record” b¨tton and whatever’s playing gets output as an MP3, so now I can have this muck-encrusted musical of a man emitting from my (apparently passé) MP3 device whenever I wish.

Now if I can just get the hit theme song from this cartoon as a single 45, I’ll be set:

And yes, that off-kilter pic of the album is the same one, more or less, that I put on the store’s Instagram. I post lots of neat pictures there, so you should totally follow me. If you don’t, it’ll hurt my feelings. (sniff).

Look, I did my best to avoid spoilers.

§ September 19th, 2018 § Filed under swamp thing § 9 Comments

So there I was, reading Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 via the DC Universe streaming service app, as one does. And I gotta say, those pages look pretty good on a 50-inch hi-def TV…the colors really pop, the linework is nice and clear, it looks great even to my aging eyes.

But as previously established, there I was, reading that issue, when I noticed something a little unusual about this panel:


“Hold on,” I said to myself, out loud, like a character in a comic book,”those feet are missing the ‘color hold’ images representing the kicking of the feet as [REDACTED] suffocates in [ALSO REDACTED]’s mossy chest,” which you can see here in the printed original:from late ’83/early ’84:


I noticed another color-held image earlier in the book made it through to the digital version fine, but just thought this was a Thing of Note™. Still, nice to see the art all blown up big ‘n’ stuff.

EDIT: As per BobH’s comment…yes, the online version of #24 does leave out the last line from the last page.
 
 

images from Saga of Swamp Thing #21 (February 1984) by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben

Geeking out.

§ August 17th, 2018 § Filed under swamp thing § 2 Comments

So I just spent a lot of my bloggin’ time going through issue after issue of Swamp Thing comics, scouring the letters pages for a specific missive. Alas, still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I did come across this letter in Swamp Thing #72 (May 1988) inquiring after infamous DC character Brother Power the Geek and his possible connection to ol’ Swampy:


And that was the definitive answer until Swamp Thing Annual #5 (by Neil Gaiman, Richard Piers Rayner, et al.) in, um, 1989, guest-starring you-know-who:


…where said The Geek was runnin’ around and wreaking accidental havok and basically evidencing abilities similar to Swamp Thing’s. In fact, one of Earth’s previous plant elementals shows up to explain:


So there you have it, Mr. Letter Writer from 1988. That annual from the far-flung future of 1989 tells you that yes indeed, the process was in motion to create a Hippie Elemental but was interrupted. Ah well, these things happen.

Also, while looking through all these Swamp Thing comics, this particular idea came to mind, so of course I put it on Twitter:


I think we can all agree this is something that should happen.

I’ve typed an awful lot over the last couple of weeks…

§ July 25th, 2018 § Filed under swamp thing § 2 Comments

…so today I’ll just remind you to head to your local comics emporium and pick up this week’s new release of Scooby-Doo Team-Up #40, guest-starring Swamp Thing:


That is indeed Swamp Thing, cute little pug nose an’ all. (Why, that makes my Twitter avatar almost canon!) Anyway, this issue will make you long-time Swampy fans very happy, I think.

Also look for Swamp Thing in this week’s debut of Justice League Dark as well! Two covers to choose from, both prominently featuring that muck-encrusted mockery of a man. (Or be like me…don’t choose, just get ’em both!)

You don’t know how many times I typed “Sting” as “String.”

§ June 20th, 2018 § Filed under swamp thing § 9 Comments

So this kind of blew my mind: Sting to write introduction to John Constantine anniversary hardcover.

The surprising element is that Constantine’s creation in Swamp Thing was inspired by artists Steve Bissette and John Totleben’s desire to drawn a character based on Sting. Now, for whatever reason, based on nothing in particular, I’d always half-believed that DC downplayed that particular connection to avoid any…legal shenanigans, perhaps. I don’t know. That’s probably part of the reason why this came as such a surprise to me. (The other reason was thinking Sting’s response would be “They based a WHAT on me? They want me to do WHAT? Get outta here.”)

But nope, there it is, officially announced by DC Comics. And if you click on that first link, you’ll see an actual honest-to-goodness video of Mr. Sting speaking about the occasion, dressed like Constantine. I mean, if only that could have been our movie version of John, right?

Anyway, the most shocking element of said video is his pronunciation of “Constantine” — as the dreaded “Constan-TEEN.” You maybe remember my longstanding losing battle against this, starting way back when with this here Swamp Thing panel:


…but, man, that’s it. I admit defeat. If Sting says it that way, then, you know, that’s just how it’s going to be. MY WAR IS OVER.

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