Holiday traditions are great, but it’s time to change them this year. Push aside the turkey filled with thanks, and dive into the things that matter. We’re going into the bayou and across the globe with our favorite green, SWAMP THING, from his first appearance to his overlooked first series containing the first twenty-four issues of the green monster. He was created by writer Len Wein and illustrator Bernie Wrightson back in 1971 as a stand-alone horror story. So, get ready for a look into the macabre, the bizarre, and out-of-this-world adventures all in the SWAMP THING.
First Sighting Of The Swamp Thing
The first appearance of Swamp Thing appears in House of Secrets #92 in a Victorian-era short. Wein and Wrightson developed the basis of the character, including the idea of an accident creating the monster and the passion he has for love and wanting his life back. The character did not get his own series until the following year.
Creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson worked together on the first ten issues. They brought a mix of EC Comics science fiction and horror influences to the series. Wrightson later got bored with the mechanics of the series and dropped. Shortly after that, Len continued for three more issues until handing it off to famous Spider-Man writers David Michelinie and Gerry Conway. Illustrator Nestor Redondo picked up thirteen issues, and the last issue was drawn by Fred Carrillo.
Overall, the first ten issues were the most monumental contributions of the character until Alan Moore took over later on. Sales for the book slowed down, followed by getting canceled after issue twenty-four in 1976. It took six years for the book to get picked up again in 1982 and it was renamed The Saga of the Swamp Thing.
Fight Or Flight In The Bayou
The first ten issues are primarily single-story adventures as the Swamp Thing travels across the globe. Alec Holland and his wife, Linda, invented a bio-restorative formula to solve the nation’s global food shortage. Hidden in Louisiana, they work in secret due to the dangers of both political and underground organizations wanting their research. After threats came from the criminal organization, The Conclave, they then set up a bomb to destroy his lab. Alec, covered in his bio-restorative formula, runs out into the swamp water and fuses with the organic materials that surround him.
As a result, the government agent, Matt Cable, investigates the deaths of his short-time scientist friends and comes across the creature that emerges from the swamp. Blaming the Swamp Thing for the deaths, he commits himself to finding and stopping the monster from hurting anyone else. This leads Swamp Thing to encounter strange enemies like Dr. Anton Arcane, The Patchwork Man, and the hate of man. It is Matt Cable who drives the entire first series.
His obsession with finding the Swamp Thing takes various stages, from the anger of wanting to destroy the creature, then trying to understand why the monster helped them on their journey. Cable ultimately understands that Alec Holland is the creature, and he devotes himself to finding a way to help him find a cure. Foundationally, the series as a whole is more about Cable than the Swamp Thing. Cable pushes the story forward as he and Abigail chase down the monster and both get caught up in dangerous situations that Swamp Thing gets them out of.
Going Out In The Mud
In contrast to those first ten or thirteen issues, the rest of the series runs from fumes. The first thirteen issues focus heavily on classic horror elements along with science fiction elements. Once the book was handed over to Michelinie and Conway, it became repetitive and recycled. They relied on small portions of the first part of the series to make more stories that felt dull. Even the artwork went from a detailed EC Comics style to a redone monotonous swampy. After Wrightson stepped away from the book, the character became more of a bulky green lump than an explicit monster. The story still follows Matt Cable as he chases down Swampy, but it seems to have no progression after issue thirteen.
At the same time, there’s a concern with Abigail Arcane. She came into play during the earlier issues when we first met her uncle and Swamp Thing’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Anton Arcane. Her purpose in this series is unclear. Other than deciding to tag along with Matt Cable on his journey, she doesn’t take any real action or have any growth. However, Swamp Thing doesn’t have much growth in the span of the twenty-four issues either. He seems to have no powers other than super strength. His inability to speak during this first series makes him rather bland as readers understand him through thought bubbles. His growth occurs mostly in the first ten issues and seems to flatline from that point on.
Swamp Thing, No More?
If Len Wein had stayed and carried out a clearer vision for the character, maybe it could have sustained it a bit better. The final two issues ended with Swamp Thing turning back to Alec Holland. Whether this was purposeful or a cliffhanger remains unknown for now.
In the end, these first ten issues are gold. They laid the groundwork for the character and provided villains that have carried over to almost every incarnation so far. It’s no wonder that Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein became famously known as the creators of this new DC character.
If you’re trying to get into the character, I would stop at issue thirteen. The essential Twilight Zone and horror-essence stop there as well. There’s more THINGSgiving to come during the month of November, where we’re pushing out the thanks and bringing you Things that matter!