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Swamp Thing, The

Entry updated 10 October 2018. Tagged: Character, Comics, Publication.


Created by writer Len Wein and artist Berni Wrightson in DC Comics's House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), the Swamp Thing is a Monster whose moss- and muck-encrusted body is formed entirely of vegetable matter. In that original short graphic story, as a result of a scientific "accident" arranged by his jealous assistant Damian Ridge, Dr Alex Olsen is killed and subsequently resurrected in mutated form as the Swamp Thing, destined to wreak vengeance but cursed in the process, losing his ties to humanity. Wein and Wrightson rewrote the character's early biography in the Swamp Thing series of Comic books for DC, running from #1 (November 1972) until July 1974. According to the revised version, the unfortunate Dr Alec Holland (note name-change and the change in setting from the early 20th century to the current era) was working on a "Bio-restorative Formula" when an explosion in his laboratory set off the chain of events described above. These ten issues (reprinted as Roots of the Swamp Thing August-November 1986) are regarded in the comics world as classics of Gothic horror.

In May 1982 the character began to reappear in another comic-book series, Saga of the Swamp Thing. In this version he initially developed as a Superhero of no great interest, but #20, Loose Ends, introduced Alan Moore as writer. Moore continued until #64 and, with artists Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and others, attained what is usually accepted one of the greatest achievements to date in horror comics. Moore's themes – including underwater Vampires, menstrual Werewolves, serial killers, racial Zombies and, in a swipe at the gun-lobby, a house haunted by guns – were wide-ranging, and he radically changed the basic premise: Swamp Thing was first shown to be a vegetable Monster who had incorporated through RNA some of Alex Holland's personality. Later, that too was proven false, as it was revealed that Swamp Thing was a plant elemental – the latest in a long line of such beings – which had absorbed Holland's memories (Moore used this occasion to bring the original Wein-Wrightson story and "Alex Olsen" character back into continuity). Moore also introduced significant Ecology and Eschatology themes, latterly taking the title into a series of Space Opera adventures. From #30 DC found it necessary to drop the Comics Code logo from the cover, replacing it with the words "Sophisticated Suspense"; at the same time the title reverted to the original Swamp Thing. The move was the first step toward the 1992 formation of DC's adult imprint, Vertigo, and paved the way for a wide range of non-superhero storytelling. Since Moore's departure the series has gone through multiple incarnations and volumes, although the scripts have rarely reached the same quality. Notable contributions include a run of issues scripted by Rick Veitch, another by writer Nancy A Collins, and a brief series written by Brian K Vaughan.

In 2011, DC reintegrated the character into their main Superhero universe and, as part of a reboot of their entire publishing line, began a new Swamp Thing series with a new issue #1 (September 2011). In this series, Swamp Thing and Alec Holland are, again, the same entity.

There have been two Swamp Thing films: Swamp Thing (1982) directed by Wes Craven, 91 minutes, and its chaotic spoof sequel, the occasionally hilarious The Return of Swamp Thing (1989; vt Swamp Thing II) directed by Jim Wynorski, 88 minutes. Both films, neither very successful, star stuntman Dick Durock as the monster and Louis Jourdan as his conniving foe, Dr Arcane. A television series also starring Durock is Swamp Thing (1990-1993). [RT/JP]


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