Swamp Thing is the unlikeliest of popular characters. Half-superhero, half-monster (he debuted in DC’s creepy House of Secrets), he benefitted from a fledgling DC talent called Alan Moore taking over the book. With nothing to lose, Moore completely revamped the protagonist, as he had done on Marvelman, and would continue to do for years, by trimming the character down to its core concept and then exploding it to its conclusion. Implicit to that was respecting all that’s imbued in the title character’s origin and background stories as not only gospel but prophecy with an awful revelation yet to be revealed–such as when Moore’s Adam Strange found out he was nothing more than breeding stock, or the WildC.A.T.s discovered they were too late to the war.
So Swamp Thing was no longer a man in the form of a monster, but a monster deluded into thinking it was a man (unreliable narrators also being a Moore hallmark at that time). And that’s when things got really interesting. From there, Swamp Thing became not just a plant, but the plant, the avatar of all the vegetable life on Earth, and tasked with protecting it against rot and corruption of doctor/warlock/no-good ruffian Anton Arcane.
He also met Pogo, but that is probably beside the point, except to say it was really cool.
Swamp Thing–not V for Vendetta, not Watchmen, not his Superman or Green Lantern Corps tales–is what made Moore a superstar in the U.S. It’s probably the first issue to burn up the comic stores and cause a run on issues.
All this was before DC launched their Vertigo imprint, and Grant Morrison was doing similar mind-exploration in Animal Man not long after. Since then, the two characters have had one foot in the superhero world and one in the psychedelic landscape beyond, though they’ve never quite recaptured the heat that they generated from a maturing comics audience.
DC is wise to keep trying, because they have used the two characters as staging grounds for their most promising writers: Morrison, Millar, Vaughan, Diggle, Pfeifer, Dysart, Snyder….all big names with big ideas. And now Charles Soule.
At this point, Soule could probably make a takeout menu well characterized with an engaging plot, but it’s the repositioning of Swamp Thing and Animal Man as two independent yet connected titles that has brought them closes back to their ’80s heyday. With the equally talented Jeff Lemire on Animal Man (ending, alas, too soon in March), the Green and its animal counterpart, the Red, have given the two heroes plenty of new landscape to explore.
And it’s all drawn by Jesus Saiz, turning in some of the best work we’ve ever seen from him this issue. expressive, textured, foreboding. Things seem great right now, but the body language in every panel expresses the slowly simmering tension.
Anyway, that’s why we’re very happy to show you this preview. Enjoy!
How not to make comics: be a plagiarizing tool. Find out more in Candy Crush Saga, Shia LaBeouf, and How Not to Create.