Friday, October 3, 2008

Fear-Fraught First Fridays: the Swamp Thing

Welcome back, children of the night! It's time for more of our...

Throughout the history of comics, there have been plenty of swamp creatures climbing from the muck and mire to wreak havoc on the world at large (or at least on anyone dumb enough to come near their swamp). Only one swamp creature, however, has been the subject of about a half-dozen comicbook series, two feature films, a TV series, a TV cartoon series, and a line of toys. Only one was written by a young, British, mad genius named Alan Moore. And to think, the Swamp Thing began, ever so humbly, as a one-shot story in DC's House of Secrets.

Created by writer Len Wein (hey, what is this? Len Wein Fridays?), artist Bernie Wrightson, and editor Joe Orlando, the first version of the Swamp Thing made its debut in the House of Secrets #92 (March, 1971). (Two months later, Marvel unleashed their own swamp creature, the unfortunately monickered Man-Thing, written by Wein's then-roommate Gerry Conway. Both Conway and Wein say they really didn't know about what the other was working on. I believe 'em.) Orlando was wise enough to cover-feature Wein and Wrightson's muck-monster, and that magnificently creepy, Gothic-style cover must've grabbed more than just a few eyeballs, 'cause that issue became a stand-out seller. Of course, it wasn't just the cover that grabbed fandom and held on to their psyche's! Wein's story was simple, yet powerful, haunting and filled with pathos. Young Groove really dug his almost-poetic narrative style (still do!). And Wrightson's art! Lush and moody, like watching an old classic movie. Wrightson even cast his characters, using fellow artist Mike Kaluta as his villain, Louise (then Jones) Simonson as the heroine, and himself as the hero. Fandom made that ish a hit, baby! We thought it was dy-no-mite! The powers-that-were quickly decided that the Swamp Thing should have his own series, and viola! Swamp Thing #1, by Wein, Wrightson, and Orlando premiered in July, 1972. The boys had updated Swampy, or what we call today "re-imagined", setting him in "present day" 1972 with a new name and origin. Wrightson even upgraded the Swamp Things look, making him more muscular looking than the original shambling monster that had previously appeared. That first issue won a few SHAZAM awards (this was in the days before Eagle, Eisner, and Harvey awards, remember), and the rest is history.

Enough yakkin' from me! Let's take a look at the haunting Gothic romance/monster tale that started it all...

(Scanned from House of Secrets Silver Edition, Copyright 1971 and 1993 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. A great story leading to a wonderful series.
    I've heard it said that Wein and Conway were flatmates at the time. Anyone know if that's true?
    If so, it's hard to believe that each didn't know what the other was writing.
    Loving this Halloween countdown!



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