Swamp Thing #1
DC Comics (November, 1972; as posted to comiXology)
WRITER: Len Wein
ARTIST: Berni Wrightson
EDITOR: Joe Orlando
Wow, only three credits in a DC comic. Nowadays this wouldn’t even be half the list.
Dr. Alec Holland and his wife, Linda, are brought to a secluded area in the swamp to work on a bio-restorative formula for the government. A group called the Enclave has learned of it and tries to buy it but when the Hollands refuse they come back and try to kill Alec while Linda is away. Instead the formula merges his body with the swamp. When the men return and kills Linda for the formula this “swamp thing” takes them out but Alec and Linda’s handler Matt Cable assumes the monster is a murderer. Swamp Thing escapes but somewhere he is being watched through a crystal ball…and the watcher wants to get his hands on the monster.
What they got right: I’m not really a horror person and Swamp Thing is usually a horror story. Oddly I did watch the movie and the USA Network TV series as well as the more heroic Fox Kids cartoon, so I am at least familiar with the character. As an introduction this does rather well. It sets up the title character’s situation, how he became Swamp Thing, and a teaser to draw you in to the next issue.
What they got wrong: Maybe all the supernatural powers come later but outside of being bulletproof we don’t really know much about what he can do. With all the time needed to be devoted to the origin I guess there wasn’t enough room. However, Linda is barely a factor in this story outside of letting the dog in, which turns out to be bugged by the Enclave. We also don’t know who the Enclave is or if they’re tied to the mysterious watcher. I’m also not sure if Swamp Thing can talk since so much dialog is done in thought balloons (though ones altered to match the monster) that would have made more sense if he was actually saying them. And yet there are times he does belt out one word, when finding Linda’s body and later when he forces a car to stop.
What else is interesting: In the aforementioned other depictions (though I could be wrong about the first movie) I’m pretty sure the stories take place in the Florida swamplands. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I was curious why they moved to Florida? This comic has them in the Bayou of Louisiana. So I did some research and I must have gotten confused with Man-Thing, Marvel’s remarkably similar concept that came out around the same time. (Both characters’ creators believe it was a coincidence, like when Hasbro and Tonka both were draw to transforming robot toys in the 1980s, leading to Transformers and GoBots respectively.) The movie and cartoon don’t have a set location (though there is a character in the cartoon and toyline named Bayou Jack), at least that I found in research. I haven’t seen the movie or its sequel in years.
What did I think overall: I got this one in the freebies at comiXology more out of curiosity. Between the previously mentioned productions and for some reason Justice League Action I was familiar with the character and wanted to see his first story without waiting for Linkara to do it for Secret Origins Month. I’m still not really drawn to further stories but part of me is somewhat curious about the original version of Anton Arcane and his Un-Men, as well as whether or not the Enclave or Matt Cable return to the story. If you’re into horror stories this may be a good one, but since I’m not into the genre usually (despite actually enjoying the USA Network series, the most horror-like of the non-comics appearances) I’m probably not the best judge. It is however a good story on its own.