Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Dark Genesis"

Hello all. After just re-reading the six issues I have of the original Swamp Thing run, his re-introduction to the DCU at the end of Brightest Day, and his Mattel exclusive DCUC figure, I've found myself in a Swamp Thing frame of mind. Nothing wrong with that I guess, as the big green fella's becoming popular all over again.

Here's his new action figure; I'm not totally sold on it because it's nowhere near as articulated as the rest of the DCUC line is. Still, it's not bad for what it is, and there might be some improvements before it goes on sale July 15th.

Now there's been a constant rumbling about ST's reappearance in BD. Mostly the criticism's about Geoff Johns' new(old) rendition of Swampy. Apparently Alec Holland and Swampy are to be one and the same, as opposed to Alan Moore's version where Alec Holland was killed, and Swampy found out he was a living plant that had Holland's memories. I think you can still enjoy both Moore and Johns' stories. One doesn't necessarily negate the other, unlike maybe what Moore did with Len Wein's original vision of ST. Still, it's a good time to be a ST fan, and oh guess what, John Constantine himself is also back in the proper DC Universe. I myself think the whole former Vertigo policy where vertigo characters couldn't interact with the regular DCU was bullshit anyways. DC owns Vertigo, it's a sub-branch of the entire DC line, but instead it was treated like it was a separate publisher that they had to get permission from to use certain characters. The whole thing was ridiculous, and I'm glad these two are back where they belong. And hey, there's still a Vertigo version of John Constantine still being published, so there shouldn't be any more bitching about the whole thing.

With that in mind, it's time for a Random.....Comic.....Review!
Today, we're going to take a look back at where it all started for Swamp Thing, or at least, his first issue of his 1st original series. So without further ado........

Swamp Thing#1(Oct-Nov 1972) "Dark Genesis" Written by Len Wein, Art by Berni Wrightson
The story starts off with images of various swamp creatures going about their daily lives in the swamp. We're then directed to a single barn in the swamp. It's being watched over by a strange creature from a distance. He stands, waiting patiently for something or someone. "They will return...those who killed me! They will return...and I will be waiting!" The creature continues to silently stare intensely at the barn. It's then that the creature starts to reflect on the moments that led up to this point. A Lt.Cable brings a husband and wife team of scientists out to a deserted, but refurbished barn deep in the heart of the Louisiana swamp.  This is a top-secret location known to a very select few due to the important research project the couple are working on. Lt. Cable leaves the scientists to their work after reminding them how important their work is and how many individuals would love to get their hands on the Bio-Restorative Formula the scientists are working on.
The story flashes forward to a few days later, where Doctors Alec and Linda Holland are busily working on the formula. All of a sudden there's a knock on the barn door. Thinking it's Lt. Matt Cable, Dr.Holland opens the door. Standing there is a man calling himself Ferrett, and his two associates. "We three represent a private organization interested in purchasing your Bio-Restorative Formula." Ferrett says. He offers Dr.Holland a blank check and insists he takes it. Alec Holland refuses, and before things get rough, one of the associates notices a patrol car coming. The three take off, but warn Dr.Holland to accept the offer. The Hollands inform Cable of what transpired, and he reminds them how dangerous the project is. He leaves, but then another visitor to the couple arrives. This time it's a dog. Linda convinces her husband to keep the dog, which Alec reluctantly does. What they don't know, is that the dog is carrying a hidden radio transmitter in it's head, planted there by the organization that earlier confronted the Hollands. We're then shown who's the boss of that organization, called the Conclave. He wants the formula, even if it means killing the Hollands. The next day, the men from earlier show up to renew their offer to Dr.Holland. Again he says no, and is attacked by one of the thugs, Bruno. Bruno knocks Alec out, and the gang of thugs rig the barn to blow up with explosives. Dr. Holland comes to, noticing the explosives. But it's too late, and the explosives go off, sending a burning Holland to stagger blindly out into the swamp to find comfort from his pain. He proceeds to disappear into the bog, leading his wife and Cable to believe him dead. After the funeral, Cable drives Linda Holland back to the barn, where only she can complete the formula. A harsh rain begins to pour down in the swamp, causing a strange hand to emerge from the muck! Slowly and steadily a figure emerges from the swamp. It's alive! It's Swamp Thing! What was once Dr. Alec Holland slowly makes its way back to the barn. It sees it's reflection, and cries out in horror. Cable and Linda Holland are startled by the noise and open the door, only to unintentionally let the dog out. Cable chases after it, only to be hit from behind by Bruno. Ferrett and Bruno force their way into the barn, killing Linda. Meanwhile, ST notices the dog trapped in the bog. He rescues it, only to hear a loud gunshot. "Nooooo! Linda, my linda...if they've hurt you..." Swampy takes off towards the barn, only to find Linda already dead. He curses himself for saving the dog when he could have been there for her. Pissed off beyond reason, Swamp Alec goes after the men who killed her. Ferrett and Bruno try to run down Swamp Alec with their car, but to no avail! Swamp Alec smashes the fuck out of the car, causing Ferrett to fly out of the window. Bruno goes after Swampy, but he's killed off in blow! Ferrett tries to shot Swampy down, but that doesn't work either. Swampy kills him too, only to be shot out by Lt.Cable, who thinks Swampy attacked him and murdered Linda. Swampy takes off, with Lt.Cable swearing to find him. Swampy's just come down from his state of rage, and is feeling depressed now that his wife's dead and he's a freak. "Dr.Holland had all the answers....he was an intelligent man...but Alec Holland is dead, and in his place stands only a SWAMP THING."  Suddenly we see a mysterious figure observing all of this. "There, my pets, is the one we have spent years searching for. There is the one we must have. Fetch him my pets! Bring him me!"  End of story.

So what'd you think? Yes it's a depressing story at the offset. Stories like this usually are, but things get a whole hell of a lot weirder before this series is done. I'll probably review the rest from here, as I have the next issue after this one. The collection then jumps around a lot, from 1,2, then 13, 15, 16, and finally 19.  I got these issues from my father-in-law, so that's why the collection skips around alot. Not bad though. Len Wein is a pretty good writer, and we all know how awesome Berni Wrightson is! This team sadly wouldn't stick around past the 3rd issue. Instead, Nestor Redondo would fill in for the rest of the series, and damn is he awesome! I love his detailed art. There were other writers on this series too, like David Michelinie and Gerry Conway. So not too shabby huh?


pblfsda said...

Hi Dale! I followed you here from Doompedia (I do a different DP blog) and enjoyed the Cliff and Larry sequences you've done over the past year for the simple reason that you've got the personalities right. I was browsing the rest of the current page and noticed the Swamp Thing immediately. It's true that they're bringing him back, but if they're making him a transformed human again, they're making a colossal mistake.

Like most people, you've probably been led to believe that closing the door on Alec's chance to be human again was entirely Alan Moore's idea. Moore just came up with the method. In the second issue of the original series Arcane uses sorcery to convince Swamp Thing he could be Alec 'again'. When ST discovers Arcane's reasons, he prefers to suck it up and stay a monster. Len Wein left shortly after Wrightson. The series was cancelled a couple years later and ST became a supporting character in the revived Challengers title, where he DID briefly become human.
Flash forward to the early 80's: there's a ST movie and new series to go with it. Martin Pasko is writing it and Len Wein is back as editor. About a year before Alan Moore had ANYTHING to do with the book, one of them answered a letter in the letters' page this way:

"As far as we're concerned, the stories published after #21 [in 1976] never happened, that is, Alec never became predominantly human, he never had a brother,...etc." Wein was still the editor when Pasko left abruptly to work in Hollywood and Moore had to finish the story they had already started. Everyone seems to think "Anatomy Lesson" is the first Moore story because it's the earliest one from that series that gets reprinted. It's really just the first one that Moore wrote from his own plot. The whole momentum that pointed where that story was going was Pasko's and Wein's, they just couldn't figure out how to get there. It certainly wasn't done without Wein's approval. Wein figured out back in the 70's that if ST had a good reason to believe he could become Alec for good then every plot of every story would involve pursuing one ineffective cure after another and it would degenerate into formula pretty quickly after that. When Moore brought him that script it meant that he could prevent that happening to the character he created even after he left the book. It was kind of like Moore's way of saying "thank you" for giving him the title.
I find the idea of throwing all that away to be disappointing but there are people far more invested in the ST character and they must be livid. I hope this makes their reaction a little less mystifying.

Dale Bagwell said...

Cool,and thanks for the comments and brief history lesson. Much appreciated. I myself am simply content to be happy for Swamp Thing to be back, no matter the way it was done(and yes I know that may sound like I'm being stupid or indifferent to continuity, but this seems like the best way for DC to reintroduce ST to mainstream comic readers, and less worrying about tight, exact- to- the panel continuity. Basically, unless you're already a day hard fan of ST with a deep knowledge of his history, you're going to care more than a casual reader/fan. They need new blood, hence new and reader-friendly introductions/origins. And of course we shouldn't forget about the effects movies have on comic-continuity!

Anyways, thanks for interest in the DP skits. My buddy posts his own DP skits sometimes. He's currently in the process if finishing up DP Idol in case your interested.

David H. said...

Swamp Thing has always been one of my absolute favorite DC titles. i have a posting on my Suicide Squad blog about a hypothetical encounter between the two:

Dale Bagwell said...

Hey David, read your blog and posted a comment. That would be a good idea for an SS/ST cross-over. Fun times! Would love to see Waller and Constantine go at it in a debate; I figure he might be the only guy to fluster even the Wall!

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