For some people, it’s always spooky season. Are you someone who likes to watch scary films and embrace all things horror, even when it isn’t Halloween? All of us here at DC.com understand that horror isn’t a seasonal thing. Scary stories are always in fashion and there are so many great ones on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. In fact, now that the weekend is here, it’s the perfect time to make a horror comic your Weekend Escape.
Since we know there’s a new movie in the works, this week we’re going to spotlight the first ten issues of Swamp Thing, which introduce the Alec Holland version of the character. This Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson storyline kicked off the Swamp Thing ongoing series, which a few years later would morph into the Saga of the Swamp Thing title that Alan Moore would make famous. If you’re not a DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber, these comics are also collected in the trade paperback collection, Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 1.
Dr. Alec Holland was a scientist working on what he called “a bio-restorative formula.” With the aid of his wife Linda, it was Alec’s hope that their new formula would stimulate crop growth across the planet. But when a criminal group known as the Conclave tries to buy the formula and the Hollands refuse, the Conclave retaliates by killing Linda and planting a bomb in Alec’s laboratory.
The explosion triggers something in the bio-restorative formula, changing Alec forever. Now he’s no longer a man, but a murky creature known only as Swamp Thing. Forced to live life as a monster, Swamp Thing wanders the Earth searching for a cure and trying to find the men responsible for the death of his wife. In turn, Swamp Thing is pursued by a government agent named Matthew Cable, who believes that the monster is responsible for the death of Alec Holland.
(Note for Swamp Thing fans: If you’ve read Alan Moore’s story “The Anatomy Lesson,” then you know what really happened to Alec Holland, but none of that was established when these earlier stories were written.)
Let’s Talk Talent:
These comics come from the creative team of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson—the same duo who initially created Swamp Thing in House of Secrets #92. In that iconic short story, Swamp Thing was a tragic early 20th century creature named Alex Olsen. For the 1972 Swamp Thing series, Wein and Wrightson would reimagine their monster as the modern-day Alec Holland, launching one of the DC Universe’s longest running sagas in the process. Wein’s masterful storytelling skills are on prime display here as he instills heartbreaking humanity in a monster and introduces some chilling villains. The characters and concepts that debut here are still big parts of Swamp Thing’s world today, which is a testament to Wein’s talents.
Wrightson's moody artwork gives the book a true sense of horror. Looking at his early covers, many of them look like movie posters for classic monster films. The set pieces illustrated over these ten issues are imaginative, from Anton Arcane’s castle, to the murky swamps of Louisiana. Wrightson’s pencils flesh out the world Swamp Thing lives in, while giving the readers a sense of terror and wonder.
A Few Reasons to Read:
- If you’re a fan of old school monster films, then you’ll love Swamp Thing. These books have the look and feel of a classic Universal monster movie. From the eerie illustrations, to the gothic set pieces, this movie captures that classic horror film feel, while telling a contemporary story set in the DC Universe.
- As I mentioned earlier, Swamp Thing will also be a part of the first phase of movies to be released at DC Studios under its new heads, James Gunn and Peter Safran. This means it’s the perfect time to get to know Swampy.
- Many important characters make their first appearances here. There’s special agent Matthew Cable, the villainous Anton Arcane and his lovely niece Abby. All of these characters have become big parts of Swamp Thing’s mythology and the DC Universe as a whole.
- Calling all Sandman fans! The Matthew Cable I previously mentioned is the same guy who went on to become Matthew the Raven in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. If you’re a Sandman fan who doesn’t know about Matthew the Raven’s former life, this series will be quite an education.
- When people recommend Swamp Thing comics, they often point to Alan Moore’s revolutionary run. Those comics are phenomenal, but their popularity has inadvertently caused some people to overlook the Wein/Wrightson comic where it all began. These books are worthy of attention too. They laid the groundwork for all the great work Alan Moore would do with the character.
Why It’s Worth Your Time:
Before James Gunn and Peter Safran, before Vertigo and before Alan Moore, this is where it all began. There’s a reason Swamp Thing has stood the test of time and it’s because his original foundation was so strong. The DC Universe is more than a place for heroes and villains, it’s a place where a reluctant monster like Swampy can break storytelling boundaries by trying to find his way in the world. Swamp Thing might not be a traditional DC story, but it’s a captivating one that will leave you hooked from the first page to the last. It’s responsible for kicking off an entire subgenre within the DC Universe, and I guarantee that it will give you a fun reading experience this weekend.
Swamp Thing by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson can be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. You can also find it collected in print in Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 1.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette."Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.