Swamp Thing is a special character, for reasons that are difficult to explain. To the unfamiliar, this hulking mass of greenery may be seen as part of the more esoteric side of the DC Universe. To others, he may be a little…well, odd. But the newest Swamp Thing—a young man from India named Levi Kamei—uses the power of the Green to speak to core experiences of being Asian American.

Levi Kamei was created by Ram V and Mike Perkins for their recent series, The Swamp Thing, which began in 2021. Spinning out of the Future State event from that same year, Levi’s take on being a Swamp Thing centered around reckoning with his familial roots in India and his new life in America. Thankfully, stories about Asian American experiences have become more and more common in mainstream media this past decade, but Levi’s stands out because it remains true to Swamp Thing’s origins as a horror character.

But first, what can a Swamp Thing actually do? The Swamp Thing is the guardian of the Green, a body which represents all plant life on Earth. The Green exists in contrast with the Red (animal life), the Grey (fungi) and the Rot (decay). As the avatar for the Green, Swamp Thing can manifest anywhere on Earth where there are plants. To be a Swamp Thing is to also be part of a larger consciousness for terrestrial plant life.

Taking on a role like this is significant for an Asian American character. As Ram V and Mike Perkins’ series shows, being Swamp Thing involves transcending geographical boundaries. He can go to sleep in an apartment in New York City, only to wake up in the Sonoran Desert in a monstrous form. His connection to the Green acts as a metaphor for the global mindset that so many Asian Americans have. Levi quite literally has one foot in one place, and the other halfway around the world.

What’s also special about Levi Kamei’s Swamp Thing is that his character explores so many different dimensions of being Asian American within the context of horror. To put it a different way, the sense of body horror and monstrosity at the core of the Swamp Thing persona have been repurposed to speak to the intangible elements of being Asian American.

The key to all of this is that monstrosity in itself isn’t inherently negative. The existing love and lore of Swamp Thing has already set that dynamic up. While monstrosity has, at times, been used in fiction as a way to restrict empathy for the monstrous, Swamp Thing has always stood in opposition to that. In confronting his own sense of familial and cultural loss from immigrating to America when he was sixteen, Levi must become the Swamp Thing. Being a monster externalizes the pain that Levi feels inside, and it’s a pain that so many of us can relate to.

Levi’s acceptance of himself as Swamp Thing is paralleled with him coming to terms with the death of his father. In many ways, his transformation into the Swamp Thing speaks to the ways that grief and immigration—both forms of loss on their own—changes us into something else. But as Levi’s friend Jennifer notes, “you can let it destroy you…or you can choose to become something new.” Being Swamp Thing is thus transformed into a state of healing for Levi, a chance to begin anew and forgive himself for not having been more involved with his family in India.

Asian American experiences are finally getting the chance to be explored at length in movies, television, comics and more. The Swamp Thing proves how the multifaceted nature of Asian American experiences necessitates the expansion into genres like horror. At its core, the horror genre offers the cleanest, most direct confrontation between a character and the forces holding them back, so it makes perfect sense for an Asian American like Levi Kamei to grapple with his own immigration trauma in a Swamp Thing book. In immigrating to America, Levi has changed into something else, something he can’t quite recognize, and he must defeat his own inquietude in order to build and find a home within himself.

In this sense, The Swamp Thing is an immensely healing read, especially for Asian American horror fans such as myself. To speak plainly, there is so much that I struggle to put into words about my own experiences as an Asian in America that Ram V and Mike Perkins were able to put on the page (and gorgeously too, if I may add). Levi’s connection to the Earth’s Green makes this world and its distances feel just a little bit smaller to me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

We love Swamp Thing because of the thought-provoking and awe-inspiring legacy that he has at DC, thanks to giants like Alan Moore and Bernie Wrightson. Now, with Levi as the guardian of the Green, the character takes on new significance, one that has already left its mark on pop culture. Long live Swamp Thing, and long live Levi Kamei.

The Swamp Thing by Ram V, Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and digital retailers in softcover collected editions and can be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Jules Chin Greene writes about comics for DC.com, and his work can also be found at Nerdist, Popverse and Multiverse of Color. You can follow him on Twitter and Bluesky at @JulesChinGreene.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Jules Chin Greene and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.