#325 Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing”

Swamp ThingDue perhaps to the passage of time, poorly handled reprinting by DC, or some other reason, Alan Moore’s writing stint on Swamp Thing in the 1980s does not seem to get mentioned much today. Which is a shame, because it ranks with Moore’s best work. And the art by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben (and able fill-in artists) is worth the price of admission by itself, not to mention Tatjana Wood’s colors.

Tim and Kumar had a blast reading the early issues of the run (#21-37) and are here to share the experience with you.

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Resident of Japan since 1989, creator of "The Crazing Spider-Hag"

4 thoughts on “#325 Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing””

  1. Swamp Thing #21 (Anatomy Lesson) to me is the best thing Moore has ever done & as Kumar said, maybe the best single issue comic by anyone. I love that it’s not quite a horror comic & that it is a superhero deconstruction without beating you over the head with what it’s in reference to.

  2. This was a great episode, guys. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing is my favorite run of all-time and I think there’s a strong argument for declaring it the best run in the history of comics.

    A few points in reference to things you said:

    -I thought the politics of the run were handled extremely well. From my previous post, you might remember that I’m an (oversensitive?) political moderate, but I have zero complaints about Moore here. The politics and environmentalism are always presented in such an interesting way, sometimes with a lot of nuance, that in my opinion it’d be hard for anyone to find fault in them as art — because they’re such very good, interesting art. And it’s worth pointing out that the villain of the first arc (Woodrue) becomes an extremist environmentalist who wants humanity dead in order to save the Earth. So Moore seems to get the extreme version of environmentalism out of the way in the first issue, basically by insinuating that for all his (and Swampy’s) environmentalism, anti-humanism is still to be considered, well, villainous and insane. Maybe the “Nukeface Papers” arc was a little “preachy” as you said (though I personally didn’t find it so), but as with so many of the stories here the very premise makes it more than reasonable for Moore to say what he’s saying. I mean, when you have a story about nuclear waste turning a man into a diseased monster, it’s pretty easy for a skeptical reader to say “Well, regarding THIS character’s story, of course nuclear energy is COMPLETELY malignant.” Ditto regarding the werewolf/feminism issue, which may be the most controversial of the run: the setup is so interesting that it doesn’t really matter of there’s a VERY stock “evil abusive husband” stereotype in the issue. Only extreme right-wingers would see any of this as bad art; just like only very extreme environmentalists would say that Jason “Exterminate-All-Humans-To-Save-The-Earth!” Woodrue got a bad rap.

    -I think the run actually HAS had a lot of influence, at least by extension, when you consider that the whole Vertigo line basically developed because of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. And even before the Vertigo banner was official, series like Sandman, Shade the Changing Man, and Morrison’s Animal Man, clearly took Moore’s Swamp Thing for inspiration. In terms of literal, nuts-and-bolts influence, there probably aren’t many good examples, but from a larger perspective the run is up there with the Lee/Kirby FF as arguably the most influential run in American comics history. Alan Moore basically proved that you could have an ongoing mainstream comic series that was mature and said things that mattered and had a literary sensibility. That casts a long shadow.

    -Lastly, you guys mentioned it briefly, but you really, REALLY should take a look at the current “New 52” Swamp Thing run, if only to see how hopelessly inferior it is to Moore’s run. Frankly I can’t think of a better comparison to see how much worse mainstream DC comics are today compared to decades past. The interesting thing is that, for what it is, the “New 52” Swamp Thing clearly has a lot of thought, effort, and production values being put into it, and it DOES play off of Moore’s run in various ways. But it just gets everything completely wrong in terms of how to be successfully and productively influenced by Moore, like the creators behind it have misunderstood what made Moore’s run great. The current run tries to re-invoke Moore’s run in ways that seem eye-rolling. Basically, the “New 52” series is over-reverent to Moore in a way that comes off as forced, like the writer is sucking up to Moore & co. the way a pathetic fanboy would, looking for attention and approval in a very sappy way. Even the ballyhooed “big changes” come off as pale imitations of Moore’s practice, like the writer just made big changes just because, well, that’s what Moore did. It’s written by Scott Snyder, whom the current mainstream fans are ridiculously over-impressed with (much in the same way that fans ate up the ludicrously overrated Brian Bendis a few years ago). So, I admit that it would be painful reading, but I think if you guys read the first 7-10 issues of the “New 52” Swamp Thing you’ll have a TON of fodder for discussion, and it will give you an amazing perspective on the sad state of mainstream comics. The saddest thing is that I’d still say Swamp Thing is probably one of the top 5-10 comics DC currently publishes, and yet it hasn’t accomplished, or even ventured, as much in its first YEAR of publication as Moore did in most individual ISSUES of his run. The problem isn’t all due to contemporary “decompressed” storytelling, either; it’s more a lack of ambition mixed with a bizarre, annoying over-reverence for the past.

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Ron, you are right about the whole Vertigo line effectively being spawned out of Moore’s run on Swamp Thing. This was a highly emotional episode for me, and my brain failed to interrupt with a lot of obvious, important points like this one. The morning after recording, I woke up wanting to re-record it with my head on straight.

    I also dismissed the post-Moore stuff out of hand, but there was some GOOD stuff in there: Rick Veitch and Nancy Collins in particular. Not as good as Moore, but unique and interesting in their own ways.

    I made the mistake of burning some bucks on issues of Grant Morrison’s Action for the episode we did on that. I won’t make that mistake again. I wisely gave up on Swamp Thing with the Brian K Vaughan run, and I’m not going back just to be educated on how bad current DCs are! I learned enough of that lesson that from Action. I flipped through the new ST, and the art looked pretty, but… naaahhh. And even the pretty art was a problem! Bring back those neurotic, sweaty, Totleben-inked faces!!

    Anyway, I’m getting all worked up again, so I’d better leave it there…


  4. This was an awesome episode for me too. After reading so much crap and so much mediocre stuff, it was nice to be reminded that I can still get so excited about a comic! (As my hyperbole in the episode should clearly show!)

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