Sunday, January 2, 2011

SWAMP THING



Of every character and every story I've ever read I have good confidence that Swamp Thing will remain #1 forever.

I picked up Saga of the Swamp Thing #1 at my "Lawtons" drugstore in the Spryfield Mall back in good ol' 1982(oh, I love you). It was a number one ...had to check it out. Hooked.
I loved the character instantly. I was eleven years old and a superhero/monster made of plants really appealed to me ...no idea why I loved this character so much but I did ..I did. By the time issue #2 came out I'd discovered Swamp Thing's 1970's roots ...the genius of Berni Wrightson and Len Wein. The artwork matched the moody macabre writing ...just fantastic, as was meeting Len Wein in New York in 2008 ...to chat Swamp Thing with his creator - I was eleven again, and sooo happy ..in fact, that three days in NY was heavenly...and damn if Len Wein isn't as nice as Swamp Thing is awesome.

Some pop-culture properties grow up with you and when they do they're like an old friend who's been around so long you almost forget you were young together too. Alec Holland is one of those ..an old friend.
He's also an old friend of the Swamp Thing himself or rather this idea was the radical concept introduced by UK genius Alan Moore when he took over writing duties for Swampy on #20 - an issue that remains a specific dark memory for me. I waited eagerly for this new writer everyone seemed excited about(at least the few adult nerds I talked to at Wilkies were..) and what did this "much-vaunted" Alan Moore do? Killed my favorite character. I can still hear the music to Vectrex's "Minestorm" playing in my head when I think of that day ...a hail of bullets ripping my character apart ..who did this guy think he was? ...what the hell kind of good story was going to come out of this mess?
Wow.
Alan Moore changed my childhood, but I'll return to him...

Swamp Thing the Movie:
Fun. Best word for it, and amazingly the first Wes Craven film in my writing here. I love A Nightmare on Elm Street - love it - favorite single series starting slasher film, but his Swamp Thing is a funny little movie ...most of the comic book beats are here and the fact that it was shot in Louisiana helps plenty but many decisions are in the cheesy b-movie style. The suit took a lot of flak but I like the design and rubber suits are more charming than pixels no matter how many zippers you see. As a boy it was a blast to have human characters like "Ferret" and "Bruno" from Len Wein's original bouncing around - causing trouble for Swampy but even at eleven I wondered "Why not make 'em cooler ...more gothic like the original?" ..but hey - I was young. I think we watched it for my friend Bill's birthday ...perfect for a couple super-nerds, and then the re-discovery of the film as an adult. There are two versions. One has a topless Adrienne Barbeau and the other is ...well, useless.
Adrienne Barbeau - Holy moley ...what a woman. The Fog - Escape from New York - Maude ...I've had a ginormous crush on her since birth essentially.
Then comes 1989's The Return of Swamp Thing ...yowsa, I heard/read the idea that this movie was inspired by Alan Moore's run on the book - that's like saying acid wash jeans were inspired by tuxedos..
I have to watch it again but I'd guess it's release was only motivated by Tim Burton's Batman fever and the fact that the comic book had become extremely popular. No one who made this film ever read Alan Moore's work on Swamp Thing - perhaps I should say they didn't grasp it if they did peruse. When I do view it again I'm sure I'll find a few good moments but I don't remember too many ...Gothic tragic hero = comedy with Heather Locklear = bad math. Buuut the suit in this one is a pretty wild improvement and if anything came from the 80's run it was Swampy's new look ...not too shabbadoo. Rest of it ...well, you decide. It's fun, but a far younger fun than the first film.
Next came Swamp Thing the Series...
I have to get this again - it's cheap and cheesy 90's but more of a Littlest Hobo/story of the week vibe than either film.
Weird part is that the show lasted 72 episodes...

Wein/Wrightson - Wow, this is the original Swamp Thing team and incidentally two of the most talented cats ever to grace the industry. Fall of '82 I started picking up the original series - a new and wonderful obsession. Fell into this gothic macabre world these two men created way back in the early 70's ..and I've been there since. I adore Wrightson's art ...and I still prefer him to even Frazetta who may be the pinnacle of his realm. His anatomy is so dramatic yet simple ...beautiful lines that evoke emotions..

Great story..

Wrightson owns the macabre.
If I could go back in time and watch Berni Wrightson draw those pages ...I'd never come back - I'd just go get him coffee. But I guess I'd have to bring one for Len Wein too...
Bloody Writers!! As a young boy, I was naive enough to believe the artwork to be more important than story - 'til Swamp Thing that is. This is the team that made me aware of teams ..that two or more people could do their best and come up with something ...amazing together ...greater than the sum of it's parts.
"..muck-encrusted mockery of a man..." It doesn't get any better than that.

Yikes, this is a really long one. In favor of not losing my few readers halfway through I may just have to do a second Swampy post ...or even a third.
I Love SWAMP THING.

A.

1 comment:

ArthurMacarthur said...

Ha haaa...
He's back.
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/04/05/big-brightest-day-spoilers-you-will-kill-youself-if-you-read/