It's Halloween! Gather round, gather round! O, you lucky children! Feast your tiny dead fly sized eyes on a ghoulish gallery fit to chill even the hardiest of souls! Halloween! Sil-VER SHAMROCK! Oh alright, I just scanned in my incomplete Saga of the Swamp Thing comics run. No tricks here, m'dears; only treats! It's mostly covers but also some pin-ups and even Swamp Thing's death certificate. Morbidly apropos eh, what? I hope you enjoy looking at them while I creep up behind you. HOO-HA! Gonna wear your face like knickers! SWAMP THING by Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Alan Moore, Tatjana Wood & John Constanza
SWAMP THING Created by Berni Wrightson & Len Wein
I started reading Saga of the Swamp Thing (SotST) with # 2 because I was 12 and a morbid little thing. Oh yes, Horror was my jam. I spread it liberally on my toast of terror. I was there, so let me tell you that the 1980s were a pretty awesome time all around for horror in movies, prose and comics. Probably even jam; horror was everywhere. Probably because the 1980s was a pretty awesome time for horror in real life: Thatcher, AIDS, Clause28, The Cold War, Reaganomics, The Miners Strike, Phil Collins; sometimes you just wanted to pull the covers over your head. But then you ran the risk of missing some fab Horror jam. Like SotSW. I stopped reading SotSW with #6. Not because it was rubbish, but because it stopped appearing at my local market cum newstand. Those early issues by Tom Yeates and Martin Pasko aren't the ones people remember but they were pretty decent. Issue 3 with the vampires was nice (nice enough for Moore to call back later in #38 & #39) and #4 had a children's entertainer who entertained himself with children in a bad way. It was far from rote and just about worthy of note. I restarted reading SotSW with #35 when it suddenly reappeared back on my stands. That fella from Warrior and 2000AD whose stuff I liked only turned out to be writing it, didn't he! (It would turn out he'd been writing it for a while.) My surprise and delight at the chillingly efficient tales this Moore fellow was producing was rather upended when Swamp Thing promptly died at the end of #36. Well, fuck a duck, I thought (I was a potty mouthed child).
But then he brought him back. Later on he'd kill Swampy again, but I'd got the knack by then and just hung on til he was back. With #64 Moore moved on and even brought back Tom Yeates for a fitting finale. But Moore didn't push off before he'd written a pile of the most entertaining comics it's ever been my pleasure to read. (And re-read. And re-re-read. Etc.) So much so that I went back and filled as many gaps as I could, before TPBs were a thing at which point I, as they say, completed the set. It took time and it took money but it was worth it. From the early issues which recast old horror tropes in fresh robes of relevance, through the inevitable team up with Batman (one which actually had weight and consequences for once) through the tail end whistle stop tour of the DCU, Alan Moore brought the words. And plenty of them. But that's okay because they were good words. I have a weakness for writers who love language; I'm odd like that. And as ever with any long comics run you could tell he stayed too long, but rather than phone it in he simply concentrated on keeping himself entertained, and in so doing kept me entertained.
But there are more than words in a comic; otherwise it would be prose. There are pictures. And the pictures in SotST are the equal of Moore's words, mostly. From the titanic trio of Bissette, Totleben & Veitch whose jagged, fractured pages seemed to stab the horrors displayed right into your mind, to the stalwarts called in at short notice: Alfredo Alcala, Stan Woch, Ron Randall et al. And of course, Shawn McManus. Shawn McManus who gave Moore's script for POG (#32) a heartwrecking cartoony beauty. Everyone on the book seemed to be having a blast and so I had a blast. John Totleben certainly had fun, fun which culminated in, with #60, his flamboyantly futuristic issue-long recasting of Kirby Collage technique. John Totleben's eyes are tired, so they say, but he can hear well enough, so let's all say that, you, John Totleben rocked, and you rocked never harder than on #60 of The Saga of the Swamp Thing (unless it was that issue of Miracleman (yeah, that one). SotST is often spoken of as being Alan Moore's but that's just convenient shorthand. SotST and its many, many successes belong to everyone on its pages. Most notably those already spoken of, and particularly Steve Bissette's dark swathes of ink. SotSW is a remarkable run of comics; remarkable in its consistency, intelligence and heart. Yes, heart. Because for a horror book it was surprisingly keen to remind us of what it meant to be human; how that can be the worst thing in the world, but also how it can be the best thing in the world. That's not bad for a comic book about a plant that dreamt it was a man.Sage of the Swamp Thing was EXCELLENT!
You've all been very patient so here's the gallery:
Sometimes...I am almost...frightened...by my own – COMICS!!!