It took me a long time to get through this book. That’s in no way a judgement on the content, but more on my attention span which had to adjust to a very different kind of comic book writing than what I’m used to with modern comics. The thing I realized while reading through these Len Wein-written issues of Swamp Thing is that comics like this used actually be pretty literary. Nowadays, you mostly get word balloons and the occasional thought box, but Wein was actually writing ambiance type stuff, not just boring old set-up stuff like you’d see in Golden or Silver Age stuff. I also realized that this is very much in the tradition of the horror comics made famous, popular and infamous by EC Comics.
In the one film class I took in college the professor talked about film genres being on a kind of spectrum. You’ve got the original thing, the classic, the parody and the revision. If you’re talking westerns that would be like The Great Train Robbery then The Man With The No Name, Blazing Saddles and back to Unforgiven. I think that’s part of what I was experiencing with this book. I’ve read some EC horror comics and they’re pretty formulaic with a set-up, gruesome stuff and then a twist ending. I feel like Swamp Thing kept that style of comic writing and moved it closer to if not all the way to the classic territory.
This is a long way to go to say that, while these comics definitely don’t read like modern ones, I wound up really enjoying them. This will not come as a surprise to Wein fans, but he’s killer with words, which is interesting because we mostly learn about Swamp Thing through thought balloons as he mostly doesn’t talk. It also helps that Wrightson might be one of the best comic book artists of all time. He took a lot of what was done in the EC books and takes it up a notch. I also really enjoyed that this book does not just stick with horror themes, but also includes stories where Swamp Thing fights robots, meets Batman and mutant monsters. I’m a big fan of variety and this book has it.
I just realized I’ve written all these paragraphs without really explaining what this collection is. This hardcover from DC’s Classics Library series of books brings together the very first Swamp Thing story from House of Secrets as well as the series it spawned a year or so later, starring the now famous Alec Holland version of the character. We see his transformation and his trip around the world and cross country, which usually makes him cross paths with Matthew Cable, a secret agent who thinks he killed Holland, and his gal pal and daughter of his enemy Abigail Arcane. While there’s an overarching story following Swampy’s new life, these issues are mostly one and dones that get weird and wild. Highly recommended if you’re interested in checking out a great comic that’s also a pretty damn important piece of comic history, check it out already!