Comic Book Creator # 6 Presents Swampmen (magazine review).

I often wondered about the American love of swamps. Certainly, they have more of them than we have, so it’s pretty much a climate thing. When you include how dark and murky they are, it’s a natural fodder to think big beasties, other than alligators could stalk out of it or bond with humans and turn them into walking quagmires.


Although I’ve heard of some of the creatures in this comprehensive special edition of ‘Comic Book Creator’, the only one I really followed was Marvel’s ‘Man-Thing’. I tried DC’s ‘Swamp-Thing’ but I never really made the same kind of connection. I could understand burning at the touch of one creature but not a love relationship by between a plant and a human but then, I did jump into it kinda late at the time. So reading here, I’m seeking some understanding.

Apart from a detailed analysis of the various swamp creatures by the different comicbook companies, what did surprise me was the inclusion of and actual copy of Theodore Sturgeon’s original 1940 short story ‘It’ which actually started the entire show off and, unusually for him, had a more supernatural creation, a creature from the swamp.

The real meat of this book is interviews and, boy, do you get them. No doubt some of them are reprints for some people, but having them under one cover puts them all in perspective. From ‘Swamp-Thing’, we have Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben, From ‘Man-Thing’, Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik, Mike Ploog and Jim Mooney. The oddest thing that came from all of them was the astonishing sales beating their companies top-sellers the months they first came out. People got into swamps. It didn’t last forever because when reduced to a core audience, the sales dropped off but it was a change of scene on the resurrection of the horror comic and something that didn’t have a film life before.

There is so much information from these folk. Len Wein explains that ‘Swamp-Thing’ as a name came from his description of ‘writing some swamp thing story.’ Bernie Wrighton relied on Jeffrey Jones photographing the key scenes to make a schedule on the first ‘Swamp-Thing’ story and that Louise Jones (now Simonson) was the model for Linda. Seeing the photos now to the art is quite revealing and that the poses were exaggerated in the final drawings. Wrighton explained this he took this route to make the deadline on that first occasion.

Man-Thing’s alter-ego Jim Sallis name was a composite of two real people was something I only vaguely knew. Steve Gerber, by being aware of Len Wein’s plans for ‘Swamp-Thing’ ensured ‘Man-Thing’ didn’t go the same route. My own thoughts were the two characters were diverse enough to avoid this but when you consider the different casts, it would have been plots that had to be the key. Try getting that today with contract forbidden disclosure these days.

With the interviews, if you thought Alan Moore could go on at length, then artist Steve Bissette equally shares that honour. So, too, could artist/writer Rick Veitch especially revealing the darker beast that lurks at DC Comics.

I should also point out there is a great varied selection of artwork from the comics and elsewhere, making this volume fascinating. Even without this interest in all creatures swamp, I loved the revealing interviews. This book will keep you reading for a week or so making it good value for money. If you were raised during the key eras of their creation and title runs then learning about what was happening behind the scenes should relive your own pasts, too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to explain to a certain creature behind me that I don’t burn at its touch.

GF Willmetts

January 2015

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 194 page illustrated softcover. Price: $21.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-057-1. Direct from them, you can get it for $18.66 (US), elsewhere $21.95 (US))

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