Off My Mind: How Many Swamp Things Are There?

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Posted by G-Man (39192 posts) - - Show Bio

Who is Swamp Thing? The answer depends on who you ask. Some know him from the movies. Some know him from the Vertigo comics. Others know him from older DC Comics. He was created by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson and has been written by other writers such as Alan Moore, Nancy A. Collins, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan and Andy Diggle. For a character that first appeared in 1971's House of Secrets #92, he has had several incarnations and origins.

How long has it been since we've properly seen Swamp Thing in comics. He's simply too good of a character with a lot of history to just be sitting around in comic book limbo.

I've read a bunch of Swamp Thing stories over the years. It always struck me as odd as how little people really know about his backstory.

== TEASER ==

What are the differences between the different Swamp Things? With a change in creative team, the character saw a change in origin and sometimes even a change in who he used to be in his human form.

House of Mystery #92

The original Swamp Thing was Alex Olsen. He was seemingly killed in a lab explosion. It turned out the explosion was rigged to go off by his lab partner, Damian Ridge who hated Alex for marrying the woman he was in love with. Alex was still alive and Damian dragged his bloody body and buried it in the swamp. As you can probably guess, things didn't go according to Damian's plans. Whether it was something in the chemicals that he mixed in to cause the explosion or even something out in the swamp, Alex was transformed and returned with a vengeance. Unfortunately, his wife was a bit frightened to see a big clump of vegetation bust through the window.

Swamp Thing #1

Just a little over a year later, there was another Swamp Thing with a slightly different origin. This one started out as Alec Holland. Alec and his wife, Linda were doing Bio-restorative research for the government.

To stay away from prying eyes, they set up their lab in an old barn near a swamp. They were visited by some men interested in buying their Bio-restorative formula and somehow managed to get past the men that were supposed to be patrolling the area to keep the Hollands safe. They offered to give them a blank check for the rights but Alec refused.

The men came back and when Alec refused again, they knocked him out. He awoke moments before a bomb planted near his table (full of chemicals, of course) exploded. In a heap of flames, Alec ran outside and fell into the swamp. This was the birth of Swamp Thing who was determined to stop the evil men that brought this upon him. He was tried to find a way to change himself back to human form. The series lasted 24 issues (published bimonthly) and ended in 1976 due to low sales.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing appeared in some issues of Challengers of the Unknown and returned with his own title in 1982. Alec Holland was back, still sad and roaming the swamps. He saved a young mute girl named Karen Clancy who was thought to be the Anti-Christ but was actually telepathic and telekinetic.

Alan Moore Changes Everything

When issue #20 came out in 1984, Alan Moore was brought in to take over writing duties. He was allowed to make any changes he saw fit, including doing away with the human-turned-into-a-monster angle.

Alan Moore revisited Alec Holland's origin and in issue #21, it was revealed that Holland did in fact die from the explosion. The plants in the swamp were exposed to the Bio-restorative formula and ingested Holland's remains. In other words, Swamp Thing was now a plant that thought it was Alec Holland. It reformed itself in a humanoid form out of a memory from Holland's cells.

Moore also incorporated the idea that there have been several different Swamp Things (which explains the Alex Olsen in House of Secrets). In 1986's issue #47, we were introduced to the Parliament of Trees. Holland turned out to be one of the members (there was some time travel involved...) and told Swamp Thing the story of other similar Swamp Things.

Alan Moore's version lasted a while but things soon reverted back to what they were before. In 1991's Swamp Thing Annual #6, horror writer Nancy A. Collins worked on setting things back to the pre-Alan Moore days. Swamp Thing was back to being Alec Holland and was hanging out with his new wife Abby Holland and daughter, Tefé.

Morrison and Millar Shake Things Up

This only lasted about three years when Grant Morrison and Mark Millar took over the book with issue #140. Alec Holland awoke and discovered he was human. He wasn't Swamp Thing but had hallucinated/dreamt his years as Swamp Thing...or did he?. Alec Holland and Swamp Thing were now two separate beings. Without Holland, Swamp Thing was a mindless monster. Morrison and Millar co-wrote the series for four issues when Millar went solo for the next 25, after which the series ended.

Volume 3 and Brian K. Vaughan

In 2000, Brian K. Vaughan took his turn on the series. This time, Swamp Thing wasn't a major part of the book. Instead, the focus was on his daughter, Tefé. What I didn't mention before was Swamp Thing possessed John Constantine in order to impregnate Abby. Due to Constantine and her parents' origins, she had the ability to manipulate both vegetation and flesh on an elemental scale. This series began with a teenage Tefé , somehow aged since her last appearance. She also had her memory erased until she suffered betrayal by her best friend and boyfriend. This caused her powers to come out as her anger took control and she remembered who she really was. The series ended after the twentieth issue.

Volume 4 Returning to his Roots

In 2004, Swamp Thing got another shot at having a series. Lasting twenty-nine issues, this series had different writers such as Andy Diggle , Will Pfeifer and Joshua Dysart . The first issue had John Constantine resurrecting the rotted but animated remains of Alec Holland. Holland isn't quite sure what is going on so Constantine fills him in about the explosion, the chemicals, the plant life absorbing his remains and being separated from Swamp Thing. Constantine wanted to reunite Holland's mind with Swamp Thing and used Holland's corpse as a temporary vessel for his spirit.

Eventually in a battle against Sargon the Sorcerer, Swamp Thing saved his daughter (who was killed but he brought her back to life) and sacrificed himself so his powers couldn't be stolen. Swamp Thing was able to return but back in his plant-based Elemental form living in the swamps. The series ended with issue #29 and Swamp Thing & Abby staring off into the sunset.

So who is Swamp Thing? Which version is he? It turns out he's all of them (except for Alex Olsen, but he was simply one of many past Swamp Things). Tefé lost her abilities. When will Swamp Thing turn up again? Will he still have Alec Holland's mind or be a pure beast? Which do you think is the best version of the character?

#1 Posted by NightFang (10849 posts) - - Show Bio

The more the merrier I say.

#2 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio

I honestly think that the Alan Moore one is the best

#3 Posted by leokearon (1943 posts) - - Show Bio

You forget on version of Swamp Thing


Man Thing!


#4 Posted by Billy Batson (59221 posts) - - Show Bio

Moore's was the best. G-man why did you do this? I'm going to make wiki edits on Swamp Thing and now you kinda spoiled it! :(

#5 Edited by NightFang (10849 posts) - - Show Bio
#6 Posted by TheMinister707 (129 posts) - - Show Bio

It's the same thing as in that one article about there being six Clayfaces.

#7 Posted by Eyz (3184 posts) - - Show Bio
@leokearon said:

You forget on version of Swamp Thing


Man Thing!


Man Thing's design is pretty badass :D
#8 Posted by sesquipedalophobe (4928 posts) - - Show Bio

To be honest, I only read one Swamp Thing comic. As a child, I owned two Swamp Thing action figures because I liked the overall gritty and earthly design, despite my ignorance of the character. It seemed more interesting to take a preexisting character and immerse his appearance in a storyline of my own, usually involving my sister's Barbie dream house.
If they had involved killing Ken to hook up with Courtney, I'm sure the first Swamp Thing would have been the last. It's those little dynamics that make certain characters more elemental. I propose the writers reinvent him with either a machine gun that shoots grass or give him a car. They could call it the Muckmobile.

#9 Posted by triangle (59 posts) - - Show Bio

swamp thing you make my heart sing,



did anyone watch the 90's TV show? it was...uh-MAZING

#10 Posted by MatKrenz (1513 posts) - - Show Bio

Gee I wonder why G-Man wrote this article ?
#11 Posted by Xenozoic Shaman (422 posts) - - Show Bio
@triangle said:

swamp thing you make my heart sing,



did anyone watch the 90's TV show? it was...uh-MAZING


 Yeah, those lyrics flooded my head too, upon seeing this article. ^_^

Thanks G-Man.  I actually haven't followed Swamp Thing all that much, and this helps.  I don't feel qualified to state which is the best. 
#12 Posted by Radread (319 posts) - - Show Bio

 I second with Alan Moore being the best.
#13 Posted by IrishX (2791 posts) - - Show Bio

I am definetely most familiar with Swamp Thing from the 1982 movie.

#14 Posted by A-Strondinaire (416 posts) - - Show Bio
If only all Swap Things were this sweet and well behaved...they'd still be hunted like animals but they would have the image of being docile creatureslike koalas.
#15 Posted by dondasch (930 posts) - - Show Bio

The Alan Moore Swamp Thing was the definitive, and hands down the best.

#16 Posted by johnny_spam (2182 posts) - - Show Bio

It seems a tradition of Swamp Thing was for the next writer to come in and wipe out all the last writer's work in my own personal opinion it sounds like the character suffered more by being part of deconstructive comics. Loved the Moore run.

#17 Posted by Thunderscream (1941 posts) - - Show Bio

I did like Alan Moore's the best, but he uses this formula of rallying all previous incarnations of a character quite a bit (or at least 2 other times I'm aware of) namely Promethea & Supreme

#18 Posted by sgoodwi (95 posts) - - Show Bio
@leokearon:  good call
#19 Posted by NightFang (10849 posts) - - Show Bio
#20 Posted by DEGRAAF (8341 posts) - - Show Bio
@TheMinister707 said:
"It's the same thing as in that one article about there being six Clayfaces.


can you point me to this article?
#21 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article G-Man, you missed Rick Veitch.  Although it is considered "Alan's" version, Veitch was doing great things with Alec, such as the abruptly ended time travel story arc.  Alan Moore's version I would consider the definitive, but it is dated.  Moore's version depended on Constantine almost like the "messiah" character in his stories, with John in Vertigo and Alec set to return to the DCU, there has to be a new version.

#22 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (2135 posts) - - Show Bio

There is more than one!!!!

I'm struck!
#23 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio

Side note: As I said, if Alec goes back to the DCU like it is stated he is, Tefe should remain in Vertigo to be Vertigo's Swamp Thing.  Since she is John's Daughter, more so then Alec if you ask me, then may be Tefe should get to know her other daddy better.

#24 Posted by Fantasgasmic (1092 posts) - - Show Bio

Q: How many Swamp Things are there?

#25 Posted by Mumbles (858 posts) - - Show Bio

they should do a crossover with man-thing and swamp thing

#26 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: Yeah I agree the Constantine of Swamp Thing is definitely not the Constantine we have now.  
#27 Posted by NightFang (10849 posts) - - Show Bio
@GraveSp said:
"Yeah I agree the Constantine of Swamp Thing is definitely not the Constantine we have now. "
Is that A good thing or a bad thing, because I always thought of Swamp Thing's Constantine as the younger and nicer Constantine, who's life hadn't become a hellish nightmare yet.
#28 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio

Tefe was my favorite Swamp Thing...but I did kind of think the idea of Millar's all-powerful Swamp Thing was pretty cool...even if it had the cheesiest ending ever

#29 Posted by BKole (560 posts) - - Show Bio

I actually enjoyed all the Swamp Thing comics, with Moore, Vaughn and Diggles all being a particular highlight in a long run of great stories. Really, Vertigo did great things with the DC hero characters they had - Shade, Animal Man and Swamp Thing were all fantastic Comics.

#30 Posted by Bearded Justice (788 posts) - - Show Bio

drive faster, swamp thing!  swamp thing is gaining on us!
#31 Posted by Comiclove5 (1304 posts) - - Show Bio

That is a lot of Swamp Things.

#32 Posted by maxicere (998 posts) - - Show Bio

@Eyz said:
" @leokearon said:

You forget on version of Swamp Thing


Man Thing!


Man Thing's design is pretty badass :D "

Yes!!! Awesome!!
#33 Posted by obscurefan (297 posts) - - Show Bio

Wow, I had no idea that Brian K Vaughn wrote Swamp Thing for a while, I'll have to check that out.

#34 Posted by The Stegman (29049 posts) - - Show Bio

and now we have garbage man in "Weird Worlds"

#35 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio
@NightFang: I wouldn't necessarily say it is good or bad.  For instance I can't really picture ST's Constantine being in a punk band.  Constantine's past that was developed in Hellblazer doesn't seem to fit when I think of the character that is in Swamp Thing.  
#36 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio
@obscurefan said:
" Wow, I had no idea that Brian K Vaughn wrote Swamp Thing for a while, I'll have to check that out. "
it was an amazing book, if only people had recognized his talent back then maybe the book could have lasted longer...
#37 Posted by JonesDeini (3857 posts) - - Show Bio
Easily so...
#38 Posted by ntb1124 (980 posts) - - Show Bio
@maxicere said:
@Eyz said:
" @leokearon said:

You forget on version of Swamp Thing


Man Thing!


Man Thing's design is pretty badass :D "
Yes!!! Awesome!! "
#39 Posted by etragedy (2629 posts) - - Show Bio

See gplantam's reply to my review of House of Secrets #92 for interesting info on the origin of Swamp Thing in that issue, and the Alan Moore run.

#40 Posted by Nova`Prime` (4172 posts) - - Show Bio
@leokearon: Actually Man Things first apperance predated Swamp Thing by two months. Wouldn't be surprised if the creators of both characters weren't discussing the characters before creation.
#41 Posted by G-Man (39192 posts) - - Show Bio
@Nova`Prime`: Gerry Conway (co-creator of Man-Thing) was actually roommates with Len Wein (so the story goes).
#42 Posted by Wattup (682 posts) - - Show Bio

Isn't there a Swamp Thing movie coming soon?

#43 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6958 posts) - - Show Bio

Sure am looking forward to the conclusion of Brightest Day now because of him!

#44 Posted by FireFlare153 (111 posts) - - Show Bio

Huh.... I always thought the Swamp Thing was just another B-movie. I never would have thought he had some sort of backstory!
#45 Edited by Kamen Rider Kajiki (1218 posts) - - Show Bio
@leokearon said:

You forget on version of Swamp Thing

Man Thing!


Make that two more because with out

The Heap neither characters would existed in the first place
#46 Posted by darkrider (498 posts) - - Show Bio

he s back 

#47 Posted by Luthorcrow (178 posts) - - Show Bio

I really do not see how there is even a debate on this one, Alan Moore not only reinvented the character but elevated the character from B list horror comics to a serious comic book. It's the only arc that is worth readying.

#48 Posted by Trodorne (2749 posts) - - Show Bio
@darkrider said:
" he s back  "
Shhh let them read the issue first .... lol
#49 Posted by JonesDeini (3857 posts) - - Show Bio
@johnny spam: 
Pretty much, I think Moore did it best, other writers should built on that instead of trying to rediscover fire or reinvent the wheel.
#50 Posted by darkrider (498 posts) - - Show Bio
@Trodorne said:
" @darkrider said:
" he s back  "
Shhh let them read the issue first .... lol "
lol   okey  he is not back guys 

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