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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?