50 years ago Swamp Thing launched its own comic book series
Today we go back 50 years to see Swamp Thing’s debut in its own ongoing series.
This is “Look Back”, where every four weeks of a month I will highlight a single issue of a comic that has appeared in the past and talk about this issue (often on a larger scale, like the series as a whole, etc.). Each spotlight will be a look at a comic from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first spotlight of the month takes a look at a book released this month ten years ago. The second spotlight is on a book released this month 25 years ago. The third spotlight looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth spotlight looks at a book released this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week (we’re looking at weeks in a broad sense, so if a month has five Sundays or five Saturdays, that counts as having a fifth week) look at books from 20/30/40/60/70/ 80 years old.
Let’s go back fifty years to August 1972 for the first issue of the ongoing series of Swamp Thing by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.
WHAT WAS THE REACH OF THIS FIRST ISSUE?
You just can’t argue Swamp Thing #1 without discussing first House of Secrets #92, which came out a year earlier and introduced Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing idea. This story, dubbed “Swamp Thing”, was about a jealous jerk who murdered his best friend, Alec Olsen, so he could steal his friend’s wife, whom he had been pining for years. However, the “dead” man had actually been turned into a swamp by the chemical explosion that the “best friend” had arranged for him. The murderer’s paranoia led him to assume that the widow (who had finally turned to him for comfort in her grief and eventually married him, as he had planned) was onto him, and he planned to kill her before she can report him. Before he could kill her, however, the Swamp Thing broke into the house and killed his former friend and saved his wife’s life. However, since he couldn’t speak, he had to leave, knowing that he had saved his wife’s life but could never be with her again.
HEARTING THINGS, aren’t they? Well, readers went crazy for it. This issue sold at an incredibly high rate, leading DC chief Carmine Infantino to say, “Hey, could you make this an ongoing series?” Wein and Wrightson thought that was a terrible idea, because the story had been so heartfelt and personal, how do you turn that into an ongoing story?
But then Wein found a way to do it, and he got Wrightson involved, although Wrightson had never thought of doing a work in progress before (he wasn’t the fastest performer). The way he came up with was to introduce a NEW Swamp thing!
Now, instead of Alec and Linda Olsen, it was Alec and Linda HOLLAND, and this time they were scientists working together on a top-secret formula. They had a government security officer, Lt. Matt Cable, who warned them that the formula they were working on was so valuable that if other governments couldn’t steal it, they better kill the Hollands to get away with it. sure she could. not be used by the United States…
And of course, Alec is apparently killed in an explosion while working with the formula…
However, it turned him into the Swamp Thing instead (by mixing the formula with his body)!
HOW WEIN AND WRIGHTSON ADAPTED THE SWAMP THING CONCEPT FOR AN ONGOING SERIES
Alec goes to find Linda, who he knows is still in danger, but is shocked to find he’s, well, you know, a Swamp Thing now…
Unfortunately Linda is still murdered and Cable blames Swamp Thing, since he showed up right before Linda was murdered. Swamp Thing, however, deals with his wife’s killers, but he doesn’t really have a purpose in this world anymore, while Cable has a new purpose of making sure Swamp Thing pays for Linda Holland’s death. Meanwhile, a mysterious person wants Swamp Thing for himself…
It’s remarkable how Wein turned a very one-off concept into something that could support an ongoing narrative. I don’t need to tell you how good Bernie Wrightson was on the book, as is evident from the pages above, but hey, still, WOW! Unfortunately, Wrightson couldn’t maintain the book’s schedule, so Nestor Redondo took over (Wein, however, was always proud of the fact that sales increased over time). However, the series never really tied into that same heartfelt approach until over a decade later, when Alan Moore took over writing the book with artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben.
If you have any suggestions for the September (or other later months) 2012, 1997, 1972, and 1947 comics, email me at [email protected]! Here’s the guide, though, to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional time lag between cover date and release date of a comic for most of comic book history has been two months (sometimes it was three months, but not during the periods we discuss here). So the comics will have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (so October for a book released in August). Obviously, it’s easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago came out, because there was internet coverage of the books at the time.