Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis
By: J.R. McNamara on April 7, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Bernie Wrightson
Publisher: DC Comics
Pages: 240 pages
I love horror comics, or more accurately, I love monster comics. I was always a fan of Jack Kirby's early monster stuff he did for Marvel, which I saw as reprints in the seventies, though his monsters were never really my favourites . I actually have always preferred the muck monsters! From Hillman's The Heap in the forties to the emergence of The Ultraverse's Sludge, I have always loved those disgusting piles of animated goop. I have to admit to having two favourites though, both of which came out mere months apart in 1971. One was Marvel's Man Thing, and the other, DC's Swamp Thing.

The Swamp Thing was created by comic's legend Len Wein, who created super-sensation comic hero Wolverine (along with John Romita Snr and Herb Trimpe), and monster-artist legend Bernie Wrightson, who illustrated 50 drawings for a wonderful release of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and also illustrated Stephen King's novella The Cycle of the Werewolf.

This collection is an interesting one, as it actually shows two Swamp Things. The first was taken from a story in the DC horror anthology House of Secrets which is a one off tale of a scientist, Alex Olsen, in the early 20th century, who is killed by his best friend in an explosion in his lab, so he can take his wife off him. Olsen is coated in chemicals and transformed by the swamp into a disfigured 'swamp thing' who wants revenge on his comrade. This short story is a tragic tale, told beautifully by Wein and Wrightson.

Obviously DC loved the story, and perhaps saw Marvel's Man Thing on the shelves, and requested more Swamp Thing from Wein and Wrightson, and so the regular series was born!

As the Swamp Thing in the one off tale was set 70 years earlier and not necessarily within the confines of the DC Universe, Wein and Wrightson rebuilt Swamp Thing from the ground up.

Now Swamp Thing was the alter ego of murdered scientist Alec Holland, who was making a formula that would allow plants to grow anywhere, under almost any condition. His formula is obviously wanted by many, and when he denies it to some characters of a shady disposition, they blow up his lab with him in it. He, of course, is covered in the formula, and runs into the swamp and the combination of it, the swamp and his burning flesh, caused by the explosion, transform him.

Now a misshapen muck monster, Swamp Thing finds his wife killed by the same crooks, and he is blamed for her murder by his friend, police officer Matt Cable, which leads to a series of weird adventures which see him cross paths with a town of clockwork people, a werewolf, the Frankenstein's creature-like Patchwork Man, the alchemist Anton Arcane, witches, the Lovecraftian M'nagalah, aliens, robots and even the Dark Knight himself, Bat-man!!

This is a great collection of entry-level Swamp Thing stories that are fun and engaging, without all the Parliament of Trees hoo-ha that eventually made the series far more serious than a muck-monster comic should be. The stories are very of-their-time and Wein wears his influences on his sleeve (H. P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley and others). Wein also treats us to a 2 page essay about where the idea for Swamp Thing originated, which is an interesting read unto itself.

This softcover collection has a beautiful cover, but as DC do occasionally, the interior pages are printed on little more than toilet paper, but it isn't an expensive collection, so one can't ask for too much I suppose, though a little quality would never go astray.

Wein's writing is fairly solid, though in what seems to be common with some horror related characters, the need to put more familiar horror clichés into the mix creeps in VERY quickly. Wrightson's art is patchy, and it seems to take time to really get into a groove. Actually, that groove isn't really reached until about the seventh chapter of this collection, which is the one with Bat-man in it, but when it does, it picks up quite significantly.

All in all, a great start to a character, who in my opinion, became far to complex as time went on…
Movie Score
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