Swamp Thing issues 1 to 10 were published between 1972 and 1973; they were written by Len Wein and drawn by horror artist Bernie Wrightson. Swamp Thing is a horror comic that takes place in the DC Universe.
The American government is determined to protect scientists Alec and Linda Holland from malevolent forces. The government sequesters the couple in an isolated, poorly guarded refurbished barn. But hey, it’s secret!
Security by obscurity has failed by the time the Hollands arrive at their new lab. The consequences are dire.
The Hollands have created a revolutionary plant growth formula. The Combine (a vast multinational corporation/dastardly criminal organization, such as are frequently found in comics) are determined to own it. If they cannot own it, then they must prevent others from possessing it. When a perfunctory effort to intimidate the Hollands fails, the Combine agents simply blow up the lab with Alec Holland inside. On fire, Holland staggers out of his ruined laboratory and into the surrounding swamp. A tragic end for a promising career.
Even as his grieving widow holds a funeral1 a reborn Holland emerges from the swamp. Now a humanoid made of plant material, the Swamp Thing retains his human intelligence and memories. Speech is nearly impossible for him, preventing him from revealing who he is. As far as the people he encounters are concerned, he is simply a horrifying monster.
When the Combine agents return, Swamp Thing fails to save Linda. He settles for brutal revenge. Government agent Matthew Cable deduces from the aftermath that the Swamp Thing killed his close friends, the Hollands. He is determined to bring the monster to justice. Deadly justice.
Others have noted the existence of Swamp Thing. The swamp monster is ambushed and kidnapped, then flown to the Balkans. It is just the first stop on a horrific world tour.
Warning for dog-lovers: a dog is brutally murdered! Mind you, the pooch was unwittingly working for Team Evil.
A friend of the family collected comics. In the mid-1970s, he gave us a box of comics, among which was the Wein-Wrightson run of Swamp Thing. Strictly speaking, the Wein run is thirteen issues, not ten, but issue 10 was Wrightson’s last issue and I decided to treat those issues as a set. As I recall, DC agrees, in that the graphic novel reprints of the early issues collect 1 – 10 and not 1 – 13.
I remembered Wrightson’s art as better than it seems to be now. Also be warned that this was published in the 1970s; visible minority characters are … um … well, you know. On the plus side, the comic’s refrigerator (where characters conveniently die to ensure plot momentum) is unisex.
The Holland-monster’s adventures tend to be self-contained and follow a familiar arc. Circumstances lead the swamp monster to an isolated community. At first glance, all seems well. But it never is. Evil soon raises its head, only to be smashed down by a super-humanly strong, effectively invulnerable mass of vegetable matter whose moral core does not allow it to stand aside. On-going characters like Swamp Thing, Cable, and Abigail Arcane have plot immunity. Other sympathetic characters, not so much.
A grump fifty-nine-year-old might point out that the communities always seem to be fifty to a hundred years out of date, that the American government protection schemes seem calculated to maximize risk, that characters are both four-colour and starkly black and white, and that the Swamp Thing seems have the world’s worst travel agent.
For a teenager new to genre tropes, this was the Heap meets the Fugitive, with added H. P. Lovecraft. Mind-blowing stuff.
Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis(which contains the relevant issues) is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo). I did not find it at Barnes & Noble.
1: I never noticed this when first reading these comics, but Linda did bury something in her husband’s grave. Later stories revealed that the Swamp Thing wasn’t a transformed Alec, but rather a plant elemental imbued with his memories. That wasn’t Wein’s take as far as I know … so who or what is in that grave?