The new “Swamp Thing” TV show isn’t your daddy’s swamp monster. It isn’t even Alan Moore’s.
Moore is the English writer famous for “From Hell,” “V for Vendetta,” “Watchmen” and a slew of famous stories on major DC Comics characters. One of his most beloved efforts was his run on “Swamp Thing,” which re-imagined and revitalized the character.
Moore began his run on the second “Swamp Thing” title in 1984. Before that the muck-encrusted mockery of a man had been an accidental headliner.
“We really didn’t think we were going to create a legend,” wrote Len Wein in the foreword to “Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Omnibus.” Wein, a writer, was co-creator of the character, along with artist Bernie Wrightson. The monster made his debut in a short 1970 story in an issue of “House of Secrets.” The issue was a bestseller and the character got his own series. That version of Swampy starred Alec Holland and his wife, Linda, who were working on a “bio-restorative formula” in a swamp when foreign agents bombed their lab. Linda was shot and killed, but the explosion, formula and swamp combined to revive Alec as a living plant — a swamp thing. What ensued was Alec’s quest for a cure to his condition, while battling monsters as a monster.
The title had its ups and downs, even being canceled at one point. But then came Alan Moore. Moore arrived with issue No. 20 of the second “Swamp Thing” series, and did something amazing. He reinvented Swamp Thing and turned the strip completely upside down.
Spoilers ahead for a 1984 story. If you don’t want to know what Moore did, don’t read any further.
Still with me? OK: Moore asked the musical question, “What if Swamp Thing isn’t a man who thinks he’s a plant, but a plant who thinks he’s a man?” In other words, Alec Holland was dead, and had been since “Swamp Thing” No. 1. The character named Swamp Thing was truly a plant, one who had simply operated under the delusion that he was Alec Holland after absorbing Holland’s memories via planarian worms. (Feel free to Google.)
Which meant that there was no “cure” to be had. Which meant that Swamp Thing had no future to work for, and his past efforts had been a waste of time.
Which meant he was really, really angry.
Moore went on to establish a new purpose for Swampy, one that was amazingly grandiose. Swamp Thing, it turned out, was the “avatar of the Green,” or plant life. Swamp Thing’s job was to protect plant life from its worst threat: man.
DC Universe’s live-action “Swamp Thing” TV series debuted on May 31, echoing some of the comic’s look. But unfortunately, it was canceled after one episode. The news broke on Thursday, less than a week after the series premiered to positive reviews. The nine remaining episodes of the show’s first season will air as planned.
In the meantime, go read Moore’s fantastic telling of the character.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.