Posts Tagged ‘Swamp Thing’
There are several things both notable and fascinating about this issue of the Swamp Thing. First and foremost, this story is unbelievably fucked up. Modern comics deliver sick, twisted, graphic gore and horror but seldom dig into emotional turmoil this deep.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
Part 1: Abby’s Past Tragedies
Abby Cable is already a tormented soul. She and her husband Matt lost two of their closest friends (Alec and Linda Holland) in an explosion and were then forced to hide from the killers for some time. After this trauma Matt and Abby’s marriage begins to fall apart as they try to piece together the death of Alec and discover this being the Swamp Thing.
One night while Abby is out in the swamps with Swamp Thing, Matt is severely injured in a car wreck leaving him brain-dead and his body possessed by the soul of Abby’s uncle Arcane. Calmly engorged in the corpse of the Husband, Arcane begins the torment of his own niece by dazzling and bedding her. His torments increase and eventually leave her dead in hell. Only the bravery of Swamp Thing (with help from Deadman, Phantom Stranger, and Etrigan) pulls Abby back from eternal torment.
With Matt Cable a “vegetable” from his car accident, Abby begins a romance with the swamp monster. Alan Moore’s bit of parallelism here was not lost on me: Abby trades her metaphorical vegetable-husband for an actual vegetable.
Their lives would be happy but for John Constantine who continually lures Swamp Thing off on new adventures saving the world, universes, and eventually the spiritual realm itself.
At this point in the series, photos of Abby and Swamp Thing are published in the local newspaper and Abby is charged with crimes against nature, a charge normally reserved for beastiality. Fearing imprisonment, Abby flees to Gotham City where the Swamp Thing wages a war on the city to recover her from Gotham’s justice system.
At last reunited, Abby’s dreams are shattered forever when the agency that created the Swamp Thing finds a way to kill its monster and does so. Swamp Thing is dead. Abby’s last vegetable has been burned to the ground.
After so much tragedy in one character, Stephen Bissette takes a last oportunity to twist the knife.
Part 2: Issue #59: “Reunion”.
The story begins in hell, where a large demon is tormenting Arcane for his sins on earth. We notice that one of Arcane’s eyes has been squished and the socket is filled with maggots. He complains that he cannot feel his eye. This is the perspective from which our story is told. Though Arcane is the main character and provides the perspective of this narrative, the story is actually about Abby Cable as she pieces her life back together. Arcane is forced to watch three stories unfolding simultaneously.
- He sees Abby as she tries to live her life. She’s in a convalescent home working with the aged who’s families have abandoned them. She struggles to cope with this. An orderly is stealing from the residents once they die and it’s a bit of a scandal that Abby uncovers. This narrative expands on Abby’s character and furthers the main arc of our story by showing how she lives her life in the absence of the Swamp Thing.
- We see some unknown creature, and read its inner thoughts as it struggles to find someone. We see parallelism between this creature and Arcane as it also complains about its eye. This narrative is rife with intrigue but is opaque, confusing until the end of the issue.
- We see the past when Abigail’s father – a single parent – lives with his only daughter in some small European village still peppered with land mines left over from WWII. Here we learn that Abby’s father stepped on one of these landmines while she was a little girl, dying in front of her eyes. This is how Abby was orphaned and came to live in the United States at a young age. Throughout most of this story Abby’s father is reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to his daughter.
These three stories are interwoven and evolve before Arcane’s eye (and the readers’). The final death scene of Abby’s father is followed with the unknown creature in narrative 2 finding Abby at the convalescent home. It sees her, is ashamed, and runs into the swamps. Abby, recognizing something in the creature, chases it and the two are reunited. Here we learn that Arcane rebuilt the corpse of his dead brother (Abby’s father) after Abby had left for America. All these years the reanimated corpse has struggled to find its lost daughter, and now some decades later he is literally falling apart, ashamed of his own wretchedness, and ashamed for his lost life, his life as an Arcane.
Abigail Cable, emotionally devastated after losing Swamp Thing, is reunited with her long dead father to discover that he has been turned into a “Frankenstein” and is now disintigrating before her very eyes. After some time spent in a tearful embrace the monster flees his daughter. She chases him further into the swamp, but she can only find the scattered limbs of the man she once called father. This is the second time that Abigail has watched her father die.
Abby is found the next morning next to a torso. Limbs are scattered about her.
She says, “I can’t find his head.”
Back in hell, an impressed demon remarks to Arcane that he is still causing pain on earth after so many years, and that he may be turned into a demon once his sins are paid off.
Hot damn. This issue was fucked up and demostrated the stength of Bissette’s story-craft as he seamlessly wove together four narratives into one issue. Told from the perspective of a dead man being tormented in hell, we are shown new depths of Abby’s past and present while still managing to progress the main story that has been evolving over the past few issues (Swamp Thing’s death and eventual return to earth). The parallels are numerous. We see Abby’s childhood fascination with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” which provides insight into her adult romance with the Swamp Thing. We see her father actually become a Frankenstein monster in a sick play on the old notion that women marry men like their father. And Bissette ties Arcane to his brother by demonstrating that they are both ashamed of the family name (one for his sins, the other for his own wretchednes), both are monsters, and both have deteriorating eyes that cause them pain.
This issue is tremendous and is followed by another gem in issue #60, “Loving the Alien” which proved to be another gorgeous issue in the Saga of the Swamp Thing. Though the issues compiled in book 6 of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing are considered by many to be weak and inferior to his previous work, and are a bit overshadowed by the other story he wrote that year (Watchmen), I would argue that these issues rank easily among the best stand-alone issues of the whole series. Their depth, craft, and creativity are simply unparalleled.
(PS, sorry for two Swamp Thing posts in a row. It’s what I’ve been reading.)
Who even writes for this blog anymore? Certainly not us! Anyway, I just read a magnificent issue of Swamp Thing from the year 1996!
Clinton was in office and Dole wanted to oust him. Newt Gingrich had signed some weird “Contract with America” and the world of American politics was as nutty as ever. Apparently disgusted with himself, the comics industry, and left-wing socialist nut-jobs Mark Millar enlisted the incredible talents of Curt Swan to create this fascinating bit of satire.
If you’re familiar with Alan Moore or Rick Veitch’s work on Saga of the Swamp Thing then you know Chester Williams as an eco-friendly former hippie that loves tubers and teams up with the Swamp Thing to battle evil.
But that was before he saw the Contract!
Professor Chester Williams is at his apartment throwing a party with another professor and some of their students. The kids are dancing, drinking, getting high, and engaging in other immoral activities. After a living the hippie dream this party serves as a wake up call to Mr. Williams and he’s had enough! Chastising a young lady for strip-dancing at the party Chester proceeds to kill the music and call the cops on his students.
Disgusted with the loose living of these young liberals, Chester decides to join the NYPD and clean up America. After killing a few bank robbers (illegal immigrants no less!), saving a woman from being robbed [Ed. note: a “dyke,” who he then kisses so hard she goes straight and marries him], and plenty of good old fashioned liberal bashing, Chester receives word that the Swamp Thing is giving the world’s leaders an ultimatum: stop polluting or else! As an old friend of this Elemental, Officer Williams decides to pay a visit to Houma, LA to try and talk some sense into the old Swamp Hippie.
After a stern lesson on economics, the importance of international trade, and a plea for Swamp Thing to “grow up”, Chester convinces Swamp Thing that the earth doesn’t need a paradise and things are best left as they are. Chester then returns to New York where he defeats incumbent Bill Clinton and becomes President of the United States of America!
Conservative ideals win again!
[Ed. note: Despite Mark Millar’s bizarre introduction to the issue claiming it is the first “clean issue in a sick run of an evil book put together by diseased individuals,” editor Stuart Moore later promises it was “an Elseworlds story” and “a bad trip or something.” Thank God.]
So, in 1968, hippies didn’t really read comics. Maybe they were too busy with the whole Vietnam War thing going on, maybe “truth, justice, and the American way” just wasn’t really their bag. Either way, DC Comics had a fool-proof plan to get their hard-earned busking dollars: hire Joe Simon, legendary co-creator of Captain America (clearly the most liberal of all heroes), to create the ultimate hippie superhero! And what did he come up with? Brother Power, a mannequin who was struck by lightning and brought to life. Yeah, there’s no way this’ll fuck up. God help us, let’s take a look at December 1968’s Brother Power, the Geek #2.
Our book starts out where issue one left off, with Brother Power (aka: the Geek) floating in the San Fransisco Bay. On a nearby shore, a bunch of hippies are fishing and one of them just happens to reel in Brother Power’s body and decides that the best course of action is to dance with it before stealing it’s clothes. Meanwhile, on an overlooking cliff, a bunch of guys in World War I-era German uniforms (complete with a balsa wood glider made to look like a Fokker biplane) are spying on the hippies and notice Brother Power’s sweet, sweet boots. Apparantly, that’s enough reason for a full-on attack, so they push their glider off the cliff and the epic hippie ass-whooping begins! Just kidding. Two panels after they land, the Geek stands up and the German guys puss out and run away.
After the “battle” ends, a completely unprovoked Brother Power decides to tell the hippies his origin story (previously seen in the entirety of the previous month’s issue, making this sequence 100% filler and entirely fucking pointless). For those that are curious, Brother Power started out as a mannequin in an abandoned tailor shop where a bunch of hippies were squatting. They put their clothes on him and left him by an open window where he was struck by lightning and “somehow, I was alive! And I had enormous strength!” That’s one of the reasons I love the Silver Age. They don’t feel the need to explain why shit happens, it just does. Anyways, Brother Power was kidnapped by a traveling freak show and put on display, escaped, and was chased by cops till he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where we came in to this.
The hippies accept him as one of their own and indoctrinate him into their gang, the Clinkers. Unfortunately for them, Brother Power is horrified to learn that they don’t have jobs and decides to get work in a grocery store stocking shelves and bagging groceries (which is totally the kind of action I look for when I read comic books). After impressing some old lady by taking groceries out to her car on roller skates, she offers Brother Power a job at her husband’s missile factory. At that very moment, Acme Missile Parts Factory president J.P. Acme is freaking out because “one small snag” in their assembly line is costing them a million dollars a year and bankruptcy is inevitable! Unfortunately, there’s only one man who can help save the company: the evil Lord Sliderule!
Brother Power shows up for his interview just in time to witness J.P. Acme signing the company over to Lord Sliderule (and Sliderule’s midget henchmen backflipping all over the place in celebration). Sliderule immediately tries to fire the Geek, to which Acme remind him that he has to solve that snag in the assembly line before he gets complete control. So, what is this snag that could be destroying this giant corporation? A right-handed guy has to grab something on his left side and is slowing down the assembly line. Brother Power suggests they get a left-handed guy to do the job. Sliderule gets pissed off that he didn’t come up with the idea and sics his men on Brother Power! Another epic fight ensues! No, just kidding again. The next panel just has a caption that “Lord Sliderule and his nasties are no match for our Geek” and shows Brother Power getting promoted to plant foreman and then CEO, like, one panel later when J.P. Acme says, “Fuck it, I quit”
Suddenly, the Clinkers appear outside holding a “non-violent demonstration” against the missile factory! Some of the employees run outside and start beating the crap out of the hippies so the Geek runs out after them and explains that the missiles aren’t for war, but for outer space. He promptly hires all of the hippies for the assembly line and pats himself on the back. Unfortunately, Lord Sliderule (who the Geek also apparantly hired at some point) writes an article for the local paper with the headline “Are Hippies Slowing Down the space Program as Protest?” freaking out the U.S. Space Agency. To prove that everything is cool, Brother Power schedules a missile launch the next day which, thanks to some sabotage by Lord Sliderule, explodes on the tarmac. Ronald Reagan then sends out a bunch of tanks to arrest Brother Power (haha, what?). Fortunately, Brother Power also seems to have hired the head German guy who crashes his Fokker plane as a means of distracting Ronald Reagan’s army. It works and the Geek decides to hide in another of the missiles. Which Lord Sliderule then launches into space. It ends with the following caption:
Damn straight, you’ll never believe where. It turns out that not only did Joe Simon hate writing Brother Power, the Geek (going so far as refusing to talk about it to this day), but then-Superman editor Mort Weisinger hated the hippie culture so much that he pressured DC publisher Jack Liebowitz into canceling it. So then where did Brother Power land? 21 years later in Neil Gaiman’s Swamp Thing Annual #5, in which Ronnie Raymond guides the rocket back to Earth, Brother Power discovers he’s an elemental of dolls, and Batman and Abbie Cable have to stop him from destroying Tampa Bay. Yeah, you know what? Don’t ask.
Here’s a list of our favorite second string couples (when we say second string, we mean lower tier at Marvel or DC, or not from Marvel & DC at all. Mostly we just didn’t want to deal with Lois Lane or MJ or Cyclops & Jean. We pretty much made up the parameters and we’re using the term loosely. Shut up. Who pays for the domain name, you or me?)
When it comes to couples in comic books, it seems like the phrase “opposites attract” is a huge fucking understatement. Despite the fact that getting involved with a superhero is bad news (see: Kyle Rayner and Matt Murdock), they seem to manage to endure through thick and thin, and death after death after death. As a matter of fact, we need to make a game out of this. Every time one half or more of a relationship is dead (or presumed dead), take a shot!
(10) Invincible and Atom Eve – This pair went through the required will they/won’t they for about EVER, complete with Invincible’s hot blond jealous non-superhero girlfriend. Invincible goes to the future one day and Future!Eve gets emo and tells him she loves him. When he gets back to the present, Invincible starts mackin’ on Eve, but she gets mad. “You only love me because Future me told you I love you!” which is a pretty stupid reason to bail, but she’s made up for it more than once by pulling a move that most women her age just can’t pull off. Almost every time she starts getting angry at him over something stupid, she takes five and cuts it the fuck out. Invincible will probably be able to punch through a PLANET one day. And then Eve can completely rearrange the molecules like nothing ever happened. Hell yeah, these two! They’re at number 10 though, because they can’t even legally drink yet and this shit could fall apart at any moment.
(9) Bruce Banner and Betty Ross – Not as second string as the rest of the list, but Hulk and his lady-friend were never quite as in the spotlight as the other Marvel couples, so we snuck them in anyway. Bruce and Betty pretty much had everything going against them. First off, Betty is the daughter of General Ross, one of Bruce’s biggest enemies. After the world found out that Bruce Banner was the Hulk, she freaked out and married Glenn Talbot, leader of the Hulkbusters. After that marriage didn’t work (and years and year of “COME ON, GET ON WITH IT”), Betty and Bruce FINALLY got together and got married. Then Abomination poisoned her with his blood, framing the Hulk, and she died (as comic book wives are wont to do). But she was always the only one who could soothe the Hulk, which made her pretty badass. You know, until she croaked.
(8) Clint Barton and Barbara Morse – It only really took one mission for Hawkeye and Mockingbird to fall in love. They teamed up, defeated Crossfire, eloped, and started the West Coast Avengers. Then everything totally went to shit. Time travel, cowboys, and Satan (can’t make this shit up) interfered with their lives and the two of them drifted apart. Over time, Mockingbird and Hawkeye split up. She was replaced by a Skrull, he made out with Moonstone, died, and came back. It wasn’t until a Skrull ship with the Real Mockingbird aboard crashed to earth that the two of them were able to come face-to-face and get back that ol’ spark the way that comic book heroes do: beating the snot out of aliens.
(7) Ralph and Sue Dibny – No list of comic couples would be complete without this tragic pairing. An inseparable item since the early 60s (that’s a lonnnng time, I wonder how they kept it fresh? [insert elongated man joke here!]), Ralph & Sue were Justice League staples. Then Identity Crisis happened, Sue got raped by Doctor Light and killed by Jean Loring. Eventually, Ralph Dibny sacrificed himself to Neron in 52 in order to reunite with his wife (albeit in spirit form). They didn’t stay spirits for long though, they can currently be found running around ripping out Thanagarian hearts in the name of the Black Lantern (aw, how cute). FLESH!
(6) Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane – After her husband got possessed and Abby ended up dead, it seemed as if this relationship was put to an end before it really started. Pffft, fuck that. Swamp Thing was serious about this one. He went into the afterlife and dealt with the Spectre and Etrigan to get Abby back. Once he does, she drops her coma-hubby and eats a weird hallucinogenic tuber growing out of Swamp Thing (which apparently means they’re married?). Later still (in a very beautiful story arc), Swamp Thing had to go to Gotham City to bust Abby out of jail after she was arrested for fucking a plant-man, both confronting and eventually getting help from the Batman.
(5) Barry Allen and Iris West – Iris West is the most tolerant woman on the planet. For being married to the fastest man alive, she sure does have to put up with him being late all the fucking time. Hell, she even waited for him for twenty years after he got sucked into the Speed Force and everybody thought he was dead. But it’s totally cool, because when Barry fucks something up, he makes it priority number one to make it up to his beloved Iris. Honorable Mentions? Jay & Joan Garrick. Wally West & Linda Park. The Flashes have remarkably healthy marriages. You know, for superheroes.
(4) Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance – Whenever anything seems to be going right for this pairing, something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Dinah gets kidnapped and tortured in The Longbow Hunters, Ollie makes out with the ONLY other employee at Dinah’s flower shop, Ollie has illegitimate kid after illegitimate kid (including Connor Hawke) come out of the woodwork, Ollie dies, Ollie comes back, and Dinah accidentally marries and kills an impostor Ollie while real Oliver is trapped with the Amazons. Finally, when they do get married, the ceremony is attacked by a ton of villains trying to kill all the heroes at once. Man, I’m pretty sure these two are fucking cursed.
(3) Snow White and Bigby Wolf – Snow and the Big Bad Wolf of Fables started sniping at each other pretty much in the first panel of the series, which is how you knew they would hook up. After they got brainwashed and date raped each other, Snow White wound up knocked up with a bunch of wolf/wind/fable babies. Then Bigby and Snow basically saved the world even though they weren’t technically in charge of anything anymore. Snow and Bigby are arguably smarter and more versatile than all of the other Fables (excluding maybe Flycatcher.) I guess they’ll be fighting the Boogeyman now, but they’ve got that killer zephyr of a seventh child, so I’m thinkin’ they’ll be jussst fine.
(2) Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) and Peter Rasputin – Shadowcat and Collosus always had a mutual crush on one another, there was just one problem: she was 14, he was 19, and I guess the X-Men take statutory rape seriously. When Peter’s sister, Illyana (a.k.a. Magik) died of the Legacy virus and Peter sacrificed himself to find a cure, his remains were cremated and that’s the end of that. Case closed. No way, just kidding! Turns out aliens had Peter’s body and he was actually just fine. This gave the pair (now both of age) an opportunity to fuck. Hooray! Together forever! No way, just kidding again, Kitty got shot into space in a giant space-bullet. You know, something tells me these two might not be meant to be together.
(1) Monsieur Mallah and Brain – One of them is a gorilla with a ridiculously high IQ and a machine gun. The other is a French scientist’s brain in a jar. And they’re both dudes. Grant Morrison (who else?) made these two an item in his run on Doom Patrol and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t beyond absurd from the start. Unfortunately for this pair, who finally got together when Brain was transplanted into a Robot body; said robot body was rigged to explode if anyone ever put a brain in it. They kissed and KABOOM. If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.
Holy shit, were you actually taking shots? Awesome. I counted thirteen drinks and you must be totally fucked up. Gimme your keys, I’m calling you a cab.