Halloween is a month away, but all of October is Monster Month for me, and to kick things off I offer an especially timely Dollar Box column, where I look at single-issue comics stories with an original cover price of a dollar or less. This month is all about swamp monsters, and while Swamp Thing isn’t the first of his kind (that would be The Heap), and not even the first muck monster from the Big Two (as Marvel’s Man-Thing debuted several months earlier), Swamp Thing is certainly the most famous and best-realized of all the the many fiends stalking the four-color funny book bogs.
Originally appearing in a short story in House of Secrets #92, Swamp Thing made his first full-length appearance in somewhat altered form in 1972’s Swamp Thing #1. The product of a close collaboration between writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing is one of the greatest creature designs in all of comics. With his craggy brows and half-skull face, Swamp Thing is perched on the edge of uncanny valley, with a visage by turns soulful and monstrous, the perfect mask of torment for forlorn man-turned-monster Alec Holland.
Later creators — including luminaries like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn, and Scott Snyder — would develop Swamp Thing into an elemental champion at the center of a complex and expansive comics cosmology, but the original Wein & Wrightson version of the character is simplicity itself. Tasked with creating a bio-restorative formula by the government, scientist-couple Alec and Linda Holland retire to a remote swampland laboratory, where they are immediately menaced by thugs intent on stealing their knowledge. One thing leads to another, and before long a bomb has gone off and a flaming Alec Holland has plunged into the muck, only to rise as the avenging muck monster, Swamp Thing!
This is a taut and effective horror comic, strongly-written by author Len Wein and lent an extra layer of creepy by the uncredited letterer, who employs drippy caption boxes to good effect. Perhaps that letterer was artist Bernie Wrightson, who put his stamp on every other aspect of the book, creating a swamp-gothic look on the fly — a world of shadowy locales that are still perfectly detailed, and populated with heavy-featured thugs rendered with such skill that you don’t recognize the degree to which the art uses comic exaggeration until you’ve read the book two or three times.
Wrightson would go on to become one of the most celebrated artists in the medium, but he was largely unknown when Swamp Thing debuted … and what a debut it is. This is a mature work with a rare balance of style, mood, character, and storytelling.
It’s also a simple story, as befits the best origin tales, setting the table for stories to follow by introducing the main characters, and establishing our (anti) hero’s all-important powers and foibles. Of interest to fans of later incarnations of Swamp Thing (or readers more familiar with the minimally-sentient Man-Thing), this version of Swamp Thing is fully aware of what he is.
Alec Holland’s scientific mind instantly comprehends what has happened to him, and there is a minimum of mooning around and identity crisis before Swamp Thing gets down to the business of revenge.
And that’s the long and short of it, really — in “Dark Genesis” we have a bare bones Silver Age horror comic, an on-the-rails story that could pass for a one-and-done entry from EC’s Tales From The Crypt. Swamp Thing’s many complications and evolutions would come later, and it is a testament to the solid foundation laid down by Wrightston and Wein that this most basic muck monster is still surprising and delighting us forty years later. I personally revere Alan Moore’s 1980s reinvention of this character, but there’s also room in my collection for this simpler version of Swamp Thing, an effective and eminently memorable character in its own right. You won’t find this 20-cent comic in dollar boxes any longer, but affordable reprints are readily available, should you wish to familiarize yourself with the original adventures of this greatest of the swamp monsters! (A digital version of the story was also available for free direct from DC Comics at the time of this writing).
(And if you want even more Swamp Thing, check out my review of the rest of the series, here!)
This article originally appeared at StashMyComics.com.
NEXT MONTH: Marvel Puzzle Quest
Last week brought welcome news of the return of Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu!
Arguably my favorite 1970s Marvel Comics series, Master of Kung Fu has never received the reprint/collection treatment it deserves, allegedly owing to licensing issues with the estate of Sax Rohmer, who wrote the original Fu Manchu stories that Master of Kung Fu uses as a springboard. It appears those issues have been resolved at last, and this classic run — with all its mystery, intrigue, espionage, and boots-to-the-head — will return in a series of Omnibus reprints starting in 2016!
It’s been awhile, but I have written a bit about Master of Kung Fu here at Longbox Graveyard, starting with Snowbuster, and early tale by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, which shared my youthful obsession with Bruce Lee:
Later, I wrote about Shang-Chi’s adventure on Mordillo’s Island, one of the weirder interludes in what could be a very weird book indeed:
I even put together a Shang-Chi Pinterest Gallery!
And all of this reminds me that I am long overdue in blogging about this book. I’ve been meaning to write about the “Clock of Shattered Time” story from issues #42-43 of MoKF — maybe this impending reprint will put a kung fu boot to my bottom to finally get going again!
Marvel is doing a big reboot this Fall, relaunching almost their entire line as a series of new #1 issues.
Don’t call it The New 52!
Don’t even call it All-New-All-Different-And-THIS-Time-We-Really-Mean-It … because we know full well that Marvel will reboot these series all over again, time after time, until the market collapses or readers stop reliably buying twice as many comics with a #1 on the cover as they do of those with a #2.
No, there’s really nothing terribly new about this reboot … except that I am jumping on board as a reader! And not just a digital reader, either … I’ve ordered honest-to-gosh paper copies of every upcoming Marvel #1!
mind … blown …!
At least, I’ve ordered those books that I can determine are part of the relaunch!
Marvel really has made this a lot more complicated than it needed to be. Aside from a big announcement this summer about their re-launch, news has kind of been all over the place. (Maybe Marvel still has a hangover from their many Secret Wars delays?) Vexingly, there isn’t a single page at Marvel’s site that lists all the new books and creative teams that form the relaunch. (Boo! Hiss!) Since the summer, some new series have been announced, while previously announced series have yet to be solicited. It’s all a bit of a mess — really, I should be able to push one button online someplace and just get all this stuff.
Near as I can tell, here is the relaunch, with teams and launch dates:
10/07 Invincible Iron Man #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: David Marquez
10/07 Amazing Spider-Man #1 — Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
10/07 Contest of Champions #1 — Writer: Al Ewing Artist: Paco Medina
10/07 Dr. Strange #1 — Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Chris Bachalo
10/14 Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 — Writer: Nick Spencer Artist: Daniel Acuña
10/14 Extraordinary X-Men #1 — Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Humberto Ramos
10/14 Guardians of the Galaxy #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Valerio Schiti
10/14 New Avengers #1 — Writer: Al Ewing Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
10/14 Spider-Gwen #1 — Writer: Jason Latour Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
10/14 Spider-Man 2099 #1 — Writer: Peter David Artist: Will Sliney
10/14 Uncanny Avengers #1 — Writer: Gerry Duggan Artist: Ryan Stegman
10/21 Angela Queen of Hel #1 — Writer: Marguerite Bennett Artists: Kim Jacinto & Stephanie Hans
10/21 Astonishing Ant-Man #1 — Writer: Nick Spencer Artist: Ramon Rosanas
10/21 Karnak #1 — Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Gerardo Zaffino
10/21 Uncanny Inhumans #1 — Writer: Charles Soule Artist: Steve McNiven
10/28 Blade #1 — Writer: Tom Seeley Artist: Logan Faerber
10/28 Howling Commandos of SHIELD #1 — Writer: Frank Barbiere Artist: Brent Schoonover
10/28 Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 — Writer: Ryan North Artist: Erica Henderson
11/04 All-New X-Men #1 — Writer: Dennis Hopeless Artist: Mark Bagley
11/04 Deadpool #1 — Writer: Gerry Duggan Artist: Mike Hawthorn
11/04 Drax #1 — Writer: CM Punk with Cullen Bunn Artist: Ed McGuinness
11/04 Hercules #1 — Writer: Dan Abnett Artist: Luke Ross
11/04 Howard the Duck #1 — Writer: Chip Zdarsky Artist: Joe Quinones
11/04 Nova #1 — Writer: Sean Ryan Artist: Cory Smith
11/04 Vision #1 — Writer: Tom King Artist: Gabriel H. Walta
11/11 All-New All-Different Avengers #1 — Writer: Mark Waid Artists: Adam Kubert & Mahmud Asrar
11/11 All-New Hawkeye #1 — Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Ramon Perez
11/11 All-New Wolverine #1 — Writer: Tom Taylor, Artist David Lopez
11/11 Black Knight #1 — Writer: Frank Tieri Artist: Luca Pizzari
11/11 Carnage #1 — Writer: Gerry Conway Artist: Mike Perkins
11/11 Illuminati #1 — Writer: Josh Williamson Artist: Shawn Crystal
11/11 The Ultimates #1 — Writer: Al Ewing Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
11/11 Web-Warriors #1 — Writer: Mike Costa Artist: David Baldeon
11/18 Mighty Thor #1 — Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Russell Dauterman
11/18 Ms. Marvel #1 — Writer: G. Willow Wilson Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona
11/18 Silk #1 — Writer: Robbie Thompson Artist: Stacey Lee
11/18 Spider-Woman #1 — Writer: Dennis Hopeless Artist: Javier Rodriguez
11/18 Star-Lord #1 — Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Javier Garron
11/25 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 — Writers Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare Artist: Natacha Bustos
11/25 Venom: Space Knight #1 — Writer: Robbie Thompson Artist: Ariel Olivetti
12/02 All-New Inhumans #1 — Writers: Charles Soule and James Asmus Artist: Stefano Caselli.
12/02 Daredevil #1 — Writer: Charles Soule Artist: Ron Garney
12/02 Guardians of Infinity #1 — Writer: Dan Abnett Artist: Carlo Barberi
12/02 Red Wolf #1 — Writer: Nathan Edmondson Artist: Dalibor Talajic
12/02 Totally Awesome Hulk #1 — Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Frank Cho
12/09 Scarlet Witch #1 — Writer: James Robinson Artist: Kevin Wada
12/16 A-Force #1 — Writer: G. Willow Wilson Artist: Jorge Molina
12/16 Squadron Supreme #1 — Writer: James Robinson Artist: Leonard Kirk
12/16 Starbrand and Nightmask #1 — Writer: Greg Weisman Artist: Dominike Stanton
12/16 Weirdworld #1 — Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Michael Del Mundo
12/23 Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #1 — Writer: Kate Leth Artist: Brittney Williams
TBD Agents of SHIELD #1 — Writer: Marc Guggenheim Artist: Mike Norton
TBD Captain Marvel #1 — Writers: Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas Artist: Kris Anka
TBD Old Man Logan #1 — Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
TBD Spider-Man #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Sara Pichelli
12/02 Uncanny X-Men #1 — Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Greg Land
Thanks to Billy King for helping me run down many of these creative teams … and a No-Prize to Marvel that I needed to put this list together on my own!
This is the first time in nearly twenty years that I’ve committed to buying comics in a paper/monthly format. Does this mean I’ve given up residence in my beloved year of 1978? Not by a long shot! I’ve no desire to turn into a regular paper comics reader … I just thought it would be fun to jump in and collect all of these first issues. I will certainly blog about them, or maybe resurrect my podcast to do something like our Few 52 show, but after these #1s roll in, I will be back to my dusty longboxes … though I expect I will check back on any series that show promise when they eventually roll onto my Marvel Unlimited Digital subscription.
I am interested in some of these books more than others — mostly on the basis of the talent involved — but I look forward to reading them all with an open heart and an open mind. Once I decided to buy the whole relaunch, it was easy to keep pushing the button, without regard for which books may or may not succeed. It was all my idea, honest. I wasn’t bullied into it! I’m not a victim of marketing!
Really, I’m just looking forward to having a bunch of comics to share with my friends this Fall. Maybe I’ll convince my local comics pals to climb up into a treehouse with me to read them.
More in the weeks and months to come … in the meantime, let me know what you think of my mad plan in the comments section, below!
It’s been a bit of a rough ride for me in real life lately, so when my pal Billy King suggested we spend a part of last Saturday at the Long Beach Comic Con, I leapt at the chance. Two hours on the highway from North County San Diego passed in a blur as Billy and I gabbed about comics the whole way.
We knew we were in for a hot time when we saw the parking sign:
Reminded me of …
The $35 one-day admission I paid at the door felt like about fifteen dollars too much … but it was still fun to be at a comic show, especially one that was easy to get to and to get around in when compared to the madhouse that is San Diego Comic-Con. Just being able to walk-up on the day of the show and buy a ticket without waiting in line was probably worth the price of admission.
The floor wasn’t worth much more than half a day, but I did score a semi-random stack of back issues, and it was a real joy to just kind of follow my nose and buy things I didn’t expect.
Like a stack of Doctor Strange books that I found in an honest-to-gosh dollar box:
These are the good stuff — Gene Colan and Tom Palmer on art, and Steve Englehart at his faux-mystical best. I already had a few Doctor Strange books from this era, and now I suppose I will have to fill in the run and maybe think about a review here at LBG (especially with a movie coming up in the next year or two).
I got Giant-Sized Man-Thing #1, just because my kid giggles like Beavis and Butthead when I say the title:
It’s not a bad story, either — vintage Steve Gerber weirdness, with Man-Thing battling the Golden Brain of the Glob, along with a pack of entropic cultists lead by a hooded villain who bears what surely can’t be an accidental resemblance to Richard Nixon.
Billy found a stack of Kamandis at half off … I told myself I’d buy one if it was that “crazy issue with the bats,” which I previously reviewed (in digital form) here at the blog.
I found an issue from the Claremont/Byrne run of Marvel Team-Up (which I still want to review here eventually):
And I bought Son of Satan because … why not? It’s a book I missed when I was a kid buying these things, and now it seems like the kind of thing that could never get published. I confess I thought this was the character’s first appearance (actually it is the second), but, wow, love this John Romita cover.
I think the most I spent on any of these was about five bucks, and most were less. Stacks up nicely against buying a $4.99 current comic off the rack.
It’s ceased to be a major theme at this blog since culling my collection to move into a smaller house, but being possessed by my possessions is something I’ve written about a lot, and wandering the show today and buying comics anew made me reassess some of those insights. Most interesting was how seeing so many books on sale gave me an inflated sense of what my own comics are worth. There are significant differences in grade, of course, but I saw a lot of books today that I own, or that I recently sold for smallish sums, and of course all those books at the show were marked up to Overstreet and beyond. If I hadn’t experienced such spotty success trying to sell my own collection last year, I might have come away genuinely believing that some of those lesser #1s I had from the 70s — the Godzillas and Devil Dinosaurs and Human Flys — really were worth sixty or seventy or a hundred dollars, instead of the five or ten bucks I scored actually moving them out the door.
my database says I still have this book in my collection … is it really worth $30 in Good condition?
Just seeing so many aspirational books ranged at the dealer booths with their high sticker prices created a kind of echo chamber effect, a self-referencing feedback loop where of course those books are worth a lot of money because every dealer says they are (until you try to sell to them, at least). I wonder how many fans’ perception of the value of their comic books is shaped purely through buying them, without the experience of later trying to sell them without taking a loss?
But no matter. I’m still a reader before I am a collector. And now I’ve got a little stack of new-old comics to read. Life is better now than it was before. Can’t ask for more than that!
I came across a terrific bit of comics storytelling while pursuing my digitally-driven read of All-New X-Men.
The above page comes from All-New X-Men #6 (2013) by author Brian Michael Bendis, artist David Marquez, and (notably) letterer Cory Petit. (While I’m at it, I should credit color artist Marte Gracia, too!)
What I love about this page is how it uses the unique toolbox of comics to tell its story. The jumble of thought balloons — and the dialogue balloons overprinting the same — beautifully show us the confusion of a telepath suddenly bombarded by the thoughts of everyone around her, even as her teacher tries to guide her through the maelstrom.
I’ve accused Brian Michael Bendis of writing pages that look like an explosion in the Word Balloon Factory, but here’s an example of using that technique to spectacular effect.
As a reader, we can linger on each panel, and read all those individual thoughts, or we can stick with the narrative, and see how our heroes resolve this crisis. Either way, you can’t help but hear what is happening on this page, which is one of the miracles of the silent medium of comics. (And when that last panel goes blank, the silence is deafening).
Now as to why an adult Kitty Pryde is counseling a teen-aged Jean Grey about using her telepathic powers … well, explaining that one is above my pay grade. Suffice to say that All-New X-Men dives directly into time travel and deep continuity to tell a mixed-up story of X-Men characters old and new, which is (usually) delightful for old hands of the series, and almost-certain to form an impenetrable barrier against readers new to the title.
But the plotting and publication strategy of All-New X-Men is neither here nor there (and there’s a whole new wave of X-Men books hitting the beach soon in any case). That page, though. Nice work!