The most amazing thing happened to me!
Last night I went to bed cranky, angry, and full of bitterness about the many Marvel Value Stamp indignities I’ve chronicled all month here at Longbox Graveyard.
I was filled with silly notions about a lifetime of regret from carving up funnybooks that turned out to be worth real cash money, all these decades later.
But when I woke up … those feelings were just gone.
I felt great!
I mean, look at those stamps above. They’re charming! And imagine little twelve-year-old me, eagerly turning to the letters page of his fresh-bought comics, and cutting out the newest stamps. Oh, it’s charming.
And these stamps, in particular, represent such a positive series of role models. Kingpin is a champion of his city, and a force for urban renewal. J. Jonah Jameson, the original crusading reporter, and the enemy of Fake News! The Leader … that guy knows best, let me tell you. The Rhino, the Stranger, Dormammu — pillars of the community, all of them! Only Ghost Rider is less than wholesome. “Biker Types” are anti-social!
Here’s the very reasonable price I ended of paying for those cute stamps!
- #73 Kingpin: Power Man #21 – $9
- #74 The Stranger: Marvel Premiere #18 – $21
- #76 Dormammu: Doctor Strange #5 – $17
- #80 Ghost Rider: Thor #229 – $10
- #81 Rhino: Ghost Rider #9 – $21
- #87 J. Jonah Jameson: Marvel Team-Up #25 – $8
- #88 The Leader: Avengers #129 – $19
That brings the running total replacement cost for my Value Stamp issues to $3136. A pittance. I really don’t know what I was upset about!
You know, if my rantings here this past month have infected any of you … I am sincerely sorry. But better than apologies, I can offer a cure! I found this darling little seed pod under my bed. Let me bring you one, you will feel so much better after a good night’s sleep.
It’s no bother.
Oh, no, I insist.
There is no pain. Suddenly, while you’re asleep, they’ll absorb your minds, your memories and you’re reborn into an untroubled world … Tomorrow you’ll be one of us … There’s no need for love … Love. Desire. Ambition. Faith. Without them, life is so simple, believe me.
TOMORROW: Dr. Strange vs. Dracula!
This month at Longbox Graveyard is all about 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!)
TOMORROW: Marvel Value Stamps!
So many pages in the Marvel Value Stamp Book. So many pages in this Book of Sins.
Imagine you are in the basement of a haunted house. Feeble light leaks through the boarded-up, fortress-like windows, illuminating lazy swirls of dust motes. Bones and rusty knives hang from the ceiling on chains and leather straps. Red eyes gleam from the shadows, unblinking. The sound of your own heartbeat muffles your uncertain, shuffling footsteps as you approach … the Book.
Inside, page after page. You turn them, with increasing speed and hysteria. Each page displays the grim trophy haul of a homicidal maniac. Ears, on one page. Flensed fingertips on the next. Ah, eyelids! And WHAT the hell are those irregular shapes with the bits of hair …?!?
Yeah, that’s how I feel, leafing through the pages of my Marvel Value Stamp Book.
The body count mounts. Most of the damage was done when I cut up my Hulk #181, but good ol’ Wolverine popped up in another couple books in the summer of ’74, costing me even more blood money.
Bring out your dead!
- #59 The Golem: Incredible Hulk #182 – $80 (Wolverine cameo)
- #60 Ka-Zar: Frankenstein #13 – $15
- #61 Red Ghost: Captain America #180 – $17 (1st app of Nomad)
- #62 The Plunderer: Fantastic Four #153 – $15
- #66 General Ross: Astonishing Tales #26 – $14
- #67 Cyclops: Incredible Hulk #180 – $209 (1st app of Wolverine, technically)
- #68 Son of Satan: Astonishing Tales #25 – $51 (1st app of Deathlok)
- #70 Super Skrull: Avengers #128 – $19
- #71 The Vision: Avengers #129 – $19
For those of you scoring at home … I’m up to $3031 in replacement costs!
It’s like a waking nightmare!
TOMORROW: Dark Genesis!