Monday, September 19, 2011

Buried under a swamp.

From my favourite issue of Sandman to my favourite issue of Swamp Thing. This is The Saga of the Swamp Thing issue 28 from September 1984 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben.
A quick recap. Swamp Thing was a comic about a scientist called Alec Holland who was working on a secret formula (aren't they always?). An explosion in his laboratory blew his wrecked body into a Louisiana swamp where the "bio-restorative" formula transformed him into the shambling, muck monster of the title.

Then Alan Moore took over the book and changed all that. Holland was still blasted into a swamp but he died. Somehow his consciousness infected the vegetation which transformed into a shambling, plant creature that thought it was man but then discovered it was not.

The story in this issue is a sort of breathing space, a pause after the first two horror story arcs which had seen the newly aware Swamp Thing battle a maniac and two demons. Swampy is having a quiet, contemplative moment when he starts to see what appears to be Holland's ghost. This vision leads him through the swamp and back to the house where it all began, this allows Moore to do some flashback scenes and to tell the origin story yet again. After the first 8 issues the buzz on this comic was starting to spread so this would have been a good jumping on point for new readers.

As the story continues the new Swamp Thing watches as Holland is cast into the mire and then sees his former self rise all shiny, fresh and new from the depths. As he tries to communicate with the ghost of his original form he eventually realises that he has a task to perform. What follows is another quiet and moving sequence as Swamp Thing retrieves the final remains of the man he thought he was. Shaun McManus was the artist on this issue and his gentler, more cartoony artwork really suits the mood. Totleben and Bissette's work was creepy and suited the horror stories but McManus produced 2 great issues, this one and another story called Pog that is also well remembered by fans.

In September 1984 I was studying for medical finals, working on the wards and somehow still finding time to track down these issues. I remember being totally caught up in the story telling. This calm and gentle story was  a fantastic diversion from the weird world of medicine.

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