Saturday, September 04, 2004

Monthly COMIC BOOK Blog:

SWAMP THING was always one of my favorite of the DC Comics' characters, and I've pretty much followed all of his various app.'s over the years, from his intro in House of Secrets 92, to his first title, misc. guest-app.'s, specials, his movies and tv stuff (as bad as that was), Saga of...(the second series) and the 3rd. Series which featured his & Abby's "child", Tefe.

Not to say I've read EVERY issue of all of these series as I haven't read anything past #125 of the second series,or have I picked up any of the new 4th. series but occasionally I'll go back and buy several issues in a lot and try to catch up a bit on what went on with this continuous storyline of the woods' elemental.

So anyway, recently I bought a set of #'s 114 thru #125, which is a pretty complete story arch. It starts out in #114 with a guest app. by our favorite non-mystic, John Constantine("Hellblazer") visiting the Swamp Thing and Abby at their home in The Bayou of Louisiana to warn the couple that they and their child may be in danger. Seems that a great ancestor of Constantine's who was a blood-thirsty pirate was getting ready to raise a bit o'havok.
This storyline is carried over into #115, where they defeat this evil spirit and his legions, of course, with a little help from Constantine and all ends well, and the issue is rounded out with a nice little tale about how the Cajuns celebrate Christmas.

#116 is a complete story in itself about a child who finds a tuber from one of Swamp Thing's discarded husks, plants it, and it becomes this fantastic playhouse composed of vegetation. The child has an abusive father who ran out on the family only to return some time later feigning he'd got religion and that all was going to be "one big happy family" again. But,being an alcoholic, this doesn't last long and he gets angry and threatens to beat the boy. The kid runs to his "playhouse", which is huge by now, with the father in pursuit. Hesitantly, the man chases the boy into it as well only to finally get killed by falling into a vat of what was the digestive juices of this creation, and the kid and his mom finally move out of The Bayou. Real nice art in this issue by Shawn McManus.

#117 has Swamp Thing and his family and some friends all taking a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras , where his otherwise odd app. blends in well with the partying crowds. Not a lot happens in this issue except we get a bit of Mardi Gras history, but the twist is that ST follows a jester in the crowd who turns out to be the forrest god, Pan.

It starts picking up again with #118 when Tefe deliberately kills a kitten which scratches her after she pulls its tail. Well, you can very well imagine that ST & Abby are pretty worried about this, since Tefe's a powerful entity already, harnessing powers of elemental plants AND animals, so Swamp Thing seeks advice from The Parliament of Elder Wood Elementals as to what he should do in this case. They dismiss him after a bit and tell him that they'll ponder the situation. Finally an answer is decided. One of The Parliament would come to help raise and teach Tefe to responcibility of her powers. It's in this issue we first see just a glimpse of a character that becomes a stable in this title, Lady Jane( but only in shadows). This issue also contains a cute cameo of Sugar & Spike, plus the first app. of an avenging ghost spirit which appears again in the following issue.

In #119, Tefe is kidnapped by a deranged child abuser who has kept his dead parent's bodies around in a trunk (he killed them, of course because they abused him as a child). When the child disappears, Swamp Thing & Abby call the local authorities who pretty much beg Swamp Thing NOT to do HIS sort of judgement to this guy, but let them handle it. They find the guy, but neither the police OR ST stop him as much as a creature composed of the bodies of the several victims of this madman, which catches up to him and devours him in the end, (after which the creature dissolves back into the various dead bodies). It's at the end of this tale that we finally see the first app. of Lady Jane.

In this whole run, #120 is the best of them with the first full app. and origin of LADY JANE. After she explains to ST & Abby she's been sent by The Parliament to help raise Tefe, Abby's not too pleased about the whole situation in the least, and protests. It is then that LJ touches Abby's mind with her own telepathically and relates how she became a woods elemental.

Her origin began in 1851 in the county of South Yorkshire, England, and her name was Alicia Huston. As a young woman she married a man a bit older than she who had a good position at a bank, but due to heavy drinking and other questionable things, loses his job and goes bankrupt, which also causes the couple to lose their house, and they are forced to live the lowest of existences at that time, in the slums of Sheffield. She has children along the way, and her husband takes a job at a steel mill, 7 days a week. After the birth of his son, he celebrates too much that evening, and the next day is accidently killed in a factory accident. This leaves Alicia to fend for herself and her child by working long hours in a textile factory, doing pretty much slave labor. The boss there takes a shine to her and gives her a "better" job as his secretary, which also involves various sexual acts she must endure by him, but she does whatever it takes to survive.

Then, a good friend of hers also dies in an accident there in the factory where SHE works. She morns as her friend's body is unceremoniously carted away, wondering what bad thing could possibly happen next...when it does indeed. Her apartment building is on fire and her children are there! She unhesitantly dives into the flames, only to bring out her dead offspring and herself on fire, and dives into the river. And dies. Well, at least a mortal death, as soon, such as Swamp Thing himself was reborn of fire, so is she into a woods elemental. She then returns to the factory and extracts revenge upon his ex-boss forcing him to perish, caught up in one of the textile machines just as did her dead friend.

Then the mind-link is broken with Abby, and she now has the whole story and realizes that Lady Jane is indeed a true help-mate, and they become friends.

In #121, Lady Jane becomes a regularly appearing character, and this issue also introduces us to Connie Sunderland who is the daughter of one of ST's old (now dead) enemies. Connie has taken over her father's business and wants to build a toxic waste dump in ST's "back yard". A group of activists(called Monkey-Wrenchers,which are also introduced in this issue) try to stop this and get in trouble, and ST comes to their rescue.
This, naturally, doesn't set well with Connie especially since ST was her father's enemy, and thru this and the following issues, #'s 122 & #123, she sends an assassin called The Needleman to take out the opposition. ST stops him but before he can turn him over to the authorities, the assassin takes his own life. Other aspects of this particular storyline revolve around racism and various sexual prejudices.
#121 also sports a couple of very nice one page pin-ups by the likes of Charles Vess and Art Adams.

In #124, natives of Central America do ancient rituals to summon ST, thinking him to be their ancient god of the corn. And, indeed, when ST arrives at this destination, his appearance changes to resemble that of the ancient god. Seems that the Sunderland Corporation had done a bit of experimentation on their crops which led to birth deformities and the destruction of the native's crops and now the corporation wanted to kill all of them off to cover it up. This issue has some pretty dramatic scenes, especially when ST actually BECOMES this gigantic ancient corn god at the end of the tale.

Finally, #125 wraps up this story arch with it being the 20th. Anniversary Issue of ST's first app. in HOS 92. The story is about ST's arch-enemy Arcane escaping Hell and possessing Tefe's body. It all ends well with Arcane finally being defeated and Tefe made safe once more, but only thru the help of both the spirit of a dead Cajun named Ya-Ya and the "angel", The Phantom Stranger. Some scenes this issue are right outta The Exorcist when Tefe becomes possessed.

The scripts in these issues were written by the likes of Nancy A. Collins(Issues 114,115,117-125) and one issue by Dick Foreman (#116), with artwork by Tom Mandrake(114-115), Shawn McManus(#116, as stated before),Jan Duursema(#117) and, Scot Eaton (#'s 118 thru 125).

And VERY ENJOYABLE run indeed! I wanna read some more!



At 3:04 PM , Blogger Johnny Bacardi said...

In the immortal words of Arte Johnson: "verry in-teresting".

I didn't pick up on these when they came out; of course, I've always been a fan of the character as you well know- especially the Wein/Wrightson and Moore/Bissette/Totleben stories. After Rick Veitch took over, I liked most of his run as well but eventually began to get kinda bored, and bailed before the controversial Jesus issue spat. So I never experienced any of Collins' run, or any of those who succeeded her. I just felt that the character had run its course, and there was nothing fresh left to do with him.

Sounds like there were some interesting storylines going on, though, and now I'm thinking I might want to read them one of these days, dammit! That's all I need- more back issue comics to buy! ;-)

At 5:02 PM , Blogger ~D.Puck' said...

Thanks, "Johnny" for the comment! And what's another few comics gonna hurt,huh? We're BOTH broke all the time from buying them anyway! (And if anyone else is out there, don't you read Johnny Bacardi's Blog regularly? If not, SHAME ON YOU! YOU OUGHT TA! X^{D)


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