Real Name: Swamp Thing
Identity/Class: Plant elemental; originally believed to be mutated human
Occupation: Defender of the Green
Affiliations: John Constantine, Batman, Matthew Cable, Deadman, Phantom Stranger, Spectre, the Demon, Black Orchid, Lady Jane
Enemies: Anton Arcane, Arcane's Un-Men, Patchwork Man, Golem, General Sunderland, Lex Luthor, the Grey
Known Relatives: Tefe (daughter), Abigail Arcane (wife), Patchwork Man (father-in-law)
Alec Holland has a wife, Linda, who was murdered by the same gangsters who murdered him.
Aliases: Alec Holland, Erl-King
Base of Operations: A swamp in Louisiana, although he can and does travel around the world.
First Appearance: House of Secrets I #92 (DC Comics, 1972)
Powers/Abilities: His form is made up of vegetable matter, and very difficult to harm. He can easily regrow damaged or severed body parts, and can even transport himself across the globe by leaving his current form, transferring his consciousness to a new form grown from whatever vegetable matter is present in the location he wishes to reach (he even grew himself a form out of John Constantine's meager tobacco supply on one occasion.
Swamp Thing can control any form of plant life. He can make it move to his will or accelerate its growth.
History: For many years the creature known as the Swamp Thing was believed to be the reanimated corpse of murdered scientist, Alec Holland, whose body had been dumped in a swamp, and somehow comeback to life covered in vegetable matter. Even the Swamp Thing thought this was the truth. Over the years he battled the insane scientist Anton Arcane, fell in love with Arcane's niece, Abigail, and even travelled to Gotham City, where he encountered the hero known as the Batman.
As time passed, it began to become clear that this could not be the case. Swamp Thing had limbs severed, which he regrew - but this proved there was not a human skeleton inside him. Eventually he discovered that he was genuinely a vegetable being, who had absorbed some of the memories from Holland's rotting corpse. Coming to accept this, Swamp Thing located and properly buried Holland's remains.
It became clear that his true origins were more supernatural than scientific, and after the death of his beloved Abby he travelled to Hell to rescue her soul. Afterwards, the two finally expressed their love for one another physically. A short while later he learned that he was a plant elemental, the Defender of the Green charged by the Parliament of Trees to protect the Earth, just before becoming involved in a war between Heaven and Hell that also dragged in almost every other supernatural and magical being on the planet.
During a period in which Swamp Thing was absent from Earth, the Parliament of Trees began the creation of a new elemental, the "sprout". When their original agent returned, he was ordered to destroy his successor, as they could not co-exist. Swamp Thing defied their order, and instead figured a way to allow both to live; he possessed the form of sorcerer John Constantine, and in his body impregnated Abby, thus generating a human body for the sprout, a combination of animal and plant kingdoms. However the elemental had failed to realise that Constantine was tainted with demon blood from a recent transfusion, which also became part of the embryo's make-up. Shortly afterwards Swamp Thing was attacked by aliens, as a prelude to a major invasion, and was sent skipping back through time, to both world wars, the old west, the American revolution, and the time of ancient Camelot. He returned home just in time for the birth of his daughter. After his daughter, Tefe, was born, her father had to return to Hell once again to retrieve his child's soul, after she died and her demonic heritage sent her soul to perdition. Later Swamp Thing was dragged into the politics of the vegetable world, when the Grey, a corrupt offshoot of the Parliament of Trees, targeted him.
Comments: Created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson, re-envisioned by Alan Moore.
The original Swamp Thing comic lasted 24 issues between 1972 and 1976. Swamp Thing might have drifted off in to obscurity, if he hadn't been optioned for a movie in 1982. This was successful enough to get him his own series again, Saga of the Swamp Thing. The title was near cancellation when Alan Moore took over writing chores as of #20, and in #21, "The Anatomy Lesson", turned everything on it's head when he revealed that the Swamp Thing was not Alec Holland. His run on the series is regarded as one of the seminal runs in any comic, and this, Moore's first American work, began his rise to top writer in the field. Even after Moore's departure (with #64 being his finale), the series remained strong, eventually running to 171 issues. Moore's time on the series saw several characters introduced who would go on to play roles elsewhere: he killed supporting cast member Matt Cable, allowing him later to be revived in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series as Matthew the Raven. More significantly John Constantine made his first appearance in #37.
Moore was followed on the title by writer Rick Veitch, whose run was nearly as acclaimed. However his final story, which was meant to conclude with Swamp Thing encountering Jesus Christ (#88), was abruptly pulled by DC, and Veitch resigned. Writers Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano, who had been intended to take over rotating writing chores after Veitch both refused to take over, as a show of sympathy for their friend.
Several years after the first Swamp Thing movie was released in 1982, he returned to the big screen (and very quickly to video shelves) in The Return of the Swamp Thing (1989). A year later a TV incarnation of the show arrived. It aired on the USA Network cable station, lasting three years (the first episode came out July 1990, the last May 1993) and 72 half hour episodes. Swamp Thing was played by Dick Durock in both the movies and series. Ray Wise played the pre-transformation Alec Holland in the original movie, which followed his first origin.
As the show's introductory voice over explained, "The swamp is my world, It is who I am, it is what I am. I was once a man, I know the evil men do. Do not bring your evil here, I warn you. Beware the wrath of Swamp Thing. " The episodes were:
The Emerald Heart
The Living Image
The Death of Dr. Arcane
The Legend of the Swamp Maiden
Spirit of the Swamp
From Beyond the Grave
Dark Side of the Mirror
Walk a Mile in My Shoots
Touch of Death
Tremors of the Heart
The Prometheus Parabola
Night of the Dying
A Nightmare on Jackson Street
Children of the Fool
A Jury of His Fears
Smoke and Mirrors
This Old House of Mayan
Dead and Married
Powers of Darkness
What Goes Around Comes Around, Comes Around
Lesser of Two Evils
Hide in the Night
The Return of LaRoche
Rites of Passage
A Most Bitter Pill
Eye of the Storm
The Burning Times
The Specter of Death
The Chains of Forever
In the Beginning
An Eye for an Eye
Yo Ho Ho
Heart of Stone
Swamp of Dreams
Heart of the Mantis
That's a Wrap
In September 1991 Fox debuted an incredibly short-live (five episodes) cartoon series, Swamp Thing: The Animated Series (produced by DiC Entertainment), to tie in with a line of toys from Kenner. Len Carlson provided the voice of the elemental, who faced Anton Arcane and his Un-Men, Bayou Jack, Tomahawk, Skin Man, Weed Killer and Dr.Deemo. The half-hour episodes were:
The UN-Men Unleashed
To Live Forever
Falling Red Star
Legend of the Lost Cavern
Experiment in Terror
Thanks to Scott Wood for correcting me on Abigail's relationship to Anton Arcane.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Man-Thing, Marvel's swamp monster
Sump Thing, encountered by Cerebus the Aardvark
The Heap, Golden Age swamp monster
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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