After an extensive and taxing battle against brain cancer, legendary comic book artist Bernie Wrightson has passed away at the age of 68. Wrightson was the co-creator of Swamp Thing, the extremely popular plant elemental character who has stalked the pages of DC Comics since his first appearance in House of Secrets #92 in July 1971. Iconic comic artist and co-publisher of DC Comics, Jim Lee, called Wrightson’s work in the industry “Unparalleled in style and technique”.
The sad news was broken by Mr Wrightson’s wife Liz on his website – “We thank everyone for all the years of love and support” she wrote.
Wrightson first began his celebrated run in comic book lore in 1968 in House of Mystery #179. Aside from his creation of Swamp Thing, he also illustrated an acclaimed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Batman: The Cult, and had a long and extensive run as the artist on House of Mystery. He was also a concept artist for movies, which included Galaxy Quest and Ghostbusters. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.
Alan Moore, he of the gruff, fearsome and just downright scary appearance, who nonetheless possesses a singular talent when it comes to the literary persuasion, is really just a big softy it seems…
Now if you find yourself scratching your heads right now wondering, who is this foreboding looking individual named Alan Moore? all I can say is, where have you been for the past thirty years… Alan Moore is quite possibly the greatest writer in British history, yes indeed I am including all the greats that came before and after, be they Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, James Herbert or even the big ‘S’ himself… Will Shakespeare!
Alan Moore has bestowed upon us, humble comic-book reading mortals, such luminary masterpieces as, Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing and The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman. His tales are often set in a dystopian alternate reality, he is keen on subverting existing tropes in the world of the Superhero, presenting us with morally ambiguous characters, and satirical anti-governmental narrative (V For Vendetta being a prime example of this.)
Alan is often portrayed as a gruff, stern and austere personality by the press at large, but it seems he’s really just a great big softy at heart after a correspondence from a young fan to the legendary writer found its way online recently.
The letter was written to Alan in 2013 by nine year old fan named Joshua, he was taking part in a class exercise in his school in Northamptonshire (also Alan Moore’s home city) where he was tasked with writing a letter to his favourite author. Joshua’s letter began: “I am writing because I want to know more about your comics, including V for Vendetta, Watchmen and Swamp Thing” Joshua mentioned that his favourite characters were Rorschach, Dr Manhattan and The Comedian, and that the first Moore story he had read was V For Vendetta. The letter ended with Joshua proclaiming Moore “the greatest author in human history!”
Alan Moore replied personally to Joshua, saying that he was “really pleased that you’ve enjoyed so much of my stuff, and especially because most of my readers these days are people almost as old as I am” (Alan is now 60 years old.) Alan sent his young fan a copy of his new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel (Heart Of Ice), as well as some exclusive artwork by his League co-creator Kevin O’Neil.
And coolest of all, he used Joshua’s line “all in all you are the best author in human history” as a quote on the back of his new novel ‘Jerusalem’ which publishes this September. But it is Moore’s sign off on his original letter to Joshua that is the greatest part, which reads… “Alan Moore, best author in human history, in your face Shakespeare, Joyce and Cervantes!”
Legendary comic book writer Len Wein has once more taken up the reins of a character he first introduced to the world (alongside Bernie Wrightson) in 1971, the plant elemental known as Swamp Thing. ‘Swampy’ made his first appearance in House Of Secrets #92 (July ’71) in a single issue story that took place in the early part of the 20th century. The character next appeared in his own solo series in 1972, set in the contemporary world and was integrated into mainstream DC universe continuity.
Swampy was originally introduced as Alex Holland, a scientist caught in a deliberate explosion set by his co-worker Damian Ridge. Olsen, physically transformed by the various chemicals strewn across his lab, turned into the humanoid vegetative mass known as Swamp Thing.
After the success of the standalone issue, the creators were approached to write the ongoing series, Swampy’s backstory was altered slightly and the series itself brought forward to a modern setting.
British comic writing luminary Alan Moore took control of the character from Volume 2 (August ’85) and altered Swampy to an elemental entity that was created upon the untimely death of Alec Holland, absorbing the personality and memories of the scientist into itself, Moore described it as “A plant that thought it was Alec Holland, a plant that at its level best was trying to be Alec Holland.” Alan Moore pushed the character into even greater popularity, and his run has ultimately stood the test of time, and like all his previous works (Watchmen, V For Vendetta) has cemented itself into legendary status amongst fans.
This month, Len Wein returns to his beloved character with the first part of a six issue mini-series, that is taking, very much, an old style approach to Swampy, with horror overtones comparable with titles such as DC’s House Of Mystery, and EC’s Tales From The Crypt.
This fantastic first issue is a definitive return to Wein’s original version of the character, very different to the New 52 run by Scott Snyder, whilst still retaining all the elements that make Swamp Thing the character we know and love. Artistic talent falls to Kelley Jones, whose distinctive style is perfect for this character, lending a tense and claustrophobic feel to the proceedings with a heavily shaded ‘chunky’ approach.
Swamp Thing #1 is a perfect read for both old and new fans alike, with no prior knowledge of the character’s background needed, making this the ideal starting point for newcomers wishing to get to know one of the most unusual and well written comic book characters ever created. Highly recommended and available for purchase at your local comic-book emporium right now.
New comics spotlight this week falls upon DC’s return of the Secret Origins comic, this is actually the first issue of this updated series that I have picked up so far and not because of it’s cover star, Swamp Thing (though I do like the character), but for the back up story of Power Girl. This issue also features Green Lantern, John Stewart’s origin story.
The original Secret Origins comic goes way back to 1961, it was published as a one-shot and contained mainly reprinted stories, eventually becoming a mini-series in 1973 which ran a total of seven issues. It had a much larger print run in 1986, which comprised of fifty issues that ran through to 1990. Chronicling the origins of the post crisis heroes and villains, I still have a large number of these original comics in my collection, so it was great to see the series return in April this year with the revised origin stories of the New 52 variants of DC’s popular heroes and villains.
As mentioned, Swamp Thing takes centre stage for this particular issue, Swampy is an elemental humanoid/vegetative hybrid possessing super strength and telepathic mastery over all plant life, created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in 1971, with his first appearance in House of Secrets #92. Some of you may recognise Swampy from his popular television series in the 1980’s or the two films by prolific horror director Wes Craven and though by today’s standards they do come across rather camp and cheesy, they still hold up as a fun blast from the past and are well worth a watch.
If you are new to the DC Universe and have only started reading it since their New 52 reboot in 2011, then this is the perfect series to give you the up to date and revamped origin stories of their eponymous heroes and villains.
Swamp Thing is written by Charles Soule with interior art by Javi Pina, Power Girl is by Paul Levitz and Alisson Borges, and John Stewart’s origin is by Van Jensen and Pat Broderick.
Wonder Woman #36 heralds the arrival of a new creative team as writer Meredith Finch and her spouse, artist David Finch take over duties from former collaborators Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang after their successful 3 year run on the title. With the hugely popular reboot of the amazing Amazon by Azzarello and Chiang, it will be a hard act to follow for the Finch duo, though I am liking what I have read so far and as ever David Finch’s artwork is awesome.
When several villages in Thailand are destroyed by massive floods, Diana investigates what appears to be a terrible natural disaster only to discover that the floods are intentional when a mysterious figure is seen at each of the tragic incidents. This issue also includes a knock down/drag out fight between Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing and a touching confessional as Diana tells fellow Leaguer Aquaman of her struggle to cope with her many new roles as leader of the Amazons, the new God of War and one of the founding members of the Justice League.
Overall a good first issue from the new creative team, with a refreshingly different tone and style than Azzarello and Chiang’s run … recommended.