I caught WINCHESTER at the theater this past weekend–look for my review also up on this site–and it got me to thinking about a comic book I read as a kid. Far from being “just” a comic, though, this one was part of a series that left a permanent, indelible imprint on my life, on my very being. The comic series was SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, and the issue in particular was SOTST #45, wherein the mossy hero pays a visit to a thinly-disguised Winchester House.
Looking back over it, I am reminded of just how balls-out excellent that book was–and how I was really too young to be reading it. It was magnificent. DC decided to launch a new series with the character after the movie came out in 1982 (starring Ray Wise, who would go on to play Leland Palmer in TWIN PEAKS and hunt the Creeper in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2, among numerous other genre projects, and directed by none other than Wes Craven) and I started reading it with issue number one. It was fairly typical comic book fare, though; maybe a little scary. But then Alan Moore took over as writer with issue #20. Holy gawd, that was the start of something magical. Alan Moore is best known for projects like WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, and FROM HELL, but nothing he has written before or since can compare to his work on SWAMP THING. Coupled with gorgeously horrifying artwork from folks like Steve Bissette, John Totleben, colorist Tatjana Wood, and, on issue number 45, Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcala, the book warped me in all sorts of unalterable and wonderful ways. I am who I am today because of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. It was those stories that made me want to become a writer. Yes, I was too young to truly grasp everything that was going on between those thin, colorful covers. Yes, those stories were geared towards adults–they eventually changed the title to just SWAMP THING, with the disclaimer “Sophisticated Suspense” tacked on to alert readers to what they could expect–and I was only a wee bairn, and children’s welfare experts like that Dr. Spock fella would probably have soiled themselves at the thought of someone so young reading them. Thank God my mother didn’t figure out what I was reading and take them away from me.
If you haven’t read Alan Moore’s run on SWAMP THING, I cannot recommend it enough. And yes, Swamp Thing fights some vampires. Issues 38 and 39 feature Swampy’s battle with some bad-ass underwater vampires, including perhaps the scariest vampire-type monster you’ll ever see.
I’m gonna have to break out my TPBs and reread those issues. Excellent stuff. Powerful.