Comic Books You Should Collect: The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21
Each day in February, Dibbs is showcasing iconic comic book issues that you should collect! Today’s comic is Alan Moore's legendary Saga of the Swamp Thing #21! Where it all started!
More comics are coming to the collectibles digital marketplace in the coming months, but be sure to grab some fracs of The Incredible Hulk #181, the first appearance of Wolverine now available on Dibbs!
Superhero origins stories were a bit of a cliché in the 70s and 80s. Heroes would gain their powers thanks to a chemical spill or a science experiment gone wrong, then try to learn how to live life with their new found ability or transformation. Swamp Thing was no different. Scientist Alec Holland created a Bio-Restorative Formula that was intended to end world hunger when suddenly a bomb causes him to turn into the Swamp Thing. It wasn't long into the book's run that sales started to plummet, causing the publisher to consider cancellation. With nowhere to go but up, DC agreed to give the title over to Alan Moore. Moore was a fairly unknown writer at the time and since the title was on the verge of being canceled, DC was willing to take the risk.
Moore’s run saw a massive overhaul on the character and solely focused on the monster, Swamp Thing. This rebirth would have the Swamp Thing realize he was never Alec Holland and only believed he was. This change added a new, supernatural spin on the series which went on to define Moore’s overall direction. He reintroduced smaller supernatural characters from previous DC stories, and gave them new life in his Swamp Thing title. Many of these characters would go on to support their own books in DC’s Vertigo imprint comic collection.
Our story takes place with the Swamp Thing having just been killed. He was gunned down by The Sunderland Corporation and is now on the autopsy table. General Sunderland has arranged for Floronic Man to be released from prison in order to help with the examination. Even though there is clear hatred between the two, Floronic Man agrees to help.
He spends days examining the Swamp Thing only to find that his body is composed of non-functional, vegetable replacements of normal human organs. He goes on to summarize that these organs were never able to operate or function, thus making it impossible for the Swamp Thing to be Alec Holland. When Floronic Man explains this to General Sunderland he reveals that when Alec’s body came into contact with the swamp mixed together with the Bio-Restorative formula, that the microorganisms formed an entirely separate organism. This organism inherited Holland’s memories and personality, making it think that he was the scientist.
Fearing he’d quickly be thrown back in prison, Floronic Man unlocks the doors of the laboratory and allows the Swamp Thing to break free once he wakes up. When the Swamp Thing finds the notes from the autopsy, he becomes enraged. He’d continued on in hopes that he’d eventually be cured but now he knew the truth that he was never who he thought he was. This leads to Swamp Thing killing General Sunderland.
The book ends with Floronic Man deciding to follow the Swamp Thing to learn more about him.
Alan Moore’s The Sage of the Swamp Thing paved the way for DC’s new imprint, Vertigo Comics, to thrive in the mid-80s to late 90s. This series also allowed Moore to gain the trust of DC to go on and create legendary series like Watchmen, The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.