Monday, August 23, 2010

Saga of the Swamp Thing

I just finished reading the first volume of Alan Moore's legendary 1980's run on the horror comic Swamp Thing.

God dammit. How can one man be good at everything? It's just not fair. Some authors get so married to their genre that they have to use a pseudonym to publish anything outside their area of expertise. But Alan Moore is equally at home writing superheroes, steampunk crossover orgies, post-apocalyptic political science thrillers, bizarre multidimensional examinations of culture and dreaming, existential nihilism, and pirate-comics-within-larger-comics. Hell, he's even a pretty good songwriter!

But I'm not complaining. Not really. I mean, it's a bit intimidating to know that there's someone as talented as him out there, but it's also comforting to know that it's possible to branch out after establishing oneself in publishing, and not be tied to one story for the rest of one's career.

And if it wasn't for Alan Moore, we wouldn't have so many awesome comics. I feel that he is part of a small group of comic-book writers (along with Neil Gaiman, Scott McCloud, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, et al.) who are recognized by mainstream critics as having real literary talent. The quality of their writing is so great that not even lit snobs can look down their noses at them without seeming openly hypocritical. They force the mainstream to evaluate their work on its merits as stories, not as "kiddie fare."

But anyway, getting back to Swamp Thing:

It's amazing. Simply surreal, yet simultaneously human. It feels as if Moore actually journeyed into the DCU and took case studies of humans mutated into plant-based life-forms before he set out to write this. I've never seen retconning done so well, so seamlessly. It doesn't just change the stories of the future; it turn the whole tale, from beginning to end, into an entirely different beast. It's like the big reveal at the end of The Usual Suspects: it forces you to go back and watch it again. (It feels a bit weird to talk about the shock-value of something published more than twenty years ago, but hey, it's news to me.)

And damn if he isn't a good horror writer too. Just let me say that I'm glad I read "A Time of Running", the last chapter of the book, in a well-lit room, on a night I was sleeping at my girlfriend's house. I don't know if i could've fallen asleep without someone in the bed next to me. That shit be creepy, son! It's amazing to me how, no matter how otherworldly the agents of fear may be in Moore's work, they always point us back to the fact that human beings are capable of much worse than even the vilest demon or most degenerate beast.

And that, is true horror.

Don't read it alone.


  1. If you really want to dig into Moore's Swamp Thing, read along with

  2. Um...what's up with the Simpsons picture in the middle of your post?

    I still don't have a clue about what Swamp Thing is...but you made it sound like something worth reading.

    Also, you always use hyperlinks in a good, information-adding way.

  3. That's Alan Moore, as he appeared on The Simpsons. He made his cameo alongside noted graphic novelists Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) and Daniel Clowes (Art School Confidential, Ghost World, Pussey!, etc.)