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Daily Archives: September 10, 2017

Rest in peace, Len Wein

I am sitting on my couch and I’ve just read the news that Len Wein, the creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine and so many other great comic book characters, has passed away. My heart hurts. I interviewed Len last year for a cover story I wrote for Rue Morgue Magazine #169 on the 45th anniversary of Swamp Thing. I’m sharing it with you now, and I would encourage you to pick up the issue itself from the Rue Morgue store as well. Meanwhile, I wish all the best to Len’s family and friends. I hope they know what an incredible legacy he has left us.

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The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Since the days of the classic Universal Monsters and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, there’s always been something ominous about the swamp that has made its environs ripe for storytelling. What surrounds it, amongst the overgrowth of vegetation? What lies beneath the boggy marsh and water? What things make their home in its depths?

Swamp and muck monsters have long been a part of horror comics, dating all the way back to the 1940s with The Heap, considered by many historians to be the original comic book swamp character. The Heap first appeared in Air Fighter Comics, and was originally a World War I German pilot who, after crash landing in a European marsh, experienced a strange transformation into a living monster of vegetation. Various iterations on the theme would manifest themselves over the ensuing decades in stories like The Thing in the Swamp, The Monster from Swamp Sinister and Beware the Man-Lawn (for further exploration on the vast history of the swamp monster genre, Comic Book Creators’ Swampmen: The Muck-Monsters and Their Makers from TwoMorrows Publishing is an absolute must-read).

Come 1971 and a new creature would arrive to join the pantheon of monsters from the depths. Debuting in Issue 92 of the DC Comics anthology series House of Secrets in July 1971, Swamp Thing would be the creation of two men – writer Len Wein, who had previously worked on titles including The Flash and Superman and who would go on to create Wolverine for Marvel Comics, and a young, up and coming artist named Bernie Wrightson.

Wein and Wrightson’s first Swamp Thing tale is a gothic exploration set at the dawn of the 20th century, crafted to be the stand alone tale of scientist Alex Olsen, killed in a lab explosion by colleague Damien Ridge, who had set his eyes on Olsen’s wife Linda. Chemicals and supernatural forces in the swamp change Olsen into a swamp monster, which then saves Linda from the murderous Ridge. The story ends with Olsen’s Swamp Thing heading back into the muck, realizing he was no longer the man Linda loved.

However, that wasn’t the end.

The sales figures for House of Secrets Issue 92 were the biggest for DC that month, and before long Wein and Wrightson began work on an ongoing Swamp Thing series for DC. Changes were made – the setting was now contemporary and the scientist in question was named Alec Holland. In the ensuing issues, the duo would introduce horrific characters including the mutated Un-Men, evil Anton Arcane and his niece Abigail, and federal agent Matthew Cable. Thought Wein and Wrightson collaborated on just ten issues of the Swamp Thing series together, their work would leave a huge impact on a audience of horror lovers, some of whom would make their way into the comics industry themselves (see sidebars).

The first Swamp Thing series only lasted 24 issues before it was cancelled due to dwindling sales, but the character returned in 1982 to coincide with the release of a Swamp Thing film from director Wes Craven. The film was a minor hit, and helped revive the character, who became a mainstay of DC Comics going forward, proving ripe for the creative juices of a variety of artists and writers. Among them would be future industry legend Alan Moore, who Len Wein, acting as series editor, handpicked to guide Swamp Thing through the mid-80s. Other notables who have put their mark on the character over the ensuing decades include luminaries like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn and Scott Snyder.

With 2016 marking the 45 anniversary of the birth of Swamp Thing, we spoke to co-creator Len Wein (Bernie Wrightson has struggled with health issues the last few years) about the inspiration for his legendary character, its horror roots, working with Alan Moore, the recent mini-series he worked on with noted horror artist and Wrightson acolyte Kelley Jones, and much more.

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HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN WRITING COMICS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Read the rest of this entry

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‘It’ is no loser at the box office, breaks records

It’s so nice to be wrong sometimes. This weekend was absolutely massive at the box office, as one new release over-performed in the biggest of ways. Here’s what went down:

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Stephen King’s It broke box office records this weekend, as it debut in first place with an estimated $123 million. Along with critical raves, It had the best first day showing ever for an R-rated film ($51 million), and the best ever Thursday night preview for an R-rated film ($13.5 million). It is the second-biggest R-rated opening ever, only trailing behind Deadpool’s $132.4 million record, set in 2016. It is the biggest horror story of the year, and bodes more than well for the 2019 release of It: Chapter Two of the saga.

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The week in horror: ‘Day of the Dead’, ‘The Houses October Built’ + more

Another Day of the Dead remake is coming your way, Gerald’s Game gets a trailer, and more, as I look at some of the biggest stories from the week in horror.

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Day of the Dead remake set for 2017

Another remake of Day of the Dead is coming to horror fans (the Mena Suvari-starring one is best left forgotten). According to Bloody-Disgusting, Day of the Dead: Bloodline will be released later this year by Saban Films, which has acquired the rights to the Millenium Films release. In Day of the Dead: Bloodline, ” a former medical student is tormented by a dark figure from her past, who happens to be a half-human, half-zombie hell-bent on destroying her.” Read the rest of this entry

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