31 Days of Horror: Vintage Vertigo With Morrison & Millar’s ‘Swamp Thing’

“Hey granddad! Tells us about how great comics used to be!”

I will, thank you.

Way, way back in the 1990’s DC Comics launched their mature readers line Vertigo Comics. If that sounds familiar…It’s because it is! I could recount what’s come before but I’m here for the 31 Days of Horror and we’re taking a look at DC/Vertigo’s Swamp Thing!

Swamp ThingSwamp Thing 140-143
Grant Morrison, Mark Millar (W)
Phillip Hester, Kim Demulder (A)
DC Comics

Swamp Thing has always been one of DC’s go-to horror titles since its inception and, while DC has recently reintroduced the character into its main stream books, the Vertigo run still looms large in the collective memory of comic book fans. 

Recently, I was digging through some dollar bins for some cheap entertainment and just so happened to unearth the first two issues of Morrison and Millar’s take on the character. Two American dollars later I was on my way back to 1994 with books that were probably some of the most Vertigo books to ever haver Vertigoed. After that, I had to go back to track down the next two issues so I could finish the story… and I’m glad I did.

As I mentioned above, these books hit the stands early in 1994 which was just a year after the Vertigo imprint had been launched. If I can speak in abstract terms, the energy of these books are something to behold. There’s a certain joy to the gross stuff that’s being created and I’m pretty sure the editorial edict of the day was “Hey, why not?” and then a rubber stamp that read ‘APPROVED’ on all scripts that were submitted.

That said, this run starts with a huge shake up as Alec Holland (the man who became Swamp Thing) wakes up in his human body, with his time as Swamp Thing being Dallas-ed away as a crazy mushroom drug trip dream. Late in the first issue of the run we’re treated to Morrison through Holland explaining the benefits of plant-based psychedelics…and it makes perfect sense for the character of Swamp Thing. 

Of course nothing is as simple as “Oh, I dreamt I was a plant god when I was tripping balls in Central America.” Swamp Thing is still out there in some form…and that form is a big ol’ joint. Yes, Swamp Thing grows out of a partially smoke joint (complete with some the grossest sound effects since Rorschach eating beans) and proceeds to graphically dismember a couple well-meaning stoners. I have to admit, I’m getting mixed messages about drugs here.

Swamp Thing is now an unstoppable force of nature having become untethered from his (its?) human element and is busy killing anyone who gets in his way. The book goes on to show Holland seeking to rejoin with Swamp Thing and reclaim the life that he knows is real. As far as jumping on points go, it’s a pretty good one.

The book is oppressively dark, the darkness is turned up to 11, there are no books darker than Vertigo books in 1994. I heard from a guy at school that there was a black ink shortage due to the Vertigo books using it all. If these books were any darker, light would not be able to escape from their pages. For all of those reasons, this could quite possibly be the best books to read during October.

And all it’s going to cost you is a little time and about four bucks.

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