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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Swamp Thing 41 - bad juju

Moore, Bissette, and Alcala start a two part tale of voodoo and hauntings in Swamp Thing 41 (Oct 85).

There is a very cinematic quality to the opening of the tale,as the "camera" moves through the ruins of a plantation, and we hear the voices of the angry slave owner, who has caught his wife with one of the slaves. He brings the man down to the cellar to flay him alive.

The chapters of the story are all accorded dates from what I imagine is a voodoo calendar of rituals and celebrations. Abby has taken work as an extra. The plantation is being used as the set for a new night time soap opera, one set back during the slavery era. She points out that the descendants of the slaves who worked there are now being paid to pretend to be slaves. While that is sort of charmingly ironic, it also sets the pattern of blending the past and present. We meet the harried director of the tv show, and the three stars. The one playing the plantation owner seems nice, though everyone calls him a liberal jerk. The woman is a royal bitch, and overtly racist, while the actor playing the main slave has a history of drug abuse, and is lucky to be cast. The tensions mount between them all right from the start.

When they begin rehearsals, the actors find themselves moving and speaking as the people from the past, calling each other by those names, rather than the ones in the script.

As the tale progresses, the possessions become stronger, permeating the lives and actions of the actors.

Abby is noticing a lot of strange things, and many of the extras seem to be acting oddly. One calls Abby "mistress," and is spreading salt in patterns, though she doesn't seem to know why.

Abby tells Swamp Thing about all the weirdness. Considering Constantine had informed them that Louisiana would be the next site of the strange events taking place, Abby thinks Swamp Thing should go to check things out at the plantation. Abby tries to get out of going, saying that Swamp Thing will consider it too dangerous for her, but he doesn't quite pick up what she is putting down, and tells her that he wouldn't dismiss her that way, and brings her along.

As they arrive bonfires are being lit by the slave-extras. The actor playing the plantation owner finds the actress and the black actor having sex. The conversation from the opening of the comic comes back, as the one man has the other dragged into the cellar, and prepares to flay him.

Swamp Thing 40 - menstruating werewolves

In Swamp Thing 40 (Sept 85) Moore, Bissette and Totleben make a link between werewolves and women's menstruation, using what seems to be something historical, the red lodge of the Pennamquot tribe, as a sort of link. According to this story, when women of that tribe were having their periods they had to go into the lodge, naked, where they were fed on sticks, not allowed to see the sun or any plants, being considered so unclean that they had to be kept away.

Abby and Swamp Thing open the story in the bayou, with some light romance, and contrasting their unusual relationship with her dreams of the perfect man. Had't picked up on this until now, but it also contrasts with the husband and wife central to the tale. Abby is not keen on Swamp Thing heading to meet John Constantine in Maine, but he promises that if Constantine is just using him again, he will not follow the man again.

The woman at the core of the story has been researching the ways of the tribe, and the way the women were treated. This, in turn, is constrasted both with the casual sexism of her husband, and the more pervasive sexism of American culture. She is having her period, and not in the best of moods, but feels something much larger growing in her as well.

The husband just keep acting like a jerk, pushing his wife too far, and ultimately a werewolf emerges from her.

Swamp Thing arrives at this point, and stops the werewolfwoman from killing her husband. Even more than with the vampires and their desire to raise children, this story is very sympathetic to the werewolf, and her anger and frustration.

While the actions of the tribe seem monstrous, our society does not come off much better. The real curse for the werewolfwoman is that she does love her husband, and doesn't want to kill him, but also cannot stand living in the world.

Swamp Thing can do little other than look in sad sympathy as the werewolfwoman throws herself on a set of silver knives to kill herself.

Feeling useless and disgusted, Swamp Thing tells John Constantine that he has no intention of going to the next location, and is going to return to Louisiana. Constantine hands him the paper with the next location. Louisiana.

Swamp Thing 39 - underwater vampires

Moore, Bissette and Totleben conclude the Rosewood story in Swamp Thing 39 (Aug 85).

By the time night falls, the parents of the two missing kids are distraught, and the other boys have had to reveal that they left their friend behind at the lake. The parents head out to find their sons, although none of them have any idea about the vampires under the water.

Swamp Thing finds the vampires, but since he is not meat, they have little interest in him. Similarly, he is not able to do much to affect them. He watches as the vampire eggs hatch, and the newborns turn on each other in a feeding frenzy, until only one is left. That one attacks Swamp Thing and shreds his body.

The parents don't fare well, either, and three of them get killed by the vampires while the others flee.

Swamp Thing realizes he has to exploit his new abilities in order to defeat the vampires. He takes possession of the entire landscape, causing an earthquake that sends the waters of the stagnant lake back into the river. The rushing water causes the vampires to disintegrate. As the vampires die, they bemoan that all they wanted was a safe place to live and raise their children.

Swamp Thing is now able to regrow in less than a minute. Although Swamp Thing thinks that he has succeeded at his task, John Constantine tells him that he screwed it up. People survived to tell the story, and belief in vampires will now grow. Swamp Thing is not happy about Constantine's attitude, but does agree to meet him in Maine in two weeks.

Swamp Thing 38 - return to Rosewood

Moore and Totleben are joined by Stan Woch on Swamp Thing 38 (July 1985), which starts a two part tale that bring Swamp Thing back to the town of Rosewood.

As Swamp Thing lets his body go and moves through the Green towards the place John Constantine told him of, we see a group of teen boys go swimming in the lake above the flooded city. One of the boys gets attacked by vampires under the water, and though the other kids sort of see it, they all run, and decide not to tell anyone about it. This is likely derived from a case that took place in Long Island around this time, when a group of school kids knew about the dead body of one of the their classmates down by the river, but none of them told their parents.

As Swamp Thing travels he recalls the name Rosewood, the town overrun by vampires, which had been flooded when the dam burst. Not all of them had risen at the time of the flood, and those who had been in sealed freezers in the grocery store survived, and now are able to hunt and feed in safety, staying deep in the stagnant waters. One has become their "queen," and they are now about to use her to breed children.

Swamp Thing arrives, regrowing his body in a matter of minutes, adopting the local plant life. Constantine explains about how the vampires survived, and their goals to breed offspring. Constantine insists that this is all Swamp Thing's fault, for not having eradicated the vampires before, and goads him into entering the lake.

We also see that one of the boys feels guilty about leaving his friend. He heads back to the lake, only to wind up being taken and tied to a rock, to be the sacrifice for the vampire children.

Swamp Thing 37 - John Constantine debuts

Swamp Thing 37 (June 1985) sees the introduction of John Constantine, as Moore, Veitch and Totleben launch the American Gothic storyline. That title is never used in the book, despite being the most famous story arc of the series, running to issue 50.

The story covers 17 days, during which Swamp Thing regrows his body, starting as a tiny sprout. The tale intercuts between watching this, and seeing John Constantine travel around meeting with a wide variety of friends, all of whom inform John that some big evil is coming. They give it different names, Satan, Chthulu, an extra-galactic energy field, but all agree it will be the end of everything.

Abby tends to Swamp Thing as he grows, and these scenes have a lot of comfortable humour. Swamp Thing has to grow a mouth before eyes, to tell Abby to stop spraying him with insecticide, and she finds his voice funny, like Jiminy Crickett.

The lightness of those scenes just helps contrast the ominous nature of the warnings that Constantine keeps receiving.

As he grows, Swamp Thing considers how much he has changed. He is using plant life that was never touched by the bio-restorative formula, and realizes he can affect all plant life.

Constantine shows up in Louisiana, almost immediately making a bad impression on Abby. He tells Swamp Thing that he knows what the swamp creature really is, but seems reluctant to share the information, unless Swamp Thing will come to Rosewood and meet him there. Constantine clearly does know a bit about Swamp Thing, informing him that he is now able to regrow himself anywhere, and can use that as a way of moving from one place to another.

As Constantine meets with Swamp Thing his girlfriend, Emma, completes a drawing of a strange creature. It comes to life and kills her, which is seen a vision by Constantine's other friends. John heads out, and Swamp Thing finishes his re-growth. Abby wants him to forget about Constantine, but as the story ends Swamp Thing plans to head to Rosewood, a place whose name seems vaguely familiar to him.

Swamp Thing 36 - what Treasure did wrong

Moore, Bissette and Totleben conclude the Nukeface storyline in Swamp Thing 36 (May 1985).

This issue is deftly but complexly plotted. So much so that I had to choose whether to cover every single page, or just an overview. We get the perspectives of a variety of characters on the events that take place, all overlapping. Swamp Thing is decaying from the toxic waste that Nukeface poured on him last issue, and he mentally reaches Abby, who comes out to the bayou to find him.

Treasure, the young pregnant wife of Wallace Munroe, also spent the night in the bayou, and for some reason this really distresses everyone. Why that is is kept from the reader for a while, building a sense of suspense. Wallace sees kids pretending to be Nukeface, as they had up north, and freaks out.

It turns out that Treasure went for a walk late at night, and found Nukeface asleep in the woods. Shhe gave him her coat, and spent the night looking after him.

Sadly, that means that Treasure, and her unborn child, are now radioactive. Wallace blames himself for the whole situation, but is also unable to face it, and runs off. In a later issue, we will learn that Treasure gets hospitalized, but Wallace cannot bring himself to face her.

As the story comes to a close, Abby watches Swamp Thing's body decay into nothing. He has plans, which he tells her about, to regrow himself.

Nukeface wakes, and remembers Treasure's presence like a wonderful dream. He is up for another round of yummy toxic waste, and heads off to find some.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Swamp Thing 35 - Nukeface

Moore, Bissette and Totleben begin a two part story dealing with toxic waste in Swamp Thing 35 (April 1985).

Nukeface is the name given to a very cheery bum, who has come down from the industrial northeast to the bayou country. He is first seen hanging in the bayou with another man, who had been kicked out by his girlfriend. Nukeface gives the man what appears to be a beer, but is really toxic waste. Nukeface downs the stuff like water, and although he is clearly rotting away, it seems to have no real effect on him.

Nukeface is not the only one who has moved south. We also meet Wallace Munroe and his pregnant wife Treasure. Wallace works for a corporation that has created completely toxic environments in the mining towns up north, and now is in change of disposing toxic waste in the bayou. He is already disturbed about his actions, and worried about the kids talking about a bum named Nukeface.

Nukeface is very chatty and outgoing, giving a long monologue throughout this issue about the need for American industry to hold off communism, and that people have to accept the toxic byproducts to keep America great!

Swamp Thing senses the Green in pain, and he is drawn to Nukeface. All the man has to do is touch Swamp Thing to cause him extreme pain.

Swamp Thing collapses, and Nukeface helpfully pours some tocix waste on him. We see it eating right through Swamp Thing's body as the issue ends.