‘Roots of the Swamp Thing’ Includes 3 by Nestor Redondo
Lost amidst DC Comics’ latest round of solicitations is a historic reprint collection of one of its seminal works: DC Comics Classics Library: Roots of the Swamp Thing. And it’s historic not because it represents the first hardback compilation of the material but because the story is being published in its entirety for the first time ever.
Upon her arrival at DC Comics in 1976, Jeanette Kahn made no secret of her disdain for the company’s sampler-style use of reprints in the years prior to her arrival. Instead, she wanted to see specific fan-favorite storylines compiled in a single volume or series. So 1977 saw the release of four key Ra’s al Ghul stories in the tabloid-sized Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-51 and the beginning of an irregularly-published set of one-shots called the Original Swamp Thing Saga (appearing in DC Special Series #2, 14, 17 and 20) that ultimately reprinted Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing #1-10 from 1972-1974.
The years passed and collections of specific stories grew to become the industry standard, evolving from the newsprint of these formative examples to much nicer grades of paper and from the traditional pamphlet-type package to paperbacks and hardcovers. There was a tendency, however, to favorite the art over the scripts in many of these early (and not-so-early) collections.
When Steve Englehart’s landmark eight-part Batman opus from Detective Comics from 1977 was reprinted (first in 1985/1986 and again in 1999), the impact of his last chapter was blunted a bit by the fact that the Len Wein-scripted Clayface III follow-up was attached by virtue of the fact that it had also been penciled by Marshall Rogers. Conversely, Wein’s own run has only ever been reprinted up to Swamp Thing #10–because that’s the point when artist Bernie Wrightson left the book. Problem is, Len continued to write Swamp Thing for another three issues, ably abetted by artist Nestor Redondo. More significantly, he carried the themes from issue #1 (and specifically the tragic creature’s relationship to his pursuers Matt Cable and Abby Arcane) to a touching, satisfying conclusion in #13.
Unfortunately, the fan without access to the original issues has never read it. The first ten issues (along with the prototype story from House of Secrets #92) were gathered again on much nicer paper in 1986’s Roots of the Swamp Thing #1-5 before going the trade paperback route with Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis in 1992. And most recently in the digest-sized Secret of the Swamp Thing (2005). [Meantime, the pre-series short story from House of Secrets #92 is now one of the ten most-reprinted stories in DC’s history, with–to date–ten reprintings compared to Swamp Thing #1’s five.]
The fact that DC is finally collecting Len Wein’s Swamp Thing run in its entirety ought to be considered a victory. Comics are by their nature an art-driven medium but it feels good to see these stories reprinted not as an art gallery but rather a true graphic novel with a beginning and an end. If tears could come…they would.
DC Comics Classics Library: Roots of the Swamp Thing has been advance-solicited for a May 27, 2009 in store date.