If you’re looking to buy Swamp Thing graphic novels either online or at your local comic book store you’ll find the selection to be a little thin. This isn’t because there aren’t good stories out there about the character, but mainly because two people seem to be the direct cause of Swampie’s highest success (Berni Wrightson and Alan Moore). DC Comics hasn’t felt the need to collect many issues from the character’s history that didn’t have either of these names associated with it – and that’s kind of sad.
I must admit that I love the art that Wrightson did on the series from the 1970’s and fell in love with Moore’s take on the character during the 80’s, but there were other good stories told about the character in the Vertigo line. Maybe DC will one day decide to collect the top stories from these other artists. Until then, we do have good quality material to read despite there being a lack of quantity. Before I get into the list I would like to ask and answer a question I have often wondered about, “Am I the only one who wished that Wrightson and Moore would have collaborated on an issue?” Somehow, I very seriously doubt it. Enjoy the article.
The Best Swamp Thing Graphic Novels
Roots of the Swamp Thing (DC Comics Classics Library)
This volume is considered by many one of the best graphic novels in the Swamp Thing series because of one name – Bernie Wrightson. It includes the first appearance from House of Secrets #92 along with the entire 13 issue run from Swamp Thing. The stories were told by Len Wein and all but the last 3 issues (illustrated by Nestor P. Redondo) of Swamp Thing were drawn by Wrightson. For those of you used to reading the elemental Swamp Thing stories of present day, you need to know that this incarnation is all about that classic horror feel you would find in books like EC comics or Warren magazine titles. Buying these issues individually at your local comic book store will set you back thousands of dollars (if they even have them), so this volume allows you an opportunity to see some beautiful artwork by a legendary artist.
NOTE: Avoid buying the Swamp Thing graphic novel “Dark Genesis.” While it does have a lot of the same material, it is missing the last 3 issues of the Len Wein run from the Swamp Thing series (with the Redondo artwork). Swamp Thing was the creation of Wein and Wrightson.
This is the one where everything changes. Alan Moore comes on board to do the writing while John Totleben and Steve Bissette take care of the artwork. The volume collects issues #20-27 although issue 20 is just Moore wrapping up the previous storyline. Issue #21 is where the re-birth of the character occurs as Swampie discovers his true origins in “The Anatomy Lesson.”
Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Love and Death
Alan Moore continues fleshing out the Swamp Thing character with some very unique storylines. Of particular interest (in my opinion) is the quirky “Pog” issue in which Moore pays tribute to the original swamp being by Walt Kelly and the “Rites of Spring” issue where Swampie and Abby decide to consummate their budding relationship. Swamp Thing graphic novels don’t get much thicker than this one as it collects issues 28-34 and the 1985 Annual issue.
Some of the best graphic novels in the Swamp Thing series comes from the mind of Alan Moore (as you’ve probably figured out by now) and it’s no wonder with stories like “Southern Change” and “Strange Fruit” – two stories about racism I particularly like in this offering. This volume, which collects issues 35-42, also has the first appearance of John Constantine in issue 37, who after you get to know will make you want to get your hands on some Hellblazer graphic novels.
Swamp Thing Vol. 4: A Murder of Crows
Collects issues 43-50 of this ground breaking series by Moore. I have very fond memories of issue #47 entitled “The Parliament of Trees” in which Swampie discovers there has been other elemental protectors before him. The comic book store where I usually got my comics had sold out of this particular issue unusually fast and it took me 3 weeks to find an issue for sale.
If you thought the earlier collections were good, then you’re in for a surprise as this installment of the Swamp Thing graphic novel series seems to leap-frog in quality. Issues number 51-56 make up this volume and the one to watch out for is number 53 (Garden of Earthly Delights). Swampie lays the smack down on Gotham City (and Batman) as they hold Abby in jail for immoral conduct.
Swamp Thing Vol. 6: Reunion
We finally reach the end of Alan Moore’s run on this title. Issues #57-64 make up this farewell volume of Swamp Thing graphic novels which many call the most influential run on a character ever written. There is one issue in this volume in which Moore did not write, but I’m glad they included it for continuities’ sake. That being said, Moore leaves the series all wrapped up in a bow with plenty of room for future writers to tell their own stories and grow the character in their own way. A must-have graphic novel collection if I ever saw one.
Instead of going through each of these Swamp Thing graphic novels individually, I’ve decided to discuss them as a group. DC decided to collect three volumes after Moore’s run had ended; they were Regenesis (#67-70), Spontaneous Generation (#71-76) and Infernal Triangles (#77-81). Rick Veitch had taken over the writing duties and did a solid job of keeping Swampie grounded in the origins that Moore had created often exploring the sci-fi side of the character. It’s a lot of pressure following such a revolutionary writer like Moore and my hat goes off to Rick Veitch for keeping the series alive and popular for another two years.