Spencer: As a very young child, I loved watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with my mom every week. It wasn’t the first superhero show I fell in love with, but it was the first show I loved that got cancelled. I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor at my grandfather’s house bawling inconsolably the night the final episode aired. As an adult I’ve better come to appreciate that everything ends, but while many endings are absolutely triumphant (see: Trillium), there’s still always a feeling of melancholy that accompanies watching something I love come to an end. Charles Soule clearly can relate: Swamp Thing Annual 3 is all about the fact that all stories must come to an end, and how difficult those endings can be for those that have to experience them. In the process, Soule also explores the great power stories have in our lives, be it the power to comfort and inspire or the power to deceive and sow fear.
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 32, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Scott: We all want to feel like we’re in control. It’s a big part of growing up. We move out, get our own place, buy a car, pay bills, decide what we eat and when we sleep. But we can only control things to a certain extent. As resolute as we may want to be, we still can’t really know what to do the first time we carve a turkey, or get in a car accident, or find out we’re pregnant. In our rush to take control of our lives, we fail to realize just how much we don’t know, and in doing so we become a huge liability to ourselves. Fortunately, life is pretty forgiving, allowing us to acquire wisdom through a system of trial and error. Like the rest of us, Alec Holland has a lot to learn, in his case about being the Avatar of the Green. Swamp Thing 32 finds him fighting for control against an obstacle he brought on himself but never saw coming.
Scott: There are two types of “bad guys”: those with real, understandable motives, and those who are just purely evil. Think Two-Face versus the Joker in The Dark Knight. Some villainous characters have a humanizing characteristic, a defining tragic trait or plight that the average person can feel sympathy for. That’s not to say they always redeem themselves, necessarily, but they’re harder to root against than those who are simple embodiments of greed or hate. In Swamp Thing 31, Alec takes on both types of bad guys, and each is socially relevant in surprising ways. If it wasn’t clear already, Charles Soule is doing things very few writers have the creative energy, or the guts, to take on.
Drew: Ah, the learning curve. It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that there are things that everyone simply sucks at when they start. Some stick with it and get better, others don’t, but the fact that so many people are out there parallel parking or whatever just goes to show what we’re capable of when we put our minds to it. Of course, a good teacher helps, and the learning curve has a funny way of exaggerating the type of help we get. At our noblest, humans are capable of providing age-old (or even personal) wisdom to n00bs, but we’re just as capable as having a few yuks at the expense of the new guy. As much as I enjoy a good larf, I’ll never fully understand the inclination to let the new guy muddle through the same mistakes everyone else has made. Sure, maybe he needs to experience those mistakes firsthand, but how are we to know if nobody’s ever bothered to help anyone avoid it? At best, it’s negligent, and at worst, it’s malicious, but it always leaves the new guy worse off. Unfortunately, Alec is still in the early stages of learning the ropes as the Avatar, and every one of his mentors seems more content to watch him fuck up than offer any kind of help. Continue reading
Mikyzptlk: After the surprising events of Swamp Thing 27, Swampy and his amazing friends are entering a new era. Charles Soule is clearly excited to begin the next chapter of his story, but before he can really dig in, he takes some time flesh out the mysterious character of Capucine. The results are fine, but this issue feels a bit like Soule is stepping on his own toes. Hopefully this is just a case of needing to take a few steps back, before being able to move forward again. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Mikyzptlk are discussing Swamp Thing 24, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Scott: Taking over a title from Scott Snyder can’t be easy, at least not as easy as Charles Soule is making it look. Soule has filled in admirably as the new writer of Swamp Thing, and the title is as much of a must-read now as it ever was under Snyder. Much of the allure has been generated by the mysterious villain Seeder, whose identity is finally revealed in Swamp Thing 24. Regardless of how you feel about the reveal, there’s no denying that it involves a remarkable callback to Snyder’s run- it’s a moment for which neither writer can take full credit. Could the reason the transition from Snyder to Soule has gone so smoothly be because they were planning this moment together, all along? Either way, the attention to detail ought to be enough to blow you away.
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing Swamp Thing 23, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Patrick: Alcohol is weird. It’s dulls our senses, it shortens our lives, it gets us into trouble – and yet we engage with it time and time (and time) again. Why? Because it’s fun. Because when we dial back our inhibitions a little bit, we find the casual courage to do something we’ve always wanted to do. All of that freedom is great, until you cross that line. YOU KNOW THE ONE I MEAN. The moment in the evening where you don’t make decisions with your complete mental faculty. I’ve always had people tell me that drinking brings out who someone really is, but that’s faulty. If anything, booze dulls the prowess of the super-ego, allowing the baser urges of ego and id to take priority. But the id isn’t a person’s “true self” – the psyche isn’t a list of three psychic apparatuses, but the relationship between the three. What you are can more accurately be defined by how you deny the more destructive urges deep in your Freudian well. That’s the kind of thematic material Charles Soule mines in his story about a magician, a plant-man and a booze-tree. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 22, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Scott: There are certain people you just can’t rely on, and you know it. In a sense, it’s better to be aware that someone is a liar, or a flake, or a selfish prick, because then you can’t be caught off guard by it. At the same time, it’s tough, because if you give that person the benefit of the doubt too many times, you make yourself into a fool. This is Alec’s Holland’s relationship with John Constantine- he knows Constantine’s a liar, but still convinces himself that Constantine might be able to help him. It’s also quickly becoming my relationship with Charles Soule, the writer of Swamp Thing. I can’t count on him. Just when I think he’s going to give me some answers, just when I think he’s going to reveal something about this so called “Seeder”, he goes and writes an issue about…John Constantine? It’s so crazy, it actually works really well.
Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing 21, originally released June 5th, 2013.
Scott: Most Superheroes are afforded the luxury, and often the burden, of maintaining a semblance of normal human life — an alter ego. Swamp Thing is not. Alec Holland is Swamp Thing all the time — he doesn’t have a day job. In that sense, Swamp Thing isn’t about a man keeping his two identities distinct, but a man forced to allow his two identities to merge. Because of this, his character is constantly evolving, transitioning from something familiar to something unknown. He has spent his entire life as Alec Holland, but there’s an entire history of the Green that he knows very little about. In Swamp Thing 21, Charles Soule makes it clear that he is more interested in exploring the unknown. Continue reading