ISSUE #77: OUT OF THE MUCK
Hey, hey, hey, everyone! I hope you had a fun week hunting down last week’s Vampire covers. Thank you all so much for the great comments, last week. It seems, despite my diatribe on the bloodsuckers in the comic industry, the politics has escalated into all sorts of nonsense, now. I hope you all have managed to avoid that and focus on what REALLY matters… awesome funny books. I know I have.
Sooooo, with that said… it’s a guilty pleasure; I love Swamp Monsters. I’m always hunting down appearances of Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, but I particularly like finding other, more obscure ones, as well. I won’t get into the debate on which came first, the Man-Thing or the Swamp Thing or some other “Thing” (it was really the Heap, anyway), but suffice it to say that Swamp Thing had the benefit of Wrightson on art duties from the get-go as well as some amazing stories by Len Wein. Further, Swampy had one of the most epic story runs in comics when Alan Moore took over writing duties. As such, Swamp Thing is the clear winner from a popularity standpoint… but there ARE others.
Here are a few of my favorite covers. Some are from the usual suspects and a couple are from some less-likely sources. Here they are.
PUBLISHED: Dell – December, 1963
ARTIST: Vic Prezio
Again, ridiculous Dell numbering, many sites just call this “The Creature #1” and others attempt to unlock the Dell numbering system. Whichever you go with, this one is clearly The Creature From the Black Lagoon and it is awesome. The water is probably the most brilliant part of this amazing painting. The intricate background doesn’t hurt, either, as this cover is all kinds of creepy… I mean look at that hand reaching up out of the water. So cool!!! The style is all-60’s all-day. Not 1960’s comic book, just 1960’s mod art. That splotchy impressionistic quality works so well, here. This could easily have been the poster for the movie.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 1971
ARTIST: Neal Adams
My 2nd all-time favorite swamp monster cover (after House of Secrets #92, of course), this one by Adams is proof that many people were thinking similarly in 1971 about these types of monsters. Which came first is hard to tell. Since the Heap really came first (in the 1940’s… see below covers and descriptions), the argument is really moot. Either way, THIS cover is nearly perfect Bronze Age beauty. Fantastic fluidity in the line work, Phantom Stranger in the negative space and the added terror of the couple in the foreground. Brilliant cover by a legend. This one does not show up often and it may run you closer to $20 if you do finally find it. Ebay sellers know it’s rare and often jack up the price selling it as “Swamp Thing Prototype.” Not sure I’d go that far, however, I’ve seen many copies sell for less than $20 over the past year.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 1972
ARTIST: Joe Kubert
Another swamp monster from this 1971/1972 timeframe from one of the big two. This time, it’s on an unusual book, yet has that same Bronze Age horror feel to it. All the black makes this one really pop and I like that the monster isn’t overwhelmingly huge and overbearing. Instead, he’s sort of a waif in the distance. A cool take on the concept which is otherwise very Swap-Thing-esque. Either way, Kubert kills this one with striking detail and feeling.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – September, 1984
ARTIST: Steve Bissette
I’ve already featured my favorite cover (#9) from the original 24-issue series by Wein and Wrightson in Cover Tunes #. When it was featured, there, there was a literal explosion of sales due to the parallel announcement of the Swamp Thing T.V. show on DC Universe (which, let’s be honest, was SO GOOD… it better return). Of course, #1 is also an incredible cover as is House of Secrets #92, but both are keys (HoS #92 is now out of the majority of collectors’ budgets). Thus, I shift my attention to the rebooted “Saga” of the Swamp Thing which is, as I mentioned in my intro, perhaps one of the top-10 story runs EVER in comics. Written amazingly by Alan Moore, it also sported some incredible covers. This one is my absolute favorites. So much beautiful and intricate line work and such focus on the “muck” and water dripping and splashing is astounding. The macabre nature of the scene is keenly felt, here.
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – December, 1972
ARTIST: Neal Adams
The ubiquitous kids on horror covers so that the monster isn’t too “scary” always makes me laugh, however, Adams does a fantastic job of making the imposing Man-Thing actually feel like a menace, here. By far the best cover in this 10-issue Man-Thing run (issues #10-#19), this one gets all of the mood from impeccable lighting and perspective. I am also a sucker for a green cover which, in this case, gives it that appropriate “swamp” feel. With the first appearance of the character in Savage Tales #1 being pretty pricey, now, this series may be the way to go for collectors on a lighter budget.
PUBLISHED: Skywald Publications – September, 1971
ARTIST: Tom F. Sutton
Awful and awesome at the same time, this one SCREAMS Bronze Age small publisher and I love it. Here’s my sleeper favorite, Tom Sutton, again. Even on this obscure book he manages to shine through with brilliant layering and line work. Sinister Scythe is a frightening entity, as well, and lends an extra sprinkle of horror. Check out the silhouetted figures in the backdrop. Every time I see this little gem in the boxes, I snag it. It’s usually $5 or less, but not easy to track down.
PUBLISHED: Eclipse Comics – August, 1986
ARTIST: Stan Woch
This version of The Heap is really just Eclipse’s version of the 1940’s character created by Harry Stein and Mort Leav and published in Air Fighters Comics. Later, the character would be revived in the 50’s by Hillman in their original Airboy comics (volume 9). All of those are too expensive to be featured in Cover Tunes, but worth checking out. Obviously, the design is quite “Man-Thing-ish.” Either way, this incarnation of the character appeared in various issues of Airboy. This cover is by far the best and has a fantastic Copper Age feel with quite a lot of detail and mood in the lighting and palette. Again, this has great layering from Airboy and the mist in the foreground along with the backdrop of muck.
PUBLISHED: Image Comics – June, 1998
ARTIST: Greg Capullo
A reimagining of The Heap by McFarlane/Capullo, this version is far more frightening. I have always been of the mind that Spawn covers are just too over the top and become “noise,” but I am clearly in the minority on that front. Mileage may vary… If these are your thing, this one may be for you. Definitely a unique take on the swamp monster, though. At least he’s not green this, time.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – March, 1985
ARTIST: John T. Totleben
I didn’t put this in the regular features because some would consider it to be a key as it is the controversial issue where Swampy and Abigail “consummate” their marriage. Almost impossible to explain, you’d have to read it to understand. It’s trippy. Either way, an absolutely gorgeous cover that shows beauty mixed evenly with horror. A brilliant composition with incredible attention to detail, especially in the fauna and the water.
PHEW! That was a lot, right!!! Well, there’s even more. Like last week, there were so many to choose from, again… thus, I’ll be doing a follow up to this one with a second batch of covers I love that I had to leave out, this time. I hope you like these picks as much as I do, though. Please, drop a comment and let me know what you think, ESPECIALLY if you have some obscure monsters I don’t know about. Until next time’s week #3 of Halloween covers, be well, thanks for reading and happy hunting.