Swamp Thing Makes My Heart Sing
Constantine: “Swamp Thing! I know you’re seeing this. [lights a match] Get out here or the posies get it!”
Swamp Thing: [emerging from the swamp] “John Constantine. You dare threaten The Green?”
Justice League: Dark
A man looks out over a swamp. He has been ordered to stand guard and keep the cargo from being lost. He knows what his bosses are smuggling, but the money’s too good to pass up. He bites into an apple as a scream pierces the air. Rushing to its source, he sees a fellow guard being dragged into the swamp.
The man fires his gun, but can’t tell if he has hit whatever was dragging the guard. Vines sprout from the ground to drag the remaining guards to a watery grave. The guard narrowly dodges a vine and runs towards a cargo crate. Reaching in, he drags out a battered young woman and aims a gun at her head. He screams for the attacker to show himself.
A monster that vaguely resembles a man made of plants emerges from the water. Its red eyes glare at the guard, and he feels stomach pains. His chest erupts in a crimson fountain as an apple tree sprouts from his torso. Swamp Thing nods and sinks into the murky depths.
Swamp Thing is one of DC Comics’ most terrifying heroes. He may look like something out of a cheesy monster movie, but Swamp Thing is one of the DC Universe’s most powerful creatures. So who is he? Where did he come from? What is The Green? Let’s find out.
Marsh Mutant: Swamp Thing’s Backstory
Batman: “Our data’s more factual. Alec Holland was murdered by terrorists. His body was never recovered. End of story.”
Constantine: “Not quite…”
Justice League: Dark
Swamp Thing debuted in Swamp Thing #1 in 1972. He was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Wein had difficulty naming the new creature and referred to it as “That swamp thing I’m working on.” That name stuck.
Doctor Alec Holland was a scientist working to create a bio-regenerator chemical that would allow plants to grow in hostile areas and end world hunger. A group of terrorists broke into his lab and demanded he give them the formula. When Holland refused, they blew up the lab. Holland was set on fire and splashed with the regenerator. He jumped into a nearby swamp, hoping to douse the flames.
A monster rose in the place where he jumped. The creature, later referred to as the Swamp Thing, hunted down the terrorists and slaughtered them all. He soon regained the ability to speak and revealed that he was a mutated Alec Holland. He theorized that the bio-regenerator had reacted with the swamp’s plants to turn him into the Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing battled countless threats, but the most persistent was his arch-enemy, Anton Arcane, a sorcerer obsessed with immortality who believed he could become immortal by stealing Swamp Thing’s body. One of his schemes resulted in Swamp Thing meeting his future lover, Abigail Arcane.
Parliament of Trees: Swamp Thing’s History
Jason Woodrue: “But you see, if [Swamp Thing] read my report, he’ll know that just isn’t true. He isn’t Alec Holland. He never will be Alec Holland. He never was Alec Holland.”Swamp Thing #21
Swamp Thing was eventually captured by a spy organization that wanted to weaponize his bio-regenerator. They pressured a plant-themed villain called Floronic Man into helping them study a dismembered Swamp Thing. The Floronic Man eventually discovered that none of the body parts functioned like a human’s. He realized that Swamp Thing was not human and never had been.
Alec Holland was dead when he hit the swamp water. The Swamp Thing came across his corpse and accidentally absorbed his memories and personality through the bio-regenerator. Swamp Thing believed that he was Holland and acted accordingly. Learning he wasn’t the original Holland almost drove him insane. Abigail helped him keep his sanity and come to grips with his identity crisis.
Swamp Thing eventually found a mentor in John Constantine, who implied that he knew what Swamp Thing really was. Constantine escorted him to the Parliament of Trees, the representative of a magical entity called The Green. The Parliament revealed that The Green was the combined consciousness of every plant in the world.
The Parliament had created the plant elemental Swamp Thing and manipulated events so that Holland could give it a consciousness. While he railed against the manipulative sacks of fertilizer, Swamp Thing eventually agreed to become their agent. They in turn amplified his powers, turning him from a mere swamp monster into a borderline god of plants.
Swamp Thing: You…have made a mistake…Arcane. Things…have changed…since you…were dead. I… am not…Holland. I am…Swamp Thing. I am of…the clean earth. I am in…my place…of power…AND YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE COME HERE!”
– Swamp Thing #31
Swamp Thing was originally super strong and hard to kill. Upon becoming the Parliament’s agent, his powers skyrocketed. He cannot be permanently killed as long as vegetation exists. He can transform his body, turning his limbs into weapons, growing wings to fly, or simply rebuilding his damaged body. And those are just his basic powers.
Swamp Thing can harness any trait that plants possess. He can cover himself in thorns, lash out with vines, gas foes with spores and fumes, spray poison and acids, all sorts of crazy stuff. He has even turned into a giant by fusing with a forest of Redwood trees.
Swamp Thing has the ability to control plants like Aquaman controls sea life. He often forces them to grow and disrupt structures. If he’s in a very bad mood, Swamp Thing can even force the flora in human bodies to grow. Think that isn’t a threat? Consider how many plants you’ve eaten in the past day or two. Swamp Thing is not one to piss off.
You wouldn’t think that an overgrown vegetable has personality, but you’d be wrong. Swamp Thing is a gentle, down-to-earth character. He often assists superheroes with their issues, talking them through or being a sounding board. Swamp Thing has a bad temper and attacks people when pushed too far. He also loathes anyone who upsets the natural balance or damages The Green.
The Actors Who Play Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing came to the public’s attention due to the eponymous movie directed by horror legend Wes Craven. He was played by the late Dick Durock who reprised the role in The Return of Swamp Thing and the resultant TV spinoff. There was also a crappy cartoon best remembered for its theme song, a parody of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing”.
Swamp Thing isn’t always a solo act. He appeared in Justice League: Dark voiced by Dark Matter’s Roger Cross. Mark Hamill voiced Swamp Thing in Justice League: Action. Finally, Futurama’s John DeMaggio voiced Swamp Thing in Batman and Harley Quinn.
DC Universe will release a new Swamp Thing television series in 2019. The series will play up the character’s horror angle rather than the superhero story. IT’s Andy Bean will play Alec Holland and Friday the 13th’s Derek Mears plays Swamp Thing.
Didya get all that?
One ticked off overgrown weed.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.