The boggy 1972 brainchild of writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing is what remains of scientist Alec Holland, who survived an assassination attempt and fused with his bio-restorative formula. Initially, Holland’s journey was a fairly typical Beauty-and-the-Beast narrative in which he hoped to be restored to his human form. When an up-and-coming weirdo named Alan Moore took over the series in the 1980s, the character was revealed to be a plant-based incarnation of the deceased Holland. This is where it got weird and wonderful. Though Swamp Thing was never a terribly popular title for DC, some of the greatest writers and artists in the history of the medium (Wein, Wrightson, Moore, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and Brian K. Vaughan) have placed their spin on the character.
I was fortunate enough to have a brother born six years before me, so I was exposed to the Wein-Wrightson “Swamp Thing” prior to Wes Craven’s affectionately garish take on the creature in 1982. It’s a PG-rated B-movie largely devoid of the character’s inherent darkness, but its environmentally conscious message has aged well. The Jim Wynorski-directed sequel, “The Return of Swamp Thing,” is pure silliness, but the short-lived 2019 streaming series was an earnest attempt to honor Holland’s righteous monstrousness.
As we speed toward a climate crisis that could render whole chunks of the planet uninhabitable by the middle of the 21st century, introducing moviegoers to the natural world’s avenger is right on time. So what will a James Gunn-greenlit Swamp Thing look like?