This is “Just Like the Time Before,” a feature where I examine instances from comic book history where comic book creators did early versions of later, notable comic book characters and plot ideas. Essentially, the “test runs” for later, more famous characters and stories.
Reader Ola H. suggested I feature Swamp Thing for this column.
Okay, before we get into the story of Swamp Thing, let us just get one thing very, very clear.
During the Golden Age of Comics, Harry Stein and Mort Leav introduced a mossy swamp monster known as the Heap…
While I cannot speak with 100% certainty as to how future writers drew their influences from past stories, I can speak with a pretty good deal of accuracy that the Heap LIKELY had a big impact on the creation of similar comic book characters to the Heap, like Man-Thing and Swamp Thing.
However, beyond that very general sense of the Heap being the forebear for all of these other swamp creatures, Swamp Thing himself has a few other notable prototypes, the sort of things that make you go, “Wait, how is that NOT Swamp Thing?”
What’s funny is that I don’t even mean the MEGA prototype for Swamp Thing, the Swamp Thing that debuted in 1971’s House of Secrets #92 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. This pretty much WAS Swamp Thing, the only sticking point is that the original story was set in the early 20th Century, starring a scientist named Alec Olsen who was transformed into Swamp Thing…
The story was a hit and what was intended as a one-shot story was decided to be turned into an ongoing series. Wein and Wrightson figured that if they were going to make it an ongoing series, they really should have it set in the present day, so in 1972’s Swamp Thing #1, they essentially just re-told the same story, only in modern times and Alec Olsen became Alec Holland…
I think that that is a different thing, though, from the normal sorts of prototypes I do in this feature, as come on, it basically IS Swamp Thing, just with a different name. There’s a reason why everyone knows House of Secrets #92 as Swamp Thing’s first appearance, right? Because it pretty much IS his first appearance…just in a sideways sort of ways.
However, with that in mind, here are a couple of OTHER notable prototypes for Swamp Thing, one each from Swamp Thing’s two creators, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson…
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