Swamp Thing has lived at the dark heart of DC Comics since the early ‘70s. Blending heroism and horror, the Toxic Avenger sits on the fringes of the superhero world, destined to protect the environment and humanity. Through his iconic comic adventures and various adaptations through film and TV, he’s one of the most recognizable monsters in the horror genre.
With a new series about to launch on DC Universe’s streaming service, he’s about to re-emerge from the dark depths of DC Comics’ archives and into the public eye once again. Here are ten things you need to know about Swamp Thing.
In a typical tale of man-turned-monster, Swamp Thing made his first appearance in House of Secrets #92 in the summer of 1971. In Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s story, keen scientist, Alex Olsen, was working on a superpowered formula in the marshlands when his lab was attacked by criminals. Exposed to his own formula in the raid, Olsen plunged into the nearest swamp to try and wash the chemicals off, but instead emerged as Swamp Thing.
The character and story were well received, and the launch of his own title encouraged Wein and Wrightson to tweak the origins. Alex Olsen was replaced by Alec Holland. Refusing to sell his world-changing bio-formula, thugs raided the scientist’s base. Once again, Holland became covered in the substance and dove into the swamp, becoming a plant-based monster doomed to roam the bayou, battle intruders, and mourn the loss of his human life and his wife, Linda, retaining all of his human memories.
9 Abigail Arcane
Alec Holland may have lost his wife, but he would find love again. Abigail Arcane travelled with Interpol agent and then-boyfriend in search of the missing Alec and Linda Holland, believing them to have been murdered by a creature known as the Swamp Thing. Alec was instantly infatuated with her. After Abby discovered that Alec had become the plant elemental, their relationship blossomed, and the pair eventually fell in love, introducing one of the most enduring relationships in the DC Universe.
But it’s a romance that has led the pair into plenty of trouble. Abby was once arrested and held in a Gotham prison for being caught with the creature, which led to Swamp Thing terrorizing the city until Abby was released, with even Batman unable to stop him. Family ties would prove to be more troubling for their relationship though, with Abby being the niece of Anton Arcane — Swamp Thing’s nemesis.
Swamp Thing is undoubtedly one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. Not only is he as strong as he is intimidating, he has control over all plant life in the universe. He can transmit his consciousness to any plant – be it moss, a tree, or even a tobacco leaf – allowing him to manipulate his shape and size, and rebuild his body wherever there is plant life, making him practically immortal.
In one instance, Lex Luthor plotted to kill Swamp Thing, the creature cast his consciousness into deep space, regenerating on a distant planet. He’s even been known to travel through time.
7 Origins Rewritten
Despite Swamp Thing’s popularity, sales gradually dwindled and the series was cancelled. Revived in 1982 to build upon the success of the film, Alan Moore joined with Stephen Bissett and John Totleben to bring Swamp Thing back to the comics page. Within this revival, Moore changed the mythology around Swamp Thing’s origins once again.
During “The Anatomy Lesson,” the Floronic Man discovers that Alec didn’t transform into Swamp Thing, but instead an imprint of the scientist. The bio-formula had allowed for the swamp to recreate Alec’s mind in this new plant body, spiralling Swamp Thing into an identity crisis. Alec Holland was, in fact, dead.
6 The Green
Alec Holland’s passing to the afterlife wasn’t the only major change Moore, Bissett, and Totleben introduced. They made him more than a monster, introducing a greater mythology around his origins. In this new interpretation, it was revealed that Earth Spirit, Gaia, created elemental avatars to protect the planet.
The strongest of these was elementals was Swamp Thing, who was connected to a power known as The Green. Alec was just the latest in a long history of Swamp Things, suggesting that Alex Olsen was one of his predecessors. Swamp Thing was introduced to the Parliament of Trees, a council of elders, who watched over the elementals. By creating the legend of The Green, Swamp Thing became near immortal and connected to other plant-based DC Comics characters, including Poison Ivy and Solomon Grundy.
5 Time Travel
When Rick Veitch took over writing the series after Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, he continued to delve into DC Comics’ mythology to create new adventures for Swamp Thing. In one arc, Swamp Thing found himself traveling through time, meeting classic heroes and villains at prominent periods of history: he met Sgt. Rock during WWII, went on an Enemy Ace adventure in WWI, joined Jonah Hex in the Old West, and even protected King Arthur at Camelot.
Veitch had plans for Swamp Thing to travel back as far as the Roman Empire to join Golden Gladiator in an adventure and meet Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. However, DC Comics deemed the subject too inflammatory for print and refused to release the story, despite pre-approving the arc, prompting Veitch to walk away from the series.
4 The Sprout
Swamp Thing and Abby would eventually have a child together. Believing Swamp Thing to be dead, the Parliament of Trees sought to replace him by combining a seed of The Green’s essence with a human soul. Still very much alive, Swamp Thing and Abby agreed that they should have a child which the Sprout could then take root in.
With the help of close friend, John Constantine, Tefé was conceived – part plant, part flesh. Due to Constantine’s involvement in the conception, she was also born with a taint on her soul. This combination meant Tefé couldn’t always find compassion for humans and often fought with her darker urges.
3 Anton Arcane
Every hero has an arch-nemesis, and Anton Arcane would prove to be the thorn in Swamp Thing’s side. The sorcerer and scientist was obsessed with gaining immortality and had a nefarious past with trying to uncover the secret to eternal life, from working with the Nazis in WWII to creating hordes of horrifying monsters.
When he finally did become immortal, his body was too old to be of use which led him to experiment with creating various new bodies. He developed a vendetta against Swamp Thing and even his own niece, Abigail, continuing to torment them from the afterlife, living in Hell as a demon.
Swamp Thing isn’t only one of the strongest characters in the DC Universe, but also one of the first to receive a big screen adaptation, following Superman and Batman. Horror master, Wes Craven, released his Swamp Thing in 1982, retelling Alec’s origin story and pitting him against Anton Arcane. The film’s success led to the revival of the comic series and a less-well received movie sequel in 1988, The Return of Swamp Thing.
Cementing himself in pop-culture, Greenpeace even aired a PSA in 1988, building upon the character’s environmentally conscious message. Swamp Thing has also made a number of appearances on TV, with a live-action show being released in 1990 and a short-lived animated series airing on Fox Kids in 1991. More recently, he’s been voiced by Mark Hamill in Justice League: Action and is an integral team member in Justice League Dark.
1 DC Universe
Swamp Thing returns to the screen on May 31st in a new series airing on the DC Universe streaming app. Originally planned to be thirteen episodes, the ten-episode series has been produced by Aquaman director, James Wan, and boasts a talented cast, including Andy Bean and Derek Mears as the titular creature and Crystal Reed as Abby Arcane.
Despite streaming on the DC Universe service, the series reportedly won’t tie into the larger live-action universes, returning to Swamp Thing’s roots with the creation of a fantasy and horror-driven show where Holland and Arcane uncover the mysteries of the Louisiana swamp.