Dr. Alec Holland may be the Swamp Thing, but is he a man... or is he monster? Perhaps he's something even more terrifying? Since his pulpy creation in 1972, Swamp Thing has captivated readers with versatile, chilling stories that run the gamut from straight horror to sweeping tales of superheroics with roots deep in the DC Universe.
But what are Alec Holland’s greatest hits? What follows is an exhaustive trek into the haunted moors of Swamp Thing, from team-ups to breakdowns and everything in between. Scroll down, readers, to discover the best Swamp Man stories of all time.
10. Tangled Up In Green
Though most of Swampy’s fan-favorite superhero team-ups are with Batman, his exploits as Superman’s foil have produced some of this best tales. Take for instance Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Jorge Jimenez’s 2016 'Superman Annual #1'. A sweeping and literally 'grounded' story, this Annual finds Clark and Alec merging bodies in order to revitalize the Kent Family farm and provide Kal-El terra firma after his contentious debut in the wake of the "New 52."
Much sunnier than most of the efforts to follow on this list and graced with some truly impressive artwork from Jimenez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez, 'Superman Annual #1' is a great example of the way Swamp Thing can be used as a supernatural “therapist” for the rest of the DCU - as well as his ability to stand side-by-side with the caped citizens of comics books.
9. The Jungle Line
Another Superman team-up, and a much weirder one to boot! 1985’s 'DC Comics Presents #85' finds Swamp Thing and Superman at odds after the Man of Steel is infected by an alien fungus, revealed to be a long-lost plant survivor of Krypton, The Bloodmorel. Long time Swamp Thing architect Alan Moore (a name you’ll be seeing a few more times on this list) adds an extra layer of melancholy to the story by wiping Superman’s memory of Swamp Thing’s intervention, playing with the “hero or monster?” story thread present in Swamp Thing’s narrative from the beginning.
Given extra visual legitimacy thanks to the work of iconic Swamp Thing artists Rick Veitch and Al Williamson, DC Comics Presents #85 is a lesser known Swampy/Supes team-up, but one still well worth the time.
Swamp Thing Vol. 3
Soundly rejected by fans at the time of its release, time has been much kinder to Brian K. Vaughan’s Tefe Holland-focused Swamp Thing run. Released in 2001, with nightmarishly beautiful pages from Roger Peterson and Giuseppe Camuncoli, readers balked at the idea of Alec playing second fiddle in his own title as Tefe rose to power as both a Plant and Flesh Elemental.
But now, with the benefit of hindsight, we see that this series was ahead of its time, expanding the cast and mythos of Swamp Thing using Alec’s vast “root network” of powerful women throughout his life - not to mention it provided an early preview of just how great of an artist Giuseppe Camuncoli would turn out to be as he moved on to another Vertigo Comics staple John Constantine and then onto a lengthy run on Amazing Spider-Man. Don’t let the questionable reputation of this book fool you, BKV’s Swamp Thing more than earns its position on this list.
7. My Blue Heaven
Another Alan Moore-penned tale, 1987’s 'Swamp Thing #56' showed just how weird and how big Moore was willing to go with the character. Providing echoes of Dr. Manhattan’s lonely life on Mars, Alec flings his consciousness across the universe (a newly introduced power at the time), inhabiting a barren, beautiful blue world of vegetation. The Swamp Thing then takes advantage of the “clean slate” to grow a haunting copy of his human life, attempting to “live” among his creations.
This story comes late in Moore’s run, but is no less powerful because of it. Once again supported by the eerily gorgeous artwork of Rick Veitch, “My Blue Heaven” is both Moore and Swamp Thing at the peak of their powers. Showing the kind of operatic and evocative stories you can tell with a walking, talking pile of plants.
6. The Root of All Evil
After author Nancy A. Collins took a more traditional approach to the title, ushering it from the DC imprint to the newly launched Vertigo Comics stamp, British imports Grant Morrison and Mark Millar brought psychedelic horror back to the title with Swamp Thing #140-144, collected under the title 'The Root of All Evil'.
Finding himself separated from his plant body, which is going on a murderous rampage throughout the Bayou, Alec Holland must go on a drug induced “vision quest” to reunite his mind with his Elemental body - that is if the villainous “Parliament of Stones” doesn’t kill them both first. Though Morrison wasn’t on the title very long, his trippy plotting coupled with Millar’s pitch black humor made for a fun return to the “roots” of Swamp Thing. The blocky, but expressive artwork of Phil Hester and Kim DeMulder also harkened back to the gothic inspired artwork of Wrightson and Veitch, giving Swampy his first hit under the Vertigo banner.
5. American Gothic
While Swamp Thing himself has grown into a cult icon in comics, he was also responsible for the introduction of another one; John Constantine, con man magician. Running from 'Saga of the Swamp Thing #37-50' and brushing up against the massive 'Crisis on Infinite Earths', this arc finds Swamp Thing being led from adventure to adventure by a mysterious new figure, one who seems to know more about his increasingly powerful plant body than he is saying. The pinnacle of the “Sophisticated Suspense” made famous by this era of the title.
The rest, they say, is history, but this epic is arguably one of the more iconic off-beat comics of all time, gorgeously rendered by the alternating duo of Stephen Bissette and Rick Veitch. Alan Moore’s tenure in the swamps changed a lot of things in Alec Holland’s life, but also introduced a character that has lasted the test of time (and his poor decisions) to stand alongside Swamp Thing as one of comic’s all-time great anti-heroes.
4. Rotworld: Secrets of the Dead
Scott Snyder’s tenure on Swamp Thing is more known for its scope and scares, but it is with this annual that he delivers one of his most heartfelt efforts with the character. Given a soft but monstrously fun look by Becky Cloonan (who would later provide some pages to Snyder’s epic "New 52" Batman run), Snyder uses the annual to show the then new continuity’s first meeting of Alec Holland and Abby Arcane.
Though it ends with a brutally beautiful showdown between Swamp Thing and Abby’s evil father Anton, much of the issue is an engaging love story between Alec and Abby. One that pays tribute to the vast history the characters had between each other in the previous continuity while also giving a satisfying “new” version of events for the New 52. Not an easy garden to tend, but 'Swamp Thing Annual #1' makes it bloom beautifully.
3. Swamp Thing Winter Special
This list’s newest entry might also be the most poignant. Released shortly after the deaths of both Bernie Wrightson and Swamp Thing creator Len Wein, Tom King and Jason Fabok’s frigid and brutally poetic Swamp Thing Winter Special story 'The Talk of the Saints' stands as a perfect tribute to the legendary creators.
Blissfully standalone and self-contained, King and Fabok deliver a gut-wrenching penny dreadful centered around a mysterious and unrelenting winter storm and a young boy at the center of it Swamp Thing has sworn to protect.
But the issue doesn’t stop there, as the final written work of Len Wein then fills out of the rest of the whopping 80 pages in 'Spring Awakening!' drawn by longtime collaborator Kelley Jones. Bittersweet and chilling, both literally and figuratively, Swamp Thing Winter Special is a wonderful tribute to the characters past and present.
Going into the "New 52," the inclusion of Swamp Thing in the core DC brand was a curious choice, given the character’s then decades long publication under the Vertigo brand. And while Scott Snyder’s tenure on Batman grabs all the headlines (and lasted quite a bit longer), his Swamp Thing run still stands as a towering horror achievement.
Using the relatively blank slate of Alec Holland’s recent resurrection in the back half of Geoff Johns’ 'Brightest Day', Snyder reintroduces the DCU to the “Warrior King of the Green”, spinning an epic 18 issue run that culminated a massive crossover called “Rotworld” with Animal Man courtesy of Snyder and writer Jeff Lemire.
“Rotworld” found the Green and Red Kingdoms - the dominions of Swamp Thing and Animal Man, respectively - facing off against the forces of the Rot. Synder in full on horror mode is always a blast and he and Lemire’s sweeping story was brought to wonderfully disgusting life by artists Yanick Paquette, Marco Rudy, Andy Belanger, Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh, and Timothy Green II. Though Snyder’s run, and “Rotworld,” didn’t bear the Vertigo Comics imprint, it kept the spirit of its horrifying history with the imprint alive and well.
1. The Anatomy Lesson
'The Anatomy Lesson' is Alan Moore’s first ‘at bat’ on Swamp Thing - and he hits an absolute home run. Released in 1984 as 'Saga of the Swamp Thing #21', Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben start their expansive run off with a tense reintroduction of the monster Swamp Thing and of Jason Woodrue, The Floronic Man, a major antagonist for Moore’s first arc.
But more than that, it serves as a grim mission statement for the Moore era of Swamp Thing. Densely written and claustrophobically contained, “The Anatomy Lesson” is a skin crawling opening issue that captures all the majesty and horror of Swamp Thing in one bleak little yarn - the gold standard of Swamp Thing stories.