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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One HC -- I've been patiently waiting for the beginning of the "archival" hardcovers of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben's Swamp Thing to hit stores, and now they have. I picked up the first volume Friday night after work, and was amused/disgusted to note that the slimmer-by-half All-Star Superman Vol. 2 hardcover -- which I also picked up -- weighs about twice as much. If you see the Swamp Thing book, pick it up and I think you'll be amazed at how little heft it has. DC went for the el cheapo newsprint-style paper stock on this, similar to the stock used for the Jack Kirby's Fourth World volumes.

Now, I guess it's slightly less galling here, because the Swamp Thing book, at $24.99, is half the price of the Kirby volumes. But when compared to the heavy, nigh-ideal white paper stock Marvel used for its recent Daredevil: Born Again hardcover, well, DC looks pretty cheesy. Fact of the matter is, this Swamp Thing series should be the ideal presentation of some of the best comic books ever published (Swamp Thing is in the same league as Alan Moore's other great works like Miracleman, Watchmen and the cream of the America's Best Comics titles, if not quite in the greatest-graphic-novel-ever territory of From Hell), and this shitty, easily-damaged paper stock is quite at odds with the meant-to-be-elegant design of the book itself.

The dustcover is also an odd case. It has the tacky feeling of not-quite-dry paint, and I kept checking my fingers to see if the black was coming off the book and onto me. The actual cover art is simple but quite nice, a (new, I believe) profile shot of Swampy by Bissette and Totleben.

Strange that the essay Alan Moore wrote for the trade paperback collection of this material is replaced by a new essay by Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein. Deliberate slap at Moore, nice gesture to Wein, or maybe Moore's essay is no longer timely? I haven't checked yet to see. It is definitely a good thing that for the first time, DC is including Moore's actual first issue of Swamp Thing, #20's "Loose Ends." It may tie up the previous storyline, but it's integral to where Moore went with #21's "The Anatomy Lesson," and has nice art by Dan Day to boot.

The presentation here is far from perfect, as I've noted, but these are vital comics that anyone with an interest in the artform should own, read and even study. Moore was discovering a lot of his own processes in this run, and if his prose runs more to the purple than it does in his work of the last decade or so, it is also lyrical, poetic, and richly entwined with the art it accompanies. I wish DC had bothered to do it better, but I suppose it's a miracle they did it at all, and I'm more grateful than not to have the book on my shelves. If only it could be joined by a hardcover collection of Moore's Miracleman...

Buy The Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One from amazon.com.



Blogger Bob Temuka said...

How many issues are included, Alan? Does it go up to the annual he did, a year or so into the series?

That issue was the first Swamp Thing I ever read, and was an excellent place to start.

14 February, 2009 21:30  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Eight issues, #20-27, and no, not quite up to the annual yet.

15 February, 2009 04:52  
Blogger seth hurley said...

Was there any recoloring/color correction done on the hardcover?

I have the trades, so I'm just curious as to any improvements & differences besides the inclusion of #20.

18 February, 2009 00:31  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

I didn't notice any improvements over the trades or original issues, but I wasn't really looking for that, either. The reproduction looks good to my eyes, and I'm a stickler for good repro, so at the very least they don't seem to have screwed up that aspect. I do wish it had been printed on more suitable paper, though.

18 February, 2009 02:20  
Blogger Eric said...

I agree with everything you say. The quality of the paper is shocking to me, and really these deserved the Absolute treatment (Yeah they're pricey but the Sandman vols spoiled me). Even among the paperback vols Vertigo does I have no idea how they arbitrarily decide what sort of paper to use--the Black Orchid paperback has great paper, the Neil Gaiman Midnight Days collection has the same cheap paper as this... Oh well

Points for including the covers (which weren't in my paperback but may have been added in later editions), I think the new intro is *great* even if Wein sounds like he might be scared to say anything negative about Pasco's earlier run--although I wish that would be collected, and it'd be ok to use the super cheap paper here, just so I could read it. I suppose I should go on Ebay...

(I'm also curious how fast these are gonna come out--no release date for vol 2 yet and I think they could have double up volumes like they did for the Deluxe Y volumes but... June does see ahardcover reissue of the old 70s run, called Roots of the Swamp Thing now with all 13 issues by Wein, not just the first ten)

25 February, 2009 06:46  
Blogger Leigh Walton said...

Hmm, it sounds like the sticky wet-ink feeling of the dust jacket might be on the entire print run, then...

03 March, 2009 02:25  
Blogger Leigh Walton said...

But as for the paper stock, I don't mind it at all. I love my LOCAS hardcover, but the thing weighs more than I do. I don't look forward to reading it because it's so physically awkward to handle. The Fourth World hardcovers are delightfully manipulable.

I *do* wish they'd recolored SWAMP THING, though. Tatjana Wood made some great choices, but she was working with pretty awful limitations -- which haven't aged at all well.

03 March, 2009 02:28  
Blogger Eric said...

I dunno I managed to read Sandman all the way through with those massive, awkward Absolute editions so a bit of stiffer paper, that didn't feel like it'd rip if I turned the page too quickly wouldn't upset me too much ;)

05 March, 2009 06:22  

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