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.
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