What I Remember:
This book is what started me off on my quest. I didn’t remember much about it at all. In fact I thought it was an issue of Batman. I assumed the title of the books it the bigger star, but it turns out Bats was the guest star. It was given to me by my Uncle Peter, who shared his love of comics with me and often gave me comics as gifts. I remember him describing it to me, since he usually read the books himself first on the train ride in. I remember how animated he was describing how Batman has to adjust to fight Swamp Thing and how he needed a new armored Batmobile. Batman creates a special Batmobile to take on Swamp Thing, who has overrun Gotham with vegetation. I also remember Swamp Thing winning the fight, which would be considered heresy in today’s DC Universe, where Batman is practically omnipotent and can beat any hero or villain at any time because, “I’m Batman!”
Because I thought it was a Batman comic, this took a while to track down.I was beginning to think I had imagined it. I had stumbled on a Batmobilehistory.com in my travels through the Internet (Don’t ask how) and noticed that the special Batmobile for Swamp Thing was nowhere to be found, a little Googling and eventually I found the issue. Let’s see how it holds up.
Title: Swamp Thing #53
“The Garden of Earthly Delights”
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.25
Re-Collecting Price: $6.98
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: John Totleben
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Publication Date: October 1986
Is it any good?
This issue is an absolute gem! Starting off with the amazing cover that I could see on blow up and put on my wall and we’ve got a story by Alan Moore, right as the first issue of Watchmen is being published. Moore’s run on Swamp Thing is credited with getting Neil Gaiman into comics and introduced the chain-smoking, Hellblazer, John Constantine, star of his own short-lived TV show.
The story picks up with Gotham City turning into a modern Garden of Eden, held hostage by Swamp Thing who’s trying to get his wife, Abby released from prison. She’s been charged with inter-species relations and is awaiting extradition.
As the vegetation grows thicker and thicker Gotham begins to resemble a computer model from one of those After Man TV specials. Fruit grows everywhere, the subways are suspended due to roots growing through the tunnel, and sweet potatoes with psychedelic properties are sprouting up. The sudden resurgence of mother nature has led to a feeling of happiness in the city. The powers that be in Gotham dispatch Batman to confront the creature and order him to release the city. While shadowy figures at LexCorp are devise there own plan to eliminate the Swamp Thing problem.
Batman, defending his city from the invaders and also looking to uphold the judicial process confronts Swamp Thing, in what I imagine was a Batmobile specifically designed for this actual event. Swamp Thing is in no mood to negotiate.
He never uses it though gets out and promptly gets his ass handed to him by Swamp Thing and the city is left at Swamp Thing’s mercy, but its citizens don’t seem to mind. Pilgrims are flocking to the city that has returned to nature, trying to connect with their environment.
Like many comics from the time, recaps aren’t required, and the story both can stand alone and fits into an overarching narrative. Backstory is interwoven in conversation or on the ever-present TV news broadcasts that serve as a narrator. Moore tries to create a clear juxtaposition between Swamp Thing, his followers looking to return to nature and those seeking to literally sever that relationship by arresting Abby. Cutting her off from nature.
I liked that Moore made the sweet potatoes psychedelic, since very often people that live in rain forests, which it appears Gotham is well on its way to becoming often use natural psychedelics to enhance their understanding of their world, so it’s fitting that Swamp Thing reaches people the same way.
My one critique is that the book may be too dense, Totleben’s art, especially panels with the overgrown Gotham should be bigger on the page so that we could really see the detail. It also is a darkly colored book, which makes it hard to see some of the details in the art, especially once the pages begin to yellow after 29 years!
Absolutely! This book as Batman fighting an enemy that he can’t outsmart or out-punch. Something that is lacking in today’s DC Universe. If this were written today, it would take place over 4 issues and would somehow end with Batman getting the upper-hand. Alan Moore, is on point and anything that he writes, not just the big trades, like Watchmen, V For Vendetta and The Killing Joke, are worth picking up if you get the chance.
Next Ish: See you next Wednesday as I jump into the world of 1970's Marvel and the Incredible Hulk #209!