Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers

Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers cover

As laid out in editor Jon B. Cooke’s introduction, Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers was originally supposed to come out over 12 years ago. Now, it’s here, labeled as Comic Book Creator #6, but it’s similar in length and content to other TwoMorrows volumes.

Either way, it’s a specialized subject. The book focuses on the swamp monsters of the 1970s comics and in detail on the Alan Moore era of Swamp Thing. Two pages of justification lay out other characters to be covered: Marvel’s Man-Thing, The Heap (first seen in 1942, but reinvented in 1971), and the much-lesser-known Bog Beast (from Atlas/Seaboard), the Lurker in the Swamp (Gold Key), and Marvin, the Dead-Thing (Warren).

In his introductory editorial material, Cooke takes on a small-time huckster voice I suspect is inspired by Stan Lee’s 70s Marvel Soapbox columns. It’s an acquired taste, and not one worth spending time with unless you’re also nostalgic for that comic era. Better to push through to letting the creators and history speak.

Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers cover

Certainly, if you’re interested in the topic, this is exactly the book you want, since it goes into ridiculous detail on the subject. An early piece briefly covers the connection with Theodore Sturgeon’s “It”, a classic short story from 1940 with the core premise of a monster raised from a man’s skeleton in the swamp. The story itself is also reprinted. The character profiles cover origins, not fictionally, but from the creators who came up with or worked on these monsters and comics.

The book is only in color for the first third. The lengthy interviews don’t matter, but the later art reproductions are only in black-and-white. The book starts with comic history, overviews of various appearances and titles, before entering into conversations with key creators known for their work in the genre.

Those interview subjects include Swamp Thing‘s Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Man-Thing‘s Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik, Mike Ploog, Jim Mooney, and the reason this book probably came out: Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, in a conversation originally conducted in 2002. Given how much is known about him and his work, the more informative piece is a long retrospective with Steven R. Bissette, also from 10 years ago. Between his comments and those of Veitch, the reader will also get some insight into the struggles for creative control and how the corporate publishing companies treated freelancers in that era.

I found it all overwhelming, but I’ve never cared for any of this work. Swampmen won’t make new fans, but existing ones may find new insight into how the comics came together. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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