Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Suggested Reading: Alan Moore's run on "Swamp Thing."

"You really aught to read this," said Nick as he tracked down a copy of The Watchmen for me. Up until that point, I'd never read a comic book that really hit a bone in me. Sure - I'd paged through issues of The X-Men, but I never really cared for them, or their adventures. I never felt that they were placed in conceivable, real and consequential danger. But within the first three chapters, I was hooked.

Within a few days I handed it off and placed it on my 'must have' list and the list of suggested readings started to grow. First it was 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', which I apprehensively picked up (thanks to the banal film of the same name) and then it was 'V for Vendetta' (which also featured a sub-par film of the same name)... and then I kind of drifted off of Moore for a while. At that point, I had read most of what I'd consider his 'most known' books and started to drift into the works of other authors, namely Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman.

I'm not sure exactly where I had the notion, but I happened to be browsing the shelves of my favorite local comic book shoppe (Nostalgia Zone) and the spine for 'Swamp Thing: Love and Death' caught my eye. Intrigued by appearance of Etrigan on the cover, and an excerpt from an introduction by Neil on the back, I approached the sales counter and found myself fascinated by the tale contained within. Over the course of the next few days, I spent my spare moments knee-deep in the Louisiana Bayou, walking the depths of Hell and finding my way back again - all within the two-hundred and six pages of the collection.

Adding any additional Swamp Thing volumes writ by Alan Moore, I continued browsing shelves to no avail... until recently. After finally securing the first collection of his run (entitled 'Saga of the Swamp Thing'), I can assuridly say that lightning can strike twice, and the praise is well deserved. What Alan did with Swamp Thing is weave a fascinating combinaton of convincing horror involving classic characters, with tales wrought with emotion that demand your empathy... for that which is not living. Upon first glance, the Swamp Thing is a horrifying creature - a shambling, lulching collection of lichens and mold. Yet as the pages turn, it reveals a kind soul with emotion and good intentions - and you can't help but feel empathy for that which does not live.

But he can suffer, and he does. The Swamp Thing is living in a world that he does not fully understand and following only the instincts of his soul - to do right. To serve the Green. Swamp Thing speaks for nature in a way that creations like Captain Planet never could - he speaks as a true outsider. He isn't guided by the ethical beliefs of children from carefully assorted ethnicities and genders - Swamp Thing is consciouslly tied to the Earth. It is from this vantage point - that of something we cannot understand, but that which we can understand the intentions of, that we view the world. We turn the pages not with comfort, but with compassion and we should thank Alan Moore for giving us the discomforting chance to do so.

No comments: