First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.17: Swamp Thing #81

Bass and Siskoid cover Swamp Thing #81, featuring a threat from the past, and guest-starring Guy Gardner, but… no Swamp Thing? Check out this Invasion side-story before our alien overlords say you can’t!

Listen to Episode 17 below (the usual filthy filthy language warnings may apply), or subscribe to First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast on iTunes!

Relevant images and further credits at: First Strike ep.17 Supplemental

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26 responses to “First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.17: Swamp Thing #81

  1. I have been looking forward to this episode because I have a long history with Swamp Thing.

    When I was about 12, I began collecting titles monthly as opposed to just looking for a cool cover on the spinner. The pre-Moore Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates run on Swamp Thing was one of the first titles I actually collected monthly in this way. I was floored by the religious/horror themes Pasko had and the art (which eventually switched to Bissette/Totleben) was great.

    Unfortunately, I dropped the book right before Moore took over. It was only when I bought the Crisis cross-over 2 years later that I was floored by what I read. I then dove into the back issues and bought all the Moore stuff prior and after. Brilliant stuff … and horrifying. As Siskoid says, those early Abby issues with Arcane are terrifying and creepy. I couldn’t get enough.

    And the love of Moore’s stuff led me to try to grab some early Wein/Wrightson stuff. So I luckily had #9 which riffed on the issue you cover. (Of note, the original alien does make an appearance in a fever dream Swamp Thing has once he realizes he is a plant not human).

    As for Veitch’s run, I thought the concept was interesting. As you say, one of Moore’s arcs was Swamp Thing being sent off Earth. In his absence, the Parliament of Trees created a new elemental spirit. These spirits need to fuse with a human who dies in some fiery manner. (This was another thing Moore did, rolling the original House of Secrets story into a bigger legend.) When Swamp Thing returns, he has to find a receptacle for this ‘sapling’. The arc carried on a bit too long before the final solution – have Swamp Thing possess John Constantine and sleep with Abby.

    After that arc, we got an overly long run of Swamp Thing moving back in time (the infamous Christ issue). That was two arcs that were too long, so I left. And honestly, I have never come back. It’s one of those times when Moore’s run is so iconic, everything else pales.

    But if you are Veitch, and you think there might be a little sales bump in this Invasion crossover, and you want to lure new readers in, what better way then a juicy sex sequence?

    Thinking back to those late 80s books, how amazing was it that Moore was publishing Swamp Thing, Watchmen, and finishing V for Vendetta and Miracleman all at the same time. Just an incredible creative burst!

  2. Re: The CW Invasion; Yes, that was the first appearance of the Hall of Justice in the CW-verse. The Hall of Justice design from the Super Friends is based on a real-life landmark in Cincinnati, Ohio, the former Union Terminal which is now a Natural History Museum. I’ve been there many times, and I get a charge each time I see it on the horizon.

    I believe photos of the real building were used on those promo posters.

    As for Swamp Thing, I’m really kind of foggy on Swampy. I read most of his run years ago, as my ex brother-in-law had every appearance of the character at some point. But it’s been a good 25 years since I read those, and I haven’t revisited the character much since.

    I don’t recall this one, because I would have logged it in my “Guy Gardner is a complete D-bag” mental folder. DC never seemed to be able to get a handle on just how deplorable Guy was supposed to be portrayed, as it varied greatly from title to title. I’m pretty sure this action would have had him drummed out of the GL Corps, but this was when the Guardians were off getting busy with the Zamorans, so maybe no one cared?

    I’m really puzzled by how large Guy is drawn. Was this Veitch treating the League similar to Moore/Bissette/Totelben’s treatment of the JLA as a shadowy group of gods watching events from their perch in the sky early in their run? I have to think there was some kind of commentary there.

    The dream sequence is…interesting. I’m with Bass, the juice around the mouth is a bit much. I’d forgotten about the overall ickiness of the Matt/Arcane + Abby scenario. Ye gods…now that’s horror!!!


  3. When you’re done with the Invasion and crossovers and all, you might want to consider covering Swamp Thing #96, which is sort of an Invasion epilog exploring the effect of all of the alien war dead on the Earth’s afterlife…

  4. Also, considering that Supergirl wasn’t really part of this crossover in any meaningful way, three-way crossovers have happened several times before (CSI, CSI Miami and CSI New York at least once, maybe twice, and several times with various combinations of the Dick Wolf Chicago shows and/or a Law and Order). I don’t think that last one has done 4-way yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

  5. i have loved Swamp Thing since the first Wein/Wrightson series, through Pasko and Moore and Veitch and I even liked the Tefe-centric series which was cancelled very quickly.

    For whatever reason, SOTST seemed to be the house book for the Joe Kubert School–alumni Bissette, Yeates, Vietch, Mandrake, and Duursema all worked on it in just a few years. We used to watch the TV series as a group and laugh uproariously at its awfulness.

    I distinctly remember missing the incest angle the first time I read that issue (#30 I think?) then when I went back to the comic a year or two later it hit me. Good on you, Mr. Moore, for actually doing horror with some subtlety.

    Enjoyable episode!

    1. Loved the Moore Swamp Thing run.

      I think you’re right in that Morrison did have a heavier hand in those first four Millar issues before leaving the book. I seem to remember that run with some fondness, but didn’t really think much of that Rachel Pollock era.

      And, like my BAE Rob, liked that Tefé series that ran for all of 5 minutes.

    2. I am with you. The Wein/Wrightson stories were my introduction to the character. (Plus the oddball appearance in Brave and the Bold or DC Comics Presents.)

      My introduction to Alan Moore’s run of Swamp Thing came with the Adam Strange issues. If Bass wants a crazy introduction to Thanagarians, he should check out those issues!

  6. As far as Guy goes, the Spectre is probably a better choice for that spot.

    Not just Veitch, but Jamie Delano and Neil Gaiman were supposed to take over as tag-team writers on Swamp Thing, and both quit before they even got started.

  7. Very good episode, Siskoid and Bass.

    Invasion took place in that weird intersection where titles like Swamp Thing was still part of the DCU, even though the stories themselves were far from what the main DCU was about. In some ways, having Swamp Thing cross over with Invasion was probably not the right thing to do; however, I do like it when such stories come about, showing the intersection of the superhero with the supernatural; although I’m sure fans of the Vertigo series probably did not feel the same. I loved seeing Gaiman using Luthor and Batman in the Black Orchid mini, or seeing him use the JLI in the first arc of Sandman, or even referencing the Legion in the Books of Magic.

    Having said all that, I was not a fan of the use of Guy Gardner in this – as mentioned, he is drawn way too big and while he is gung ho, I never imagined him so bloodthirsty as what he was shown here. You could argue that Earth was at war and he was justified in attacking an alien ship; still, his actions were a bit too bloody even for him.

    My general experience of reading Swamp Thing is the series of trade paperbacks that came out on Alan Moore’s run – I read up to the TPB where Swamp Thing had Gotham under siege when Abby was arrested. Excellent writing by Moore but very unsettling – I shivered when I first read this in my thirties so can imagine what it would it be like for a teenager to read these stories for the first time! I also read the New 52 series and while Scott Snyder’s stories were good, I felt the stories improved when Charles Soule came on board.

    Regarding stories of Hawkman to read, I recently read the Hawkworld series by John Ostrander and Graham Nolan and would highly recommend issues 1-25 of that series – excellent mix of action and politics.

  8. Never forget Hurricane Saturday, the 1991 one night, two hour crossover event between Golden Girls, Empty Nest, and Nurses.

    The only Arrowverse show I watch is Supergirl, though I briefly sampled Arrow itself when they were first introducing not-Ray Palmer. The simple truth that I have gleaned is that the Berlanti shows are no better in overall quality than the Green Lantern movie, and specifically they are badly written. However, they have better casting and are often “good enough,” if you bring preexisting affection for the properties into your viewing. I love Supergirl and Martian Manhunter, the actors and directors are great to fine, and it’s well-intentioned children’s fare. I therefore forgive it’s faults and watch that one show. I did enjoy the crossover episodes though, mainly because they largely avoided making the event the star, and instead told interconnected self-contained stories that offered a sampling of each show’s approach and performers.

    Did this get covered and I missed it, or did no one else notice that this event was not called “Invasion!” but “Heroes Vs Aliens”? Maybe they were avoiding xenophobia or trying to tie in to the Snyderverse or simply wanted to dumb it down for the plebs. All the advertising was under the “HvA” banner, including the image still being used on the CW app. It’s not fair to criticize an adaptation of “Invasion!” if that isn’t even what it was called.

    Like Siskoid, I read one Alan Moore issue of Swamp Thing at too young an age, it freaked me out, and I avoided more. Aside from a few issues of the short-lived black and white Swamp Thing reprint series from the ’90s, the trade for American Gothic, and a few odds and sods, I still haven’t gone back to the run. However, that story about the meat puppet really piques my interest.

    What I love about the Marvel Universe is that everything has been connected into one mega-story since Fantastic Four #1. What I love about DC Comics is that it’s a collection of different companies that all had wildly varying content that can never be melted down into one soup. Especially in the ’80s, on any given week you’d have an Angel Love or Arak or Funny Stuff or Swamp Thing, so diverse and serving so many different potential audiences. If you could afford to buy every Invasion! tie-in at a direct market retailer, you should be mature enough to handle the whiplash of your cheesy sci-if smashing into some contemporary sophisticated horror. It’s good for you to expand your horizons.

  9. I thought Siskoid was a little too casually dismissive of Millar’s role in Swamp Thing compared to Grant Morrison. I’m unaware of any suggestion of Morrison writing any part of the run after his first 4 issues. The Millar issues are really great, imaginative and twisted, probably the best Swamp Thing has been after Moore.

    In a related note, if you have written Mark Millar off as a cheap-shock cynic, it may be time for a revisit. His work on Huck and Starlight is thrilling, optimistic and at times downright delightful.

  10. So sorry to leave Siskoid hanging. I got him worked up over Invasion and then didn’t follow up with comments. Sort of an … irredeemable … move you might say. :)

    Okay, here we go. Fair warning, I’m going to be very negative about the CW Invasion crossover. Normally I focus on “finding my joy”, but every once in a while the halo’s gotta slip a little, right? And Siskoid deserves backing up.

    First, when I watched INVASION, I was current on Supergirl & Flash. I LOVE the Supergirl show, and loved Flash during Season 1 & 2 (jury’s still out on Season 3). I wasn’t current on Arrow, but I stopped watching that show. I also wasn’t current on DCLOT (because it’s a terrible show), but I keep up with the general plots.

    And for the record, of all four episodes of the crossover, my favorite was Arrow. It was really, really good. Made me tear us several times. Supergirl was fine. Flash and DCLOT were both a hot mess from a logic and plot perspective.

    Second, while I love the INVASION comic, I wasn’t looking for similarities to the comic. I was just looking to be entertained.

    With that out of the way, here are my random bitchy comments. Not a thorough or well-described breakdown of the plot, but just annoyances that kept me from enjoying the crossover.

    1) Why was it important for the aliens to kidnap the President, the most highly guarded person in the country? Couldn’t they just have used someone else? Other than needing to drive the plot forward?

    2) Why mind control the superheroes to go after the other superheroes? Why not just kill the superheroes you captured, then do the same to the other remaining heroes? Other than needing to drive the super fight?

    3) Why keep Wally on the sidelines during a freaking alien invasion/end of the worlds situation? Other than melodrama.

    4) Why did Sisko and the Arrow Gang need to track down that scientist lady for the power regulator? Other than needing a fight scene in the episode?

    5) Why did Arrow ask Supergirl (the most powerful person they had) to stay out of the fight with the aliens? Other than melodrama?

    6) Other than DCLOT is about time travel, why bother with the time travel to the past? Then tie it into a paradox? Other than needing a time travel scene?

    7) How did Professor Stein create all thousands of mini-pain inducers in, like, 20 minutes? Other than plot reasons?
    8) The aliens really only had one bomb? They traveled millions of miles and had 60+ years to get ready. One bomb? Then they ran away?

    That’s just a few questions off the top of my head. Stupid plot. Stupid melodrama. You can provide in-story reasons for each of those questions, but if you really step back, it’s flimsy writing. They just had a bunch of scenes they wanted to do and strung a weak plot between them (like Star Trek: Generations).

    Still enjoyed some of the individual scenes, and seeing characters together, but overall it was just dumb.

    There. Now you can all be mad at me too.

    All my love,
    The Irredeemable Shag (it’s right there in the name, folks)

    PS: Swamp Thing… You are amazing… You Fight Everything Nasty…

    1. I should also mention that I watched it with my kids. We typically watch Supergirl and Flash each week. My 10 year old daughter LOVES the Supergirl show. She’s on the fence with this new season of Flash. Alternate realities, parallel worlds, and alternate timelines are getting a bit over-used.

      For CW Invasion, my daughter wanted to stop watching the crossover after the second part (Flash). However, I convinced her to watch Arrow (which she enjoyed quite a bit). Then she saw the trailers for DCLOT and asked if she could skip it. In fact, many months ago she was the one who asked if we could stop watching DCLOT regularly. I happily granted her request.

      My 17 year old just quit watching after the Flash episode. Never mentioned it again.

      My kids may have been influenced by my opinion, but this crossover should have really grabbed these kids.

      1. Shag’s Parental Control is set to avoid shows that don’t feature his Firestorm.

        Also, Shag, how’s that classic, Howie Long’s Firestorm? Are you and Rob covering that for Film and Water?

        1. “Shag’s Parental Control is set to avoid shows that don’t feature his Firestorm.”

          Ummm…. Just addressed DCLOT, which does feature Firestorm, and I’m on-board with my kids avoiding that show. Do try to keep up, DAG.

          1. I started watching Legends this season and actually enjoy it. I can see why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I like the characters and I like the actors. The villains have been fun (love seeing Reverse Flash as an ongoing antagonist) and the overall story has held my attention.

            To be fair the main reason I watched the first few episodes of this season was the JSA and I was mostly happy with how they treated the team and the characters.

            So once again Shag and I stare at each other from across the battlefield wondering when brother will stop fighting brother.

          2. “His Firestorm,” gramps. The one that matters to you, not the ones your consider imposters

      2. You know, Shagg… it’s ok if your kids don’t like the same things you do. Just because they’re not into it doesn’t make it bad.

  11. Wow. I need to finally read Swamp Thing. I read the first Alan Moore trade years ago and there was an issue guest starring Lex Luthor that I read for FCTC which I wasn’t a fan of but that had less to do with Swamp Thing and more to do with how much Veitch butchered Lex as a character.

    So yeah…need to get on that. Along with a million other things but at least the Moore and Veitch stuff sounded interesting.

    Great show as always! Thank you for continuing to do the Lord’s work.

    1. You should, yes. Of interest: Alan Moore, in his Swamp Thing vs Batman story during his run, essentially wrote the first post-crisis Lex Luthor story. (The issues came out before or during Man of Steel IIRC, and he’s mostly writing pre-crisis Lex informed by a twitter-pitch note that Lex is now a ruthless buinessman. So maybe he’s writng the first post-Infinite Crisis Lex story, way ahead of time. Anyhow, it’s the version of the character that makes the most sense to me, and the comics eventually caught up to it…)

  12. Struggling to come up with specific thoughts and comments as my mind is scattered this morning, so I’ll limit myself to saying this was a terrific episode, you guys. They all are, but I greatly enjoyed this one–in large part because of the subject matter.

    I actually haven’t read this issue, but I liked your discussions of other Swamp Thing stories through the years, including the story from the Wein/Wrightson era that this Invasion! tie-in calls back to and of course all the Abby Cable/Arcane stuff that developed during the Moore run. Great job as alway!

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