There most certainly were movies! Back in 1982 I was as heavily into collecting comic books as I had ever been. Most of my comic dollars were being spent on such notable heroes as The Amazing Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil.
As you can see from this list, I was pretty much company agnostic, meaning I was into both Marvel and DC Comics. If I felt it was good, I was pretty much reading and collecting it. Soon I would catch the X-Men bug and that would catapult my collecting to all new levels of garishness, but that is a tale for another time.
On a fateful Wednesday evening as the new comics were being unloaded, the owner of the shop was getting my books ready for me and he handed me my stack. Right on top was something that was surely a mistake. The owner surely had put someone else’s book in my pile.
I grabbed the title from my stack and handed it back to him. I told him, “Hey Kevin, this Swamp Thing Annual shouldn’t be in my pile”, and I set it back on the counter. Kevin grabbed it and handed it back to me and said, “This ones on me. This book is what they are basing the new movie on. The movie might be crap, but this book will hook you for sure.”
When Kevin said stuff like this, you could take it to the bank. Kevin was the undisputed king and crack dealer of comics. He would give you the first one “on him” and soon you would be running back to him for all you could get your hands on. As I mentioned, he would soon do this to me again with X-Men!
Here is the book I am speaking of:
Ok, I don’t know about you, but everything on this cover spoke directly to the 14 year old me: monster loving, spooky setting enjoying, horror movie loving, “hey that woman on the cover is hot”, boy in me! I made this the first book I read that day and needless to say I was hooked. Seeing the movie would be a no brainer for me. I grabbed my best friend and the Saturday the movie was released we were there.
The movie was rated PG and was directed by none other than Wes Craven, the horror master! It tells the tale of one Alec Holland who is in his laboratory deep in the swaps, trying to create a new hybrid of plant that would be able to grow in the harshest of environments. Ok so Alec is no Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker to the 14 year old mind.
The beginning of the film is pretty slow in setting the story up and is in desperate need of more action than Wes felt was needed. Luckily the villain, Anton Arcane is introduced about half way through. Arcane is the rich villain who apparently owns the military in the area, and has decided that he wants the work of Alec Holland and he will stop at nothing to get it. Arcane thinks Hollands work will make him immortal so he sends in his military to take it by force.
Holland is beaten about the head and shoulders often, doused in the very chemicals he created, and thrown in the swamp where he presumably dies. The lovely and shapely Adrienne Barbeau plays Alice Cable, a government agent who for no apparent reason, falls in love with Alec before he is killed. She ends up wondering the swamps after the attack looking for Alec and soon, the Sensational Swamp Thing rises from the muck and picks up Alice and walks free of the Swamp.
Note – every time Swamp Thing is on screen, you should pause it and play the game I made up. It is called “Spot The Zipper”. The goal of my game is to be the first person in the room to find the zipper in the Swamp Thing costume. You see this was not a big budget film and they spent all their money on the lab explosions, so Swamp Thing, much like Godzilla before him, is a “man in suit”, and the zipper he uses to get into said suit is always very visible. But at 14 I never noticed. He just looked cool to the younger me.
Ok long story short, battles happen, Alice is shot, Swamppy touches her breast, which we just saw in a totally gratuitous bath scene, and she comes back to life, Arcane drinks the chemicals but turns into a monster himself, then the final battle happen where……..right, like I would spoil this cinematic masterpiece for you! Rent it and see for yourself!
The film did manage to make a small profit and there was even a sequel that starred Heather Locklear. While the films were mostly a wash, Swamppy found himself with quite the cult following. Smelling the ability for a quick cash grab, a television series was quickly put into production and even starred Dick Durock, the same guy who put on the suit for both of the movies. I never saw the television series during its initial run, but I was recently in a Half Priced Books and they were selling the DVD’s brand new in a tin box for $2.00 and I happily picked them up. You should too if you enjoy campy humor in the least.
The comic book series went on to go down truly weird paths after a couple of years that saw Swamp Thing turn into a type of God and it is there that it lost me. But the movies certainly are not to be missed!
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