Swamp Thing Makes My Heart Sing!

It’s odd how Swamp Thing is often described as an obscure character when he had some of the highest media saturation for a DC Comics character prior to its shared movieverse. I never saw either film despite wishing to do so. (Tubi currently just has the sequel.) I recently leaned he previously had a poorly received yet somehow syndicated live action TV series in the 90’s. I did see the movie of Man-Thing, Marvel’s mucky counterpart, featuring the future Trish Walker when it aired as a SciFi Original Movie. Despite being made by the director of the beloved Virtuosity & Lawnmower Man (Sadly Cybo-Man is the exception to the Monkey With A Gun rule.), Man-Thing is so terrible that the title creature is ashamed to show his iconic visage until the climax.

Thanks to the intro of his very short-lived cartoon of which I only vaguely recall seeing the pilot, I’ll always associate Swamp Thing with Jimi Hendrix & The Troggs. (Is Swampy jealous Man-Thing has his own The Mountain Goats song?). He was embargoed from appearing on Justice League Unlimited (aside from some Easter eggs snuck in) because by that point he was cloistered away in the mature readers Vertigo imprint. Thankfully Justice League Action allowed him & John Constantine to poison the minds of the youth! Swampy is very toyetic, yet somehow I never acquired any of his action figures.

Unlike last week’s merry Marvel miscellany, here’s a blog with a pruned topic. You’ve seen my fire gourd, now read my review of Swamp Thing’s relatively new television series! It’s doomed, which makes it more tragic. Now I finally have firsthand anger over this. The morass below is crawling with SPOILERS!

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I didn’t mean to damn it with faint praise!

Its nifty intro only appears with the extended pilot. I honestly liked how Avery Sunderland foreshadowed Dr. Alec Holland dying in fire when he said “Don’t let your hair catch fire!” They built a nifty lab atop poles with a trapdoor that I guess was too expensive to blow up. So they surprised me by just burning Alec in a boat.

Dr. Abigail Arcane only knew Alec for a day before he was murdered so their romance didn’t have time to bloom. Swamp Thing’s early dialogue is both stilted & portentous, which further prevents Alec’s personality from shining through. On top of that, Derek Mears voices the creature instead of Andy Bean, which may be clever “The Anatomy Lesson” foreshadowing. Mears gives an appropriately soulful performance under all the rubber & deserves higher billing.

The practical effects costume by Fractured FX is superb! Swampy’s suit does justice to the art of Bernie Wrightson, Stephen Bisette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, & many more. It’s so superlative that the visual effects team barely augments it. The lighting could be better, as it’s often too dark to see all the detail work that went into the prosthetics. Scenes outside the bayou tend to look grayish-beige, possibly because Underworld’s Len Weisman directed the first two episodes instead of James Wan. This is not ideal, but it does make the titular creature look even more impressive.

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was very introspective. The TV version does much less navel-gazing, which is a bug not a feature. This series & Batwoman should’ve swapped voice over ratios. He doesn’t talk much, & assorted humans take up a lot of screen time. So the titular character is too much of a cipher at the outset. This issue of balancing him & the rest of the cast smoothed out as the series progressed. Letting Swampy talk to other characters worked wonders for expressing his feelings. It’s so refreshing when a show makes improvements on its own before I can point them out.

Abby presumes that Alec didn’t die but was infected with a more severe case of the Cronenbergian Green Flu. Swamp Thing believes her. Suspiciously she doesn’t get him to the hospital for medical attention. Subconsciously she realizes something even weirder is going on, especially after he performs feats like summoning flora that doesn’t even grow here!

The other point on this love triangle is Abby’s high school boyfriend, Officer Matt Cable. Complicating matters is he’s the one who killed Alec Holland. Avery Sunderland blackmailed him into it with a file on Sheriff Lucillia Cable’s corruption. She’s Matt’s mom & Avery’s sidepiece. For further soap operatics, Avery is revealed to be Matt’s biological dad at an inopportune moment. The coalition to kill Avery Sunderland is unforgivably sloppy. (This a rare moment when it’s acceptable to complain the police didn’t execute somebody.) 

Good ol’ boy industrialist Avery Sunderland is the venal patriarch of Marais. (Will Patton is discount Don Johnson with an accent, which works.) In an unusual yet economically topical spin on evil rich guys, it turns out Avery is secretly broke. He’s dependent on his unstable wife, Maria Sunderland, for her family fortune. When she threatens to cut him off, he plays on her vulnerabilities by adopting freshly orphaned Suzie Coyle. Maria is haunted by her dead daughter, Shauna, both of whom bear Abby a grudge. Shauna Sunderland was only two days away from retirement graduation when the swamp took her! The swamp previously killed Avery’s pappy by dragging him into campfire! That’s a pretty good reason to be vindictive towards nature.

In addition to its higher rate of swamp crime, the bayou of Marais is literally magic. Sunderland plans to reinvigorate the local economy by harvesting new medicines from it. He has stooges covertly time-release mutagen accelerant into the swamp before hiring Doctors Holland & Woodrue to to tell him if it resulted in anything viable. (Was Skeeter Cove already producing its own mutagens prior to mutagen accelerant being released into it?) Seems like he should’ve consulted biologists before dumping chemicals in willy-nilly. This pollution stirs up all sorts of supernatural, the foremost being a disease where people are consumed by plant matter. Sunderland’s harebrained hunch does pay off in the creation of Swamp Thing, Blue Devil, & Floronic Man.

Dr. Jason Woodrue supposed to be creepy because of his superiority complex & caring more about science than people, but I found him endearing. He’s a better romantic lead than Alec Holland. His wife Caroline is also a Dr. Woodrue (to make it more confusing to refer to each by last name alone) & has early Alzheimers. Unlike his greedy investors, Woodrue has a personal stake in harvesting medicine from Swampy. He synthesizes the bio-restorative formula Sunderland was looking for from a tissue sample very fast. Although testing it on humans without approval is unethical & potentially illegal, this experimental drug healed Dan Cassidy (this is a rare show that acknowledges being knocked unconscious is a serious medical issue) on the first try. (The burning side effect may be an unexpected interaction between the drug & the magic binding Cassidy to town.) The Floronic Man is traditionally reedier than Swamp Thing, but Kevin Durand is already towering before the Ent prosthetics.

I first encountered Woodrue in a Shadow Of The Bat arc where one of his henchwenches was Eva Green & his severed head regrew its body from cannabis. It probably had the reverse effect of an anti-drug PSA, but Floro directly referenced Swamp Thing. When he appeared in Batman & Robin a year later played by The Riddler’s voice & future supervillain dad to create Poison Ivy (retconned in by Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid) & Bane (not in the comics), it blew my wee mind. Long before the MCU, this was proof that a shared universe could exist onscreen like in comics. It wasn’t until years later that I finally read about the Floronic Man trying to destroy all humans whilst fighting Swampy with a chainsaw. So I have a weird soft spot for this mid-tier foe who probably ought to be A-list.

TV Abby was adopted by the Sunderlands rather than her uncle, Anton Arcane. ( The darkness man that haunted her dreams is totally him. They were probably saving him for season two. How cool would it be if they could’ve gotten Ray Wise?) She’s also a Marais local, which means we miss out on Crystal Reed attempting a Romanian accent. (It’s not quite identical, but we could’ve gotten an authentic Bulgarian accent had they cast Nina Dobrev. Nina Dobrevity is the soul of wit.) Although now a CDC doctor instead of employed at a school for autistic children, Abby is still very empathetic with younglings. Were they building up to the secret origin of Abby Arcane’s iconic reverse Rogue hair? It’s a striking visual that makes Abby even more unique, so it’s a pity to omit it. Surely a wig or dye job wouldn’t be that exorbitant. (As opposed to some rumors I’d heard, Reed wanted comic accurate hair. She is also beset by wanting to play characters under extreme make-up yet being too gorgeous for productions to obscure her face. ) Michelle Collazo was superb casting as teen Abby.

Alas, there is no flashback episode showing how Sofia Falcone emerged from her coma. Or since she was living in The South prior to Gotham City, is this a prequel? Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Derek Mears, Leonardo Nam, Michael Beach, Jeryl Prescott, Tim Russ, & Adrienne Barbeau are DC alumni.

The pacing is neither slow nor breakneck, but just the right amount of deliberate for creeping horror. Had they known it was going to wind up three episodes short, maybe they would’ve speed things up. Its second episode casually dropped in Madame Xanadu, Blue Devil, & the Floronic Man! Episode four’s transitive terror infection was ill-described & solved too easily. Likewise the inciting Green Flu just goes away when Swamp Thing tells Abby that it’s fighting back against antibiotics & she cuts off patients’ dosages. The CDC has a sample of The Rot that causes necrotizing fasciitis. Are The Rot & The Darkness the same?

The Phantom Stranger wears different clothes when meeting different folks rather than his distinctive blue cape & fedora. He has his medallion & hat when he sees Cassidy in the hospital. Just like the comics, his mysterious appearances are unnecessary at best. Xanadu was already filling his walking magic plot device function. Macon Blair plays him, which is a reminder to watch I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore & Murder Party.

When events threaten to become a bit too generic, in pops Dan Cassidy. This superhero movie star slumming as video store/hotel proprietor adds some unique flavor. Like Mary Walker in Iron Fist, the focus on him is intriguing since his character doesn’t intertwine with Swampy much in the comics. (The same can be said of Madame Xanadu, but she’s filling a stock role.) Was he picked as an Etrigan substitute or because riffing on adaptations within an adaptation is fun? Ian Ziering is perfect stunt casting. (It would’ve been meta if they’d cast Ron Perlman.) It’s a tad disappointing that Cassidy doesn’t speak or retain his personality once he transforms into the Blue Devil with Ghost Rider upgrades. Where’s his gold trident?

Swamp Thing grows a hallucinogenic flower out of his palm that makes Abby see him as Alec. This episode went a long way towards cementing him & Abby as a couple. Abby kissed a Swamp Thing! I was already predisposed to it, but this episode officially made me ship this iteration of woman & vegetable monster. Matt Cable never stood a chance.

Its penultimate episode adapted “The Anatomy Lesson!” Dr. Woodrue is vivisects that Swampie Boi up real good! The green illumination was a nifty change of pace. Does green light really inhibit plant growth? (They probably wouldn’t be as significant as red sun lamps on Kryptonians.) The props team made gnarly plant organs for Swampy. Woodrue says he has no nerve endings, so is his pain just psychosomatic or part of The Green’s magic? Swampy learns he’s a vegetable who thinks he’s a man! The poster spoiled Swamp Thing retrieving Alec Holland’s corpse, but I’m curious how many non-nerds picked up on that.

Matt Cable has a car crash. Don’t drink & drive kids! That’s how you get possessed by your ex’s uncle & become a raven hanging out with The Dream King! Oh, it turns out he’s surprisingly okay … until he meets the newly blossomed Floronic Man at the police station.

Swamp Thing dared to ask “Are the straights okay?” Abby is distraught she couldn’t turn Swamp Thing into Alec Holland. She is, however, still smitten with Swampy even though she knows he’s not a person. Abigail Arcane is attracted to this Arcimboldo Adonis! Jason Woodrue failed his wife when he didn’t get a carer to watch her during the vivisection & she overdoses on medication. His attempt to make amends by feeding her Swampy’s organs is sadly interrupted. Avery has Maria, whose life was finally on the upswing, institutionalized. Lucilla rejects his offer to divorce his wife (even though he’d lose her wealth) & marry her. So he stabs her & drowns her in her own car before coughing up some bog gunk. He caught the second wave of Green Flu! (Maybe some of them are bisexuals?) Meanwhile intrepid reporter Liz Tremayne appears to be in a stable relationship with her girlfriend. (Crystal Reed & Maria Sten hooked up in real life.) Dr. Harlan Edwards, fellow homosexual & friend of Abby’s, has been kidnapped by the Conclave but could be rescued if a season two happens. Abby doesn’t even know he was abducted yet!

Swampy homages Predator & grows bark armor to ambush some Conclave soldiers that still think hunting him is a good idea. They even got Jake Busey in just to impaled by a vine through the mouth! Although he seems to be in full murderous revenge rampage mode, he spares Nathan Ellery’s life. (Michael Beach is typecast in relation to water-adjacent DC characters due to his name.) Considering how Avery repaid his mercy, this might’ve been unwise.

I expected Jason Woodrue to become the Floronic Man after injecting himself with a sample of Swampy’s DNA, but he show went weirder. Upon seeing Dr. Caroline Woodrue becoming catatonic from her overdose, her husband snaps. He instead sautées Swampy’s organs with the intent to cure her by feeding them to her. His guts may be tastier this way, but he’s probably cooking out a lot of nutrients too. Since Jason had been extremely methodical before, this zany decision is an effective way to show he’s gone off the deep end. Not wanting to subject his wife to an untested treatment, he takes the the first forkful & feels a new man. Sadly Abby & some cops prevent Caroline (duct taped to a chair & seemingly not into this plan) from getting her nibble. WOODRUE DEVOURS THE SWAMP THING’S HEART TO GAIN ITS POWERS!

In the comics, Woodrue is already the Floronic Man prior to meeting Swampy. (Sometimes he’s an alien!) Gaining his powers from eating Swampy brings to mind the psychedelic yams he grew on his back in the books. Would anybody who ate those yams turn floronic in TV continuity or does it have to be his “organs?” These yams allowed Swampy & Abby to experience a form a coitus together. (Not everyone who ate them, however, experienced sex with Swampy.) Aside from censors, I don’t see why Swampy couldn’t also grow a root-approximation of a penis since he’d automatically grown non-functional replicas of internal organs. Now we’ll never see what forms of intercourse these televisual lovebirds would’ve engaged in!

Under different circumstances, all of this would be an exciting first season cliffhanger. The unintentional series finale was appropriately titled “Loose Ends.” None of the villains are vanquished! Madame Xanadu gives her sort of a magic lobotomy to prevent her from being tormented by demons, which abruptly ends to her arc. Swamp Thing didn’t even discover he’s the latest avatar of The Green!

While most show wait until they wrap, Swamp Thing was prematurely cancelled while still in mid-production! (Netflix adopted this tactic for GLOW’s final season.) DC Universe abruptly axed it three episodes early. They’d even constructed The Parliament of Trees without being able to film it. It was killed before it even had a chance. Supposedly it was a victim of a massive accounting error, although official sources have tried to debunk this. The cancellation came as a shock to the cast & crew, who thought they’d at least run for three seasons. Its cancellation was announced after only the first episode streamed. Supposedly everyone loved working on it. If the DC Universe streaming service couldn’t even deliver subscribers a full season of Swamp Thing, it deserved to fail!

As Woodrue says, “There’s so much ordinary in the world.” It’s a shame that this didn’t last since there are so few supernatural romances with legitimutantly monstrous leads being adapted despite all the decades of special & practical effects advancements. 9/10 times it’s just human-looking vampires. Werewolves with great designs aren’t the ones that get to be romantic runners-ups. The CW’s Beauty & The Beast had the effrontery to not even make half the titular duo beastly! Poor Mona Wu, a rare monstress, appears to have been written out of Legends Of Tomorrow. Surely the box office success of Disney’s Beauty & The Beast rehash & Venom show that monster erotica is a market waiting to be tapped, & they were barely erotic! Sexy Fish Man winning an Oscar should’ve removed the stigma. Was Swamp Thing pruned because the creature isn’t a more mainline Furry or because it intended to consummate the monster fucking? GIVE THE PERVERTS WHAT WE WANT! If heterosexual monster romance isn’t flourishing, LGBTIA monster romance is even more under-served.

One of the few highlights of this pandemic era is that regular television has been airing international & streaming content while its own were on pause. While much streaming services have been praised for the convenience of being able to watch stuff on your own schedule, there’s something to be said for having a set time-slot at a lower cost threshold. While Swamp Thing got lost in the streaming shuffle, it’s garnered an audience from re-airing on The CW. Usually it’d be the other way around. It even got a billboard unlike Lodge 49.

I need The CW to pick up DC Universe’s slack & make season two! It’d fill that Supernatural slot well. Some fans from DC Universe era who disdain The CW hope otherwise. I’d much rather have Swamp Thing continue on The CW than no more at all.  Airing it on network TV like Stargirl unfortunately means they have to bleep out swears (acceptable since not everyone can be a cuss laureate like Cliff Steele) & swiftly cut away from gore (less so). There’s still way more grusome bodyhorror than most most TV programs. If they don’t have physical intercourse, getting Abby’s & Swampy’s lovemaking pass the network censors may not be an impasse. Its budget is higher than the Beeboverse shows, but that could be offset by producing fewer episodes per season. If they don’t do another season, can they at least film the three remaining scripts as a farewell movie? I’m ready to bargain to see a threeway monster mash!

Swamp Thing is dead! Long live Swamp Thing! It may not be as superlative as Doom Patrol, but it’s far superior to Teen Titans from what I’ve gathered. Why did HBO Max keep that instead? These ten episodes show it was growing toward something special before it was callously nipped in the bud. It would actually be very appropriate if it got resurrected. To save Swamp Thing would take a Christmas miracle. Since the decision making executives are on vacation now, it’ll more likely be a First Quarter 2021 miracle!

~

Speaking of pathogens, the news that there are now multiple Covid-19 vaccines is fantastic! Heartfelt thanks to all the scientists around the globe that worked tirelessly to to make this happen in roughly a year since the virus was identified & ahead of schedule! That doesn’t mean you can be lax in safety though, as it’ll still be a while before it rolls out to everyone. Stay safe!

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I grievously underestimated how much this message was needed moths ago, although some people would pay to be stabbed by Oswald Cobblepot.

My Wonder Woman 1984 collaboreview could also be arriving before 2021!

19 thoughts on “Swamp Thing Makes My Heart Sing!

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