Unknown to me and back on January 14th of 2020 DC Comics released Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2.
Those who have read my entries here for a while may know this so forgive my repetition.
All the way back in 1974 and when I was no older than eight, I went into a drug store and found this comic on the newstand:
I read comic books before finding this issue, but Swamp Thing #10 was a watershed comic book for me. Why? Because it was the first time I realized comic books could be art.
Written by Len Wein and featuring the incredible art of Bernie Wrightson, what I didn’t know way back then was that this would be the last issue of Swamp Thing these two would make. Mr. Wein would write the following three issues, up to #13, then bow out of the series as well. Nestor Redondo, another incredible but not as well lauded artist, had the enviable task of following up on Mr. Wrightson. He did a great job, but when you follow a legendary run, odds aren’t great you’ll distinguish yourself quite as well.
Regardless, those 13 issues of the original series plus the very first Swamp Thing short story presented in House of Secrets #92…
…were reprinted in Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 1. It’s a terrific reprint volume and I highly recommend it except for one issue that’s been bugging me for years. When the beloved (by me) issues #2 (the first appearance of Arcane and his Un-Men) and #10 of the series was reprinted many years ago, they re-colored Arcane’s un-men into all these (beware a very technical professional term) idiotic colors. You had red un-men, you had orange-un-men, you had purple un-men.
The original issue #10 had all the un-men flesh colored which, to my eyes, made the horror of what they are all the greater. These were human beings converted to weird freaky monsters…
When they re-colored the book, we had this…
To me, this re-coloring was, IMHO, a very bad idea.
Its far more horrifying -and creepy- that they all be flesh colored rather than looking like they came in from Mars.
Regardless, back in 1974 I was so blown away by issue #10 of Swamp Thing I wound up spending the next ten years (at least!) going to various comic shops looking for comics that came before -and after!- featuring the character of Swamp Thing.
In time I collected the entire original run of Swamp Thing, issues 1-24, along with some of the character’s subsequent appearances in Challengers of the Unknown (following the cancellation of the original Swamp Thing series, there were a few plot threads that needed to be closed and the Challengers issues did this), Brave and the Bold, and DC Comics Presents.
I managed to grab most of the stuff, missing out only on a few of the later Challengers issues, but now, with Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 I have the whole thing beautifully wrapped up in one volume.
For that alone, I highly recommend the book -and the first volume, of course- to anyone that’s a fan of the original run of Swamp Thing.
However, this volume includes one more thing that moves it -for me- from a must have to an absolutely must have: The inclusion of all materials from the unpublished 25th issue of the original series…!
That’s right, kids: DC has gone out of their way to reprint what they have of what would have been the 25th issue of the original Swamp Thing, an issue I always suspected was out there somewhere, filed away and never used… until it found its way into this volume.
So let me take you back to issue #24 of the original Swamp Thing, an issue written by David Anthony Kraft who was coming in after Gerry Conway’s short run…
I’m going to come out and say it: By the time Swamp Thing reached its final issues, it was clear the folks working on the book were trying to find new types of stories to write. With this issue, Swamp Thing was becoming more of a “superhero” type character, complete with a sorta/kinda Hulk type attacker.
At the end of issue #24, we had this intriguing posting:
So, issue #25 of Swamp Thing, following the superheroish motif they were doing, was to feature our favorite muck monster dealing with Hawkman. It would have been the second time Swamp Thing would feature a DC hero (issue #7 of the series had Batman)…
Though issue #25 of Swamp Thing and the confrontation between him and Hawkman never came out, I always suspected the issue had been written, at the very least, and perhaps even drawn before ultimately being filed away.
Why? Because back then the book was bi-monthly, meaning it would come out every second month, and the amount of time they had to get an issue ready before printing it didn’t allow them to sit around wasting time. They had to have that issue somewhat close to being “done” before the book was cancelled…
…and for quite literally decades I wondered what the issue must have looked like.
Welp, Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 finally gives closure to my curiosity.
Not only do they include all the art they could find of the issue (which amounts to the whole thing minus one page), but they also include the scripts. The first script was a rough outline of what happens on each page and was meant to allow the artist to create the book uninhibited by the placement of captions and dialogue. The second script was the one that was likely written after the artwork was sent in and features the dialogue and captions for the letterer to put into the issue.
Then we get the artwork… Oh man…
There it was, after so much time: The cover to what would have been the 25th issue of Swamp Thing. Finally decades of curiosity and wonder (on my part) were fulfilled and I finally got to see the Swamp Thing/Hawkman meeting.
The first 8 pages of the issue, however, were never “completed” beyond rough pencils and look like this:
The next 8 pages of the issue, minus page 15 (which appears to be lost, perhaps forever) were completed with inks and lettering before word came down that the book was cancelled. They look like this:
So there it was, finally… Issue 25 of Swamp Thing.
If you’re at all like me, buying Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol 2 was already a no-brainer.
But now, with the addition of this “lost” issue, its a must have for fans of the series.
Needless to say, I highly, highly recommend it.