Any serious discussion on the cultural impact of Alan Moore can have a dozen starting points. One might begin by analysing the socio-political messages in one of his most famous series, the Cold War-era Watchmen comics. Another might choose to ruminate on Moore’s most enduring combination to the Batman universe, his The Killing Joke standalone novel, widely considered to be the best-written and darkest thing to ever come out of the DC publishing house.
Another conversation might begin by talking about the impact Moore’s Mad Love series had on LGBT+ rights in the UK and on the erosion of the notorious Section 28 laws. All of these are relevant when discussing Alan Moore’s oeuvre, but none of his creations represent such a succinct cross-section of his style, beliefs, and career as the Swamp Thing.
Although not an original character of Moore’s, he very much moulded it into his own thing upon taking over the original Swamp Thing comic series back in 1984. The Swamp Thing is a fascinating, mercurial character, one that crystallizes Moore’s motivations and unique creative approach. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the enduring legacy of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing: A Well-Travelled Superhero
The main reason why the Swamp Thing is such an effective vehicle for understanding Alan Moore is that he appears in almost all of his creations. Once Moore’s career began to skyrocket and he was entrusted with virtually the entirety of the DC Universe portfolio, Swamp Thing quickly began appearing in unlikely places. He first met Batman back in the 1980s and went on to fight both against and alongside him dozens of times in the following decades.
He has also crossed paths with other iconic figures in the Batman universe, such as Solomon Grundy, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. He’s even reared his head in a number of key Superman plots and timelines, most notably in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series. The versatility of Swamp Thing is important to note because of its consistency.
Moore frequently introduces Swamp Thing as a rhetorical device to make an important statement about his art, often placing him in different cultural contexts in order to give the message greater resonance. This is equally true in the Hellblazer series, where he fights alongside Batman and raises questions about the nature of good and evil, as it is in the American Gothic series, where his presence probes what it truly means to be human.
Merging Modern and Classical Culture References: Alan Moore Par Excellence
Swamp Thing is the primary representation of what Alan Moore does best: blending classical and contemporary cultural references to make a statement about the present. Throughout his critically acclaimed American Gothic series, Swamp Thing appears alongside classic gothic characters such as vampires and werewolves to underline the sinister decay of modern America.
In Down Amongst Dead Men, we see Swamp Thing go on a Dantean journey through the circles of hell to rescue his lover, Abby Arcane, in a journey that highlights the timelessness of the Divine Comedy’s message about sin and allegory.
This meeting of old and new has been rehashed within entertainment countless times since then. The hit video game The Darkness introduces the apocalyptic imagery of TS Eliot and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to modern-day New York City. Similarly, the Call of Cthulu game series takes the nightmarish hellscapes of H.P Lovecraft and brings it face to face with the ruthlessness of the modern era. Even in the world of online casino games, real-money slots such as the Lost Vegas slot at Betway online casino juxtaposes the grim world of the undead with the faded glamour and excess of Las Vegas. All of these hit games owe a partial debt to Alan Moore, whether the creators realize it or not.
Swamp Thing’s Relevance in 2019
Of course, there is more that makes Swamp Thing relevant in 2019 than his use as an instrument for cultural pollination and cross-examination. Perhaps the most standout aspect of his legacy is his strong associations with environmentalism, an issue that has long been held dear to Moore’s heart. The Swamp Thing was never a human being, as was revealed shortly after Moore took over the series in 1984. Rather, he is one with nature, a creature that is uniquely attuned to the pains of our dying planet.
In many ways, Swamp Thing represents the transience of human beings, and the need to acknowledge that the health of the planet is much bigger than the petty squabbles of the excessively violent human race. In an era of runaway climate change, we may well see Swamp Thing’s popularity reach its former glory.
There are countless books that can be filled with analyses of Swamp Thing and his many overlapping storylines. Suffice it to say that he is one of Moore’s most iconic creations, one that is indicative of his talent and passions.