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Comic Book / Swamp Thing

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There is a red and angry world. Red things happen there. The world eats your wife. Eats your friends. Eats all of the things that make you human. And you become a monster.

Swamp Thing is a comic book character created in 1972 by Len Wein and famed horror artist Bernie Wrightson. The Swamp Thing first appeared in a one-shot horror tale in House of Secrets #92 (June-July, 1971). He was then reworked as a character suitable for series appearances in Swamp Thing vol. 1 #1 (November, 1972). Both stories were co-created by Wein and Wrightson. He has undergone numerous retcons over the years by various authors looking to rejuvenate the series, but the definitive one came during Alan Moore's run on the series from 1983 through 1987, which was also his first American title, and his first for DC.

As an untested author, Moore was given a book slated to be cancelled. However, since no one cared about the title, there was no Executive Meddling, so Moore used the book not to explore inhuman monsters in spandex, but human ones. He introduced mysticism and sexuality into the series, as well as gray moral tones.

The book was among the first to abandon the Comics Code, and paved the way for the Darker and Edgier comics of the The '80s and The '90s, including Moore's own Watchmen and DC's Vertigo imprint, where the series eventually ended up, outside the main DCU. Swamp Thing also showed publishers that holding comics to a higher literary standard did not necessarily mean a drop in sales.

Originally, Swamp Thing was a scientist named Alec Holland who gets turned into a monster in the swamps near the town of Houma, Louisiana after his lab equipment is sabotaged and his wife Linda killed. Wes Craven followed this plot with his mildly successful film adaptation, about your standard modern-day Prometheus doing good and lamenting lost love.

Moore, however, retconned the character's origin, turning him into Gaia's Vengeance. It was revealed that the Swamp Thing was really a separate entity from Alec Holland, a plant elemental who had taken on his memories during its fiery birth from the ashes of Holland's lab. Holland's ghost even showed up. Moore's experimentation ranged far and wide during his run, and kept the comic from going under. In fact, a number of other notable writers have taken up the pen since (Grant Morrison, Brian K. Vaughan, Mark Millar, Scott Snyder and most recently Charles Soule). The character of John Constantine originated on Swamp Thing during Moore's run and was spun off into his own title, Hellblazer.

Eventually, the Swamp Thing and his long-time love Abby Arcane-Cable got together (common law marriage) and they had a daughter named Tefé, after the river in Brazil. John Constantine was the biological father. The first Vertigo revival of Swamp Thing, by Brian K Vaughan, focused on Tefé as the central character; the next series shifted it back to her father again.

The climax of Brightest Day controversially saw the death of Swamp Thing (possessed by Nekron) and his replacement with Alec Holland, as Geoff Johns effectively put an end to Alan Moore's famed retcon of Swamp Thing and Alec Holland as separate people and firmly re-established that Holland WAS Swamp Thing... or at least was meant to be. Alec had other ideas. Following the Cosmic Retcon of Flashpoint, Scott Snyder's New 52 run opened with a resurrected Alec on the run from his long-deferred destiny, only to find himself having to accept the transformation to try and save Abby, finally becoming Swamp Thing in truth.

Swamp Thing went on to join Justice League Dark, and featured in regular crossovers with Animal Man as new concepts/Parliaments such as the Red (animals), Black (rot/decay/death), and Grey (fungi) were introduced, with Anton Arcane returning as a regular villain for the franchise.

Besides the comic book series the character has appeared in a few other iterations such as a live action film and its sequel, a live-action TV series and a short-lived Animated Adaptation that had its own toy line and video game tie-in. In 2019 a new series was launched for DC Universe and immediately cancelled after one season. In January 2023, James Gunn and Peter Safran announced a new Swamp Thing film as part of a slate of films and television shows comprising the first phase of their relaunch of the DC Extended Universe, with James Mangold being in talks to direct after finishing with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and his Bob Dylan biopic A Complete Unknown.

Works this character has appeared in:

Swamp Thing provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Tends to happen when there is a change of writers or creative team.
    • Alan Moore's arrival on the book and plans for Swamp Thing caused an entire issue of DC Comics Presents to be shelved due to it contradicting his plans for revealing Swamp Thing was always a plant. The story is still mentioned in vague details.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Downplayed but still notable. When Darkseid appears in issue #62 of the second volume he is notably quite patient and cordial to Metron, and even jokes once or twice (Hell, he even laughs at one point!]]) It could be justified by the fact that Metron is one of the very few people Darkseid somewhat respects.
  • The Alcoholic: Matthew becomes this after he receives his Psychic Powers.
  • Alliterative Name: Anton Arcane and his niece Abigail.
  • And I Must Scream: The Boogeyman's Ironic Hell: being tormented by the ghosts of his victims while still trapped and drowning in the quicksand that killed him for all eternity.
  • Animal Motifs: Flies, and Anton Arcane.
  • Animorphism: People connected to The Red frequently have the ability to turn into or take on the powers of any kind of animal.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Swamp Thing, for plant life. The New 52 storylines add representatives for animal life, decay, machine life, writing...
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Swamp Thing stops Woodrue's rampage by asking what plants will breathe without animals to exhale carbon dioxide. Woodrue has a Villainous BSoD.
  • Author Appeal: The series came about because Berni Wrightson loved drawing swamps.
  • Badass Boast: As Swamp Thing utterly dismantles the Brujeria:
    Swamp Thing: Fools. You are in a cave... beneath the clean earth... in the center... of a rainforest.... You... do not even... have a chance.
  • Bad Future:
    • Rotworld, in which the Rot has taken over the Earth, Anton Arcane controls nearly everything, most heroes and villains are dead, and the few left alive are dying in resistance.
    • Also in the Swamp Thing: Future's End tie-in, in which Arcane has usurped control of Avatar of the Rot from Abby and Swamp Thing turns himself into a bomb to destroy him.
  • Beast and Beauty: Abby and the Swamp Thing.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Arcane, in hell for a day, experiences an eternity of torment. Abby, in for the same time, is untouched. Possibly justified in that he's evil — i.e., Hell's rightful prey — while she's an innocent. Even so, she's pretty traumatized.
  • Berserk Button: Don't touch Abby. Really, just don't.
    • And don't threaten a Green-charged Woodrue with a chainsaw. Not only will he take it personally, so will the Green.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Swampy is one of the kindest and most peaceful beings you could ever meet. But don't piss him off, if you don't want to have a tree grow inside your intestines.
  • Big Bad: Anton Arcane.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Swampy is the one to thwart Woodrue's planned destruction of all animal life, after spending days in a catatonic state thanks to Woodrue's revelation.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: Implied with Technis, the space "island" that you might have heard horrifically commits a mutilation/rape upon Swamp Thing so that she can bear his children. The highly nonchalant manner in which Technis does this — and, some time later, even narrates her perpetration of the act to her unborn offspring in excruciatingly disturbing detail — along with her repeated insistence that she did all of this partly out of profound love for Swamp Thing, suggests that this isn't something she finds unusual or worthy of guilt. (...Maybe. On the other hand, even she herself explicitly (albeit without much emotion) refers to the act as a rape, which, depending upon the reader's mileage, could be a subtle admission of guilt, or just still more evidence of a deeply alien morality.)
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: After her graphic mutilation-cod-Medical Rape and Impregnate of Swamp Thing, Technis narrates that she will one day have to self-destruct in a nuclear explosion in order to give birth to her young. It's also implied that the horror Technis committed upon Swamp Thing is how every member of her species is conceived.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: In the "vegetable sex" scene, Abigail temporarily experiences Swamp Thing's ability to sense life force, and perceives the wetlands as a shimmering field of glowing vegetation, dotted with bright life-sparks of animals.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The New 52 series.. Especially Abigail's severed head and her spinal column, esophagus, and wind pipe being held by Anton Arcane.
  • Body Horror: The Monkey King takes on the shape of its targets fears, but not very well, which just makes it all the more disturbing when it tries to look like Paul's mother.
  • Botanical Abomination: The Green is an elemental force which connects all forms of plant life on Earth in. It is governed by a group of plant elementals known as the Parliament of Trees, and usually selects a specific individual with a connection to the green to act as The Champion to maintain balance on their behalf, Swamp Thing being their most famous champion.
    • The Grey was an elemental force similar to the Green that formed on a far-off grey, alien planet. When such alien planet was destroyed, a fragmented meteor made from the remains of the planet landed on Earth, bringing what would later be known as the Fungal Kingdom with it. While the plants and fungi would live in relative peace, until Matango (a plant elemental and former member of the Parliament of Trees) defected to the Grey and tempted humanity with the Tree of Knowledge and fostered its potential to destroy, leading to hostility between the two forces of nature.
  • Break the Comedian: Anton Arcane's apocalypse horrified even the fucking Joker.
  • Breakout Character: A surly sorcerer by the name of John Constantine made his debut in Swamp Thing's series.
  • Bugs Herald Evil: Swampy's Arch Enemy Anton Arcane is heavily associated with creepy-crawlers of all kinds, especially after one defeat forced him to rebuild his mangled body with a spider chassis. In the Alan Moore run especially, the mere fact of Swampy finding a bird corpse stuffed with bugs is treated as an omen that the bad doctor is back and up to his old tricks.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Averted by The Bogeyman, who remembers his victims in detail and will not only recite those details if called upon, but will actually ask people to quiz him on it, though most don't realize that's what he's doing when he says "Give me a number".
    • During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Constantine and Mento run into Batman on the street. Batman doesn't know John, and only belatedly recognizes Mento, and when reminded that he attended the latter's wedding to Elasti-Girl, clearly has no memory of the event.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Happens a lot between writers, with nearly every writer taking a heavy-handed approach to where their predecessor left the book.
    • Everything between Len Wein's last issue on the original series and the first issue of Saga of The Swamp Thing. Len Wein literally says this in the letters page: those stories did not happen.
    • Mark Millar and Grant Morrison openly set out to do this to everything between the ending of Moore's run and theirs. In return it was done to them too, when Brian K Vaughan's run ignored Millar's finale making Swamp Thing master of all the elemental forces.
    • Alan Moore's run on the title is considered the definitive Swamp Thing, but parts of it have nevertheless become non-canon, particularly Swamp Thing's extremely public invasion of Gotham City, when he became an internationally famous figure. Commissioner Gordon, for example, no longer remembers a 50-foot tall Swamp Thing marching up Broadway.
  • Captain Ersatz: For a house. The haunted mansion Swamp Thing visits in the American Gothic arc is clearly meant to be the Winchester Mystery House. Swamp Thing himself is a Captain Ersatz of the Golden Age monster The Heap.
  • Chainsaw Good: Subverted, as "Evangeline's" wielder is easily disabled by Woodrue. In fact, since it hits Woodrue's Berserk Button, chainsaw is very bad.
  • Children Are Innocent: Sort of. A vampire that Swampy encounters claims that the blood of children is particularly delicious because it doesn't contain pollutants accumulated from a lifetime of bad habits, like nicotine, cholesterol, fat, excessive sodium, etc.
  • Chosen Conception Partner: John Constantine has Swamp Thing possess his body so that a child can be conceived with Thing's wife. Swampy did not ask permission first, but John doesn't take it too hard as he'd actually intended to propose it to Swampy before his consciousness was simply forced out of his body.
  • Comic Book Death: Anton Arcane died in the last issue before Moore took over. Of course, in comic books, dead doesn't necessarily mean dead.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Issue #8 of the original run by Len Wein has an obvious H. P. Lovecraft homage, featuring Swamp Thing visiting a mining town whose natural treasures have run out years ago, leading its mayor to commit a dark ritual summoning an evil god M'Nagalah, who absorbed him and started absorbing others to grow, hiding in the town's abandoned mine, claiming to have actually inspired Lovecraft and other horror writers. The town's people tricked Swamp Thing into going to him to be absorbed, but he defeated him and went on his way, with the story showing one of the town's people possessed by the god. M'Nagalah would later show up in Challengers of the Unknown (where Swampy was guest-starring after his first series was canceled), Trenchcoat Brigade, All-New Atom and most recently, the New 52's Secret Six.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Subverted. In one issue, Batman shows up to try to take down Swampy. He does his usual thing, sets traps, loads up with plant killer, etc. He still gets his arse handed to him by the titular Thing. In his defense, he was prepared to fight the pre-Moore Swamp Thing, not the incredibly powerful elemental he had become, with the ability to reform from any plant life after his body was destroyed, and even manifest multiple bodies at once.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check:
    • Actually the Trope Codifier. During the arc where Swamp Thing holds Gotham City hostage until Abby is freed, enemies from the Sunderland Corporation bring in Lex Luthor as a "consultant" who maps out how to destroy Swamp Thing. Luthor finishes his presentation 10 seconds early, just so the Sunderland people have enough time to write out his check.
    • Before that, the Sunderland corporation hires Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, to assist them with examining Swampy's corpse. While they do cut him his check, Sutherland also decides to treat the former supervillain like crap. Not a good idea when the supervillain knows how to operate your computer controlled security system, which you've left unattended...
  • Cyberspace: "The Metal".
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Rot is the elemental force of Death and Decay, in opposition to The Red (the collective life force of animal life) and The Green (the collective life force of plant life). It's never going to win any popularity contests, but its avatars are not normally evil. They detest the use that Anton Arcane has put the Rot to, and they assist in taking him down at the first opportunity.
  • Deal with the Devil: Matt falls afoul of one, in the same issue Jason Blood tells Abigail about one he made with Etrigan, noting how it backfired - "A bargain with a demon is no bargain at all. Demons cheat. It's in their nature."
    • Averted when Swampy himself deals with Etrigan later. Etrigan is well-disposed toward Swampy for helping him with an earlier errand, and what Swampy wants amuses him, so he accepts a low fee, bargains in good faith, and is genuinely helpful throughout.
  • Demon of Human Origin: Anton Arcane was considered so evil as to be transformed into a demon after he died and went to Hell.
  • Digital Destruction: A 2009 hardcover collection cuts short the last sentence of issue #24, changing "I want to be alive and meet the sun", to, "I want to be alive..."
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: Swampy eventually retrieves the skeleton of the real Alec Holland from the swamp, guided by the spirit of Alec himself and proving once and for all he's not really Alec.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In "Ghost Dance", Dave's girlfriend Linda angrily reveals that she was cheating on him with his now deceased best friend Rod and proclaims that she wishes he died instead, even after Dave had helped Swamp Thing save her from bloodthirsty ghosts. The story's epilogue shows Dave buying a rifle, with the intention of killing her with it.
  • Doing in the Scientist: Moore's Retcon of the hero's origin, which was also based on a theory (about planarian flatworms supposedly absorbing the memories of other flatworms which they ate) left behind as science evolved.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Anton Arcane was a sorcerer in the comics, but multiple adaptations have made him a Mad Scientist instead.
  • Dramatic Irony: As Matt is dying in a car crash, Abigail curses "damn you to hell, Matt Cable", for leaving her to deal with a demonic monkey monster on her own. Very poor choice of words, as it transpires.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Monkey King, M'Nagalah... Swamp Thing tends to encounter a lot of these.
    • Special mention should go to the Original Darkness, which was so massive that the heroes could only see the tip of its claw and was not even moving under the combined powers of The Phantom Stranger, Doctor Fate and The Spectre.
    • The New 52 series introduces The Rot, which acts as the natural force of death and decay.
  • The End... Or Is It?: "Ghost Dance" centers on the ghosts inhabiting the Cambridge Mansion, all of whom were killed with the rifle Brand the Cambridges manufactured, all of whom demand that "the sound of the hammers never stop". Swamp Thing is able to defeat them by drowning out the sound of gunfire, but the story's epilogue shows one of their would-be victims buying a rifle to kill his cheating girlfriend, while inwardly repeating to himself, "The sound of the hammers must never stop."
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When the live-action show was airing, the network sometimes showed PSAs where Swampy and Arcane said there's one thing even they can agree on: Drugs Are Bad.
  • Evil Uncle: Anton Arcane, to Abigail.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Originally, Swamp Thing wanted to 'cure' himself'; once he knows he is an Elemental, this is no longer an option.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Before setting out into the night, we see what Matt Cable's watching on the TV - a documentary on flies.
    • After Matt's car accident, Abby notes he's become a lot better, but they've been having a serious problems with flies lately.
    • When he meets Alexander Luthor during the Crisis On Infinite Earths story Swamp Thing notices a sense of apprehension at the name. Cut to a couple of stories later and his world's Lex Luthor is hired to help kill him
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Has the outline of this but Moore subverts the most basic form even while establishing it. Floronic Man thinking he was and trying to kill humanity saw Swampy point out he was thinking like a human and not even a bit like a vegetable.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • According to inker John Totleben, Woodrue's dilated pupils, in the close-up panel after he tastes the Swamp Thing's tuber in issue 2:22, are a deliberate if covert indication of drug use, still forbidden under the then-current version of the Comics Code unless depicted as a "vicious habit." (Totleben states further that Woodrue's subsequent use of an EEG device was a smokescreen for the real method by which he tapped into the Green.) When DC began releasing the title without the Code's seal of approval, it freed the creative team to make the tubers' psychedelic properties more explicit and give them a recurring role in the series.
    • In issue 2:37, when John declines Emma's offer to spend more time in bed with her, she asks whether she's ever told him what her father says about Englishmen; he responds "Yes, you did; "no, we're not; and if I ever meet your dad I'm going to chin him." The implied word after "not" is, of course, "gay," which in 1985 was the sort of "inference" to "sex perversion" which the Comics Code forbade.
  • A God Am I: Anton Arcane when he confronted Swamp Thing with Matt's Reality Warper powers. Swamp Thing was... not impressed.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Several characters.
    • Swamp Thing when he realizes he not only can't revert his transformation, there never was one in the first place.
    • Abby, when she realizes who she's actually been sleeping with after she thought she had reconciled with her husband.
    • Arcane, when he finds out how "long" he's been in Hell.
    • Woodrue, after Swamp Thing gives his "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal / Immortal Life Is Cheap: In Alan Moore's run on the series, once it's revealed that Swamp Thing can now survive bodily death, it starts happening to him quite often, almost to the point of Once per Episode.
  • Gothic Horror: The original Len Wein series was entirely Gothic Horror, to the point you expect to see a Hammer Horror logo up front. To wit: In his second and third issues, he gets kidnapped to the Balkans, where he meets a Dr. Frankenstein expy and his monster, complete with castle, villagers, pitchforks, etc. In his fourth issue, he fights a Scottish werewolf. Issue five, he stumbles into a town where they're about to burn a witch — in 1970s Maine, mind you. And so on.
    • It helped that the original artist was Bernie Wrightson, recognized as one of the greatest horror artists of his generation and a master of the Gothic style.
  • Green Aesop: Though Alan Moore likes his Aesops Subverted, or Double Subverted.
  • Green Means Natural: Swamp Thing is the Green's, a Sentient Cosmic Force that animates plant life in the DC universe and empowers plant-powered individuals, primary champion. He is a humanoid covered in swamp/plant life who is primarily concerned with the environment and the Green's stability, and is thus usually depicted as greenish in addition to his ability to control plant life.
  • Green Thumb: People who serve The Green, like Swamp Thing, have the ability to control plants.
  • Happily Married: Swamp Thing and Abby, though not legally married, consider themselves this, and have a really touching and loving relationship.
    • Later runs did have them go through a rough patch or two which led to a Heroic BSoD for Alec where he joined forces to merge all elemental powers... and destroy the world.
    • During the New 52 series, however, they end up as Star-Crossed Lovers, being avatars of the Green and the Rot respectively.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Anton Arcane, of all people. It doesn't last.
  • Heroic BSoD:
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Swamp Thing shares his point of view with Abby (as well as G-Rated Sex) by giving her a hallucinogenic fruit spawned from his "body".
  • Hive Mind: The Metal, though individual agents express a certain amounts of individuality.
  • Hope Spot: In "A Time of Running...", Matt overcomes his guilt, gets in his car and prepares to go help Abby. But he's also blind drunk, and promptly crashes the car. It gets worse from there. So very worse.
  • Horrifying Hero: Swamp Thing.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: As mentioned, Swamp Thing is captured and raped by a sentient alien island floating through space.
  • Humans Are Special: The New 52 title brings up the idea that what human avatars bring to the Green is restraint, because humans have a conscience and thus can make decisions that the rest of the Green cannot.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Swamp Thing in his battle with Arcane: "No, Arcane... You... Have never... Encountered... Me before... This... is our... first battle..." Cue epic beatdown by Swampy.
  • Inspector Javert: Matthew Cable starts out as one of these.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: It's never directly stated, but there are enough hints to figure out that Matthew the raven from The Sandman (1989) was Matthew Cable before he died. Gaiman owes a lot to Moore in getting his career started; there are several nods in Sandman to Moore's work in the DCU. This was confirmed by Gaiman in an interview, and later made explicit in an arc of The Dreaming. Swamp Thing also encounters quite a few well-established DC characters, including Superman, Batman, Etrigan, The Spectre, Deadman and Adam Strange.
  • Interspecies Romance: Plant/human with Swamp Thing and Abby. When Abby gets jailed for it, the entire legal system still wants to prosecute her for it even as an enraged Swamp Thing threatens to destroy Gotham. It's left to Batman to point out the legal hypocrisy in the DCU when he notes that the courts would have to jail the likes of Starfire, J'onn, and... oh, that guy in Metropolis.
  • Ironic Hell: After he dies, the Bogeyman finds himself at the mercy of all of his victims while still trapped in darkness and beneath several layers of mud for all eternity.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "Pog", whose title character was Pogo in a spacesuit. There's even a reference to the Pogo Christmas song, "Deck the Halls With Boston Charlie." Amusingly, Pog had a brief cameo in a later issue by another writer who didn't seem to recognize the referenced character.
  • Legacy Character:
    • Tefé in Brian K Vaughan's volume.
    • Alec himself in the New 52, taking over for his replica. A few previous Swamp Things also play a part in the series.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • During the time that Swamp Thing was exiled from Earth, he first lands on a blue-tinted world (the acclaimed issue "My Blue Heaven"). At first marooned there, he begins making clones of himself to keep company... and then creates his love Abby. By issue's end, his multiple-personality disorder drives him to madness, and he forces himself to flee to another world.
    • During that same story arc, Swamp Thing runs into Metron and the New Gods. Later, Metron barters with Darkseid using memories he acquired from Swamp Thing. Darkseid watches the lonely despair Alec feels being separated from Abby... and learns that "love" is something he needs to learn to finish his Anti-Life Equation...
  • The Man Behind the Man: Once the Monkey King is caged, Etrigan hints to Abigail that someone let it lose. She doesn't suspect, but the readers do. It's Arcane.
  • Meaningful Echo: "The night can make a man see himself." [...] "The night can make a man more brave. But not more sober."
    • "Burma Shave".
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The title of Moore's first issue? "Loose Ends". As in tying up the last plot points of the previous writers.
    • The Sunderland corporation, who were not friends of nature.
  • Medical Rape and Impregnate: Gender-inverted example: Technis does this to Swamp Thing, in addition to destroying and throwing away his body afterward.
  • Menstrual Menace: The Alan Moore story "The Curse" draws parallels between menstruation and the traditional lunar-cycle-based activity of werewolves.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: Government agent Matthew Cable, encountering the title character for the first time, believes that he's Alec Holland's murderer. Eventually the Swamp Thing manages to convince him that he is Holland - or so he thought, anyway.
  • Mistaken for Profound: Much has been made of the unusual way that the Justice League is shown in their appearance in Sage of The Swamp Thing #24; they're always out of frame, or only shown from behind, or always in shadow, etc. There has been much fan speculation about the meaning behind this, with some suggesting that it was acknowledging that the superheroes were like modern gods, hence the viewer was averthing their eyes in respect. (Similar themes of superheroes being worshipped as gods would form the spine of the last third of Moore's Miracleman run.) The truth, though? Steven Bissette hated superheroes and went out of his way not to draw them, which is why no other DC superheroes appeared in the title until after he left (he said that whenever he needed to draw a superhero, he'd go over to Rick Veitch's house and let him do it.)
  • Mood Whiplash: In a sequence that is disturbing even by the standards of this series, Swamp Thing is mutilated, raped, and forced to impregnate Technis, a deeply amoral (or at least, not remotely HUMANLY moral) being in space, before having the remains of his body unceremoniously tossed away. It's a moment that certainly does not endear the audience to Technis, to say the least, but it's followed almost immediately with the Woobie-ish reveal that, as part of her Bizarre Alien Reproduction, the now-pregnant Technis will one day have to self-destruct in a nuclear explosion in order to give birth.
  • Nature Spirit: When he was originally conceived, Swamp Thing was a scientist who was transformed into a plant monster. However, later versions would turn the character into a nature spirit, giving him a connection to "The Green," the elemental force which connects all plant life on Earth.
  • No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: One of Rick Veitch's scripts would have averted this, by portraying Jesus as a White Magician; quoth the executives: "No." This resulted in Veitch not working with DC for about fifteen years following.
  • Oh, Crap!: Usually the expression most villains developed after they realized they angered the Swamp Thing.
    • In the first ever issue, the main thug responsible for killing Alec Holland tries to shoot Swamp Thing, not realizing he's Immune to Bullets. "Die! (BLAM) (Swamp Thing approaches) Why won't you DIE! (BLAM BLAM) (Swamp Thing is face-to-face with him) DIE! (Click) Oh... my... God..."
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Swamp Thing was shot. Through the head. Fortunately for Moore, Death Is Cheap.
    • Then subverted: Our hero finds out he was already dead.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: During the American Gothic story arc, Swamp Thing fights underwater vampires who have evolved to inhabit a flooded town.
    • Crazy averted when said vampires first show up in the series. Before the flood, the vampires were hurt by crosses and holy water, and many met their end via a stake to the heart.
    • Notable in that rather than simply being unable to cross running water, these vampires were living underwater to hide from sunlight. This proved their undoing when Swamp Thing decided to drain their hometown.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolf in "The Curse" is an expression of feminist rage.
  • Painting the Medium: Panels were drawn sideways during the semi-cannibalistic hallucinogenic sweet potato sex scene. Because without a representative artistic mode, you wouldn't realize that something new and different was going on.
  • Popularity Power: Subverted; when Batman takes on Swamp Thing, he gets demolished.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Matt Cable was a Reality Warper, and he used this power mostly for entertainment purposes.
  • Primordial Chaos: The "Original Darkness" is summoned up in Moore's run.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Napalm specialist Paulie Skinner, one of the D. D. I. goons who shot the Swamp Thing with a bioelectrical pattern-jamming device and then napalmed his body in an attempt to permanently kill the group's longtime enemy. The middle-aged Skinner is shown still living with his mom in a boyishly-decorated bedroom, with his mom tucking him into bed and bringing him hot cocoa. His happy dream in that scene shows him as a two-year old (with his balding, mustached, wrinkled head on the dream's toddler body) contentedly waving a rattle on his mother's lap — though the dream suddenly turns into a nightmare of his mother smothering him as the Swamp Thing, newly returned from space and seeking vengeance for being separated for months from his home and wife, suffocates Skinner under a massive pile of peach blossoms.
  • The Quiet One: Swamp Thing was one in his early days. It wasn't that he couldn't speak, just that it was difficult.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The Bogeyman stumbles into quicksand when Swamp Thing attacks him and quickly drowns.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Needless to say, Alec and Constantine don't get along very well anymore.
    • Not that they ever really did.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: After discovering that he's an intelligent plant instead of a mutated human, Swamp Thing steadily develops an array of abilities that put him quite comfortably in Physical God territory, Gaia's Vengeance-style. In the penultimate arc of Alan Moore's run, he turns a major city into a rainforest in less than four hours; "two hundred years of civilization reduced to jungle in as many minutes". In the final issue of Alan Moore's run, he considers turning the world into a green version of Miracleman's... but realizes that his predecessors had the opportunity to do the same for themselves, the fish and/or the dinosaurs but decided against it to permit other forms of life to follow them - and because Nemo and Dino really hadn't done anything to justify it... and neither has humanity (not to mention the whole assassination/exile thing he went through for the previous nine issues), so he decides simply to live out Abby's life then retire to the Parliament of Trees.
    • Jason Woodrue tries using the power of the Green to serve human purposes in the New 52 run, but doesn't understand what he's doing with it comes at the expense of another part of the Green, so people still end up suffering.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted when Killer Croc moves in with Swamp Thing, and lives Happily Ever After (well, until the next time Croc appeared in an issue of Batman where he left the swamp and returned to villany).
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Etrigan speaks exclusively in rhymes. It's a status thing among demons.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Volume 2, Issue 63. During Moore's run, Swamp Thing returns to Earth after planet hopping using the Green. Despite missing his lover terribly the entire time, he starts things off by killing four executives of the Sunderland Corporation, the company responsible for sending him off planet to begin with, and the source of a great deal of grief the entire comic's run.
  • Serial Killer: The Bogeyman, who has killed more than 100 victims by the time he appears in the comic.
  • Shout-Out: During The Fluoronic Man's destructive rampage through Louisiana, he rants about killing off all the people and animals and leaving the world to plantlife, proclaiming it will be "another green world." Another Green World is a classic album released by Brian Eno in 1975.
  • Single-Palette Town: An issue where the protagonist goes to an alien world in blue and remakes it to look more like home... with the worst case of multiple personality disorder ever seen in a comic book.
  • Spin-Off: John Constantine first appeared during Alan Moore's run.
  • Starfish Aliens: The eponymous hero encounters a sentient biomechanical planetoid, which then rapes him. Did I mention?
  • Starter Villain: Nathan "Mr E" Ellery and the Conclave, the group who originally tried to extort the Bio-Restorative Formula from Alec Holland. After being The Man Behind the Man for the first eight issues, he fell off a balcony during a crossover with Batman. A few issues later he reappeared, now paralysed, and was Killed Off for Real.
  • Story Within a Story: Mark Millar wrote an arc entitled River Run, which had Swamp Thing helping the ghost of a writer complete her book of short stories by traveling inside them and acting as the link to tie the stories together and successfully complete them.
  • Swamp Monster: The titular Swamp Thing is the Trope Codifier for the Muck Monster variety, having eclipsed Man-Thing in fame due to his appearances in numerous adaptations. Swamp Thing is an entity whose body is composed of vegetation and plant matter, and has been granted very powerful Green Thumb powers that actually make him an elemental avatar of nature. Unlike many other examples of this trope, Swamp Thing is a full-fledged, if unusual, superhero. There have been many different holders of the Swamp Thing name over the years, with perhaps the most famous version being Alec Holland.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: When Alec Holland relentlessly sought to regain his humanity, he was Cursed with Awesome; a "muck-encrusted mockery of a man" with superhuman strength and invulnerability. When Swamp Thing discovered he was merely a "plant doing its level best to be Alec Holland", he (after a rather gross Heroic BSoD) discovers his true power as a sapient extension of Earth's ecosystem, with all the powers thereof.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Swamp Thing learns that he was never Alec Holland — physically, at least. He still retains Holland's consciousness, and Abby still calls him Alec. And then he meets Alec's soul in Heaven, the final nail in the coffin of the idea that he's anything more than a copy of Holland's memories.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Applies to the escaped convict in Issue 10, who sees Swamp Thing coming when he's caught attempting to strangle an old black woman, so he can steal her soup, and immediately thinks he can take him. Swamp Thing is over seven feet tall, weighs 547 lbs, and it is all "muscle."
  • Trauma Conga Line: Anna of the River Run story arc was put through the wringer by the Parliament of Waves in their determination to make her their champion. They manipulated events so that she lost her job, boyfriend, house, and her sister in that order (Anna also had an abortion, but that had nothing to do with them). Finally, after feeling unable to complete her collection short stories, the only thing she had left at that point, she killed herself. The Parliament of Waves was counting on this, unfortunately for them and Anna, her spirit became trapped in the River Run book. The only way she could be freed was if she could complete the stories and find someone else to be the champion of the Parliament. That's where Swamp Thing entered the picture.
  • Trickster Mentor: Constantine.
  • Übermensch: Tefé regards herself as one, until she's Brought Down to Normal.
  • Under the Sea: The Clear.
  • The Unfought: Nukeface from Allan Moore's legendary run. A mutated vagrant who's addicted to nuclear waste, Nukeface is an amicable guy who's too crazed to realize that people die just by being near him. In the space of two issues, he unintentionally kills a man, destroys the Swamp Thing's body, irradiates a pregnant woman who was trying to help him — and then simply leaves to find his next "fix."
  • Wham Line:
    • "But you see, if he read my report, he'll know that just isn't true. He never will be Alec Holland. He isn't Alec Holland. He never was Alec Holland."
    • "You can't kill a vegetable by shooting it in the head."
    • "Just say uncle."
  • Wicked Cultured: In the cartoon the evil henchmen usually derisively called Swamp Thing "muck man." Arcane tended to go for the more erudite "muck-encrusted mockery of a man."
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Matthew Cable.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In the New 52, William Arcane.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Swampy visits hell, where he finds Anton Arcane, who died in the last issue. Arcane asks how many years the spiders have been laying eggs in his body and eating their way out. Turns out it's been a day. Arcane screams in horror.

Alternative Title(s): Saga Of The Swamp Thing