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Conversation with Swamp Thing

Brooklyn Daily

Comic book characters live and die by the writers who are trusted with their fates.

It was with great pleasure this newspaper discovered Brooklynite Charles Soule would take over the venerable, plant-monster serial “Swamp Thing” — so we had to check in with the writer to see what he has in store for the world’s most articulate shrubbery.

Colin Mixson: Were you a Swamp Thing fan before taking over for Snyder? Can you talk about any previous Swamp Thing scribes you admire?

Charles Soule: Without a doubt. Swamp Thing’s role in comics history is absolutely huge. The big shrub has appeared in hundreds upon hundreds of comic book issues, TV shows, movies, you name it. Lots of comic characters have a long publishing history, though. What I think makes Swamp Thing stand out is that it’s always been a book about ideas. Swamp Thing’s best writers have been able to take the simple, everyday concept of a man who turns into a giant, walking plant and turn out stories that address deep questions of human existence.

[When] Alan Moore took over the title, and brought in incredibly deep and far-ranging ideas — it was certainly still a book capable of terrifying stories, but it had a spiritual side to it that was pretty amazing. Moore stayed on the book for almost 45 issues. Since then, some of the biggest and best writers and comics have taken their turn on Swamp Thing — Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Joshua Dysart, Andy Diggle, and most recently, Scott Snyder. That’s a pretty amazing legacy, and it’s a blast to be part of it.

CM: You’re taking up Swamp Thing with issue number 19 as part of the character’s reboot in an overhaul of all of DC’s iconic superheroes. I’m wondering, what manner of swamp creature are we dealing with here? Swamp Thing has been reinvented more than once amidst his ongoing bayou battles.

CS: Well, I’m picking up directly where Scott Snyder leaves the character at the end of number 18. Scott has done a killer job reinventing the character for a new audience as part of DC’s big “New 52” reboot of all of its titles, and he’s leaving Alec Holland in a great spot for new stories to be told. Without spoiling anything, we’ve already seen in the first year and a half of Scott’s run that Alec has sacrificed quite a bit in order to become the Swamp Thing — he’s a supernatural hero whose job it is to protect the world from various insane threats, and more particularly as the Avatar of the Green, sort of a knight who’s supposed to advance the interests of the plant kingdom on earth. That’s a weird gig, to put it mildly, and while Alec is a committed hero, he has a ways to go before he totally understands what he’s gotten himself in for. Lots of battles, internal and external. It’ll be a fun ride.

CM: As a Brooklyn-based writer, can readers expect to see any references to the County of Kings in Swamp Thing’s journeys? If Swamp Thing were to find his way to Brooklyn, do you think he would prefer Prospect, or Marine Park? Maybe the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refugee? I understand its swampy down there.

CS: All of the “regular” cities in the world exist in the DC Universe right alongside their fictional counterparts. There’s a great gag that the DC version of Earth is like 20 percent bigger than the regular one — it has to be bigger, to fit in all the extra cities like Metropolis, Gotham, and so on. In other words, DC definitely has a New York!

I’ve lived in NYC for about sixteen years (six of that in Brooklyn), and it’s one of my favorite places in all the world. I put references to the city in my stuff whenever I can — I actually have another book hitting right around the same time as my first Swamp Thing issue called Strange Attractors. It’s a graphic novel about two mathematicians — one young, one old — who use advanced applications of complexity theory to model New York City and turn it into sort of an engine. They then use the city-machine to try to prevent a huge crisis coming down the pipe. It’s basically a love letter to this amazing city.

So, if I like this crazy place enough to write a book like that, I think it’s a given that if I can, I’ll bring the Swamp Thing to the city. I think Jamaica Bay’s a good bet, but Prospect Park is hard to beat. My local is Fort Greene Park, so perhaps an appearance there? Or maybe down in Greenwood Cemetery? Seems like some spooky stuff could happen in one of Brooklyn’s largest graveyards.

CM: Swamp Thing and Abigail have been an item for a while now, but do you think Swamp Thing could ever have any interest in another woman? One would think the lovely Poison Ivy would, at the very least, be worth a second thought.

CS: Poison Ivy is always worth thinking about — ignore her at your peril! While I don’t want to get into too many details about specific plot points just yet, I have plans to introduce several new female characters to the title, and I think there’s a good chance we might see the occasional plant-lady make-out session. I mean, that’s what the audience demands, right?

You bring up a larger point, though, which is that Swamp Thing has been brought into the fold of the larger DC Universe — for a lot of his previous run, he was in his own corner of the DC publishing line called Vertigo, which had its own stable of characters that rarely interacted with the DC mainstays like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Because Swamp Thing’s now running around in the same world as the rest of DC’s great lineup, I can put him into situations where he’s interacting with other superpowered characters — in some cases for the first time. Many possibilities for great stories, and I’m going to do what I can to tell a few!

“Swamp Thing #19” at Bergen Street Comics [470 Bergen St. between Flatbush and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 230–5600, www.bergenstreetcomics.com]. April.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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