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Monday, May 23, 2016

USENET Fandom - Fan reaction to Alan Moore's version of Swamp Thing

Before we had the World Wide Web, we had UseNet. Developed in 1980, UseNet allowed a collection of computer users to interconnect via dial-up modems and post messages onto newsgroups (which resemble BBSes). Anywhere and anytime comic fans are able to congregate, you know they will be exchanging opinions and ideas about comic books - particularly DC comic books. In today's segment, Chris Sheehan examines what online comic fans were saying about Crisis on Infinite Earths. Please note: usernames have been removed for privacy reasons.

For today’s installment we will begin looking at the primitive Internet’s reaction to learning that all they knew about Swamp Thing... was wrong. As luck would have it, I hear tell there was recently a podcast on this subject... somewhere. You’re a resourceful bunch, I’m sure you can find it if you look hard enough.

Let’s look at a missive from a fella we’ll call MC, "Swamp Thing #21 (spoiler)" dated November 6, 1983. Curiously, almost two full weeks before the release date, if DCIndexes is to be believed (Release date listed as November 17, 1983). More likely the posting date got janked at some point in the past quarter century.

MC opines:

Starting at the start, Warrior Magazine was an anthology mag published in Great Britain. It featured several stories per issue, and would include Alan Moore’s early work on features such as V for Vendetta and the re-imagined Marvelman (aka: Miracleman). I lucked into a handful of these at a used-book store sometime around the turn of the century. They are amazing pieces of history to behold. Seeing the original V for Vendetta in all its black and white glory is a real treat.

It would be Moore’s work in Warrior as well as 2000AD that caught the eye of Len Wein, who at the time was working as an editor for DC Comics.

Contrary to the belief of many, Alan Moore’s first issue of (Saga of) Swamp Thing was NOT with issue #21’s "Anatomy Lesson", but with issue #20’s "Loose Ends". As MC offers, issue #20 was a somewhat middling affair, and served primarily as a bridge from the previous creator Martin Pasko’s stories to Moore’s new take on the character. It would close with the scene that would truly move the character into the new direction... it ends with the apparent death of the titular Swamp Thing.

As MC continues, The Anatomy Lesson is completely narrated by Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man. To his surprise (and likely that of the loyal readership) none of Swamp Thing’s internal “organs” would or could ever be of any use... at least in the way they’re intended. They were “stuffing” … Swamp Thing thought itself to be Alec Holland, and as such grew what it thought it needed to truly be Alec Holland.

Jason Woodrue - the Floronic Man

Woodrue thinks on a study done with flatworms... which, in fact actually occurred (on our Earth) in 1960. Granted, we get the inch-deep mile-wide explanation of the subject... that is all we really need here. The planarian worms would be fed pieces of chopped up worm, with the theory being that the eaten worm’s memories/skillset would be transferred to the eater worms. As if one’s memories are physically imprinted on a being’s RNA. On our Earth, the results were hotly contested... though, the test would be conducted time and again, often with government funding.

MC’s thoughts on the take are primarily positive, though he draws mention how this flies in the face of earlier stories. As it turns out in the letters column for Saga of the Swamp Thing v2 #6, editor Len Wein states that “all of the stories published after issue #21 [of volume 1] never happened, that is, Alec never became predominantly human”.

Moore’s take on Marvelman, as MC mentions has similar “everything you thought you knew was wrong” elements. Not wanting to be totally beholden to what came before, however, not wanting to disregard it all either... the Silver-Age exploits of the Marvelman family were, as stated induced hallucinations. A perfect example of having one’s cake and eating it too.

MC closes out his missive with a brief mention of a Jack Kirby return to the Fourth World characters and concept. I’m thinking this is what leads to the Hunger Dogs, however, before going any deeper into that subject, I’m going to have to do a bit of homework.

That’s gonna do it for this installment. MC’s forum post, sadly, went unanswered. That’s the way things went back when you had to dial in... and not every day/week either. No worries however, MC wasn’t the only DC Comics fan to opine on the Anatomy Lesson. Next time, we will look at some more. As always, if you have any additions or corrections, please feel free to contact me in care of this website. Thank you for reading. (Don’t forget to check out the podcast!)


Can't wait for the next installment in this series of articles? For more of Chris Sheehan, check out his highly recommended Chris is on Infinite Earths blog.


  1. About the date discrepancy: November 17, 1983 is the newsstand release date. But direct market stores received their comics three weeks before newsstands.

    1. Thank you for clearing that up, Rodrigo! That's great information to have.