Thought Bubble 2021: The Swamp Thing Panel Round Up

by Olly MacNamee

The last panel of the day, but a big one. James Tynion IV, Ram V, and Mike Perkins talk all about everyone’s favourite muck monster (sorry, Man-Thing, but it’s the truth!)

The first question was an obvious one but a good one: how did they first get drawn into Swamp Thing? For Ram it was reading The Sandman and wanting to know more about the DC Universe of the late ‘80s. And The Saga of the Swamp Thing could simply not be ignored.

For Perkins it was when he was working in a comic shop as a teenage and picking up UK reprints. Adding that when drawing Swampy you can’t get it wrong and juts let the pen direct you in any way it will.

Tynion’s gateway was through book stores and, like Perkins, collected editions of Alan Moore’s ‘American Gothic storyline.

Talking about their current series, Perkins and Ram were sharing a lot of body horror references. The aim was to continue Moore’s legacy but with including modern imagery and references, it can also be completely new too. With some kickback. Ram mentions a cover that was never used. It depicted a head being sliced up, like a loaf of bread. You can imagine the worries DC editorial would have had. 

Tynion’s pitch for Justice League Dark included the full history of DC Comics’ horror with the characters that made up the team. Swamp Thing not only has a radical set of different powers to everyone else, but he also added a certain weigh to the team too.

But now we have Levi Kamei. Alec’s story has already been told, as Perkins says. Ram was keen to move away from Alec Holland too. From a narrative point of view, Ram wanted to tell the story of the Swamp Thing, not Alec. And in that way he follows on from Moore, who had famously separated Holland from the Champion of the Green. Stories change, people change society change. So too the character of Swamp Thing. Hence Levi, an Indian educated and living in America. A new character who’s cultural heritage offers a new point of view.

Plus, there was a cycle fo repetition with Swamp Thing; always returning to Abby Arcane and the same kind of stories being recycled. With Levi – Perkins interjects – he can change back and forth, again leaning into the body horror of this new series. 

Talking about the future and the second series the two collaborators want to look thematically look at humanity’s changes to the Earth and how does an elemental character like Swamp Thing, and The Green, cope with that. A new Parliament was teased, but no name was given. You’ll just have to read the book.

Tynion admits that his run on Justice League Dark came at a time he was considering leaving DC Comics. It was therapy through writing, but he didn’t realise it at the time. Swamp Thing is certainly one of the more existential characters to haunt the pages of comic books past and present that’s for sure. 

Tynion also recognised that you always need a “sad monster” on a team book. It just so happened that his Justice League Dark was a team of sad monster, but with Wonder Woman. 

Ram V then went on to tease further clues what we will all be seeing in the second, shorter series. The Parallel Wanderer from the first season will be coming back, but we may not really know who he was. Plus, bringing in old school characters like Chemo, means you can do something new.

But, there’s also other green characters in the DC Universe who have yet to cross over with. Who could that be? The Martian Manhunter? Green Lantern? Or even Green Arrow? After all, as Perkins witty retorted, his arrows have to come from somewhere. Plus, another character linked to the wilderness. Could that be The Authority’s Jack Hawksmoor, maybe?

And even bigger DC names too!

Of course both Ram and Perkins wanted to emphasis how much of a collaborative series this is, with Mike Spicer and Aditya Bidikar contributing greatly. Something Tynion echoes with his own collaborations on books too. 

All in all an interesting panel that focused on the Swamp Thing today and in the near future. Not dismissing the legacy of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, but then this wasn’t that kind of panel. Although Tynion, and the rest of the panel, were happy to recognise that all of what has come was because of them. You can definitely see it in Perkins’ art if you’ve been reading the new series.

Winding down the conversation Ram shared a story from his first comic con in England, He was talking about his love for the art of John Totleben, only to be tapped on the shoulder by the legend’s wife! He was sitting right behind him and she implored him to share his love of the art with him as, it seems, he had been treated to that point at the con in a rather shabby manner. Thanksfully, at Thought Bubble it seems the creators are treated well. Here’s to next year!

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