Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: 'Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers!'


In 1940, Theodore Sturgeon published an atmospheric, highly unsettling story about a murderous mass of swamp vegetation called “It” in Unknown magazine. Sturgeon’s career would continue to blossom, adding such achievements as the script for the classic “Star Trek” episode “Amok Time” and inspiring Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout to his résumé. The swamp creature would go on to have an even more flourishing life. Shortly after the publication of “It”, The Heap oozed across patriotic Airboy comics. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties, muck monsters like the Lurker in the Swamp, Bog Beast, Marvin the Dead-Thing, Man-Thing, a revived Heap, and especially, Swamp Thing were sprouting up in every comic brand worth its salt.

Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers!, the sixth installment of The Comic Book Creator series, doesn’t get too deeply into why swamp monsters caught on the way they did (I think it has to do with both our fear of primordial swamp environments and the way such isolated places serve as pathways to exploring our own feelings of isolation), but it doesn’t skimp on anything else about these unique creatures. This text-thick, completely illustrated edition features a detailed and critical timeline of muck monsters in the comics, full-color pin-ups, the full text of Sturgeons “It”, biographies of the half-dozen-or-so major muckers, and a series of very in-depth interviews with monster makers such as Len Wein, Alan Moore, and Bernie Wrightson (Swamp Thing), Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik (The Man-Thing). Rather than being mere page-filler, these interviews are consistently fascinating, whether Wein offers his brief but thought-provoking take on the appeal of swamp monsters, Wrightson gets into his Monster Kid childhood, or Moore waxes philosophical about his Swamp Thing contributions and handles some no-punches-pulled questions graciously (although it is off topic, I was hoping hed discuss The Killing Joke a bit too, but he doesnt). While Swampmen doesn’t hesitate to take its bizarre topic seriously, there is almost always a sense of fun purveying this colorful, informative, artful, and intelligent volume.

Get Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers! on Amazon.com here:


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