What You Need To Know About Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, One Of The Key Comics Behind James Gunn's DC Universe

The DC Extended Universe as we know it seems to be nearing its end, or at least a very comic book-like, universe-shifting reboot. Reflecting the corporate changes at the higher echelon of Warner Bros. after its merger with Discovery, Inc., the company's DC branch is facing its own changing of the guard, bringing in filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran to head the "DC Universe." Gunn's initial slate of films and television series, dubbed "Chapter One: Gods and Monsters," will introduce heroes like Supergirl, Booster Gold, and Damian Wayne, as well as Swamp Thing, who is arguably the most exciting part of Gunn's roster.

Gunn is clearly a fan of the weirder and uglier sides of both Marvel and DC comics. He helped turn the Guardians of the Galaxy from an obscure team of C- and D-list cosmic heroes to Marvel headliners, and then repeated the formula with even lesser-known characters for DC's "The Suicide Squad" and "Peacemaker." Swamp Thing, who already had two low-budget '80s movies (the first of which was directed by horror legend Wes Craven) and a recent, short-lived television series, is, in fact, more of a star than Gunn's previous adaptations. However, he's still a part of DC's strange, scary side, and there's no better representation of what Swamp Thing is all about than Alan Moore's acclaimed run on "The Saga of the Swamp Thing." Embracing horror elements more than superhero trappings, Moore interwove themes of mysticism, philosophy, and environmentalism to create a remarkably spiritual comic book creature.

The Elementals and the Green

Alan Moore's take on Swamp Thing was a milestone for DC Comics, proving that the publisher didn't need to rely solely on family-friendly fare. The Comics Code Authority's rejection of the material brought in a wave of new readers hungry to embrace the growing maturity of comic books in the '80s, culminating in 1986 with Moore's other classic work, "Watchmen." 

Swamp Thing was created by the writer/artist team of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. He started out as the mutated form of scientist Alec Holland, but Moore's reinvention of the character crucially changed that more traditional superhero origin story. Instead of Holland himself, the Swamp Thing was a manifestation of bayou plant biology with the imbued consciousness of Holland. In other words, Swamp Thing isn't actually a man, but a sentient plant who believes he's a man.

This origin story allowed Moore to explore existential questions about humanity while also turning Swamp Thing into an Elemental, a concept that would forever connect the character to the mystical side of DC and bring him into contact with characters like John Constantine, Zatanna (who deserves a DC movie of her own), and the Spectre. As an Elemental, Swamp Thing is a protector of the universal force that connects all plant life known as The Green, answering to a spiritual council of past Elementals called the Parliament of Trees. These are some wild, trippy ideas that were initially only found in "The Saga of the Swamp Thing" comic, but with the success of Moore's run came Swamp Thing's further inclusion in the rest of the DC Universe.

Beauty and the Beast

Alec Holland's intimate relationship with Abby Arcane, niece of nemesis Anton Arcane, also defined Alan Moore's run, leading to a famously psychedelic, multi-page lovemaking scene after Abby ingests a fruit grown on Swamp Thing's body. Unfortunately, the rest of society doesn't look too kindly on human/plant romance, and Abby eventually lands in jail in Gotham City, bringing Swamp Thing into a crossover with Batman. Other mainstream heroes like the Justice League briefly appear in Moore's "Swamp Thing," but in true Alan Moore fashion they often came across as cold deities looking down on a world beneath them. Instead, it was the grotesque yet compassionate Swamp Thing that represented true heroism, learning how his duties could turn his warped identity into something beautiful and meaningful.

James Mangold is reportedly in talks to direct the "Swamp Thing" film for Gunn's DC Universe. The filmmaker has already shown that he has a handle on mature comic book storytelling, bringing a timeless gravitas to Wolverine when he directed "Logan." Bringin Moore's interpretation and all of its mind-melting, boundary-pushing, sci-fi, horror, and romance elements to a live-action setting is a particularly difficult feat to pull off, but Mangold just might be the right person to take on the job. Hopefully, "Swamp Thing" can challenge the status quo and bring a fresh, green outlook to DC's cinematic landscape just as the character did for the comic books.