“Swamp Thing” Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson; Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book character of the same name; Starring Len Carlson, Don Francks, Philip Akin, Errol Slue, Harvey Atkin, Gordon Masten, Joe Matheson, Richard Yearwood, Jonathan Potts, and Tabitha St. Germain; Originally aired on Fox Kids October 31, 1990; Run time 22 minutes.
As with so many animated series from this era, “Swamp Thing” was a thinly veiled attempt at selling toys. The number of visually interesting characters and vehicles was almost overwhelming, but underneath the shameless cash grab was a decent set of characters and story concept.
Swamp Thing is one of my favorite DC/Vertigo characters due in large part to the reimaginings of Alan Moore. As with the other television adaptations of the character, the animated series avoided most of what Moore put on the page, instead leaning on the original origin. Alec Holland, a scientist searching for a scientific answer to the problem of world hunger is sabotaged by Anton Arcane. Arcane wants to steal Holland’s growth formula in an attempt at obtaining eternal life, in the ensuing chaos, Holland is covered in growth formula and leaps into the swamp where he is transformed into Swamp Thing, a creature made entirely of plants but retaining the mind of Dr. Holland.
Once Holland becomes Swamp Thing he is able to manipulate his body by growing it at will, he is also able to manipulate other plan life in his vicinity. Swamp Thing/Holland was accompanied by a select group of friends who helped him thwart the efforts of Arcane, including Tomahawk, a Native American ranger protecting the swamp, Bayou Jack, a Vietnam veteran, and two teenagers. Arcane, similarly has a group of henchmen known as the Un-Men, including a snake man called Dr. Deemo, a human-bat hybrid known as Skinman, and a super creepy multi-limbed centipede monster called Weed Killer. It’s worth noting that Bayou Jack is also temporarily turned into a fourth Un-Man human-mantis hybrid in the third episode titled “Falling Red Star” when our heroes encounter a fallen nuclear powered satellite.
“Swamp Thing” was similar to other series from the nineties in its exploration of environmental themes making it unique in that it taught kids the importance of environmental preservation while also being a pretty shameless capitalist money making scheme. Cognitive dissonance be damned.
Unfortunately, the series lasted only five episodes before meeting an untimely demise. While the character’s time in the hallowed halls of nineties animation were cut short, he is alive and well in the medium that birthed him, you can read some of the best stories ever paneled in classic and modern comic books. All five episodes of the animated series are also available on YouTube.