Swamp Thing fucks. This is not me being crude or trying to be salacious. This is a fact, made clear, repeatedly, in the pages of the many Swamp Thing comics over the last 48 years. Swamp Thing, a mass of sentient plant matter that identifies as male, fucks. And because the DC Universe show has been cruelly cut short (twice!) we are probably not going to see that sexually realized moss man.
This has nothing to do with me being mad that I will not get to share what would be a truly bizarre sequence of cinematic events with friends and family. (It would not be the first such sequence on DC Universe, either.) I’m the only person I know who subscribes to the streaming service-home to live action versions of Swamp Thing,, and Doom Patrol-eyed for the chopping block by AT&T and WarnerMedia. I’m mad because I only, finally, read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run 32 years after it started, and I loved the whole wild mess and I’m furious that we won’t to get to see it adapted when we were so close.
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I’d certainly heard a lot about Moore’s run, and I’d always entertained reading it because even when Moore is creepy and weird he’s still doing something interesting. It was only when I finally subscribed to DC Universe (so I could watch Doom Patrol and a few animated movies I didn’t want to rent) that I opted to actually read his run, and boy…it really is at turns tremendous, romantic, epic, outrageous, and distinctly Alan Moore.
Swamp Thing, for the uninitiated (which was me like three weeks ago) was originally about a scientist who suffered a terrible accident that killed his wife and left him in the body of a swamp monster. Moore’s run posited that Swamp Thing wasn’t a man in a monster’s body, but a sentient life force imbued with a dead man’s memories. Moore’s Swamp Thing might have answered to the name Alec, but he was not actually a man.
The DC Universe show seems to abide by the same philosophy. Alec is dying and then consumed by the swamp, becoming one with it. While the show is only three episodes in, and fairly plot-heavy thus far, there is still the question if it is Alec’s consciousness lurking in Swamp Thing, or simply his memories.
What isn’t left up to doubt is Swamp Thing’s romance with Abby Arcane. In the comics, she’s a Romanian nurse who happens to also be the niece of Swamp Thing’s mortal enemy. They’re friends in the pages of Swamp Thing until Alan Moore took over the book in 1984 with issue 20. His Swamp Thing is melancholic and undeniably attracted to his good friend Abby, who resists any attraction she shares to focus on fixing her relationship with her husband, Matt Cable. Over the course of Moore’s run, the two grow closer and closer, eventually, they confess their feelings. Immediately afterward they discuss how a swamp creature and a lady could have sex, plan a course of action, and by golly, they commit to it.
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Abby consumes a psychedelic yam that grew off of Swamp Thing and then has sex with him while tripping. As my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore noted two years ago, it is all very sex-positive and tasteful for the comic equivalent of a woman tripping on shrooms and banging a fern.
If you thought the issue was a one-off you would be mistaken. It is not. Swamp Thing and Abby’s relationship is at the center of Moore’s entire run, where he also makes it clear, repeatedly and unequivocally, that Swamp Thing fucks. There is an entire arc where Abby is imprisoned and Swamp Thing faces off against Batman and terrorizes Gotham as a 30-story tree because he and Abby fuck and the rest of the world cannot handle it.
It’s a storyline that broke me because of how wonderfully wild it is. But I was also struck by the powerfully queer element of Moore’s take on Abby and Swamp Thing’s relationship. While Moore doesn’t attempt to draw explicit parallels between Swamp Thing and any one element of the LBGTQIA community, the comic deals in language that will be familiar. From Abby’s arrest on indecency charges (after a Peeping Tom spies her making love to Swamp Thing) to the court’s struggle to understand what she and Swamp Thing are to one another, the entire arc is gay as hell.
And it does a great job of removing the puritanical lens through which we, at least in America, often view our anthropomorphic monsters. They might resemble us in stature or spirit but they rarely, if ever fuck, like us. They are often asexual beings, or their romantic feelings aren’t reciprocated. They’re already Othered by being, you know, actual monsters.
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Yet by denying them the whole range of experiences humans get, they’re Othered in a more difficult and potentially destructive way. Anyone who has been treated poorly based on their appearance or romantic inclinations can identify with the monsters we unfairly persecute. Seeing one find not just love, but a stable and enduring emotional and physical relationship is a powerful thing.
The beauty of Swamp Thing and Abby isn’t just that they fuck, but that it’s one element of a sweeping romance that spans time, space, the afterlife, and at least one murder of an alien Swamp Thing puppet fashioned to look like Abby. It’s wild, and kind of tremendous, and I’m furious that we won’t get most of that with the cancellation of Swamp Thing.
The big green giant fucks, and we deserve to see it.
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