With last year’s Rebirth relaunch, the popularity of the DC Universe in comics form has hit a new high, and several of its most beloved characters have gone through a renaissance of sorts as the New 52 timeline bled into an even newer one. But of all the characters going through reappraisal, perhaps none has gotten as big a mainstream push as Swamp Thing, the hulking mass of humanoid vegetation that started as a scientist getting doused with chemicals and became the millennia-old defender of Earth itself. Now he’s in two different animated versions, and will soon be a playable character in the upcoming Injustice 2.
(Check out Everything We Know About Injustice 2 so far!)
The above video, from Internet Gaming Network, shows off Swamp Thing’s special moves and fighting abilities—which utilize his various plant life-harnessing prowess—like trapping combatants in vines or even making a plant duplicate of himself to aid in the pummeling, a-la Noob Saibot from Mortal Kombat. (Remember, Injustice 2 comes to us from NetherRealm Studios, founded by Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon). Plus, it’s just kind of funny to see a huge plant beat the tar out of Damien Wayne, I have to say.
The amazing thing to me is not how well the character is rendered for the fighting game (though that is quite good), it’s that the character has finally permeated the zeitgeist to be one of the most-requested characters to debut in Injustice 2. We’re talking about a character who began life as a one-off story by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson in a 1971 issue of House of Secrets and had steadily grown in popularity over a 15-year-span. It was incredibly popular in the ’70s but fell victim to the DC implosion of 1978 (read more about that in Eric Diaz’s excellent history of Teen Titans).
He hit another brief high in 1982 with a (pretty crappy, I must say) Wes Craven movie (reviewed for Schlock & Awe) but truly hit creative pay dirt when Alan Moore took over the writing of the monthly Saga of the Swamp Thing series and turned the character from a scientist-made-swampy after a chemical explosion, into plants trying to approximate human form after exposure to the aforementioned scientist. He expanded that even further by saying that Swamp Thing was a defender of Mother Earth and had been since the dawn of time, making him part of every ecosystem in the world, able to travel from marsh to marsh. Moore’s stories started getting much more deep and philosophical, with a distinct tinge of psychedelia.
Swamp Thing almost had a big resurgence in the ’90s with a film sequel, a syndicated live-action series, a very short-lived cartoon series, and a couple of poorly received video games, but alas it was not to be (even though I did get a Swamp Thing action figure in 1991 because of that cartoon. It’s arm pulled out on a string). While the character had some comics love more and more in recent years (appearing in the Brightest Day arc and showing up in the Justice League Dark comics), it wasn’t until word got around that Swamp Thing would have appeared in Guillermo del Toro‘s Justice League Dark aborted film version that the character was legitimized again.
Now he’s both appeared in the animated Justice League Dark animated movie that recently came out, and as a semi-regular on the younger-viewer aiming Cartoon Network series, Justice League Action, voiced by Mark Hamill. The fact that both Swamp Thing and John Constantine—who began in the pages of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing—are now so ubiquitous that they are in a children’s TV show is baffling to me.
So, hooray Dr. Alec Holland, or whatever name you choose to go by, on finally getting your proper due. I look forward to playing as you in a video game where I get to beat up the worst Robin very soon.
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Images: DC Comics/NetherRealm Studios/Cartoon Network/WB Animation
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and an avowed DC Comics fanboy. Follow him on Twitter!