Swamp Thing


…2015 is shaping up to be!

2014 was beyond anything I ever could have expected (among other things, I killed Wolverine,) and I could fill up a hundred posts talking about it, but at this point, I’d like to look ahead, and talk about some of the things I have coming up. I am currently working on ten comics projects very actively (as in, scripting them for publication,) with five of them already announced, and others still out there in the pre-solicitation wind. Some thoughts on the current slate:

1. Letter 44 – scripted through Issue 20, and Issue 13 just hit stands. The response to this book continues to amaze. I mean, it’s a densely plotted sci-fi/political book, with a bunch of characters. (In case you don’t read it – yet – it’s about a US President who discovers that the prior administration found evidence of aliens hiding in the asteroid belt, and sent a manned mission out to see what’s there, but kept it all secret. It’s his problem now.) The first collected edition came out (available here!) in July with the second slated for March (pre-order here!) and more to come. I was privileged to visit NASA at Kennedy Space Center twice this year (thank you to Ed Stanton, one of the engineers on the new Orion spacecraft, for inviting me down and being incredibly gracious with his precious time to show me around – the NASA visits will get their own post soon.) A lot of what I saw down there made it into the third arc of L44, which will start with Issue 15 very soon. The series gets HUGE in that arc. Like World War Three huge. If you like your sci-fi based in real-world ideas with a healthy helping of craziness on top (think District 9), then Letter 44 is the book for you. Oh, and yes, the TV show at SyFy is still in-process – the process is just slow. A tease of that third arc:

Inset panel from Letter 44 #15, incredibly drawn by Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque!

Inset panel from Letter 44 #15, incredibly drawn by Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque!

2. She-Hulk – my final script for the first story arc is in (Issue 12), and I’ve seen pages. Javier Pulido is bringing it in a big way, and the story itself is designed to bring together everything I’ve been talking about in the series so far. I’m extremely proud of it, and if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I think you’ll like hope it wraps up. (If you haven’t tried it yet, you can get the first trade here.) And as far as a She-Hulk Season 2…

…I have a new, green Moleskine notebook in which I’m jotting down ideas. (I use dedicated, color-coded notebooks for each series I write.) That doesn’t mean anything, really, but if I were lucky enough to get the opportunity to write a second season of She-Hulk, I’d be ready to go. For now, though, here’s a cool detail from one of Javier’s layouts from issue 12 – look what he conveys in just a few lines:

A lovely leap from She-Hulk #12, laid out by Javier Pulido.

A lovely leap from She-Hulk #12, laid out by Javier Pulido.

3. Inhuman – well, you may have noticed that Marvel Studios announced an Inhuman movie for 2018, and the Inhumans are starting to be a huge part of the Agents of SHIELD television show. Some huge new Inhuman-related things are very close to being announced on the comics side as well. It’s pretty exciting to be steering that franchise – I love the characters, as I hope you’ve seen (get the first trade here!) In particular, I like that Medusa is the lead – she’s a hell of a character, and we’ll be putting her through the wringer. In fact, here’s a panel from Issue 11, drawn by the amazing Ryan Stegman:

Reader and Forey by Ryan Stegman - these poor fellows are in a tight spot!

Reader and Forey by Ryan Stegman – these poor fellows are in a tight spot!

Between Ryan, Joe Mad, Pepe Larraz and the other artists on Inhuman since it started, I think we’ve been lucky to have one of the best-looking books on the stands. I know what’s coming up for Inhuman, and I can tell you that tradition will absolutely continue. As we move forward into issues 13-14 and after, you’ll see that I’ve been working towards a big master plan finale for what I consider the first big “season” of Inhuman. If you read, say, issue 5 and asked yourself why I did something or another, well, this is why. It’s fun to write big, long-form books, and that’s how I see Inhuman. Lots of smaller, self-contained stories building up to a huge endpoint.

4. Swamp Thing! – Another series I will be very, very sad to see go. This year I ended my runs on a number of books – Thunderbolts, Superman-Wonder Woman and Red Lanterns. It was strange to set their notebooks aside, and none will be stranger to put away than the green book I’ve been using for Swamp Thing. This was my first series at the Big 2 (Marvel/DC), and in many ways, everything I’m working on today comes from it.

Panel from Swamp Thing #40, with art from Jesus Saiz. GORGEOUS.

Panel from Swamp Thing #40, with art from Jesus Saiz. GORGEOUS.

The finale of my run will come with Issue 40, which will hit in March. We’ve been given some extra page-count to really wrap things up in a huge way, and we’re going out big. I wanted to make the conclusion feel as epic as possible, and to tie up plot threads and themes from my entire run. When all is said and done, I’ll have written Swampy for the equivalent of twenty-nine regular issues (counting Annuals as two, and including some specials and extra page-count issues), and while I think I could have written it for even longer, I’m going out the way I wanted to. I signed an exclusive contract with Marvel comics earlier this year, and although that will keep me away from DC’s characters for the time being, both Marvel and DC were awesome about carving out some extra time to let me finish my Swamp Thing run the way I wanted to. (First collection of my run here! The second is here!)

5. Wolverines. I’ve been working on a weekly series following the way the Death of Wolverine affects the Marvel Universe with my pal Ray Fawkes since the summer. We’ve got almost the whole thing scripted (which, to clarify, just means the first big chunk of story – it sort of builds to a point, if you know what I mean, but there’s no reason it won’t keep rolling past that,) and it’s absolutely hogwild. We’ve created a series where pretty much anyone you can think of from the Marvel U shows up. The tone is kind of weird, crazy fun – lots of zigzagging and odd left turns in the stories. That said, when all is said and done I think it will feel really tightly plotted (because it is!) First issue hits next Wednesday, and then we’re off to the races. I’m really looking forward to this one – it’s almost like a dark, crazy Saturday morning cartoon.

And now, the new stuff…

6. Big creator-owned thing. I’m ready to start another creator-owned series. The last one I started was Letter 44, which began back in 2013 (and I was working on it for long before that.) It’s time. While I have a few things in various stages of completion, there’s one that’s pretty much good to go. I have an incredible artist attached, the scripts are done but for some tweaking, and now it’s really just about locking down the details. When, exactly, this will hit shelves I don’t know, but I think it will almost certainly be this year, and I can’t wait.

Here’s a tiny tease of a character design from said incredible artist:

You'll see this fellow again soon. Art by...

You’ll see this fellow again soon. Art by…

7. The Nervewracker. I don’t get (as) nervous as I used to about taking on legendary characters – I mean, as long as I have a take I think I’ll be okay. But it’s a different story with this one. I’ve loved this character forever, and some of the best writers and artists in the business have worked on the title. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m certainly going to give it my all.

8. The Oh My God! This one is another Marvel book, and it’s for a character I think is actually a bit under-explored. I get to break some new ground here, and that’s always fun. Redefining expectations, you know? If I do my job right, people will hopefully want much more of this person, and I’d be more than happy to tell those stories. (Moleskine color – light blue.)

9. The Tricky One. Another big book, with a pretty challenging central idea. The themes to be explored are complex, and even the logistics are tough. I just finished my first script for it, and turned it in – I think I’ve got a fun take on it, but I suspect people will have a bunch to say about this one.

10. The Romantic One. A mini-series, about a couple I’m excited to write in a new context and a new way. I’ve had this story for a while, and I’ll write the first issue soon.

That’s the slate at the moment – and while it might not seem like it, it actually leaves me with what I would consider an open slot. I plan to fill that spot with something cool soon – maybe another creator-owned book, maybe polishing the novels I’ve been working on forever and finally getting them into the world, maybe something else for Marvel. I wrote a good chunk of a video game in 2014 which will be released soon, and I’d like to do more of that.

Mostly, I want to keep busy, and it looks like I’ll have no problems there. Thank you for your support in 2014, and I can’t wait to share the new stories in 2015!

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UPDATE: The Lady Weeds release hit on DC’s website, so I’ve added some information about her (and images) below. If you’re here for the first time today (or ever), then read on!

The Swamp Thing Annual hits in October.  Annuals are double-sized issues that come out once a year (more or less).  They’re a lot of fun, because they often allow the creators to dive into some story element a bit more deeply than they would otherwise be able to in a 20- or 22-page regular issue.

In the Swamp Thing Annual, I decided to delve  into the history of the Green (which refers to a sort of shared consciousness of all plant life on Earth) and the Parliament of Trees, specifically with respect to how it affects the life and ongoing tenure as the champion of the Green of Dr. Alec Holland, aka Swamp Thing, aka the main character of the book.

The Parliament of Trees is sort of an advisory body made up of previous champions (also known as Avatars), who hang around and give the current Avatar tips and tricks as needed based on their millennia-long collective memory.  One of the fun things about that concept is that it means you can tell stories from many different eras in history and still have them fit into the main thread.  I’m doing that in the Annual in spades.  At last count, eleven different Swamp Things make an appearance.

DC Comics is previewing the designs for a few of them on their “What’s New in the New 52” feature on their blog – we had one yesterday, the Burgher Thing, and another should debut today – Lady Weeds.  I thought it might be fun to give a bit of additional context to these images here, in case anyone’s curious.  First, Burgher Thing:

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

How about that design, eh?  The work is from the spectacular Jesus Saiz, who drew Swamp Thing 21 as well as the Villains Month issue with Anton Arcane, out in September. Thankfully, he’ll be doing much more work on the series going forward.  This fellow isn’t actually named Burgher Thing – that’s just a name I put into the script that sort of stuck around the office.  His actual name is something else that you’ll discover in the Annual.  I gave him the Burgher Thing title in the script because the character’s identity as a human was a burgher – a member of the German middle class in the 1600s.  They were mostly prosperous merchants – not nobility, but doing pretty well for themselves nonetheless.  There’s an even more specific reference – this dude is based on a particular figure from history – but I’ll let that come out via the book in October. (And, honestly, calling him Burgher Thing made me laugh.  I do that sort of thing a lot in my scripts – I called the Franciscan monk character from 21 the Monk Thing, for obvious reasons, and the Annual is packed with many more placeholder script names that may or may not ever see the light of day.)

This gentleman is Swamp Thing’s patron – he takes him under his wing to offer some very specific guidance in light of some challenges Swampy’s facing (of which you will hear more in Issue 24.)  He’s a bit self-serving and fairly pompous, but he’s very cool, and I think you’ll like him a lot once you see how he works in the story.

The second character to get a design from Jesus Saiz is the batshit Lady Weeds.  Check her out:

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Looook behinnnd the veilllll....

Looook behinnnd the veilllll….

Lady Weeds is a Swamp Thing from the 1800s.  She’s named not so much for the fact that she’s made of plants (although that’s certainly a factor), but because she’s wearing what were known as “widow’s weeds,” clothes worn by women in mourning in those days.  Here’s a historically accurate version:

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Poor, sad Mrs. Kintner wore a variant on widow’s weeds after her boy Alex was chomped to death by a certain titular shark, too (such a bummer – the kid just wanted to splash around on a raft on a hot day – why won’t Sheriff Brody DO SOMETHING???):

I wanted you to know that.

I wanted you to know that.

 

Anyway, so that’s the deal with widow’s weeds. Why Lady Weeds wears them? Well, it seems like EVERYONE died back then. I don’t think a single person from those days is still alive today.  Lady Weeds undoubtedly has plenty of people to mourn… not least because she killed MANY, MANY of them.  Lady Weeds did horrible things.  Her character came out of an idea that not every Swamp Thing was necessarily heroic.  As long as they do their “job” of protecting plants, the Green doesn’t care how they use their powers, and Lady Weeds took that license to an extreme.  You’ll learn much more about who she is and what she did in the Annual, out this October.

Cool stuff coming up in Swamp Thing! It’s the era-spanning weird epic I’ve always dreamed of writing, and I’m so glad you guys are along for the ride.

Just a quick one today.  My pal Riley Rossmo, who you probably know from a ton of great Image books including Green Wake, Bedlam, Debris and many more, sent me this amazing Swamp Thing pinup today.  He said I could share, and so I’m sharing:

Love the bones! Swamp Thing by Riley Rossmo

Love the bones! Swamp Thing by Riley Rossmo

Gorgeous, right?  I particularly like the horror that image captures.  The more I write Swamp Thing (and I’m deep into my third script right now, with issues plotted out to my ninth), the more I find the scary side resonating with me.  You can do anything with Swamp Thing, really, but there’s definitely a lot of room for the spooky stuff.

As a side note, I love pinups, so if any of you artist-types out there feel like doing a take on the Avatar of the Green (or any other characters I’ve written), go for it!  I’ll post up whatever I get.

Finally, my first issue of Swamp Thing, #19, is in Previews right now, so if you’re looking forward to it, please pre-order with your local retailer!  While most shops should carry it, the advance orders are a big part of how well a book does.  I’d love to write Swampy for a good long time, so tell your guy to put it (or keep it) on your pull list!

…a long, mournful wail that writhes through the gnarled cypress branches like a breath of Hades’ wind, skipping over the placid surface of the stagnant mire below…

That’s the first sentence of Swamp Thing #1, by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, all the way back in November of 1972.  The character has been almost continuously published since that date, and has germinated (HA!) two films, two TV shows (live action and animated, the latter of which had a spectacular theme song) as well as tons of toys, fan art, cosplay and so on.  The comic has been written by some of the most spectacular talents in the business, including Alan Moore, Rich Veitch, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Joshua Dysart and Scott Snyder, to name a few (and I put those names in publication order – not trying to imply any preference).  Swamp Thing has always been a home for incredible, mind-stretching ideas.  At its most basic level, it’s a story about a man turned into a plant-based swamp monster, who is also a sort of champion of the environment, specifically its vegetation.  But in the hands of those very talented scribes, Swamp Thing became much more than just a spookshow.  Swamp Thing has covered virtually every aspect of the human experience (despite having a giant lettuce as its main character.)  It’s an incredible book, and well worth your time if you haven’t read it.

So, it is incredibly humbling to be the guy taking over the writing reins for the next little while on the title.  First of all, I’m not sure that I’ll ever come up with something that will beat that first sentence I included up above.  On the other hand, I don’t think the point of writing a book with a long history like Swamp Thing or any other DC character is to compete with or try to duplicate what’s gone before.  I have an opportunity to write Swamp Thing the way I want to write him, and that’s exactly what I plan to do, come what may.  I hope people enjoy my take on the character, but even if they don’t, I know I’ll have written scenes and lines I think are cool.  And really, isn’t that the point?  That’s why I’ve worked as hard as I have to get an opportunity like Swamp Thing.  I hope it’s the first of many, but even if this is the only title I ever work on for DC (or Marvel, for that matter), it’s still amazing that it’s happened at all.

The response to the announcement has been incredibly gratifying – the worst thing I’ve seen on message boards and Twitter is “…who?”, and that’s been intermixed with tons of support and folks wishing me well (from people I know and people I don’t).  We’ll see how it goes, but it definitely seems like people will be reading.  In particular, I’d like to single out Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, the book’s current creative team, who have been super helpful both behind the scenes and in public.  It’s a big deal to be taking over a title from two such brilliant fellows, and their support means a ton.

Now, as far as what I’m going to be doing on the book… well, I don’t want to get too specific, because I think a lot of the joy in experiencing entertainment in any medium is coming to it as fresh as possible.  If you want a few hints, though, you can read the interview I did over at i09 to coincide with the announcement that I’m the new writer.  Another, more general indication, can be seen here:

Swamp Thing

That lovely tweet pretty much sums up what I want to do.  Anything and everything goes, except a boring Swampy.

The interior art on the book will be handled by Kano, and I’ll tell you, from what I’ve seen he’s going to absolutely KILL it (in the best way.)  Covers are by Andy Brase, and… likewise.  The first piece of art from my run to be released is the unfinished cover you can see below:

Swamp Thing 19 Temp

Beautiful, no?  Just wait until you see the final version.

My first issue will hit in April 2013, probably the first week.  If you want to stay up to date on Swamp Thing and other things I have going on, the best way is to follow me on Twitter, or keep checking this space.  See you in the funnybooks!