TITLE: DC Comics Presents #8
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
COVER DATE: April 1979
COVER PRICE: $0.40
WHAT I REMEMBER...
I made a comment not too long ago about how there're very few characters or titles left where I'm actively trying to complete a collection, of which Superman is one of them. I also recently reached a point in my collecting with Action Comics and Superman where the majority of the holes that I have left now lie knee deep in the silver age or earlier. Needless to say, the higher price points have slowed down my collecting just a bit.
To help combat the Superman back-issue withdrawls, I set my sights on a lot of the secondary titles, with DC Comics Presents being the cream of the crop. About two years ago I found a complete collection of all 101 issues on ebay for a hundred bucks.
I've since read some here and there, but haven't gotten around to this one yet. So not only are we going in cold on this one, but this will also be the very first pre-"Alan Moore" Swamp Thing story I've ever read too!
Before we get into it, let's just take a moment to admire yet another awesome cover by one of my favorite Superman artists from this era...Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez! His Superman compliments what Curt Swan was doing at the time, but really amps up the athleticism and power of Superman without overdoing it. It's a very "Marvel" looking Superman.
So let's crack this thing open and see what we have in store for us.
"The Sixty Deaths of Solomon Grundy!"
- Writer: Steve Englehart
- Artist: Murphy Anderson
- Letterer: Ben Oda
- Colorist: Jerry Serpe
- Editor: Juluis Schwartz
It's worth noting at this point, that this issue is still relatively early in Swamp Thing's career. He debuted seven years earlier, but his series only lasted for twenty-four issues. This was also long before Alan Moore turned him into an elemental spirit of sorts, so what we have here reminds me a lot of The Incredible Hulk t.v. show...trapped in this savage form, he wanders the country using his scientific intellect to try to reverse the accident that made him a monster.
So now his travels have brought him to Metropolis, his hopes resting on finding Solomon Grundy, who recently gave Superman some trouble. Unfortunately for him, Superman has found him first.
Superman aims to capture Grundy once and for all, but Swamp Thing realizes that if he succeeds, then there goes his chance of finding a potential cure. He doesn't want to do it, but he must stop Superman from apprehending Grundy.
Superman could more than likely take each of these monsters out quite easily on their own, but together they manage to get the upper hand.
"Blum?" Here, let Grundy show you how you defeat Superman with a proper sound effect.
Leaving Superman alive but unconscious, the two brothers of the bog depart with Grundy following Swamp Thing like a lost puppy. Luckily for the Swamp Thing, they soon stumble upon an abandoned laboratory in the sewers. It's rudimentary, but should be adequate enough to analyze a skin sample of Grundy's. Metropolis was such a wonderful place in the 60's and 70's, as there was always an abandoned warehouse or laboratory around when you needed one.
Here, the two monsters practice for their way-off-Broadway revival of "The Odd Couple" musical.
Meanwhile, after regaining his consciousness, Superman heads to S.T.A.R. Labs with a sample of the sewer water from his recent battle for them to analyze. He needs to find out what is causing Solomon Grundy's recent reappearances.
While the scientists dash off to do the grunt work, it's time for Superman to lay the Kryptonian charm on Lois.
Wait a minute...did I miss an issue or sixty somewhere between the beginning of the Bronze Age and the Modern Age?
Apparently I did.
Alas, the life of a superhero can never be this uncomplicated, as Solomon Grundy reappears right outside of S.T.A.R. Labs.
But isn't he down in the sewers with the Swamp Thing?
No time to worry about that just now...go get 'em, Superman!
Speaking of Swamp Thing, he's finally done with his makeshift genetic experiments with negative results. Since Grundy isn't truly alive, there's no connection between the two of them, and thus no hope for a cure just yet. Just as Swamp Thing is about to break the bad news to Grundy, they overhear a news broadcast about Superman's recent defeat of Solomon Grundy, which filters down through the sewer pipes.
Grrr! Sewer pipe only get one channel...Grundy kill!
Grundy heads to the surface to confront Superman as the one true Solomon Grundy, when Superman finally realizes that he has a bigger problem on his hands. And wouldn't you know it, Grundy has cock-blocked him once again!
Superman rushes back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where they have managed to synthesize a chemical from the sewer water that Superman can use to destroy the army of Grundy's that are ravaging Metropolis. Swamp Thing emerges from the sewer just as Superman flies off to destroy the marauding marsh monsters.
During their short time together, the Swamp Thing realized that even though the Grundy beasts are not truly "alive", they don't deserve to die either. But as we've already seen, it's too late. Besides, Superman's only a man...with manly desires...and he's going to do what it takes so that Grundy will not interrupt him and Lois again.
He's not completely heartless, however, as he does manage to give a parting thought for the Swamp Thing, musing that one day maybe he'll be able to help him too. Hopefully, it'll be help of a more compassionate kind than he gave Grundy.
Cue "The Lonely Man" by Joe Harnell
SO, WHAT DID WE LEARN...
Apparantly Superman spent a lot of time in the sewers of Metropolis in the 70's, as the last time we reviewed one of his books from this era he was down there too. That one featured S.T.A.R. Labs also, which was also it's first appearance.
And here's another coincidence that just occured to me. That previous Superman/Swamp Monster/Sewer battle was written by none other than Len Wein, the creator of Swamp Thing, a full year before Swamp Thing's first appearance. Could that story have been an idea that stuck with Len Wein, eventually germinating into the Swamp Thing? Who knows, but the timing sure is freaky.
Anyway, we're here to talk about what we learned from this book, right?
Overall, there's not too much here that's really consequential to either Swamp Thing or Superman. It's a nice little done-in-one that pushes along both character's narratives, without really either deviating from what came before, or veering off into a new direction.
If you read this issue as an homage or a tribute to the work of Wein and Wrightson, then it's decent enough, if not a little on the light side. The artwork from Murphy Anderson is serviceable, but really doesn't aspire to give us anything other than the standard DC house style of the time. That's a bit of a shame, as the Swamp Thing is a character that definitely invites a little artistic experimentation.
All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics