Graven Images: The Nancy A. Collins Swamp Thing Omnibus

In her introduction to this omnibus, Nancy A. Collins describes how comics of all kinds attracted her at an early age. Her interest in the medium kicked off right about the time the Comics Code was losing its once-considerable grip on the industry, which put her in a prime spot to catch the wave of horror comics that began flooding the newsstands. She talks about picking up copies of Eerie and House of Secrets as part of her weekly haul — but it was the cover of a comic featuring a certain muck-encrusted monstrosity squaring off with a werewolf (drawn by horror maestro Bernie Wrightson) that really stood out to the young fan.

Years later, Collins, fresh off a successful debut novel (Sunglasses After Dark, inspired in part by Swamp Thing writer Alan Moore’s revisionist approach to well-worn character types) became the first woman to write Swamp Thing, taking over with Swamp Thing Annual #6 and issue #110 of the regular series. Over time Collins transformed the title into a Gothic horror series with a tight focus on Swamp Thing, his wife Abby, and their daughter Tefe. She pulled in elements of Cajun culture to flesh out the series, leaning on both folklore and the real-life eccentricities of the Louisiana swamplands to further enrich the swamp creature’s world.

photo of Nancy A. Collins
Nancy A. Collins

The entirety of her run is collected in this hefty omnibus, which falls just shy of 1,000 pages and includes an impressive art gallery, an afterword by the author, and a proposal Collins wrote up for another supernatural series that was sadly never given the greenlight by DC Comics.

The book is printed on a good quality, glossy paper stock, a far cry from the old newsprint that comics used to employ and a fine showcase for the talented stable of artists that interpreted her work, including Mark Buckingham, Jill Thompson and Phil Hester.

It helps to be familiar with Swamp Thing before picking this up, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Collins does a good job of quickly making the character her own, and her stories are self-contained and not reliant on multiple cross-overs and publisher-wide events. Think of this omnibus as a (very) long illustrated novel, one that meshes character study, family drama, and pure horror in a thoroughly engrossing (and, occasionally, thoroughly gross) package.

The $125 cover price may be even more daunting than the page count for some, but a little judicious hunting across the Internet will likely turn up the book at discounted prices. Swamp Thing by Nancy A. Collins is an absolutely gorgeous book, and an essential addition for fans of quality four-color horror.

Graven Images is a semi-regular column at Cemetery Dance examining the world of horror comics. Know of a series or collection we should cover? Tweet Blu Gilliand (@blugilliand) and let him know!

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