Long Box of Memories: Swamp Thing Annual #1

Swamp Thing Annual #1
Script: Bruce Jones
Screenplay: Wes Craven
Art: Mark Texiera & Tony DeZuniga
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Editor: Len Wein

The plan was to crank out a new installment of Long Box of Memories at least once a week, but it’s been a month since the first one. Sickness, work, blah blah blah. Whatever. It’s in the past.

Onward and upward.

I had a dream last night about a special place. It’s an old general store that exists in something of a liminal state. The building still stands, and to drive by, you’d think the store is still operating. But it’s not. The owner passed away a little over a year-and-a-half ago.

It’s there, but it’s not. Schrodinger’s Quick Stop, if you will.

Actually, it’s Tallman’s General Store in Belvidere, VT, the tiniest sort of tiny, rural town. Most folks used to and still do call the store Myrna’s, for Myrna Tallman, the woman who ran the place. You could find just about anything there, including the movie adaptation of a somewhat obscure DC Comics character.

The Swamp Thing movie was released on Feb. 19, 1982. I bought Swamp Thing Annual #1 – an adaptation of that movie – at Tallman’s one evening the following summer when my family was on its way through Belvidere to Avery’s Gore for a barbecue at a wayside spot that had picnic tables and hibachis. Also mosquitos. Lots and lots of mosquitos. As far as I can figure, the comic must have either a) come out well after the movie, which makes sense since annuals are typically a late-spring/summer thing, or 2) it came out in conjunction with the movie and got lost in the shuffle of the magazine stand.

I appreciate the comic more now than I did then. Makes sense, given that I would’ve been 7 at the time. 

I got it because it had a cool cover with a green, muck-covered monster carrying a pretty lady (Adrienne Barbeau) in a sheer dress (nightgown?) through a swamp. Even young Ethan knew a classic horror trope when he saw it.

I remember finding it tucked in among other comics and asking my parents if I could have it. There was a bit of bristling at the $1 price tag, but they were always supportive of me reading. I remember sitting at a picnic table a few minutes later and enjoying my purchase while hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the hibachi.

Today, the issue remains special because of those memories, but also for other reasons. 

Wes Craven wrote and directed the movie, and the comic is adapted from his script. Craven, of course, is a modern horror movie legend, with a list of classics including the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Scream series, and my favorite, the original version of The Hills Have Eyes. I’ve become a big horror fan over the years, and I wonder if this relatively tame comic book helped plant a seed.

Mark Texiera and Tony DeZuniga shared art chores on the issue. I haven’t looked at the issue in a while, so I can’t remember if one inked the other or if the issue was split between them. But DeZuniga co-created DC’s scarred western character, Jonah Hex, and he did some amazing work on Weird Western Tales. And Texiera’s had a fairly prolific comics career with penciling and painting, including some Ghost Rider issues from the early 1990s and a Sabertooth mini-series from around the same time.

The Swamp Thing annual was edited by Len Wein, the co-creator of the titular character. I couldn’t have cared less about editors when I was 7, but thinking about it now, it must have felt pretty damn special to be editing a movie adaptation for a character he created. Wein died Sept. 10, 2017, 18 days before Myrna Tallman. 

In my dream last night about Myrna’s store, there was a homestyle buffet set up on the front porch of the store, and my family and other folks were gathered to enjoy the food and company. I went into the store and wandered around, amazed by how little had changed. The old magazine stand was still right across from the cash register. And just like always, there were comics on the bottom shelf. I wish I’d knelt down to take a look. I bet Swamp Thing was sitting there, tucked behind a few other titles.

Got a Long Box Memory? I’d love to hear it. Just join the conversation in the comments.

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