UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Green smile, interrupted : the frustrated ecological possibilities in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing Whitford, Alec


In this thesis, I conduct an ecocritical reading of Alan Moore’s tenure as writer on DC Comics’ monthly superhero comic Swamp Thing, which spanned from Volume 2 Issue 20 (January 1984) to Volume 2 Issue 64 (September 1987). I explore the ways in which Swamp Thing’s efforts to understand “the green”—a metaphysical network that connects all plant life in the universe—both challenge and reinforce the classical, Western division between Culture and Nature. Richard Harrison claims that the tenure of each creative team on a superhero comic establishes that tenure as a novel built around a “‘core cluster’ of first principles that define the hero in time and place and set his or her story in motion” (26). Whereas the core cluster of first principles for Wein and Wrightson’s run on Swamp Thing establishes non-human Nature as a physically violent force that unites with violent Culture to produce the monstrous body of Swamp Thing, Moore’s run establishes a core cluster of second principles that posit a more peaceful Nature that is continuously in conflict with the violence of Culture. The primary image of Wein’s first principles is Swamp Thing’s face frozen in an expression of horror and agony, while Moore’s second principles rely on a peaceful, smiling expression on Swamp Thing’s face, which suggests that Swamp Thing’s face is the face of ecology and an icon for the point at which humans can speak to the environment. Wein’s Swamp Thing was the anguished face of the environment, the point at which humans experience the sublime horror of the swamp, but Moore’s Swamp Thing is the smiling face of the environment, the point at which humans are invited to interact with the plants that comprise the swamp. For ecology to be possible in Swamp Thing’s world, humans must engage the smiling face of the environment.

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