In the mid 80s, Swamp Thing was not only my favourite comic book, it was the only one I read monthly and, remarkably, I think I’ve managed to hold on to most of my issues right up until now. I think I’ll be digging them out soon for another good look.
Because, judging from Guillermo Del Toro‘s comments on Dark Universe, his in-development DC Universe movie, there seems a pretty good likelihood that he’ll be working to the basic structure of Alan Moore’s American Gothic run of the Swamp Thing monthly.
Firstly, Del Toro knows that his storyline can be identified if he tells us too much information – he says so, while refusing to name all of the characters involved. It seems that there’s an existing plot that we would recall if we only had all of their names. This was enough to get us thinking about which existing plot it might be.
Here’s the top contender, we think.
American Gothic started in Swamp Thing 37 and ran through to issue 50. In essence, it’s the story of Swamp Thing meeting John Constantine, learning his true nature and teaming up with a whole host of other DC universe supernatural characters to prevent an impending spiritual apocalypse.
Various classic monsters, including vampires, zombies and werewolves, are being created by a cult and unleashed upon the world. They are looking to increase belief in the supernatural to feed “The Great Darkness,” empower it so that it can come into conflict with the light of heaven.
The original working title for Del Toro’s picture was Heaven Sent; it’s now going by the name of Dark Universe. If neither of these things is a smoking gun by itself, I’d say it’s at least true that one is made of cold blue steel and the other smells of sulphur.
The culmination of the story sees two teams of characters, including all of those that Del Toro has named as being part of the movie, combatting the darkness both on Earth and in supernatural realms.
It’s easy to see Swamp Thing and John Constantine as the two leaders of this storyline, potentially twin protagonists for Del Toro’s take. It’s super movie-friendly.
So the cast list matches, the working titles apply, and this tale works as an introduction, or pseudo-origin story. We start with Swamp Thing and Constantine meeting, we have Swamp Thing learning his true nature, there are scenes where the team is being put together, there’s a clear villain and an escalating scale.
Brilliantly, it’s all about something, too – and something Del Toro cares about. Monsters. What they are, and what they mean, how there are good ones, and how there are bad ones.
I’m sure there’s a lot of nipping and tucking to be done, and the specifics will so often be different in any adaptation, but I’ll take off my shirt and hang it here: Del Toro is working from American Gothic for Dark Universe. It just fits too well to not be true.
You can buy this storyline, collected as Saga of The Swamp Thing Book 3.
Thanks to Mark and Rich for their contributions and plugging my memory of these old comics.
Now, let’s all look forward to another Alan Moore adaptation for the big screen. This is always interesting on multiple levels…