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Swamp Thing

DC Direct
by yo go re

On March 17, 1999, DC Direct took their first steps into the world of superhero action figures. Though they'd done a bit of work on Mad Magazine properties, they had yet to try their hand at any of their comic characters. The line had its share of problems, but there was one figure that was truly a standout: the mystical protector the Green, Swamp Thing.

Scientist Alec Holland was developing a bio-restorative formula when criminals planted a bomb in his lab. The explosion saturated Holland's body with the formula and other chemicals. On fire, he ran into the swamp, but was already dead when he plunged into the muck. Several days later, Holland rose again as the Swamp Thing, seeking venegeance on those that had killed him.

Swamp Thing was the figure that first got me into reviewing: the figure was just so great that I had to tell people about it. Unfortunately, that review is long gone (and so is the site that hosted it), so we'll just have to try to reconstruct it.

Swamp Thing stands 6¾" tall, which seemed huge in those days but is pretty average now. He moves at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips and knees - a perfectly respectable amount, even if there isn't a balljoint in the bunch. He has no neck, which limits the number of poses you can find for him. He definitely has one intended pose, with joints cut in after the fact.

The real draw of this figure is the sculpt. The figure, rather than being an entirely new design, was based on a previous statue sculpted by William Paquet from designs by Michael Zulli (using art that eventually became the cover of a Saga of the Swamp Thing trade paperback). The original statue was 12" tall, and it was intended to be viewed at that size. Because of that, the level of detailing is incredible; truly every inch of Swamp Thing has something cool to look at.

Most of Swamp Thing's body looks like spongy moss, but it's supported by a loose framework of thick roots and vines, particularly along the back. Thin tendrils creep all over the surface, and there are a few bulbous orange pods on his back. While Marvel's Man-Thing always looks like something that just congealed and rose out of the muck, Swamp Thing looks more solid, like a plant that grew into that specific shape (which, usually, is what happened).

The paint accentuates the sculpting; while the statue would have been fully hand-painted, none of the detail seems to have been lost in the transition to an action figure. The figure is swampy without being muddy: the browns and greens that cover him could have been very drab, but DC Direct managed to keep him looking lush. There's no spillage, even on the tiniest vines and leaves - just look at the single purple flower growing on his back. And those bulbs? Still look nearly pornographic.

Even though Swamp Thing isn't typically much of an "action" character, DCD bit give him a bit of playability. No, it's not the "winch hand" that Swampy had in the television-inspired line - Swamp Thing's hands can be removed and replaced with bouquets of roses. Well, not really bouquets, since they're growing out of his wrists, but blooming roses nonetheless. The hands are made out of semi-flexible PVC, so that the roses don't snap off at the stem, which is nice. It's hard to find the proper way to line them up on the wrists - or at least, harder than it is to line up the hands.

Swamp Thing had a variant, back when DC Direct had two versions of every character in every line. Eh, what can we say? That's the way things were done back then. For his variant, Swampy got a glow-in-the-dark makeover that I passed on repeatedly, and eventually came to regret that decision. It took me until 2011 to finally add him to my collection. The figure is cast in that typical "GitD white-green" color, then given a darkish green drybrushing to catch the high points of his sculpt. Why would Swamp Thing glow? Why the heck not? Either way, the figure is cool. DC Direct was young, but Swamp Thing showed that they had promise.

-- 02/21/05

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