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Swamp Thing invades Gotham, and draws a certain Bat's attention in the Retro Cover Of The Week

Swamp Thing #7, 1973, DC Comics, Cover by Bernie Wrightson.

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Seventies, the decade when the Comics Code restrictions on horror comics were eased, and werewolves, vampires, and other weird creatures returned to spinner racks and newsstands.

DC and Marvel both developed horrific creatures birthed in swamps in the early 1970s, with DC grabbing the “Swamp” name first and introducing their monstrous Thing in the pages of House of Secrets #92 (1971). Later the next year, Swamp Thing was awarded his own title.

I wasn’t a fan of horror; I was into superheroes. So, when I saw Batman on the cover of Swamp Thing #7, I did something I rarely ever did: I bought it without taking a peek at the inside story to see if I liked the art (I was, and still am, a comics art snob…I won’t buy if I don’t like the art, no matter how good the writer is).

When I got home and read my weekly stack, was I ever pleasantly surprised. But, my surprise and reaction at the interior art is a story for another day; this is about the wonderful cover that grabbed my eye.

Some artists’ skills are tuned to a certain frequency. Some are meant to draw superheroes, some are a natural for cartoony titles. Bernie Wrightson was born to illustrate horror, but in this issue, he proved to me that he could portray an action hero like Batman equally as well. I didn’t appreciate his style when I was younger, but now I recognize him as a master. His depiction of Batman in this issue is one of my favorites.

Wrightson’s Swamp Thing is inexplicably hanging from the side of a city building, far from his boggy home. Dramatically underlit by yellow streetlights, he looks like a green Kong, unaware the biplanes are homing on him. Instead of planes, it’s Gotham’s Guardian, swooping in to confront him, with billowing, Neal Adams-esque cape also weirdly underlit with yellow.

Wrightson’s Gotham isn’t a super-detailed background, as many other artists would have been tempted to do, but a roughly sketched suggestion of a far-reaching cityscape. The better to focus attention on the star of the book, and the approaching lawman.

The covers for Swamp Thing had been very different DC creations: divided neatly into two sections…an earth-toned trade dress block containing the gritty, mucky title logo and all pertinent info, and a block devoted to nothing but illustration. And I mean NOTHING: no word balloons, no screaming headlines, or captions (and no damned UPC code boxes yet!). They were the cleanest-looking covers on the market. Swamp Thing covers were quiet, noble masterpieces, first noticed by this superhero-loving fan by Swamp Thing #7, and the first Bernie Wrightson POP Retro Cover Of The Week.

Next week: A cover from the Bronze Age ‘80s!

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