Snyder Peels Back Layers of "Swamp Thing"

Wed, April 25th, 2012 at 7:00am PDT | Updated: April 25th, 2012 at 12:18pm

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Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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While the winner may surprise you, Scott Snyder says he knows who would come out on top in an epic battle between Swamp Thing and his American vampire, Skinner Sweet.

Based on sales and critical acclaim, it appears readers would love to see the battle actually materialize as the Eisner Award winner is one of the hottest writers working in the industry today. Currently telling best-selling stories in "Batman," "Swamp Thing" and Vertigo's "American Vampire," Snyder, like none other, is bringing horror to the masses.

After he returned home from C2E2 last week, CBR News checked in with Snyder to discuss his work in an extensive two-part interview. Following our in-depth discussion of "American Vampire" today's second installment focuses on Snyder's New 52 relaunch of "Swamp Thing," a character created in 1971 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and successfully re-imagined in the 1980s by Alan Moore.

Snyder shared how long the highly anticipated "Swamp Thing"/"Animal Man" crossover would last, what it truly means for someone to be transformed into the avatar for the Green, and what Superman has in common with Alec Holland and Buddy Baker.

Story continues below

CBR News: Any time we've communicated by phone or e-mail, you have seemed highly likeable -- not a mean bone in your body. Where on Earth do these terrifically horrific tales of vampires and swamp monsters come from?

Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette tell the stories of Alec Holland and the Green in "Swamp Thing"

Scott Snyder: I don't know. You can ask some of my editors. I get a little cranky sometimes, but overall, I feel so lucky to be doing this. It's hard to be dark and brooding when you get to wake up and write about vampires and vegetable monsters and Batman.

Who wins head-to-head: Skinner Sweet or Swamp Thing?

Oh, Skinner -- well, it's hard. I always say the same thing. When anyone asks me, "Who wins, X-Men or the Avengers?," I say Batman. Batman always wins. Hulk versus Superman. Batman. I feel like Batman trumps all. Honestly, if Swamp Thing was fighting Skinner Sweet, I win. That's who wins. Me.

Have you ever actually played that out?

Not really, but it is fun to think about them operating in the same world. I think Skinner would be incredibly amused by all the superhero stuff in some way. And maybe they would be amused by him a little bit as well. He'd be a pretty tough adversary. But again, I don't know. Swamp Thing has such intense powers. It would be a good fight. I would certainly have a blast writing it. If DC would ever let me, I would go for it. We could have a total throw down of all the characters that I write.

I asked you if Skinner Sweet was a good guy or a bad guy and you gave me a fairly definitive answer, but what about Swamp Thing? He is a horrific if not a magnificent beast, but he's definitely a good guy, isn't he?

Definitely.

Which makes sense because Alec Holland isn't too scary either, but will we see him really lash out as the Swamp Thing when he finally confronts the Rot head-on?

Oh yeah, in "Swamp Thing' #9, he faces off against Abby. And in "Swamp Thing" #8 we showed him throwing down during some bone-crushing swamp action. But in this arc coming up, wait until you see this crossover with Jeff Lemire's "Animal Man." This thing is going to be out of control fun. You'll start to see Buddy and Alec cross into each other's book in "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man" #11 and then in earnest in #12 and it will run though about #17 or so. During the crossover, you are going to get the craziest Swamp Thing permutations, Swamp Thing action and Swamp Thing -- fully powered by the Green -- fighting armies of monsters. It's going to be a pretty over the top throwdown between the Green, the Red and the Rot.

Will we see Alec Holland again? Or is he now 100 per cent the Swamp Thing?

No, we won't see him again. We wanted the decision to have a lot of finality. But he's under there. That's a part of the mythology that I was really excited about. It was tough to try and come up with something that really united what happened under Alan Moore and Len Wein but that would also give us room to breathe. And we have landed on an iteration that we are really excited about. I adore both of those writers and their tenures on the character but I wanted a Swamp Thing that was much more powered down from the almost god-like force that Alan Moore had turned him into.

The mythology as it stands now -- and hopefully this all still tracks with what's there from before -- is that when you become the Swamp Thing, you're there for the tenure of your human body. Your human body is beneath all of that stuff. But it's linked and grafted in all that swamp material. There is a human body beneath all of it so if Swamp Thing gets hit and the hit gets through his wooden armor and the cuts off his arm, he loses his human arm too.

The idea is that when the human body dies, when it's gone, you have to go and retire at the Parliament because you no longer have your link to humanity. You can't restrain the Green the way you should and that's really the job of the avatar of the Green and the Red.

Holland still exists beneath the Swamp Thing, but his human form can never be separated from it

In addition to being an advocate and a protector and even a warrior for those things, one of the biggest jobs -- and the reason they are primarily chosen -- is their ability to restrain the element from being violently greedy about taking over the world. To answer your question, when the body is gone, the Swamp Thing retires. Alec is under there but there is no way to get out. You pull that stuff off and he'll bleed to death.

Therein lies the importance of developing Alec Holland because if Skinner Sweet was the avatar for the Green, you would have a completely different Swamp Thing.

It would be completely different because his body would just live on -- a vampire Swamp Thing. You could get in big trouble with that one. But I guess they would have a link to the Rot, as well, with the decay and death so he might betray the Green. It's all fun to play with in your head.

I love that, but I wasn't even thinking of the vampire angle. It was more along the lines of having someone so evil possess the Swamp Thing versus Alec Holland, who is so good. Someone that horrific in his own right could transform Swamp Thing into a real monster.

Exactly. The Swamp Thing is a really powerful character for me. He really does have tremendous power. And the idea that we like is that if he abuses that power, he could try and wipe out all of humanity if he really wanted. That's why the choice of Alec Holland as the great warrior and protector of the Green has a lot to do with his ethical compass. And his ability to see the Green for what it is, to be its advocate and be its Warrior King. He also fulfills his role to protect the Green from the Green itself.

At this point in the story, is Swamp Thing trying to save Abby or save the world from her?

He's trying to do both but if it came down to saving the world, he'd kill Abby if that was his only choice. There will definitely be some twists and turns in "Swamp Thing" #9, but essentially he wants the Parliament and the Green to understand that he is not doing this out of some sense of destiny. He's doing it for his own needs. Really, he's doing it in an attempt to save Abby. Of course, he would go save the world when it all came down to it because he's a good person but he wanted them to know that he's not doing it because they're telling him to. That's one of the things that I love about the character so much. I wanted him to be someone that fights and does the right thing and lines up with what the Green wants but at the same time has a really strong and individuated psychology. You understand what he wants and he is doing things that you could admire as a reader that are very individual and singular to his life and to whom he is, as well.

You mentioned it earlier and it's something fans have been waiting for since it was announced shortly after the New 52 relaunch, but "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man" are set to cross over in the months ahead. No doubt you have spent countless hours on the phone or online with Jeff Lemire over the past few months planning this thing. Have you and he discovered a characteristic or quality that ties Alec and Buddy together as heroes? Swamp Thing is a force of nature but Buddy, even though he is fueled incredibly by the animals around him, is a C-list superhero without a shirt.

Yeah, I do. I think the commonality is that they both have this tremendous responsibility to restrain and fight for these elements. They both love them and hate them. There is definite loneliness and isolation that only they know as the avatars of these incredible forces so they have something that they understand in each other. But they are very different characters, too, and that's one of the fun things about writing Buddy because I was able to co-write "Animal Man" #12 with Jeff and also wrote Buddy into my book, as well, in "Swamp Thing" #11 and #12.

Buddy is so much more grounded in terms of his family. He is so much more accustomed to the human world. First, Alec is just back from the dead and now he's discovered that the person that he feels most connected to is essentially the person who is in the same position as he is, as a supposed avatar, but the avatar of the opposing force. Alec is also a tougher and lonelier guy in some ways than Buddy. And when he turns into Swamp Thing in our big crossover, I think he is more vengeful and determined in that way. He is a little more monstrous, I think, as a person in that way -- in a good way. He's a loner in a way that Buddy isn't and that's what makes Buddy super fun, too. They are different and the same in many ways.

Swamp Thing also struggles with Abby Arcane's ties to the Rot

In the crossover, do the Green and Red join forces to fight the Rot or is it the two avatars -- Swamp Thing and Animal Man -- that drive this mash-up?

It's the Green and the Red on one side and the Rot on the other, but they can't help from being greedy. They are supposed to be kept in a balance with the forces of life and the force of decay on the other. It's almost a circle split into thirds, if you can imagine that? Typically, the Red and the Green ally themselves with each other for the biosphere against the Rot but one of the big things we are playing with in the crossover is the danger of not just allowing the Red or the Green to take over but what would happen if the Rot ruled the world? And if the Rot doesn't, would it be a more frightening place if the Green did or the Red did? This is all about exploring this idea of wild and uncontrollable elements being physical things that aren't Zen-like or peaceful or calm sorts of forces that they may have been portrayed as in the past in some way.

It sounds a bit like Batman having someone kryptonite tucked away in a lead vault in the Batcave. If at some point Superman decided to unleash the full awesomeness of his power, Batman would have something in place to stop him. Someone has to keep him in check.

Exactly. And I love that about Batman. I love writing lines where he takes digs at Superman or hints that he's a little bit suspicious of him even though they are like best friends.

Because Superman could rule the world, right?

Sure he could. That's just the thing. Superman must be the loneliest guy on the planet. If I ever write Superman -- and I would love to write him someday -- that's what I would explore. He has to restrain himself every minute of every day from not becoming a god. And I'm not necessarily talking about just destroying things or becoming a villain but just shaping the world. Some of my favorite Superman stories really deal with that loneliness and isolation in a way that can turn him very dark if he's not careful like "Superman: Red Son" by Mark Millar or some of the other Elseworld stories or even "All-Star Superman."

"Swamp Thing" #9 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette goes on sale May 2.

TAGS:  dc comics, new 52, swamp thing, scott snyder, yanick paquette, animal man, jeff lemire

 
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