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Swamp Thing Details That Only Super Fans Notice

The behind-the-scenes saga of Swamp Thing has been even more bizarre than the show itself. The supernatural horror series had a high-budget sheen, impressive creature work — and a near-immediate cancellation that came mere days after its 2019 debut on the DC Universe streaming platform. Online rumors abounded that the show's downfall involved budget mismanagement, the imminent mercy-killing of DC Universe's originals, and pretty much anything except the actual quality of the series itself.

But unlike practically any storyline in the history of the comic book-born character, the Swamp Thing show may be in the process of writing itself a happy ending. In October 2020, its ten-episode first season made a jump to the CW, which started airing them to newfound acclaim — and hopes that like Alec Holland himself, the series can rise from the dead.

Suffice it to say, our plant-covered fingers are crossed. But in the meantime, now is the perfect opportunity to discover a series truly unlike anything else on television — or to re-watch Swamp Thing and catch all the tiny winks and references you may have missed. With that in mind, here's a look at some of the comic references aimed at viewers looking beneath the surface.

NOTE: Since all ten episodes of Swamp Thing have been available to viewers for over a year, the information here is spoiler-heavy and covers the entire first season.

The new and improved Liz Tremayne

In the comics, Liz Tremayne was a tabloid-y journalist determined to find proof of a monster living in the swamp — think Geraldo Rivera meets Finding Bigfoot. Her investigation plagued the Sunderland Corporation, and she was a hesitant ally to Alec Holland... or at least, what was left of him.

When it came time to develop the TV series, staff writer Franklin jin Rho was among those who saw more potential in the character — and saw it realized via a heartfelt performance by actor Maria Sten. Her performance is a highlight of the show, and her dynamic with Crystal Reed (who plays CDC scientist/Swamp Thing paramour Abby Arcane) feels as organic as the show's surroundings.

"Was such a pleasure working with her and developing this cool character," Rho tweeted, reflecting on Tremayne's reinvention as a childhood friend of Abby Arcane, local reporter and part-time bartender at her father's roadhouse. "Massive upgrade from Liz of the Alan Moore comics (one of the few glaring weaknesses of that iconic run)."

Of course, any serious discussion of Swamp Thing needs to tip its cap to Moore, who engineered a complete overhaul of the character between 1983 and 1987, one that was beloved by critics and fans alike. The series owes a huge debt to Moore, with many of its most effective plot points lifted directly off his pages. But that doesn't mean writers like Rho didn't expand on certain themes when they felt it was a necessity.

The Swamp Thing/Springsteen connection

It's hard to imagine two pop culture touchstones with less in common than Swamp Thing (emerging from the Marais bayou) and Bruce Springsteen (emerging from New Jersey). The only similarity we can think up is, well, both were born in the USA.

Nonetheless, when you make a TV series, you have to name the episodes something — and we're guessing whoever was in charge of that particular job was wearing out their Boss playlist on Spotify. From episode 2 (titled "Worlds Apart") to Episode 10 ("Loose Ends"), virtually every episode gets its name from a vintage Springsteen track.

The only exceptions seem to be episode 3 ("He Speaks") and the first episode, which bears the self-explanatory "pilot" moniker. The fans have taken note over on Reddit, where one wants to know: "When is 'Pink Cadillac' scheduled?" Bruce once famously sang that there were 57 channels and nothing on, so maybe he could reciprocate by issuing an updated version of that song, pointing out that he found a certain superhero/horror show that has changed his mind.

Other tribute titles include episode 4 ("Darkness on the Edge of Town") and episode 6 ("The Price You Pay"), but this all just begs certain questions, like: Which episode rocks harder, "Drive All Night" (episode 5) or "Brilliant Disguise" (episode 7)?

Oppositional forces

Although the concepts are much more fully fleshed out in the comics, at the root (sorry) of any good Swamp Thing tale are the Green and the Rot.

The Green is an elemental force which connects all forms of plant life on Earth — and Swamp Thing is not only its greatest defender, but also its best spokesman this side of the Lorax. The yang to its yin is the Rot, which is essentially decay and death.

The comic books also introduce readers to the Red (essentially animals) and the Grey (fungi), but Swamp Thing doesn't seem to be getting into that anytime soon. Which is one of the great things about comics — if you love a series like Swamp Thing, there's always an abundance of opportunities to dig deeper.

In the comics, Abby and the Arcane family are caught between this eternal struggle — which gets really complicated with the New 52 relaunch, when she becomes an avatar for the Rot. As for the TV adaptation, in a series filled with struggles — Maria vs. Avery Sunderland, Lucilia Cable vs. Matt Cable, Alec Holland vs. Swamp Thing — the most important battle might just be one you can barely see.

Sleep in the swamp

The next time you want to get together with friends for a fun weekend, you most likely won't be able to rent the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude. Generally speaking, DC superhero homes for rent are few and far between.

You can, however, hold your event at a key location from Swamp Thing, and no, we're not talking about sleeping at the bottom of the muck.

On the show, Delroy's Roadhouse is the sort of dimly lit, atmospheric watering hole that you can almost smell through your TV. It seems like there are always a couple characters huddled up at a corner table, picking apart the latest dramatic developments in their storylines over a drink or three.

In real life, it's the WalkerWorld Organic Artist Retreat, available for about $600 a night and every bit as atmospheric (if not slightly better lit). If you're feeling brave, book this North Carolina respite for yourself — but don't blame us if your slumber is interrupted by nightmares involving a certain big green guy dragging you into the swamp.

A familiar face

In the '80s, sex symbol Adrienne Barbeau played beauty to the original Swamp Thing beast in Wes Craven's cinematic adaptation of the comic. The film received fairly lukewarm reviews and didn't fare much better at the box office, but it did receive a sequel and years later is remembered fondly by many fans.

So the monster might do a double take if he ever has a scene opposite Dr. Palomar, Abby's disapproving boss at the CDC, because the role is played by Barbeau in a winking acknowledgement to the old film. The Escape from New York actor, now in her 70s, still has a healthy career and work ethic, appearing in several movies and TV shows every year and even providing voice work for some video games.

It's good to see her Swamp Thing cameo, and that no matter how many times the big green guy gets drowned, blown up, shot and resuscitated, he never forgets an old friend.

Eating Swamp Thing

In a particularly stomach-turning scene from Alan Moore and Steve Bissette's The Saga of the Swamp Thing #22, Dr. Woodrue takes a piece off Swamp Thing, cooks it up, and eats it. Mom always said to eat your vegetables, but we're thinking some green beans would've been a more sensible alternative.

In the TV series, actor Kevin Durand (Lost) adds a quirky, killer vibe as Woodrue. At any given moment, the character shows himself to be brilliant, sympathetic, or completely off his rocker — which all culminates when the show recreates that mystifying meal.

The moment comes in episode 10, "Loose Ends," when Woodrue fries and seasons Swamp Thing's "organs" as a supposedly all-healing appetizer for his sickly spouse. In the comics, this meal gives him powers but drives him insane; in the show, he goes into convulsions after ingesting the organs, but other side effects remain as unclear as the murky waters of Marais.

Blue Devil loves Blue Devil comics

In a series of increasingly poor career choices, Daniel Patrick Cassidy is a former stuntman who bought a video store and sold his soul for a movie role.

The part is played by 90210 alum Ian Ziering, who does a great job being a little bit slimy, a little bit heroic, and a whole lot conflicted as he finds himself quite literally trapped in a town he'd love to leave behind.

Fans will recognize his evolution — the character has been a comic book fave since the '80s (he even had a stint in the Justice League) — and if Daniel needs a refresher on his own storyline, he needn't look far. Since the character is an actor who played Blue Devil in a movie, there are real-life comics littered all over his store. In one scene, Liz Tremayne even appears to be reading a digital version on her tablet, giving us just one more reason to love her.

The Phantom menace

Actor Macon Blair plays the Phantom Stranger, a character whose saga stretches back through nearly 70 years of comics history.

In Swamp Thing, the Stranger is a crucial element of the Blue Devil storyline. Cassidy assumes he is a production executive on the film when he accepts his ill-fated deal, and the Stranger later visits him in the hospital to help reinforce the terms. The Stranger also logs significant time with Swamp Thing, filling in some gaps in the creature's understanding of what he is.

One of the best features of Phantom Stranger has always been his lack of a backstory — often interacting with the Justice League biggies, little is known of his real name, or motivations, or even whether he's alive or dead — but whereas the comics often have him masked and wearing a trench coat, the Swamp Thing series gives him some flair (his medallions are clearly visible) while making the character far more disarmingly ordinary.

Swamp Thing's flashback look

In the season one finale "Loose Ends," things aren't going so well for our old buddy Swamp Thing. He's spent significant time on an autopsy table, learned a disturbing truth about the true fate of Alec Holland, and he then goes twelve rounds with a bunch of mercenaries in the swamp.

To help recover, we see Swamp Thing heal himself with a swamp shvitz that leaves our hero with a new, Groot-like spiky tree bark look. His shoulders seem amplified for what appears to be some sort of attack mode, and on top of that he looks like one touch could leave you with a heck of a splinter.

As longtime comics readers will remember, those spikes are actually a reference to an extreme makeover the character briefly flirted with in the '90s. Hey, we all have embarrassing memories of those days, but at least his look didn't involve tube socks, Teva shoes, and a Hootie & The Blowfish t-shirt.

Birth of the Floronic Man

In the post-credits scene that airs after the season 1 finale, we get a brief glimpse of Jason Woodrue's transformation into the Floronic Man, a unique creation dating all the way back to '60s comic books. Originally, the botanical-minded bad guy with bark-like skin and leaf-like hair was a nemesis to heroes like the Atom, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. But in the mid-'80s, Alan Moore gave Woodrue a significant new storyline that had him declaring war against all non-plant life.

Once again owing much to Moore's beloved comics run, the Swamp Thing show concludes with Woodrue transformed, explaining that he doesn't understand the desire to be human again "when the alternative is infinitely more intriguing." This leads to some sort of confrontation between the character and Matt Cable, and it seems pretty safe to assume that the former came out on top. If there is a Swamp Thing season 2, look for a storyline leading to a showdown between Floronic Man and Swamp Thing, with life both human and otherwise hanging in the balance.