There are a few creators that I never get tired of revisiting their work.

Whose creations never fail to inspire and invigorate me no matter how many times I read them. In whose body of work I can find new and exciting things every single time. Even as I’m comforted by their familiarity.

There are few that I do so than the works of Alan Moore. Especially his run on Swamp Thing with Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, Tatjana Wood, John Costanza, and a host of other incredible collaborators. It was one of the series that just completely captured my imagination as a kid and made me fall in love with the medium.

It’s one of those series that can pick me up when I’m feeling blue.

The color of saxophones at dusk…”

Without hyperbole, I believe that Swamp Thing #56 by Moore, Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Wood, and Costanza is a perfect comic. It’s one in which every element, every creative aspect, is firing on all cylinders. And come together to create something magical. And profound.

Towards the end of Moore’s run, Swamp Thing’s intelligence was sent careening off the planet. In this issue, “My Blue Heaven”, he finds himself on a planet that is entirely blue. A metaphor that allows Moore to wax philosophical about the associations and implications of the colour. At the same time it deals with several of the recurring themes of the book, coming straight to a head, about loneliness, love, and ultimately the god problem raised through the series.

I find it’s some of Moore’s most poetic work. Both in how the narration breaks across Swamp Thing’s fragmented speech patterns–This itself giving John Costanza the chance to show his chops a few times. In the narration boxes, as well as the unique speech balloons for other characters that yet still have the staccato speech pattern–And in the content of Swamp Thing’s ruminations on existence. It sheds light on some of the sheer horror of solitary existence. Even when you can change and manipulate your environment. About the small details in the fallibility of memory that can drive you out of your mind.

Like a twisted smile.

All love…is madness, Alec…”

A large part of the magnificence of this issue, though, truly is the artwork. Just from a technical aspect, it’s a marvel. It could be very easy for a comic with a central concept of being on a planet cast in a single colour to have everything blend together.

It’s a combination of Rick Veitch’s layouts, pacing, and blocking across the page, with the textures and shading of Alfredo Alcala’s inks, and the various hues and tones of blue employed by Tatjana Wood’s colours. Veitch & Alcala’s linework would work from a black and white perspective, but Wood’s colour puts it over the top. It’s not as simple as a blue wash for mood. Rather a depth and richness to this blue world that conveys how different, how alien, and potentially how maddening it is.

And, seriously, this isn’t even going in to the beauty of how Veitch lays out these pages. Many of the pages employ a singular image split across five vertical panels, with movement across them, somewhat similar to the De Luca Effect. It’s a measured progression that almost makes the comic feel like a song. With Moore’s words floating atop the rhythm of the pages.

Swamp Thing #56
Into the wild blue yonder…”

I could probably gush on further about the intricacies of Swamp Thing #56 by Moore, Veitch, Alcala, Wood, and Costanza, but I don’t want to rob people of discovery. It’s one of my absolute favourite comics in a run that I easily recommend to everyone. We might not all be muck-encrusted moss monsters, but we all know the experience of feeling blue. And in microcosm this issue explores part of that bit of the human condition.

Swamp Thing #56

Classic Comic Compendium: SWAMP THING #56

Swamp Thing #56 – “My Blue Heaven”
Writer: Alan Moore
Penciller: Rick Veitch
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Colourist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: September 23 1986
Available collected in Saga of the Swamp Thing – Volume 5

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!