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As the DC Universe streaming service's third original series to premiere, Swamp Thing exemplifies the kinds of risks that Warner Bros. and DC are game to make on the small screen. The new series' tone leans more on horror than anything else, but Swamp Thing himself (itself?) will fit right in with the left-of-center heroes that populate Titans and Doom Patrol. In part because of the character's rich comic book history.
Swamp Thing's Comic Book Influences
Swamp Thing fanatics no doubt want to know which areas of the source material were being mined for inspiration by co-writers and co-showrunners Mark Verheiden and Gary Dauberman. I was lucky enough to talk to the latter about the development process behind Season 1, and I asked him how much this iteration of Swamp Thing was influenced by Alan Moore's memorable run in the 1980s.
For those who are totally unfamiliar with the radical way Alan Moore dove headfirst into the DC swamp for his first issue, I won't spoil the decades-old storyline here, just in case DC Universe's Swamp Thing directly adapts Moore's earliest issues in all the ways. Suffice to say, Moore's now-familiar pathos invoked an emotional charge within the narrative that led to some truly batshit-banana moments.
Bringing Alan Moore's words and ideas to life through television and film is a daunting task to say the least, as he penned over 40 issues of Swamp Thing. But he certainly wasn't the only comic inspiration that Gary Dauberman looked to when putting the story together with Mark Verheiden. Here's the specific way the character's creators influenced the co-showrunners as they developed the series.
It's quite true that Alan Moore's storytelling doesn't always follow an A-B-C progression, making it slightly more difficult to spin his work into episodic TV. So instead, Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden looked back to the Wein/Wrightson creator duo to guide in formatting the debut season's structure.
Considering there's no telling whether or not Swamp Thing will get a second season ordered up just yet – though the good reviews have to help – the co-showrunners don't have much of a reason to tap into the later-years arcs that have expanded the serialized story in many different ways.
For now, expect Alan Moore's influence to ring true, though don't expect the Swamp Thing TV show to match the comics' peculiar tone. Here, Gary Dauberman talked about balancing the celebration of adapting wacky comic stories with the need to stop things from getting TOO wacky. In his words:
The Swamp Thing premiere is a testament to that mission statement, in that the story and action are easy to follow, even as possibly supernatural things are happening in the swamp and beyond. There's also more than enough for longtime fans to chew on, with surprises sprinkled here and there, and a slow-burn pacing that's hard to get confused by. Now bring on Floronic Man!
Swamp Thing's Freedom At DC Universe
Neither Titans nor Doom Patrol seemed liked the kind of show that got a whole lot of notes and pushback from studio execs, and there's no reason to suspect that DC Universe would handle things differently with Swamp Thing, which sports another pair of MVP executive producers in James Wan and Len Wiseman. (The Underworld filmmaker directed the first two episodes.)
Gary Dauberman, who penned both the upcoming IT Chapter 2 and Salem's Lot adaptations, confirmed that the streaming service was game to let the creative team head in just about any direction they wanted.
Considering Doom Patrol was a spinoff of Titans, it's only natural to wonder if Swamp Thing will have any interconnecting tissue with other DC properties. When I asked just how free-wheeling DC Universe was, Dauberman made it sound like any potential crossovers will have to wait until viewers have once again made household names out of Crystal Reed's Abby Arcane, Andy Bean's Alec Holland, Derek Mears' Swamp Thing, and the rest. In his words:
All in all, it sounds like Swamp Thing could easily be 2019's most uniquely badass new TV series. Critics are enjoying it, and social media will likely soon be awash with the general public's opinions about the series premiere. Here's hoping enough people start watching to immediately guarantee a second season.