Monday, 16 June 2014


Welcome, loyal readers, to the first edition of "Muck Monster Monday", where, every Monday I'll be looking at the shambling heaps that roam the swamps of four-colour comics. From Man-Thing and Swamp Thing to the lesser known creatures such as The Heap.
Now, when I decided to do this it was to do an issue by issue look at Alan Moore's classic run on Swamp Thing in the vein of my current series looking at Jack Kirby's Fourth World. Then I decided to take it back to the original Len Wein/Berni Wrightson run. That then led to a comparison with Marvel's Man-Thing which in turn led to me going back to the earlier muck monsters. Sometimes I just don't know when to stop!
The roots (if you'll pardon the pun) of the swamp creature genre, however lie not in the comics medium, but in the science-fiction/horror pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.
For it was in the pages of one of the pulps that a particular short story was published that started an entire genre. This seminal story by Theodore Sturgeon was simply called "It!" and originally appeared in the August 1940 edition of "Unknown".
 Supernatural Thrillers #1 featuring an adaptation of "It!"
It's the tale of a plant monster that is revealed to have been formed in a swamp, around the skeleton of a man called Roger Kirk. In a book review published in the September 1949 of Astounding Science Fiction writer and critic P Schuyler Miller described "It!" as "probably the most unforgettable story ever published in Unknown."
The story influenced a number of comic book stories, especially in the giant monster titles of the pre-hero Marvel Comics such as Tales Of Suspense, Tales To Astonish, Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery. 
Marvel would later adapt the story itself in the first issue of the horror anthology "Supernatural Thrillers" although the suggestion by Marvel that it should become a regular series was vetoed by writers Roy Thomas and Tony Isabella because of it's similarity to Marvel's already existing Man-Thing. As Isabella said on his blog on 16th April 2013...
"When Supernatural Thrillers #1 sold very well, someone high up at Marvel wanted an "It!" comic book. When Roy Thomas and I discussed this, we decided that we couldn't do a continuation of the Sturgeon story because we were already publishing Man-Thing as an ongoing series. That's when I suggested we look at the sales of our monster reprint titles and how we discovered that the two issues that reprinted the Colossus stories by Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby had sold better than other issues of those titles. I started developing what became It! The Living Colossus!"
Although we had to wait until 1972 for this official adaptation, "It!" inspired muck monsters started roaming the comics pages much earlier. In fact the first appeared just two short years after Sturgeon's story.
That creature was known as "The Heap", and there'll be more about him next week...
I'll be back later in the week with another "Fourth World Thursday".
See you soon,

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