My Ode to Swampthing

“The Swamp is my world
It is who I am… It is what I am
 I was once a man,
I know the evil men do
Do not bring your evil here, I warn you…
Beware the wrath of… Swamp Thing!”
– from the TV series, “Swampthing”

As a pre-teen girl, swimming in the river, I sometimes pretended to be Swampthing.  I don’t remember ever watching the TV show that ran for a while in the early ‘90s (now aired on the Sci-Fi Channel) but I was charmed by the comic book character—the same Swampthing that is included in the Strange Wetlands logo.

I need to pay some overdue homage to “Swampthing,” the comic book hero turned into a 1980s horror flick directed by Wes Craven, who went on to direct the fantastic “Underworld” series, one of my favorites.  “Swampthing” was a scientist who turned into a half-man, half-swamp life form after a lab accident. Swampthing was a hero, as opposed to the tragic tale of the alligator mutant in the 1950s flick, “The Alligator People,” about a failed medical experiment in the Bayou.

The powerful, sensitive Swampthing fought off the bad guys who messed with the wetlands—sort of a smarmy version of Mark Trail. Dick Durock, the actor who portrayed “Swampthing” in the movie and the TV series for 50 episodes, passed away in fall 2009. As an actor wearing 40 pounds of foam rubber in the Florida heat, he showed another kind of dedication to wetlands. Currently there’s talk of a re-make of the movie in 3-D.http://geeksofdoom.com/2009/08/29/new-swamp-thing-movie-being-developed-complete-with-3-d/

In the “Return of Swampthing,” (1987) the misunderstood green man takes on a new love interest: Heather Locklear. She’s a horticulturist and wonders aloud, “why can’t men be more like plants?” After he rescues her and the unlikely lovers return to his domain in the darkest spot in the Everglades, he laments, “I can’t give you the love you want…because I’m a plant.” “That’s okay,” she coos, “I’m a vegetarian.” I can relate to this statement. Naturally, he goes for the pretty blonde in distress over the legendarySwamp Maiden, a more compatible partner.

Because “Swampy,” as he was affectionately known in the TV series, was a 7-foot tall talking plant, there was room for a lot of campy humor amidst the heroic action plot. Meanwhile, the show took on some relevant issues: the evil Dr. Arcane created a worm that would eat its way through the swamp and Swampthinghad to stop the destruction caused by the invading species. In another episode, Swampy had to clean up the wetlands after the evil Dr. Arcane strategically dumped pharmaceuticals into the water. He’s not immune to the harsh chemicals that were illegally dumped—by none other than the evil Dr. Arcane and his team—into the Everglades, where Swampy was poisoned and nearly died. Then there are the mutant mosquitoes! It would seem that this well-loved character encountered many of the challenges that real wetland professionals face, even if a bit clichéd and sometimes stereotyped. Certainly the evil Dr. Arcane was a repeat offender!

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