DC's New Winged, Armored SWAMP THING a "Warrior King"
The design for a new winged version of Swamp Thing was teased last week in Swamp Thing #7, after Alec Holland was transformed into the creature. As Scott Snyder detailed here on Newsarama, it was the first appearance of Swamp Thing in the New 52.
Today, DC fans are getting an even more up-close look at the new design by ongoing series artist Yanick Paquette. It's all part of a build-up toward the Swamp Thing and Animal Man crossover titled "Deadworld," which begins this summer.
This week, Newsarama is doing a series that profiles artists who are working with Snyder, beginning with Rafael Albuquerque, who illustrates American Vampire and the new back-up stories in Batman.
Today we look at the artwork of Paquette, the regular artist on Swamp Thing, and talk to both him and Snyder about this new design for the title creature.
Scott Snyder: First of all, this isn't just a Swamp Thing. That's one of the things we wanted to bring to the design. This is the warrior king Swamp Thing. It's supposed to be the greatest Swamp Thing of all time.
So in that way, we wanted the design to be really bad-ass, for one. But we also wanted it to have this avenging angel look, in the sense of something that's both brutal and warrior-like, and also sort of regal. Something that's a cut above the almost shambling Swamp Thing that you've seen before.
So we really wanted to make it imposing and exciting and inspiring to see, when he descends on the Rot. We really wanted it to be something that looked special.
For me, he's really a character who is the destiny of Alec Holland, even though he's been running away from it. It's such a powerful and important Swamp Thing to the Parliament and to the mythology, and to the Green itself.
Yanick Paquette: The new Swamp Thing is a bit more barky. He's a bit more of a warrior than a peace-loving moss creature. His role includes fighting against the forces of the Rot, so he needs to be able to defend himself, especially since his powers are different.
Contrary to the Alan Moore version, which was a plant that could die and regrow all over the place, and teleport himself and all these possibilities, which made him this invincible, god-like creature, our version of Swamp Thing still has Alec somewhere inside, the human. And so to go to places, you need to fly, hence the wing that have been revealed in issue #7.
And he needs to protect himself in some fashion, and his body has an armor now.
Nrama: Is that what you meant by "barky?"
Paquette: [laughs] Yeah. Is barky a word?
Paquette: Yeah, it was important for me to keep his physicality always changing, as nature is — in part because it allows us more liberty, but also because I don't want to always look at what I've done before. I want to be able to always do new ideas. So I wanted something super-organic that can always change. I mean, that's part of the appeal of doing Swamp Thing!
But at the same time, he has this — it's not armor, but it's this bark-like structure that protects his internal organs. So his body feels more solid and strong.
Nrama: Scott, as you two were working on this design, what kind of ideas did Yanick bring to the process?
Snyder: Yanick came up with tons of elements for this new design, both visually and conceptually. He would think, well, what if we gave him these almost wooden gauntlets that he can grow when he goes to fight? What if we made him a little more hulking than the Swamp Things before? What if we gave him a different sort of breastplate to show that it's almost like armor in some way? All of that stuff was terrific. It was based on the broad ideas that I had been telling him I wanted to incorporate, and visually, he took it the next step. Yanick is the kind of artist who doesn't just follow directions. He interprets what you're saying and builds on it and improves the storytelling.
We had a ton of fun but also a lot of stress, because a lot of effort went into this design. The email chain is enormous, because Yanick was testing out looks for even the small things, like the way his head looks was 41 emails long.
So Yanick did an incredible job interpreting the ideas I presented him with, about who I wanted the Swamp Thing to be visually, based on who he was at his core.we've talked before about all the innovation you're trying to bring to Swamp Thing, and it was obvious in issue #7. These panel designs and the eery way the Rot looks — it's all beautiful and yet disturbing. Did you come up with most of this from your imagination?
Paquette: Scott gave me immense freedom, in terms of visuals. I'm really in charge of the visual aspect. So most of these crazy, weird things, I'm afraid, are coming from me.
But my idea of the Rot is that, the Rot is part of nature. It's natural. It's not supernatural, or demonic. It's not from Hell. It's just nature going a bit "wrong."
So by taking stuff that you're used to seeing, like a horse, or like a baby, for instance, or taking things that you're familiar with but mixing them in a wrong fashion. That's more scary than just creating some sort of crazy monster that makes no reference to reality at all.
I was speaking with Jeff Lemire about the Rot, because for the crossover, we have the same Rot — both Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Eventually, the Rot is the same thing. My Rot in Swamp Thing is more about dead stuff being mixed in different fashions and looking gross. And [former Animal Man artist] Travel [Foreman]'s way of doing the Rot was almost like a genetic aberration where nature could just mutate into all these different possibilities in a very revolting way. It's crazy beautiful. It's another kind of "wrong," right?
But in both cases, it's about normal, natural stuff that goes awry, that goes perversely weird.
And I'm trying to figure out a way to mix this into a Rot that Swamp Thing and Animal Man can fight together, making it the same thing.
But the idea behind it is the Rot — how can I put that? It's always scary when you can almost feel the evil forces of imagination creating stuff out of dead things, and when you get to the hierarchy of the Rot you'll get to the Hunters in Animal Man where they can actually use nature in general to create some very weird shapes and stuff.
So there's a gradation. It's the same thing. It's just my Rot has a lack of imagination, somehow.
Nrama: No, don't say that.
Nrama: OK, that makes sense. And we've seen a peek at the Bone Kingdom in Death Valley. Are you going to be using that setting at all?
Paquette: Actually, for some strange reason, Marco Rudy ended up doing most of that. I did a few double-size pages that include that Kingdom in issue #8. We'll see a bit more in #9 also.
Nrama: Was there still the same thought behind the Bone Kingdom as how you described the Rot, that it's just a place where all of that comes together? In Death Valley?
Paquette: Yeah, because of its location, it's built with dead stuff, at this point. It's a land where everything rots and dies, I think, so we see these visuals like old dinosaur bones and rotten carcases and stuff.
Nrama: How is it working with Scott? He seems very collaborative.
Paquette: Oh yeah. Compared to everybody I've worked with before, really, Scott is the one that I can communicate with. I think I've told you that before.
Nrama: Yeah, we even compared Grant and Scott in or last interview, I think.
Paquette: Yeah, working with Grant is great, but we don't spend that much time over Skype. I mean, I have talked to Grant twice.
But because I have a good link of communication with Scott, I feel more free and confident about trying stuff of my own, somehow pushing my own enveloped, knowing that we both agree. We both think alike. I know he can approve what I'm doing. So that gives me the confidence to go very wild and crazy and experimental.
Nrama: You mentioned that you're working on the "Deadworld" crossover later this year. Is the plan that you'll be working closely with Animal Man artist Steve Pugh?
But that very first job, I did a collaboration with Steve. And on Twitter, I was threatening him of having his copy signed and stuff. So we are already in the bag together.
Nrama: Have you ever drawn Buddy Baker? I assume you're getting to draw him.
Paquette: Yeah, I guess I am! The way it's going to go is that Swamp Thing and Buddy Baker are going to have their own trouble, so there are basically two paths through the same world, and those will run separately in the two comics. But I know they do crossover at a couple points, so I'm guessing I will have to draw Buddy. And the look for him is already established.
Nrama: Scott has indicated that there will be a lot of creative stuff in "Deadworld." But what do you have coming up before that in issues #8 and beyond?
Paquette: Well, I'm spending my days now doing a Lord of the Rings sort of battle. For several issues now, Swamp Thing has been this story of Alec, and it's had a lot of people talking. There have been problems faced, but the action aspect of it has never been really crazy.
Issue #8 is a big payback for that. There will be a huge monstrous fight that is taking a lot of time to draw.
Nrama: I was honestly a little surprised when Scott said you were going to be on the entire crossover, all the way through 2013, because I was under the impression you were only doing the book for about a year, or at least just the first arc.
Paquette: Well, that was the initial plan, really. I was supposed to do just the first few issues. But I'm having too much fun, I guess! I want to do more. And by doing another run on it, I don't know if it's going to be my longest stay on a book, because I did two years of Terra Obscura with Alan Moore at ABC, but this will at least be the second longest stay on a book.
Nrama: So I take it you're really enjoying what you're doing and want to stick with this book for awhile?
Paquette: Totally. And also, really, I don't know what I'm going to do next. I don't know what could be this much fun! I'm almost afraid I've kind of broken myself, because I've been having too much pleasure doing freedom and weird things. Reverting back to something more "usual" or traditional, like superhero stuff, won't be that much fun. So I don't know what to do.
Of course, I'm not thinking about that. I don't even want to think about it! I'm just staying on Swamp Thing.
Nrama: Scott, you've made it clear that you want Yanick around for the crossover. What does Yanick bring to the title overall?
Snyder: Yanick and I both came onto the book when we both had too much to do to take the book, you know? I came onto it when I was writing the last American Vampire mini-series. So I had four books on my plate at that time. And Yanick was enveloped in what he was doing between Batman Inc. and other projects.
So when they offered Swamp Thing to me, Yanick was one of the very first people I thought of. I loved the way his art can be both really classically superhero and also be incredibly dark and shadowy. I had seen him experiment in panels with Batman Inc. in this crazy, artistic and wonderful storytelling he can do, and just his unconventional panel layouts. So I knew he would be terrific.
What he's brought, both to the design of the characters and the design of the overall book, is immeasurable. He wrote this manifesto early on in our run, where he describes how he was going to use the borders of the book, and how those borders were going to change both with the seasons when the books came out, but also based on Alec's emotional state. So if he was feeling pulled away from the Green, it was going to be starker, and when he felt terrified by the Green, they were going to be crowded.
He thinks so much and so hard. He's such an artist. And I mean that with a capital "A" — Artist — when it comes to the book. And all of it is in service of story. That's what I love the most about his work, is that he finds way to inspire me as a writer in his storytelling, where he pushes the envelope, but it's always in service of getting the story across in a way that's more compelling and more emotional and more inspiring to people as they pick up the book.