THE INITIAL RELEASE (1990)
Airing in 1990, the cartoon series of Swamp Thing was a product created for a generation who were “coo coo for coco puffs” and loved to jam to the almighty funky fresh beat of Turtle Power. This period sometimes referred to as “the reckoning” by penniless parents, was a time that saw the prying eyes of marketing machines targeting kids with (just about) any product that they could shill on them with a logo. Whether it was a breakfast cereal, a t-shirt or a racially insensitive action figure, the goal was always to incorporate a brand that would always be present in a child’s life and stick out in their mind. Sometimes it worked. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a brand that anyone would have placed a bet on prior to its success. It was a goofy concept that used buzz words in its title to initially attract a young audience.
As we know now, it paid off. One brainiac among many decided that this pie was far too tantalising to pass up. Aping off the success of merchandise goliaths like G.I Joe and TMNT came Swamp Thing. Originally a comic property, Swamp Thing became a means to sell toys. The cartoon series was released in order to transition kids from the television to their local toy shop. Reportedly, the show runners were given less of a budget than the marketing team. An estimated six million dollars was put into a figure line for the series. Due to lacklustre sales of these figures, the show was subsequently cancelled in 1991. However, the real question we need to ask, was it worthy of saving or was the quality of the property compromised by its intended goal?
MY EXPERIENCE (1990 – 2015)
Swamp Thing, you make my heart sing. It has been so long. There is always a hint of nostalgia when writing about a beloved series or movie from childhood. The hint in this case being that I couldn’t remember anything remotely good about the show, but I simply recall being excited by every passing moment. More often than not, I find myself having a supreme adoration for properties that marked important dates in my childhood. Swamp Thing was the first occasion I was allowed to stay up past ten o’clock to watch a programme. It’s actual air time was often muddled, due to the folks at TCC presumably trying to work out a time-slot that would actually garner viewers. They had me at least, and they still do!
The Swamp Thing cartoon is an absolute joy of campness and nineties tropes. From the very first episode, Swamp Thing hits the ground running in a unique manner as we are treated to a grotesque hero with frightening abilities at his disposal. It looks like a typical cartoon of the time, but it oozes horror film features in each scene. The dialogue is as corny as can be, harkening back to Hammer House productions of the monster variety. Obviously, the show runners took inspiration from classic cinema to create a satire, gift wrapped in a Hanna-Barbera coat. Marrying this mix of visuals and writing with a few familiar dime store bad guys of the over-the-top variety creates a beautiful blend of fun in a flamboyant sense. Whilst only five episodes exist, all are charming and give their own flavour of personality. It just works and its mainly down to the simple setups and diverse characters.
Swamp Thing (AKA Alec Holland) is a man with a vendetta against those who turned him into a beast. Utilising his abilities to stop them, He justifies his actions by protecting the swamp that gave him these powers. He protects it from creatures like him who used to be men. The heritage of the story ties in with Indian culture and their environmental message against corporations who seek to pave over forests and land. Swamp Thing encounters allies with Indian backgrounds among other activists that aid him in his duty. The good guys that help Swamp Thing are from different minorities. The villains are freakish monsters that serve as metaphors of those with capitalist mindsets. This is a lot to bring into a kids cartoon series, but ever so slightly you see the point they are trying to make over the course of the unfortunately brief series.
It is by no means a classic cartoon. It was never given enough time to gain that status. For what it was, It delivered in the sense that it went beyond its purpose of being an excuse to sell toys. It gave a relatively faithful interpretation of the Swamp Thing comics at the time. There was a downgrade in tone, yet all the elements that made the comics popular were still present. So, If you’d like a goofy show that has a little more than meets the eye. Consider checking out Swamp Thing. I had a blast revisiting it. It has the catchiest theme song around! It does sound somewhat familiar though…
Did you enjoy Swamp Thing? Did you loathe it? We won’t know unless you comment below!