Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Next-To-Best Two Pages In All of Comics

On the previous post, I speculated that the legendary Alex Toth created two pages (he scripted, drew, inked and lettered those two pages) that were so powerful, they launched a new title into DC's months-old 'mystery' boom for 85 issues. That was 1968 and the title was "The Witching Hour".

Jump forward to 1984.

Horror comics are all-but-dead with the last regular issue of House of Mystery #321 having appeared on stands exactly one year earlier in 1983, the last of DC's big mystery line. Charlton Comics canceled its long-running Ghostly Tales and Scary Tales the same month this next comic was published. Marvel's Secret Wars plows over the rest of the field to set the new stage for comics, the blockbuster super-hero cross over. Kids just don't like that scary stuff anymore.

Alan Moore wasn't writing for kids.

You may think I'm going to showcase the ground-breaking work of Moore et al in the 'Saga of the Swamp Thing' #21, The Anatomy Lesson. This one even made JK Parkin's and Chris Mautner's #1 spot on their Six comics that scared the $#!@% out of us list. Fantastic issue and revolutionary treatment of the title character. Launched the horror genre in comics into an entirely new direction.
What's interesting is that the Swamp Thing actually made his debut during the peak of DC's mystery titles in House of Secrets #92. One wonders what would have happened had Alan Moore taken over 'The Witching Hour'?...

But issue #21 wasn't the one that disturbed me.

No, that came eight issues later.  'Saga of the Swamp Thing' #29's Love and Death gave me two of the most powerful pages I can think of. Pages 2 and 3 scared me. I wonder how many people noticed that something was missing from the cover of 29 when they bought it? Take a look below and see if you can figure out what's missing:

Did you find it?


That's right, it's missing the Comics Code Authority. Couldn't get it through the censors. Issue 21 got through, this one did not. DC was forced to put it out without Code approval... and discovered a remarkable thing. It was still  carried by vendors. This single issue (in my humble opinion) led to the formation of DC's Vertigo imprint 9 years later, the irrelevance of the Code and the "Suggested For Mature Readers" tag.

The two pages?

First of all, I've always liked Abigail Arcane. She was 'Beauty' to Swamp Thing's 'Beast'. She's been cast as the victim on numerous occasions, but she's a pretty remarkable lady. Unlike many characters in comics, she's not motivated by hate, revenge or even a sense of justice. Nope, Abigail is a lover. Despite being the niece of one of the most evil characters in all of comics (and that's saying a lot!), Abby always pushes forward and leads with her heart, for better or worse.

Can you imagine how I felt, when after turning one single page, I had to bear witness to this?!

Right away, Moore has you.

Abby had suffered some immense tragedy that has (quite literally) brought her to her knees. You will read the next 18 pages feeling slightly sick to your stomach until... There's hints, there's foreshadowing, but... When you finally get to the 'big payoff' on the 2-page spread of the third and second last pages, you see why this issue never made it past the censors at the code and never could...

Moore's run on Swamp Thing has been collected numerous times in numerous editions. Pick it up.

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