Tuesday, October 11, 2011
'Morning Of The Magician': Swamp Thing meets Jesus Christ - The Lost Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing #88 will always remain the one Swamp Thing story that DC never wanted anyone to see. The year was 1989 and writer/artist Rick Veitch was in charge of Swamp Thing, then one of DC Comics’ hottest properties, mainly due to the exposure that Alan Moore had given the title over the past few years. In his first major storyline, Veitch had Swamp Thing going backwards in time, meeting up with historical DC characters, and historical characters in history. The storyline had been mapped out in advance, and editors had been notified, and there was some concern as Veitch wanted to end the story with Swamp Thing meeting none other than Jesus Christ. Naturally there was concern surrounding the issue, and editor Dick Giordano insisted on seeing the script in advance, something Veitch was only too happy to do.
Giordano had previously given a tentative go-ahead to the story, titled Morning Of The Magician and work had begun on the art, which was to be drawn by Michael Zulli, in his first ever job for DC. Veitch had informed DC that the characters in the story would be, naturally, Swamp Thing, along with The Demon, a character called the Golden Gladiator (both pre-existing DC characters) and another character, simple called Nazarene. Nazarene would only interact with Swamp Thing once, when Swamp Thing would hand the cup from which Nazarene (Jesus Christ) would drink from in the garden. However the cover art, by Veitch, suggested that Swamp Thing would end the story as the actual crucifix that Jesus would be slain upon. Once the script was fully finished, Veitch handed it to Giordano and Swamp Thing editor Karen Berger for review on the understanding by both sides that changes would be made if necessary. It turned out that changes were not necessary. Despite Zulli having completed almost all of the pages, once then DC president Jenette Kahn read the script she insisted on the story being killed due to it being blasphemous. This was despite DC being looked upon, at the time, as being somewhat progressive, with the publication of stories such as Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and the Death of Robin.
Veitch then went to work to save his story. The first thing he did was to send a memo to all parties concerned, discussing the story and how it wasn’t blasphemous. It has no real effect and two days after the memo was sent Veitch and Zulli were officially notified that the story would not see print. Firmly between a rock and a hard place and faced with totally rewriting the ending to his saga, and frustrated by the refusal of Kahn to negotiate, Veitch promptly resigned. Berger then approached two other writers, Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano, to replace Veitch, both firmly turned her down in support of Veitch. In 2004 Veitch offered to make changes to the story so that it could see print but was again turned down. The saddest aspect of this story is that the ending to the excellent saga that Veitch had started will never see print in a DC comic. Veitch went on to work for other companies, including his own, eventually returning to DC Comics in the early 2000’s, despite the story not being published.
The hypocrisy of comic book publishers when it comes to secular characters is incredible. Both DC and Marvel have depicted characters from Hell, including the Devil himself, but both consider it an act of high blasphemy if a character such as Jesus or God is portrayed. At Marvel Tony Isabella had included a mysterious character into a storyline in Ghost Rider, all references or suggestions that the character could be Jesus Christ were removed, and that was in a book featuring a character that had sold his soul to the Devil. Again, despite the storyline being approved and long-running, editor Jim Shooter took exception at the ending of the story, rewrote it and had it partially redrawn, to show that the character, titled ‘Friend’ throughout the series, was nothing more than a demonic apparition. The reason given by Shooter was that Marvel had no desire to upset Christians. Despite this Marvel had no issue with, again, relying on the Devil to sell books. Sin sells, goodness and religion does not.
Other, smaller, publishers weren’t so rigid and as time passed more and more began to publish stories featuring Jesus and even God. A lot of this can be tracked back to National Lampoon’s brilliant ‘Son O God’ series, drawn by the legendary Neal Adams, which featured a character who’d turn into Jesus as a superhero and whose arch foe was none other than the Pope. In recent times there’s been books with titles such as ‘Jesus Hates Zombies’ and Erik Larson featured a smackdown between God and the Devil in his Savage Dragon series, but still the big guy has yet to turn up at either Marvel or DC.
What I’m presenting here is the full script, as written by Rick Veitch, and the art, as drawn by Michael Zulli, for the ‘missing’ Swamp Thing issue, #88. Read the script, see the art and wonder what could have been, if only DC had the balls to publish it in its finished version. After all, if the Devil can strut his stuff in DC Comics and elsewhere then why can’t Jesus?