There is a house above the world addendum
It’s outrageously bad-mannered that I haven’t mentioned the artists yet. I’ve never been a follower of artists in comics. I think of that as something an older generation of fans did; the writing was much the same, muddily generic, across many titles in the 70s but there were artists who always rewarded attention. Neal Adams’s artwork made the Kree-Skrull War into an epic and redefined the Joker. Perez’s marriage of cartooning and detail took the Teen Titans to new heights of popularity. Byrne’s storytelling technique and eye for darkness made the Dark Phoenix melodrama memorable. The writers of each were important but hardly the main attraction.
As an Alan Moore follower, it was all about the writer for me. That was the name I looked for. And because the writers I followed from 2000AD across the Atlantic were often paired with artists equally unknown over there, and often much less talented, I began to regard the artist as a side issue, something unreliable and interchangeable. Based on the way the comics in the Vertigo line began to treat them, the Sandman model of changing artist every storyline seeming like a new Fordist model for long-running series for a while, I wasn’t alone in that.
So: hands together for Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Tatjana Wood. The penciller is a horror fanatic and knew exactly how to approach the series. Strange angles, fractured panels, nasties springing fresh from the brush. Totleben made it all slick and dark, doing most of his work with the weight of the line. He also included a lot of detail which was of disproportionate importance back when the comics were published. It’s what the audience looked for because so many artists churned out work in bland, boring shapes without backgrounds. Swamp Thing’s dense, overgrown, moss-and-fern covered body was a bland mud shape in the hands of some artists.
The figurework is occasionally stiff, the Justice League pages proof that the pairing wouldn’t be effective on superhero comics, and the amount of work being put into each issue meant that fill-ins and eventually a backup team was necessary, but without Bissette and Totleben Swamp Thing wouldn’t have changed the industry as it did. Hats off to them.