[Excerpted from the cover letter for the project proposals, Aug. 1998:]
The next two proposals are for work-for-hire ventures, based as they are on DC properties. I would, of course, fight tooth-and-nail for the sweetest deal possible. ...these were verbally pitched to Karen [Berger] earlier this year via phone conversation, and she liked them.
John Totleben (who created Nukeface) has given his blessings to "The Nukeface Manifesto," which expands upon the two-part "Nukeface Papers" Alan Moore, John, and myself created for SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING years ago (and which was recently reprinted in the Essential Vertigo reprint series.... Here they are:
"THE NUKEFACE MANIFESTO"
In a posh estate near the New York/Connecticut border, a gate is still open. Laying beside the open gate is a gatekeeper. His uniform is smoldering, the skin beneath seems burned, pitted. His exposed skin -- hands, face -- is partially liquified, his eyes burnt white like cooked eggs. Alongside the still gatekeeper are two dogs, their gums toothless, patches of hair scorched from their hides. One of them bears the scars of handprints, burned into the singed fur on its neck and haunches.
The tarmac leading from the gate across the palatial spread and to the front doors has an odd look to it, as if it had been heated along a specified pathway which meanders up to the front door of the estate.
The concrete stairs leading up to expansive oak front door are unblemished, but the black paint on the cast-iron railing is damaged in an unusual pattern, as if human hands had blistered the paint itself wherever they touched the rail as someone, something made its way up these stairs.
The door itself shows some sign of heat blistering, primarily around the lions-mount doorknocker and the doorknob, both of which seem discolored by contact with heat or some caustic substance.
The door is open, too. Spilling out of the opulent hallway and over the welcome mat is the body of an older man dressed, it seems, in what was a silk robe. His hands are bloated and seared, his face barely recognizable as having once been human. The jaws are particularly ravaged, sans lips or chin, as if some corrosive substance had been poured over or into them, eating away even portions of the bone beneath the dissolved skin.
Nukeface has come calling again.
Briefly: Our narrator and nominal hero is a reporter for a nationwide alternative paper who has been actively investigating and reporting on a series of apparent homicides that have occured over a number of years. Each victim was a prominent figure in the nuclear power, waste, or regulatory industries, and each apparently was killed by exposure to an extremely volatile toxic substance involved in each murder. The authorities, however, remain confounded by the means of "execution," the source of the deadly substances, and the means of conveyence to and from the murder scenes.
The only pattern, other than the prominence and industry positions of the victims, are a series of badly-written letters our overworked narrator has received, via mail, in conjunction with each homicide. Strung together, these barely-coherent letters form a manifesto of sorts, targetting those who advocate and profit from the nuclear industry. Though he himself has become, as a result, a target for much authoritarian scrutiny and questioning, our fearless but over-tired reporter continues to publish these letters as they turn up, and investigate the events they are circumstantially linked to.
The story he has pieced together is refuted and ridiculed by the police, the FBI, and all other news sources. It is a tale of a lowly man, a street person, a hobo, whose own unique biology has somehow accomodated the toxic substances he has absorbed through the years. This hypothetical irradiated hobo perhaps worked, at some point in his tragic, wasted life, in some sort of nuclear facility: a janitor in a power plant, a waste-disposal laborer, a "cleaner" in some abandoned factory forced to work with hazardous materials. That, perhaps, is the source of his grudge with the elite of the nuclear technology industries, the obsession that drives him on to kill and kill again, to balance the scales, to exact his revenge, to inflict on the powerful the same agonies that consume those like himself on the bottom of the corporate foodchain.
The reporter has come to call this nuclear phantom "Nukeface," after a child's rhyme overheard in some remote part of Pennsylvania. And the letters have come to be called "The Nukeface Manifesto."
And this, lies and all, is their story.
Like all good stories, there's a hero, a villain, and a twist in the tale.
And lies. Lots of lies... and a hidden truth:
Who is the author of "The Nukeface Manifesto"?
"SWAMP THING ORIGINS: GO WITH THE FLOW"
Expanding upon a sequence I conceived and pencilled in Alan's final issue of SWAMP THING (#63, scripted by Alan over my pencils and via phone-plotting sessions with Karen), this self-standing graphic album or short series reveals the pre-history of SWAMP THING. It's a simple enough tale, but rich in imagery and ideas.
It tells of his life as an elemental, eternally manifesting itself among whatever dominant life form caught his interest, until finally there came a being which mastered the one element Swamp Thing could not:
In the beginning, before there were swamps or things, there was a swamp thing. Born of fire, of the chemical soup excited by heat and magma into the first stirrings of life, the swamp thing lived when life was new, watched when there were no eyes, and interacted when there were no willing actions, no sentient spark. It lived, and it watched, and it swam and sang among the single-celled beings.
And it remembered. It remembered every moment.
When single cells joined to form communal beings, swamp thing was there, a community in and of itself. It contoured itself into their shapes so as to move among them undetected, acting and interacting but rarely acted upon. When multicellular beings began to self-replicate asexually, dividing and conquering, it was there, too, and when the more unusual forms began to split into genders and join in more unusual ways to spawn more of their kind, swamp thing was there.
As coral gave way to chitinous armor, as hydra made way for jellyfish, as sponges spread beneath swarms of trilobite, swamp thing was there, swimming in their numbers, one of them, and yet not. When the great sea scorpions seized and dismembered their prey, it was there, playing both the hunter and the hunted as it wished.
As notochords became spinal columns, as spineless jawless swimmers attached their suckered mouths for the first time to the oversized bony Superfishes that spread throughout all the waters, fresh and salt, swamp thing was there, too.
When the first of their number raised its fleshy lobe-fins to the air, and crawled upon the land, swamp thing followed. Watching. Waiting. Remembering.
Well, you get the idea. Make this a job, and I can write the pants off this concept.
Part 2: LAND brings Swamp Thing onto land, metamorphing with the dominant lifeforms from the lungfish through the amphibians, the first reptiles, and on into the age of the dinosaurs. The high point of this sequence is the interaction between the saurian incarnation of Swamp Thing and some of the most impressive of the dinosaurs -- you know, fight scenes! A monstrous forest fire ravages the area he inhabits, and he is intrigued by the survival of the flying crfeatures. Thus, the progression of flying forms -- from flies to dragonflies on through to the pterosaurs and birds -- attracts swamp thing, leading into:
Part 3: AIR, as Swamp Thing embraces and emulates the airborned freedoms of the airborne creatures. This sequence would be related as a food-chain of sorts, with swamp thing embodying a series of flying forms as he moves up the foodchain, allowing his immediate form (say, a dragonfly) to be swallowed by a bird-like creature, allowing him to move among the feeding creature's tissues, abandon that creature, and replicate it with his own plant tissues. This continues until he witnesses one of the nests of the species he is at the time imitating being raided by a man-like creature. Intrigued by this new being, Swamp Thing watches its behavior, and follows the evolution of its kind until he flees his first encounter with fire being wielded as a weapon, rather than as a force of nature.
Part 4: FIRE, in which Swamp Thing finally establishes his humanoid form. He still, however, carries the memories of all his former incarnations. Seeing how the new beings, the humans, must re-invent themselves with every generation, Swamp Thing consciously decides to abandon the eternal consciousness of the elemental he has been. He will remember no more, embrace the great adventure of becoming mortal, an individual rather than collective consciousness -- and fire, the one element he can neither withstand nor control, shall be the vehicle of his rebirth, again and again, through the ages.
Text and concept copyright 1998 Stephen R. Bissette
Swamp Thing and Nukeface characters TM and copyright DC Comics, 1998