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"Rite of Spring"

(23 pages)
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist(s): Stephen Bissette, John Totleben
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Karen Berger
Swamp Thing Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

Cover: Stephen R. Bissette (penciller), John Totleben (painter) See #36 letter column for credits.
Loved this cover? You're not alone. According to the letter column of issue #40, the original art for this issue and issues #29-34 and Annual #2 were stolen from the DC offices. Painted covers were still rather rare at that time, and this one got many offers to buy. Artist John Totleben tells me this:

"The original to that cover was supposed to go to Steve -- we used to trade off on every other cover, and #34, fell to him by luck of the sequence. We still consider it hot, and he still wants it back. At today's eBay-influenced art market prices, that cover is undoubtedly worth a very pretty penny. The art for most of the other material from #34 was recovered years ago -- all but the last page, and a few pin-ups and covers (#32, 33) from that time period?... some of which have turned up on the open market in recent years.

Check out Totleben's beautiful charcoal pencil recreation of this cover at Mike Burkey's collection site

Unlike most ST issues since SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #29, this cover does not have the words "Sophisticated Suspense". Presumably this was to leave visible as much of the artwork as possible.


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In the original printing of this issue, the DC Comics editorial page by Dick Giordino announces plans for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' history-making WATCHMEN mini-series.

Charcoal version by Totleben.
1:3 The comatose man is, of course, Abby's husband, Matt Cable.

2:1 The birds, dragonflies & frogs are mating. (Not with eachother...obviously.) ST's appearance reflects the seasons. Is this a new concept for the character?

11-12:13 A frog eats a bug. Meaning?

13:1 Abby's altered perceptions are symbolized by the panel layout changing to a 90 degree angle. This technique would later be used in Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN issue #10. Alan Moore pushed the comics envelope by doing an entire "sideways" issue with PROMETHEA #11 in 2000. Fan Paul Evans pointed out to me that Dave Sim experimented with a landscape ("sidewsys") layout in his CEREBUS series in 1983.

15: The red dots are ST's eyes.
Another version by Totleben.

18:1 "We Are The World" was a song produced as charity project (released in March 1985). A group of the most popular singers of the time (collectively called USA For Africa) raised money for famine relief.

19:1 That's the star-nose of a mole.

20 Looks like a vulva, the external female reproductive organs. Similar imagery is drawn on issue 70, page 17.

COMMENT: In his website's April 8, 2009 entry, artist Steve Bissette notes that Alan Moore's story “Act of Faith” (published in PUMA BLUES #20 in 1988)

" also a successor, in this thematic lineage, to our earlier collaborative work with John Totleben on Saga of the Swamp Thing #34, “Rites of Spring” (1984), in that “Act of Faith” is evocative of an empathic interspecies sex, focusing on a human (the narrator) essentially ‘getting off’ on observing the mating habits of the aerial manta ray Michael and Stephen had cocreated for Puma Blues."

Comment: "The Rite of Spring" ("Le Sacre du Printemps") is musical composition by Igor Stravinski (1882-1971), which many will recognize from the "Greek myth" sequence of the Disney film Fantasia. Stravinski envisioned it as "a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle , watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring" The first half of the piece is titled "The Adoration Of The Earth" which, in French, is the title of from issue #76, ("L'Adoration De La Terre", by Rick Veitch).

Comment: Note that the original printing of this story had a dozen or so full page ads interspersed throughout. The layout of this issue is unusual for comic books of this period in that the story is not to be read one page at a time. Whenever two pages of story are printed side by side, the reader should follow the panels from the upper left of the left page continuing clear across to the upper right of the right page, then resuming at the lower left of the left page continuing to the lower right of the right page.

Comment: PROMETHEA #10 (Eisner Award for Best Single Issue in 2001), also written by Alan Moore, had a similar psychedelic sex sequence. This concept also appears to be the inspiration for an erotic sequence in issue #34 (same as this issue #) of the comic book series BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8, written by Brad Meltzer in 2010.

COMMENT: This issue won "Best Cover" in the 1985 Jack Kirby Awards. This issue was nominated "Best Single Issue" for the 1985 Jack Kirby Awards, as was issue #32. SWAMP THING Annual #2 was the winner.

Comment: This issue is reprinted in black and white as ESSENTIAL VERTIGO: SWAMP THING #15, January 1998.

Comment: In 1990, DC Comics collected/reprinted issues 28-34 and SWAMP THING ANNUAL #2 in a trade book titled "Swamp Thing: Love and Death".

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