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"Ghost Dance"

(22 pages)
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist(s): Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcala
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Karen Berger
Swamp Thing Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

Cover: Steve Bissette and John Totleben


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Comic book creator Jim Wheelock told me how he helped inspire this story: "Steve (Bissette) and I loaned each other books a lot during the period he was working on Swampy. At one point, Steve and I were talking about characters. I think they were thinking about humans to represent various elementals. I loaned him a great little book about eccentric American characters, which included the story of Mrs. Winchester and her house in San Jose, California. I've always thought Alan's repeated use of the hammering image as a metaphor was a major development in mainstream comics language. I was always a bit disappointed that Steve didn't draw it, but what the heck.

Among the other characters in the book was Emperor North (sic), the San Francisco wacko who appeared in SANDMAN (#31). I don't know if Steve ever mentioned North or the book to Neil Gaiman, who he was also in touch with, or if Neil found out about him on his own. Most likely, the latter."

1:3 The gunfighters (and all the ghosts in this story) are new characters.

2:3 Dave, Judy, Rod & Linda are all new characters.

2:5 The NRA bumper sticker = National Rifle Association, a powerful gun rights lobbying organization

3:3 It is an old American superstition, when predicting that nothing bad will happen, to knock on wood to prevent things from ironically turning bad. The phrase "knock wood" in this story could also refer to the hammers pounding nails into the wooden house.

5:4 Stephen King is an extremely popular horror writer.

5:6 Shelley Duvall played a wife who ends up being chased through a haunted house by her husband (played by Jack Nicholson) in the 1980 film The Shining, written by Stephen King

6:1 "Here's Johnny!" was a memorable phrase used by Nicholson's character in The Shining. The phrase originally comes from the standard introduction of Johnny Carson when he was host of the Tonight Show.

12:2 The reference is the 1952 Warner Brothers cartoon Fool Coverage. Porky Pig is mentioned again in the next issue, but this is just a coincidence.

13:3 Swampy encountered aquatic vampires in Rosewood, a werewolf in Keneskook, and

13:6 The Weatherby murders, along with all the other ghosts named in this story, are apparently fictional.

15:6 Cordite is a smokeless gunpowder, invented in 1889 by Sir James Dewar.

17:5 What does "deadman's tattoo" refer to? Does it have something to do with "wood upon wood"?

19:7 Link to 20:2 "I'm coming"/"You came then?"

21:1 Benjamin previously appeared in #37, and Frank in #38.

H.P.Lovecraft is a popular horror author of the 1920's who is known for the Necronomicon mythos he created. Among the dieties called "the Old Ones", Shub-Niggurath is the never seen "Black Goat of the Wood, the Goat with a Thousand Young". Cthulu, the most famous Lovecraft diety, is the inspiration for the Cthon character in Marvel Comics, and the Necronomicon corresponds to Marvel's "Darkhold" book.
In the novel Anansi Boys, by Alan Moore's friend Neil Gaiman, a character has thoughts very similar to the man at the end of this issue of SWAMP THING. The character muses about how using a gun to kill people makes him feel like part of an exclusive club.

Moore also wrote a scene in an American gun shop in VIGILANTE #18, page 8 (June, 1985) which you can read here.

21:4 Skegness is seaside resort town in England.

22:2 The phrase "knock wood" is used again.

22:3 The slogan in the background, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns", is popular with gun enthusiasts.

Comments: The title may refer to the Ghost Dance religion of the Native Americans in the late 1880's. It was based on an ecstatic dance started by the prophet Wovoka, of the Paiute tribe, promoting peace and non-violence. Many members of the Ghost Dance were massacred at Wounded Knee.

Comments: This story is inspired by a real "haunted house": the Winchester Mansion, in San Jose California. Constructed by the widow of the heir of the Winchester Rifle Company, she ordered that the house be under construction night & day ("the sound of the hammers must never stop") to accommodate the ghosts of those killed by the rifles. The construction continued for 38 years until her death in 1922, resulting in 160 rooms covering over 6 acres. The house is a bizarre maze of dead ends and stairways to nowhere. There are windows in the floor and doors that open into brick walls. Many features in the house come in sets of 13. Click here to learn more.

Comments: Artist Steve Bissette wrote in Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman that he thanks comic book creator Jim Wheelock for his ideas on this story. Wheelock's name appeared on a tombstone in SWAMP THING #42 and Bissette also named a company "Wheelock Neuro-Optics" in story he wrote for ST Annual #4.

COMMENT: In 2001, DC Comics collected/reprinted issues 43-50 in a trade book titled "Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows" .

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