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"Swamp Thing Meets Jesus"
The lost issue...

(Or "Is Jesus Magic?")

Commissioned art by Rick Veitch (2009)
In 1989, Rick Veitch's great storyline about Swamp Thing travelling through time meeting various historical DC characters was nearing its conclusion. Issue #87 ended with Swamp Thing in King Arthur's Camelot, encountering the mysterious chunk of amber, this time hidden inside the Holy Grail. (See color art below.) As in preceding issues, Swamp Thing was launched further back in time. How did the amber get in the Grail?

The publisher had approved Rick Veitch's script for the next issue, which was a story involving Jesus Christ. At the last moment, the powers that be at DC Comics refused to print it. Perhaps DC Comics was scared of creating controversy, given the uproar over the recent film "The Last Temptation of Christ". Religious groups were protesting the film, having heard that it portrayed Jesus in a sacreligious context. DC Comics had an incredible investment in the soon-to-be-released Batman motion picture (and a respectable franchise in the Swamp Thing movies, TV series and planned cartoon and toys.)

Another factor may have been the furor that had recently been stirred up regarding Salmon Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. In an historic case of censorship, Muslim extremists, including the Iranian Ayatollah, called for Rushdie to be killed because they believed his story was blasphemous and misrepresented the prophet Muhammad.

Art by Tom Yeates from issue #87.

Veitch considered this censorship of SWAMP THING to be unacceptable. Some say that Editor-in-Chief Jenette Kahn accused Veitch of deviating from the approved script at the last minute. Rick Veitch quit DC Comics, vowing not to work for them again unless the issue was published. The SWAMP THING series was on hold for two months (although ANNUAL #5 was published in August), then Doug Wheeler was called in to finish the storyline in the next few issues, (without including Jesus).

Jamie Delano (HELLBLAZER) and Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN) had been slated to take over as alternating writers on SWAMP THING after Veitch (who was going to leave after the storyline's conclusion), but they declined, presumably out of support for Veitch.

DC has been reprinting in trade paperback format the SWAMP THING issues which Veitch wrote. On the message board, on June 6, 2004, Rick said "I've officially requested that they publish #88 in an upcoming collection (I've offered to fix anything deemed too offensive) and let me finish the Time Travel novel. So far, no final answer from the powers that be." When asked what changes he'd be willing to change, Rick said, "I'm not sure what the modern standards and practices would be.... But right off the top of my head, I'd think we could change it so Jesus isn't named (make him "The Magician" or "The Carpenter" or something like that). And maybe remove the full page crucifixion scene and communion scene.
Honestly, I'm less interested in seeing 88 published than I am in getting a chance to finish the Time Travel story."

Russ Heath's Golden Gladiator

Was there more than one version of the script? It is widely reported that there was a version with Swamp Thing becoming the very wooden Cross upon which Jesus was crucified, but this may be a misconception based on the proposed cover art seen below. The copy of Veitch's script which I have does not have Swamp Thing becoming a cross. On the other hand, Neil Gaiman's back-up story for SWAMP THING ANNUAL #5 ("Shaggy God Stories") has Woodrue musing about what might have happened in the Jesus story, and he asks if the elemental was the "tree" which Chirst died on.

In SWAMP THING SECRET FILES #1, published in 2000, a timeline mentions ST meeting Jesus in the form of His cross. Maybe there's hope that this story will be allowed into DC's official continuity?

The Jesus issue came on the heels of a contract problem between Veitch and DC. Veitch had plans for an epic story that would redefine the way that Hell and Heaven were depicted in the DC universe. Before DC created the Vertigo line of comics, a few books were labeled "For Mature Readers". Veitch's proposed storyline would involve all of the heroes that were thusly labeled (SWAMP THING, HELLBLAZER, GREEN ARROW and THE QUESTION). He would also introduce an important new character called King Hell. In a 1989 interview with Amazing Heroes, Veitch explained:

But I was really surprised to learn that when contracts finally came through, that the only way I could get equity in my own character was to sign a second contract for a second 12-issue series involving the character.
(After quitting DC, Veitch called his own publishing imprint "King Hell".)

Comics Journal #129 (May '89) featured a detailed report on the censoring of this story, including quotes from Veitch, Zulli, Editor-in-Chief Jenette Kahn, and Neil Gaiman, along with examples of concurrent comics stories which may have invited controversy. That article may be read online at this link. (Thank you to Vanya Miskovic for notifying me of the link.) Another relevant interview with Veitch appeared in the April 7, 1989 Comic Buyer's Guide #803 ("What Would have Happened in 'Swamp Thing' #88-9").

For a while, the unprinted pages were on display at the Words & Pictures Museum's Boston location (now closed). Reportedly, a copy of the script is available from Rick Veitch when you purchase any of his original artwork at Scans of Michael Zulli's unpublished pencilled artwork for the entire issue can be found circulating amongst fans.

Montage of Russ Heath's art

Below are annotations for the story as it would have appeared, based on the photocopy of the script which I have. I believe that the script in question is truly written by Veitch and I am proceeding here in good faith. Please keep in mind that I cannot guarantee accuracy as to what elements or version of the story the publisher objected to. For legal reasons, I will not put the script itself on the web.

I have taken the liberty of including artwork from other books.

Although some christian groups might have criticized this story for straying from the canon of holy scripture, the Gospel theme remains mostly consistent. Sacrifices have been made throughout history to appease deities. The "Evil Magi" in this tale sacrifice their own body parts to appeal to their demonic master, for selfish gain. Jesus, in contrast, lovingly sacrifices Himself, not for His own glory, but to enable forgiveness of the Golden Gladiator's sins (and for all mankind, past and future, throughout the multiverse.) Jesus is unique in his purity, making Him the only perfect sacrifice, whereas all other sacrifices (whether intended for good or evil) are flawed.

I wish to thank my friend David Branson for his invaluable assistance on researching this page.


(Would have been issue SWAMP THING #88)
"Morning of the Magician"

(??? pages)

Writer: Rick Veitch
Artist(s): Michael Zulli
Colorist: Tatjana Wood ?
Letterer: John Costanza ?
Editor: Karen Berger

Swamp Thing Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

Golden Gladiator Created by Ed Herron and Russ Heath.

Cover: Swamp Thing (crowned with thorns) in the form of a cross. The other three crosses in the distance would be, in christian tradition, Jesus and the two thieves, thus Swamp Thing is not the Cross of Jesus, as it is often misinterpreted, at least in this picture. Nonetheless, the blood stains on the cross suggest the traditional Five Wounds of Christ (in both hands, His side, and the feet together). The skull at the bottom is a traditional reference to the crucifixion site, which was called Skull Hill.

1:1 ST met Merlin in Camelot in issue #87 but was flung farther back into the timestream when the mysterious amber piece was revealed within the Holy Grail.

Art by Al Hartley

2:1 The overlapping of "Earth globes" is the traditional graphic symbol of the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS which Swampy experienced in #46, although nobody in the DC universe is supposed to remember it.

2:3-4 As ST "swims" through the timestream, the pattern of timelines seem to form a cross. This suggests that Jesus is the one essential element (the "crux", if you will) of all realities.

4:1-5 Matthew, Chapter 26, verses 26-28

While they were eating, Jesus took {some} bread, and after a blessing, He broke {it} and gave {it} to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave {it} to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
We recognize Jesus' cup as the Holy Grail, from last issue.

Art by Al Hartley

Art by Al Hartley

Belial from 1990 DEMON series

6:1 Is this the first appearance of the three "evil magi"? In their spooky lair, they hold a knife below the human heart which they are offering into the sacrificial pit. Veitch describes the image as "a perverted upside down version of the familiar religious symbol of the Sacred Heart." The Evil Magi have sacrificed their own eyeballs to summon the demon Belial who, in DC continuity, will also be father to Merlin.
In Alan Grant's DEMON series, Belial was established as being part of the Triumvirate ruling Hell along with Lucifer and Beelzebub. In his script, Veitch incorrectly says that Belial appeared in Gaiman's SANDMAN #4 with Lucifer and Beelzebub, however the character in that issue is a demon named Azazel.

Art by
Russ Heath

6:2 The Evil Magi ask Belial to eliminate Jesus. They say that the Carpenter from Nazareth "holds the Keys of Solomon and many other power objects." The Keys of Solomon is a legendary medieval book on magic originally attributed to King Solomon. Jesus's adoptive father, Joseph, was a descendant of Solomon.

7:1 Here we see Mary Magdalene (a follower of Jesus) and Marcus, the Golden Gladiator who first appeared in BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1 (1955). He was featured in several issues, but has not really appeared since then, except in ALL-STAR SQUADRON #54-55 (1986) during the Crisis.

8:3 Marcus promises Magdalene that he will allow Jesus to escape when he is ordered to arrest Him.

in art
J. Kubert

8:3 Magdalene chides Marcus not to visit "those harlots on the West Bank". The term "West Bank" was probably not formally used to refer to the land on the western bank of the Jordan River until the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Today the Palestinian residents of the West Bank fight a daily resistance to the Israeli government which claims a divine right to occupy the territory.

8:6 Belial's Alien-like tongue impregnates Marcus with the Demon seed.

10:2 As Swampy scans the Earth, the druid priest seen here in passing is Blackbriar Thorn. He hid from Roman persecution in the form of a tree for centuries until he returned to menace modern civilization in DC COMICS PRESENTS #66 (1984). He makes a cameo appearance in ST #70.

10:6 Swampy arrives inside an olive tree on "a rocky plateau...on the south east rim of the Mediterranean basin. Homeland for a thousand a people who call themselves 'chosen'." The Jews refer to themselves as God's "Chosen People".

11:1 Matthew, Chapter 26, verse 30

After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Art by Alex Toth

Art by Jim Aparo

11:4 Jesus is silently aware of Swamp Thing's presence, even though he is hiding in the form of a plant at His feet.
Veitch's script depicts Jesus as looking peaceful in the garden of Gethsemane, but according to the Bible and tradition, Jesus was not happy here. Luke, Chapter 22, verse 44 says "And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground." He was wrestling with the greatest emotional challenge of His life, because He knew He was going to be killed soon.

Matthew, Chapter 26, verse 36-38

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me."

Art by Alex Toth

Art by Tom Yeates

13:5 Because of his red eyes and yellow skin (resembling Etrigan more and more), Marcus' fellow soldiers think he is drunk, but Marcus is actually possessed by the evil Demon gestating within him.

Art by Al Hartley

14:4 Swampy discreetly creates juice in the Grail Cup, as an offering to Jesus.

17:1 The disciples were indeed sleeping on the job. Matthew chapter 26, verse 40 - "And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'So, you could not keep watch with Me for one hour?'"

John, Chapter 18, verse 3 - "Judas then, having received the {Roman} cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons"

Adapted from art
by Russ Heath

18:1 Peter, trying to protect Jesus, cuts off Marcus' ear.
John, Chapter 18, verse 10-11

Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"

Bible scholars generally agree that the "slave" Malchus whose ear was cut off was a soldier. (Malchus...Marcus...Close enough, I guess.)

Marcus' cameo from

From cover of

18:6 Despite what is depicted here, the idea of Jesus drinking wine (or even juice) between the time of the Last Supper and His death may not agree with Christian doctrine. Jesus death was, in a supernatural sense, part of the Passover sacrifice. The Last Supper was actually the annual sacrificial Jewish Passover meal, and necessitates drinking of four ceremonial cups. At the meal, Jesus said after the third cup (Matthew, Chapter 26, verse 29) "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." This is because His voluntary death is necessary to make His Passover sacrifice a TRUE forgiveness of sins, rather than the temporary ceremonial pardon. The sacrifice was not complete until He drank a fourth time, and that wouldn't happen until His death on the cross. Also, in the garden of Gethsemane He prays (verse 39) "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as you will."

Art by Al Hartley
Jesus even refuses the first offer of wine when He's on the cross (Matthew 27:34) and only asks for a drink (John 9:28) right before He has completed His sacrifice by dying.
John 19:29-30

A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon {a branch} {of} hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Adapted from art
by Russ Heath

The Demon is born

20:2 Luke, Chapter 22, verse 50-51

But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. "

Jesus exorcises the Demon from Marcus. An infant Etrigan is vomitted out of Marcus. Centuries later, as shown in issue #87, Merlin will bind Etrigan's being to the mortal Jason Blood.

20:4 Judas kisses Jesus. Actually, the way the Bible tells it, Judas kissed Jesus before the altercation began.
Matthew Chapter 26, verse 48

Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him."

Art by Al Hartley

Art by Neal Adams

21:1 Matthew Chapter 27, verse 24 -

When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves."
This is where the phrase "I wash my hands of it" comes from.

Indeed Jesus did not speak in his defense, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah Chapter 53, verse 7 (which Rick Veitch is paraphrasing) -

"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. "

21:3 This scene accurately depicts Mark, Chapter 19, verses 1-3 -

Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they {began} to come up to Him and say, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and to give Him slaps {in the face.}

21:5 The quote is from Luke Chapter 23, verse 34.

Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

22 Montage of Jesus crucifixion. Judas is making a noose because he is going to hang himself, out of guilt.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.(Matthew Chapter 27, verses 3—5)

23:2 The stormy skies are not just for dramatic effect. See Luke Chapter 23, verse 44 -

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour"

23:3 Mark Chapter 15:39—40 -

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.

Art by Art Thibert & Jose Marzan Jr.
from TIME MASTERS #5, in which
Joseph of Arimathea catches the
blood of Christ in the Cup.

23:4 Joseph of Arimathea appears in legends of the Holy Grail and in Luke Chapter 23, verses 50-53

"And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), {a man} from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain."

Magdalene is recorded in the Bible as being present at Christ's crucifixion and burial as well as being the first person to see the resurrected Jesus.
John, chapter 20, verses 11—18

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.' " Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.

Marcus the Gladiator has been redeemed and apparently Magdalene has forgiven him, too.

Art by Jim Aparo
COMMENT: All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard translation. A helpful source for Bible research is

COMMENT: While this would have been artist Michael Zulli's first work for DC Comics, he later worked with Neil Gaiman on some outstanding issues of SANDMAN.

COMMENT: The idea of Etrigan speaking in rhyme arose in DC COMICS PRESENTS #66 by Len Wein. Alan Moore reasserted and refined this idea in SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #25, having the Demon speak in iambic pentameter. Since then, writers (the good ones, anyway) have tried to maintain the rhyming pattern. Said Kevin Smith at the 2010 Comic-Con International, "When you write him and he doesn't rhyme, it falls apart." Although this story would imply that the Demon has always spoken in rhyme, Morpheus was apparently surprised to hear that he'd become a rhymer in SANDMAN #4.