The Comic Book Roots of SWAMP THING Episode 3: “He Speaks”

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

June 17, 2019


The backwater conspiracy continues to get murky in the ‘Swamp Thing’ episode: “He Speaks,” as murder hits Marais and the dead rise. The truth behind the mysterious disease has only deepened, but some clues can be found in the show's comic-book source material. Each week we’ve been taking a look at the Easter eggs pulled from Swamp Thing’s rich comics mythology. Here are the comic book roots of this week’s episode…



The Sunderland Marriage


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This episode gave viewers an uncomfortable look at the Sunderland’s marriage, and it appears to be just as rotten as the mossy waters of the swamp. Avery is unsympathetic to Maria’s grief, and seems more interested in exploiting her family’s fortune. As we see in ‘Swamp Thing’ (1985) #135 (written by Nancy A. Collins and penciled by Scot Eaton), their marriage is just as contemptuous in the comics. Maria’s comic-book counterpart was nicknamed Bubbles, and Avery only married her to avoid litigation after she became pregnant. The marriage was uncomfortable, and the two mostly lived separate lives before Avery was killed by Swamp Thing. When the demonic Anton Arcane used Sunderland’s corpse as a vessel, Bubbles saw through the disguise immediately. Arcane arranged for Bubbles to die in an automobile accident before she could expose him. The screen versions of the Sunderlands still have a chance to put their marriage on the right track, but this week’s episode makes it seem highly unlikely.



The Conclave


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Avery Sunderland’s marriage isn’t the only part of his life that’s rotten. This episode revealed that his financial empire is on shaky ground, and he’s secretly in bed with an organization known as the Conclave. When Gordon Haas threatened to expose Sunderland’s ties to the Conclave, Avery murdered him out of anger – or was it fear? Is it possible that the Conclave has Sunderland under their thumb? There's still a lot we don’t know about this version of the Conclave, but if they’re anything like their comic counterparts, there are many reasons to fear them. The Conclave was a criminal group who first appeared in ‘Swamp Thing’ (1972) #1 (written by Len Wein and penciled by Bernie Wrightson). They wanted Alec and Linda Holland’s bio-restorative formula and threatened to kill the scientist couple when they wouldn’t comply. They’re directly responsible for the creation of Swamp Thing, since they were the ones who set the explosive which drove a fiery Alec Holland into the dark swampy waters. The criminal group earned Swamp Thing’s wrath by murdering his wife Linda and sent various representatives to plague the creature during his earliest adventures. The Conclave organization was so secretive they were able to operate out of Gotham City without Batman noticing. With a group that powerful, is it any wonder Avery murdered Gordon to keep his secret?



Liz Investigating the Sunderlands


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Avery Sunderland may have a shady ledger, but Liz Tremayne is determined to expose his operations. This week’s episode showed Liz pursuing Gordon Haas in an aggressive attempt to implicate Sunderland. Hopefully she has more luck that her comic book counterpart. That version of Liz started as a television reporter who worked for one of Sunderland’s subsidiaries, but everything changed in ‘Saga of the Swamp Thing’ (1982) #5 (written by Martin Pasko and penciled by Tom Yeates). Liz uncovered one of the Sunderland Corporation’s laboratories filled with inhuman experiments and barely escaped with her life. After the incident, Liz began traveling with Swamp Thing and Dennis Barclay, another former Sunderland employee. The three of them found themselves on the run from Sunderland’s forces, who sought to silence them before their illegal operations could be exposed. Liz hoped she could find enough evidence to bring down the Sunderland Corporation, but after a near death experience in ‘Saga of the Swamp Thing’ (1982) #20 (written by Alan Moore and penciled by Dan Day), the danger became too much and the former reporter went into hiding. She resurfaced years later, but being hunted by Sunderland took a toll on her and it was a long time before Liz was able to put herself back together again. Let’s hope the screen version of Liz has more success with her quest to expose Sunderland’s dirty dealings.



A Rotten Mouthful


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Something is raising the dead in the Marais swamps, and it appears to be using swarms of insects. This week we saw a group of bugs fly from a corpse’s mouth and infect an unsuspecting victim by entering theirs. Swamp Thing later told the insects to leave one of their host bodies, and they complied, causing the corpse to fall to pieces. What’s going on here? The idea of bug swarms killing people and reanimating corpses was seen in ‘Swamp Thing’ (2011) #1 (written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Yanick Paquette), and continued to be utilized throughout Swamp Thing’s New 52 run. The insects were powered by an elemental force known as the Rot, which controls death and decay. Is the Rot going to war with the town of Marais, or is something even more sinister at work? Either way, it’s going to take more than bug spray to fight off these infernal insects.



The Devil and the Fortune Teller



The mysterious Madame Xanadu paid a visit to Dan Cassidy in the final act of this week’s episode. It’s clear from the dialogue that Xanadu has read Dan’s fortune countless times, but now something has changed the future. Is it possible the cards are alluding to a heroic future for Dan as the superhero Blue Devil? Could his one-time movie character be making a comeback? Madame Xanadu and Blue Devil’s association may seem like an interesting choice for the show, but the duo first joined forces back in ‘Blue Devil’ Annual #1 (written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, penciled by Paris Cullins). In the story, Madame Xanadu and Blue Devil teamed up with a group of other horror themed heroes to battle the demon Nebiros. The Creeper suggested forming a permanent team, but the other heroes declined with extreme prejudice. With the undead roaming around the Marais swamps, however, perhaps the television versions of Xanadu and Cassidy should consider joining forces. After all, Swamp Thing can’t defend the bayou alone…



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