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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Seeing_I
    July 25, 2014 @ 3:57 am

    Great post. I remember reading this sequence as a kid and having my mind utterly blown.

    The splash page logo is, of course, an homage to the poster designed by Saul Bass for the 1959 film "Anatomy of a Murder."


  2. Chris Andersen
    July 25, 2014 @ 6:00 am

    I first learned the term "retcon" in reference to this story. I'm sure the idea of retroactive changes to continuity has been around for years before Moore, but "The Anatomy Lesson" is almost the platonic ideal of the story.


  3. Jack
    July 25, 2014 @ 6:09 am

    Being around when these came out and reading them as they dropped was like being hit by a revelatory thunderbolt. There isn't a single misstep in any of these issues, and every time you turn around you get hit by something brilliant-the pages in the last issue where the Justice League debates what to do about Woodrue were so unlike what anyone else was doing with superheroes and so defining in so few pages that lesser writers are still mining it to this day. I discovered a local comics store around the time Moore took over Swamp Thing, so I'm fairly sentimental about the issues for that reason, but they're really, really good to boot.

    Moore became far better at his craft as time went on, but I am not sure he ever matched the sheer, raw power and potential energy of his first year on Swamp Thing ever again. Maybe the Toteleben issues of Miracleman matched these. (Watchmen is a wholly different sort of narrative construct to me in terms of narrative energy.)


  4. jane
    July 25, 2014 @ 6:59 am

    No wonder I ended up studying ecological philosophy.


  5. Jordan Murphy
    July 25, 2014 @ 7:17 am

    Like other commenters, I was utterly thunderstruck by these issues when I first read them (I was drawn in by the aggressive marketing you mentioned, seeing ads in other books trumpeting how good "The Anatomy Lesson" and following issues were, I soon caught up on what I missed). Moore's writing and Bissette and Totleben's art were a perfectly creepy-crawly match. Not only did Moore turn Swampy from a c-lister to a can't miss title, he took a whole host of minor and poorly-used DC fringe characters (Woodrue here, later on the Demon, the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre) and gave them compelling characterizations (and created the blueprint for what would eventually become Vertigo). It's by far his most important 80s work, IMO.


  6. Mark Pontin
    July 25, 2014 @ 2:28 pm


    Warren Ellis, circa 2006, on Genre Postmodernism, Alan Moore, and SWAMP THING.

    One of the central tenets of postmodernism is questioning the discourse; taking a piece or form of fiction and running it through psychological and theoretical interrogation. Alan Moore's SWAMP THING is a prime example: it takes the ur-text, the original Wein/Wrightson SWAMP THING, and works it over with a cosh in a small room. It can in fact be viewed as a stack of queries. How does human intelligence become inculcated in plant matter? What are the psychological implications? What does that body feel like? How does it move? How does it resolve sex? The hoary old plotlines of the genre the original work resided in, the horror story, are dragged out not only to be questioned themselves, but also to provide an illusory plot structure to the real work of the book. The plots are of secondary importance to the power of revelation. SWAMP THING, MARVELMAN, V FOR VENDETTA and, to a lesser extent, WATCHMEN are discursive, almost rhetorical works. People still bitch even today about the old-style sci-fi climactive trigger-event of the final chapter, the dropping of the monster-bomb on New York City to save the world. But it fits entirely within the genre Alan (and Dave) are studying.

    But the power of the first three works, at least in their early volumes, is in the revelation. Go and re-read the barnstorming concluding chapter of V FOR VENDETTA Book One, where Eric Finch puts it all together and lays it out. There's a similar sequence in MARVELMAN, where the protagonist takes a Heart Of Darkness journey to the bunker where all the secrets are, and is presented with the sum total of Alan's questions about the original text.

    Postmodernism is, to a great extent, remix art. It needs those original texts to key off of. It's about the sparks struck by the collision of the original text and the modern perception of it. It sometimes comes off as "Tutti Frutti" being played on a synth using only a sample of someone farting. Someone once said of the TV writer Dennis Potter that his using all those old songs in his work was clever, but was it as clever as writing those songs in the first place?

    Alan's best work to date, FROM HELL, avoids that accusation by applying his method to history. But it IS the same method, the same approach. He simply applies his interrogatory intelligence to the historical record, instead of a work of admitted fiction….


  7. storiteller
    July 25, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

    Jane – "No wonder I ended up studying ecological philosophy."

    I have studied ecological philosophy and wish we had read Swamp Thing as part of that! We read a bunch of other literature and this would have been very cool.


  8. elvwood
    July 26, 2014 @ 5:40 am

    Late, I know, but I just wanted to say I missed "The Anatomy Lesson" but picked up on the buzz and joined with the next issue. This was gripping, story and art working hand in hand, and I also received a present the following issue with a story named after a Brian Eno album. Lovely. This was the most sucked into a comic I'd been for ages, eclipsing even my initial reaction to Marvelman in Warrior #1.


  9. JJ Gauthier
    July 29, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

    Okay, I just ordered this and the collection of Wein's originals. My food & gas budget can take one more for the team.


  10. Daru
    February 18, 2015 @ 11:12 pm

    No wonder I ended up studying Forest School and became and outdoor educator/eco-therapist.


  11. Daru
    February 18, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

    Wow.Thanks Phil. These storylines absolutely blew my mind and heart in my late teens. They pretty much changed and rocked my world, opening up new inspiration. I got into Swamp Thing in a circuitous way, having first picked up issue 1 of Hellblazer as I was caught by the beautiful artwork on the cover (Dave McKean – knew his work already). From there I got caught by Constantine's enigmatic character and there was a point (can't recall issues) where the storyline converged with Swamp Thing, during the Veitch run I think.

    I thought, wow, 'who's that?' and found what I could of Moore's Swampy work (trade paperbacks, B&W), caught up on it as I bought up new monthly issues. Bissette and Totleben's artwork was and still is a major influence on me and I love where their work goes. Beautiful.


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