Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Swamp Spirit" by Dick Briefer





Swamp monsters have been very popular in comic books since the first decade of the Golden Age. In 1940, Theodore Sturgeon's short story "It!" was published in Unknown magazine. It was about a plant monster that had grown from a human skeleton, and was the inspiration for a generation of swamp men. But these plant and mud monsters have primarily been popular in comic books; humanoid reptiles and fish-like gill-men such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon have fared better at the movies.

The folklore of North America has included swamp men...but usually these creatures have resembled sasquatch, zombies, wild men, ghosts, and even werewolves. These boogey-men tales could have been concocted by locals to keep outsiders away, or prevent children from wandering into dangerous areas.

One alleged encounter in Fouke, Arkansas, in 1971 set off a rash of sightings. The "Fouke Monster" inspired the 1972 film The Legend of Boggy Creek, and probably both Marvel's Man-Thing and DC's Swamp Thing.

Briefer may or may not have seen Sturgeon's short story, but he was probably familiar with Hillman Periodical's swamp creature, the Heap, who had first appeared in 1942 in Air Fighters #3. The Heap would later star as a backup feature in Airboy from 1946 until 1953.

Here is "Swamp Spirit" from Frankenstein #16 (Nov-Dec 1948):

























5 comments:

  1. I love these so much! thanks for posting them.

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  2. No problem, KW, I love 'em too! Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. At last I got some time to enjoy this post! Thanks, Doug!
    One can see in it Briefer's art skills. Looks as if he had wanted to get rid of the story as fast as possible. And the outcome is amazing! And what a funny touch the pig's tail device.
    You're turning into a real Briefer stuff provider, mista', and we're grateful to you--

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  4. Gabriel: Do you mean the artwork looks hurried? I could certainly understand that opinion...the backgrounds especially are a little sparse, very minimal. Could be Briefer had no time to find photo reference for the swamp, but more likely it was a looming deadline.

    I think the story itself is solid; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, even a one-panel epilogue. (Unlike "Return of the Mummy", which is more just a series of events that don't actually lead to any real resolution)

    Plus, it has two monsters fighting. And I'm a sucker for monster fights!

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  5. Yup! "Hurried", that's what I meant! As you say, deadline used to be to blame for rushing the cartoonist-- But I love these works in special!
    This is the sort where you can appreciate the technical skills of every artist without artful devices disguising imperfections. Where they appeal to the basic and "survival" instinct. And "Swamp Spirit" is without question a master's story!

    I'm also fond of monster fights! So, What more could we ask for? :)

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