Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, who died in September at the age of 69, was one of the most influential comic book writers and editors ever, leaving his mark on the DC and Marvel Universes. At the time of his death, he was hard at work on a new story about the iconic DC Comics character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing, the avatar of the Green.
Before he died, Wein had completed the script for the first issue of a new series about the vegetation-covered monstrosity formerly known as Alec Holland, which would be illustrated by his 2016 Swamp Thing miniseries partner Kelley Jones. While we won’t ever see this series come to fruition, EW can exclusively reveal that fans will get a chance to read the first issue of the planned series in 2018 when DC Comics releases Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (on sale Jan. 31), which will present the story in both its original script form with art by Jones.
Picking up where the 2016 miniseries left off, the story finds Swamp Thing reestablishing his dominance over the Louisiana swamps outside of Houma while his friend Matt Cable, who has woken up from his coma, becomes a private investigator. However, trouble comes to Houma when Solomon Grundy arrives in town with an infant he kidnapped from Gotham City. (We bet you can imagine who is following closely behind him.)
“[Wein’s] major plan was pretty much a straight horror title. He kept stressing that angle to me — that bringing up a lot of those DC horror characters was what would make the book more unique,” Kelley tells EW. “His main thing was to stress that Alec was turned into Swamp Thing. He really wanted to stress that again. He felt that there was a lot of story potential in that.”
Wein had a chance to weigh on the book’s progress because Kelley had finished penciling the issue and had started inking some of the pages before his collaborator died. “I sent him some scans of stuff and he gave me a cover idea that he was very excited about,” says Kelley. “He loved to be involved in that kind of aspect of it. Len was just old world comics. He loved collaboration. He loved to talk about the visuals.”
He adds, “I’m completely grateful I got to do it.”
Additionally, Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 will be rounded out by a brand-new one-shot story two of comics biggest creators: writer Tom King and artist Jason Fabok, who previously teamed up for the Batman-The Flash crossover “The Button.” This new story, which both of them describe as a passion project, tracks a decaying Swamp Thing as he and a lost boy struggle to survive in the frozen tundra.
“This is not a story about hope. This is a story about anxiety,” says King. “This is like when you go to the movies to see IT. You’re not going for the romance and the laughs and the friendship. You’re going to get close to the darkness so that when you come out you can smile at the light. So, that’s what I want them to get from it. I want them to be cold enough that when they put it down, their house feels warm and it feels like a relief.”
“I think that this story can be one of the best single issues I ever work on in my career. It’s something totally different than anything I’ve ever done before. The last couple of years, everything I’ve been drawing has been big superhero action, world-ending things, and heroes beating up villains, and this is the opposite. This is a psychological horror story,” says Fabok, who is currently halfway through drawing this 40-plus page story. “I’m drawing things I’ve never really drawn before — forests and mountain ranges. How do you draw in the snow and make it look interesting so it’s not just all white? How do you draw Swamp Thing? The way the story is written, I’m able to pull from eras of Swamp Thing and the different artists who have drawn him.”
Both King and Fabok are honored to be able to pay tribute to Wein with their story. “What this is ultimately about is staying true to Len Wein,” says King, with Fabok adding, “We want to honor Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein, who we lost recently, with this story. We want them to be proud of the work that we’ve done on this story. We want to present a classic Swamp Thing tale that people are going to love, and we also want to introduce the character to maybe a new generation of readers who’ve never seen Swamp Thing.”
Check out the official summary and exclusive preview below:
Tom King and Jason Fabok pay tribute to the legendary creators of Swamp Thing, writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, as they join forces for an earth-shattering Swamp Thing passion project!
In this new, square-bound one-shot, Swamp Thing is out of his element as he shepherds a lost boy through a blinding blizzard and other hazards of a strange, frozen tundra. In this touching and harrowing tale of survival, the pair must navigate countless threats throughout a bewildering terrain—with a bloodthirsty snow monster hot on their heels. But how long can they rely on each other? Separated from the Green and stripped of his powers in this dead world, Swamp Thing struggles to fight for their lives and deliver the boy to safety. Disoriented and decaying, Swamp Thing’s fading understanding of his surroundings forces the duo to confront their desperation and uncover the true identity of the snow monster that hunts them.
In addition, this special features the final Swamp Thing story from the monster’s co-creator, Len Wein. Originally intended as the start of a new series, it is presented here both in its original script form and with art by Kelley Jones.
Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 hits stands Jan. 31.