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Comics and the U.S. South$
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Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030185

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030185.001.0001

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Of Slaves and Other Swamp Things

Of Slaves and Other Swamp Things

Black Southern History as Comic Book Horror

(p.187) Of Slaves and Other Swamp Things
Comics and the U.S. South

Qiana J. Whitted

University Press of Mississippi

DC Comics’ Swamp Thing series (1984–1987) underwent two major innovations courtesy of British comic book writer Alan Moore. First, Moore reconceptualized the character’s physiological structure as sentient plant matter to make him more versatile, mobile, and intellectually complex. Second, he fixed the character more firmly in space and time by establishing the comic’s setting in and around present-day Houma, Louisiana. Swamp Thing thus offers a more focused engagement with the history of the South and its landscape of horrors, including storylines that grapple with the region’s legacy of slavery. This chapter examines Moore’s depiction of the South and the manner in which Swamp Thing comments upon social and cultural histories of racial oppression. To illustrate a tale of vengeful slaves and unrepentant masters, it looks at two issues from the “American Gothic” story arc that adapt many of the formal and aesthetic qualities of early horror comics: “Southern Change” (#41) and “Strange Fruit” (#42). Finally, the chapter considers the serial comic Bayou by Jeremy Love and how it advances the themes of Moore’s postmodern slave narrative.

Keywords:   horror comics, Swamp Thing, Alan Moore, South, slavery, racial oppression, slaves, Bayou, Jeremy Love, slave narrative

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