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How DC's new Swamp Thing: Twin Branches graphic novel puts a 'nuanced' spin on Alec Holland
Swamp Thing is crawling out of the muck and into bookstores and comic shops this fall with a fresh graphic novel retelling of the origins of one of DC Comics' most popular beasts — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive look into the greenery alongside a chat with its talented creative team.
Written by New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater (the Raven Cycle series) and seeded with fertile art from Morgan Beem, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is an absorbing young adult offering that illuminates the sweeping saga of twin teenage brothers, Alec and Walker Holland.
This haunting tale arrives on Oct. 13 and begins with the inseparable siblings traveling to Virginia for their final fateful summer before college.
While Walker thrives in the glare of parties and social life, Alec recedes into the quiet darkness of the laboratory, where he's driven to finding answers in his biological experiments on consciousness and memory. However, what Alec soon realizes is that the scientific work isn’t about unravelling nature’s riddles, but about discovering who he really is. Although these twin brothers have grown distant, they still share familial roots and must confront ancient truths deep in the swamp, and as their lives diverge, dormant memories sprout to the surface.
Stiefvater approached the narrative for this Swamp Thing reimagining from multiple perspectives.
"I’m a huge science nerd. I’m an airy-fairy fantasy person," Stiefvater tells SYFY WIRE. "People often think these two things are opposites, but I think they’re just different sides of the same coin. Science has a reputation of absolute rules and magic is considered amorphous and unbounding. But in reality, there’s so much we don’t know about science, and any fantasy reader will tell you that magic isn’t much fun if it doesn’t have rules that govern how it’s used in the story. I think it’s why we still are fascinated with alchemy. Is it magic? Is it science? We like that we can’t tell. It’s the Jurassic Park Effect."
"I love what Alan Moore brought to the character of Swamp Thing — it was no physical transformation story, Alec Holland into Monstrous Alec Holland. Instead, Swamp Thing was something wholly new for the genre: Swamp Thing was a monster who remembered being Alec Holland. It thinks it is Alec Holland but actually, everything left of the original is gone. I thought this was wonderful. Nuanced. And you know why it’s monstrous? Because we are actually all that monster. We are all a person today who remembers being the person we were yesterday, and through that alchemy, we maintain a continuity of identity, personality. Wonderful. We’re all horror stories and magic tricks."
Artist Morgan Beem drew from a multitude of inspirations in setting the verdant tone for this graphic novel project.
"I tried throughout the graphic novel to use plant life and symbols to set the mood," Beem tells SYFY WIRE. "We use flowers and plants for so many occasions and feelings and symbols in human life, that I think we react with a lot of emotion to the visual of certain plants and flowers. I also tried to be sure that the use of panel layout controlled the pacing in order to build tension, suspense, and add an extra punch to key moments.
"For the panel layouts themselves, I drew inspiration from a few places, namely manga and French comics. I really enjoy how these two industries use panels in their comics in a bit more or a free manner, but also doesn't try to over complicate the individual shots. Another huge inspiration of mine when it comes to comic storytelling is Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. I think she is a master storyteller and really captures what the medium can do better than any other, and I am inspired by her layouts and storytelling regularly.
"Living in Savannah, Georgia while attending school I fell in love with the lush, green, and almost oppressive natural surrounding that is the coastal marsh," she adds. "I really love humidity (my friends think I'm crazy) and the smell and feel of nature creeping in from all sides."
Now enjoy our exclusive five-page preview of DC Comics' Swamp Thing: Twin Branches (available Oct. 13) in the full gallery below.