The Goggler Pull List #35: Daredevil and The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Dept. of Comic Book Compulsions

In this week’s installment of The Goggler Pull List, we review Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil and Alan Moore’s The Saga of the Swamp Thing.

Daredevil (Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto)

In mid August, 2021, Marvel announced that Daredevil issue number 36, released this month, will be Chip Zdarsky’s final turn as the writer, as well as the series’ final issue.

Matt Murdoch has always been an interesting character for me. It all started when, as a child, my dad had bought a Daredevil action figure for me because that was a character that he had known. Being a kid who’s introduction to comic book characters were from the Saturday morning cartoons, I had never heard of Daredevil. But that action figure, in deep maroon red, holding two batons, was incredibly intriguing. And then, my dad truly blew my mind when he told me that Matt Murdoch, the Daredevil, was blind.

Fast forward to 2019, and as I step into a real comic book store for the first time in a very long time, I was thrilled to find that a new Daredevil comic had just kicked off. This new Daredevil series (officially known as Daredevil, Series 6) was written by a writer that I had not heard of, but one who would quickly become a personal favourite, Chip Zdarsky.

What Zdarsky has done in his 34 issues (living in Malaysia means I’m always a couple of issues behind) at the helm of Daredevil was, in my mind, to solidify Matt Murdoch’s struggles as the man with no fear. Kevin Smith’s version of Daredevil gave Murdoch faith, falling back on his Catholicism as things went from bad to worse, but Zdarsky takes that faith in God to another level. Zdarsky’s Murdoch is a man struggling with his faith and what it means to be “a devil.” 

Daredevil had always been classed as a “street-level superhero,” with all the connotations that term may bring. But while he may never fight villains on the scale of Thanos or the Chitauri, while he may never go to space and take on alien races, the Daredevil’s place in comic books is undeniable. If Peter Parker was a placeholder in the Marvel universe for every kid growing up into adulthood, Matt Murdoch was a placeholder for the adult trying to make it in the world. 

Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil wasn’t a big splashy thing. Probably the splashiest thing Zdarsky did to Matt Murdoch was to send him to jail. But the reason behind the character going to jail was what really set the Zdarsky Daredevil apart for me. Matt Murdoch, after accidentally killing a gang member, turns himself into the police because both his day job, and his night time escapades, needed him to be on the right side of the law. He murdered someone. And for that, he must put his faith in the justice system that he has sworn to uphold. Despite the head of that justice system being his long time nemesis, and now mayor, the Kingpin.

Chip Zdarsky’s Matt Murdoch is a man that had lost his faith, regained it, and is now trying to clear his conscience by abiding in the laws of the land. Zdarsky’s Matt Murdoch is a man riddled with guilt, physically bruised and battered, fighting his own fragility of faith, trying to do right by God and man. Basically, Zdarsky’s Matt Murdoch is human. 

Quick Post Script: That first issue of Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil, released in early 2019, featured a short four page story called “Sense of Self,” and for two years I have not been able to stop thinking about it. In it, the Daredevil reads a report of a kidnapped child and goes to save her. Fairly straight forward. But the way that short story is delivered is just comic book high art. “Sense of Self” is told both in normal person view, and from the perspective of Daredevil, with each facing page translated into Daredevil view. It is simple, elegant, and beautiful. 

The Saga of the Swamp Thing (Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette)

The Saga of the Swamp Thing

So you grew up watching those glorious Universal monster movies, and Freddy, and Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. You enjoy reading Stephen King, and Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker. You know what comic book would really float your boat? This one.

This one is seminal. This one is on every best-of-must-read-most-inspirational-comics-are-actually-literature list you’ll ever come across on the Internet. And rightfully so. Alan Moore’s deconstruction of Swamp Thing blew the boundaries of the comics medium wide open. Remember that no one was doing this back in 1984. Not Gaiman. Not Vaughan. Not Waid. Not yet anyway. Before Moore, no one thought to mine “lowbrow” comic book characters and use them as a foundation to tell mythic stories.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Admittedly, my first introduction to Swamp Thing wasn’t from the comics or Wes Craven’s underrated camp-fest, but rather from the very short lived animated series (there were only five episodes) that displayed startling similarities to Captain Planet. It would be a while before I would finally dig into Alan Moore’s take on the character, by which point, my horror sensibilities would already be well bolstered by at least a decade’s worth of monster movies and Stephen King novels.⁣⁣

The Saga of the Swamp Thing

I’ve read this work at least three or four times since then and each time has been an exercise in discovery. As I grew, and learned, and evolved, so did the comic book. What was, on the surface, a bizarre gothic eco-horror story, turned out to also be a tale of identity politics, environmental existentialism, corporate greed, and buddhist philosophy wrapped up in a package full of gore, allusion, surrealism, and the Justice League. From rednecks name-dropping Don’t Look Now, to Hamlet-esque soliloquies, to Jesus metaphors up the wazoo, this is an expertly balanced piece of pop-culture. ⁣⁣
It is also one of the the most sex positive comic books to come out of the era.⁣⁣
If you enjoy your horror with a dash of metaphysics, then it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Quick Post Script: The Saga of the Swamp Thing was the first mainstream comic book series to completely abandon the Comics Code Authority (CCA). After the CCA denied issue #29 the seal of approval, DC created the Vertigo imprint in order to publish the series and no longer submitted issues of The Saga of the Swamp Thing to the CCA for approval.

We get our comics either from our local comic book store, The Last Comic Shop, or on Comixology. Are you interested in checking out Daredevil and The Saga of the Swamp Thing? Have you already read these comics? Let us know by getting in touch with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out our previous installments of The Goggler Pull List here.

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