Swamp Thing S:01 E:01

Episode Title: The Un-Men Unleashed
Original Airdate: 10-31-1990

This review is done as part of the Nature’s Fury blogathon being held over at Cinematic Catharsis. I decided that since I had already covered the Swamp Thing movie, its sequel and the Marvel equivalent Man-Thing that I would take a look at the pilot of the Swamp Thing live action TV series. There was only one problem: I couldn’t find it anywhere except on iTunes. That normally wouldn’t be a big problem except for the fact that I’m not an Apple guy so that means that I only open the Windows version of iTunes once or twice a year, usually to give out podcast reviews to help out the podcasts that I listen to. It also means that when I do run it, I have to deal with updating, crashing, misremembering my password even though it says I’m signed in yet prompts me for the password at every turn, and other problems. This time around it wouldn’t let me add any billing information so I could actually pay the overpriced $1.99 for a single half-hour episode of a 20+ year old television show. So instead, I found this animated episode on YouTube.

Swamp Thing Kids
The two kids, and their original movie counterparts.

Anyway, as for the actual episode I do remember watching this incredibly short lived series back when it first aired. I don’t remember anything about the actual episode, but what I do remember is the theme song. If you’ve never heard it, it’s essentially a parody version of Wild Thing only Wild is replaced with Swamp and I think you can figure out the rest for yourself. The pilot actually brings together a few things that were also included in the movies plus several other inclusions that were obviously created because they would make good toys. From the movies (and also possibly the comics, but I couldn’t say for sure) we get the two kids from the sequel who spent the entire movie trying to get a photo of Swamp Thing to sell for money, only here they’ve grown up into teenagers and the redhead still has an incredibly annoying voice. We also get Abby Arcane who still bears a slight resemblance to Heather Locklear, again from the sequel. And finally when we get to see the flashback to Swamp Thing’s origin we see a very similar moment where Alec Holland is running from his exploded lab on fire before jumping into the swamp. As for the toyetic nature of the show, there’s at least a half dozen random looking swamp vehicles with weird attachments on the front that literally look like they were designed by a toymaker rather than a cartoonist.

While the show starts off with Swamp Thing already existing with his team of sidekicks fighting an everlasting battle with Arcane and his group of minions who are after the growth formula, we do get that flashback to Swamp Thing’s origin as well as an origin of sorts for the cartoon’s version of Arcane and his minions. What’s odd about this is that Arcane and his goons already look like something out of a cartoon. His three minions already have weird nicknames and look like they’re hideously deformed. Skin Man is pale and skinny, and one of the other guys looks like he has a lizard face, but in order to battle Swamp Thing, he has to turn them into Un-men using his transmogrification chamber where he turns Skin Man into essentially Man Bat, another one into a creature with a snake for a head, and the third gets a multi-armed bug for a head.

Swamp Thing Unmen
Pre-transformation Arcane and his post-transformation Un-men

As for Swamp Thing himself, he is essentially Groot plus. In cartoon form, he actually has a pretty significant selection of powers. He can grow any part of his body, has incredible strength, he can change his body into any type of plant to help camouflage himself, he can even go into the ground and travel via creeping vines. The only way the villains are able to even temporarily subdue him is by threatening the two kids so he will surrender. Although surprisingly, when he does surrender Arcane is true to his word and lets the kids go. Swamp Thing’s sidekicks are also a bit of an odd assortment. We get the Native American stereotype Tomohawk, and the rather insignificant Bayou Jack, again each with their own toyetic vehicle. The action is pretty much what you would expect from a late 80’s/early 90’s action cartoon whose primary goal is to sell toys. There’s a few puntastic lines, but in general it’s just a showcase for Swamp Thing’s various powers and a way to squeeze in all the significant introductory plot details without making it feel like a pilot. It does feel like it’s just a random episode aside from the fact that we do get that flashback, and technically we also get the origin of Arcane’s minions, and even Arcane gets a dose of his own medicine where he ends up looking less like Dracula and more like Nosferatu. It was a fun revisit, but I don’t see myself checking out the other four episodes any time real soon.

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