The cover, and two interior pages, from Swamp Thing #3, July, 1982. (For higher-resolution scans, try my Flickr Page). In this issue, Swamp Thing fights for his life against Vampire Punks from the small town of Rosewood, Illinois. (I hear they had a wicked hardcore scene back in those days.) Our protagonist runs up against Stiv Slashers, a kid who is turned into a vampire by a hitchhiker. He in turn infects his girlfriend X-Head, who works at the local Blood Bank. Together, they reduce Rosewood to a town of Vampire Punks that terrorize any of the humans left behind. Swampy, being the agreeable moss-encrusted creature that he is, decides to give these punks What For.
(My favorite detail in this issue: the Punks live in the Front Street Arcade, and sleep inside of old Pinball Machines during the day.)
Almost as good as the images / dialog from this issue is an exchange in the letters page which showed up in issue #8:
I just read SOTST #3 and was not all that pleased with it. When I first heard of the Punk-rock vampires that were to be in this issue, I thought it would be rather funny. I was, at least, a bit disappointed. I can’t say I agree with the way you portray punks. Contrary to what Phil Donahue, Penthouse, and the Today show say, not all punks are self-destructive junkies.
At the end of the story you have Swamp Thing say, “…You’re too decent… you’re the promise of what this town could be…!” Does this mean that it would be far better to have a world of decent, clean-cut American
boys than it is to have a bunch of unsightly Punk rockers? A lot of people apparently think so, and I’m glad to say I don’t agree. The next time you do a story with punks in it, keep in mind that you can’t believe everything you read or see on television.Mark “Sid” Pfaff
234 S. 6 West
Missoula, MT 59801
Editor’s Response: To Mark – or “Sid”: We thinks thou dost protest too much. The word “punk” never appeared in the story, fella; that’s your label, not ours. And what Alec [Swamp Thing’s alter ego] was so disturbed by was an apparent world-view, not a style of dress. You, as a self-proclaimed “punk,” seem focused on appearance, however – and something that superficial was not at all what concerned the characters in the story.
Not only is “Sid” sort of missing the point (this has nothing to do with the comic’s portrayal of punks, but of punks who have turned into vampires and have no soul), but the editor takes a pretty self-righteous attitude toward “Sid” in his response (reading between the lines: the editor understands that appearances do not a person make, but accuses “Sid” of making his assumptions based on the way the way the Vampire’s Dress). This little sequence (and the letter than it provoked) was one of the more entertaining things about Swamp Thing in these early days.
Interesting factoid: Stiv Bators, the Vampire Punk’s namesake, had just started The Lords of The New Church a year before this issue came out. At the time, Stiv was incorporating the stage show of the Dead Boys with a more New Wave / Pop sound, which lead to him becoming a bit of an icon in the music world, even in the mainstream. Considering that Iggy Pop was experiencing some downtime, career-wise, it makes sense that Stiv might be the most recognizable punk icon at the time this writer set to work on Swamp Thing.
And that’s one to grow on.