Cover Artist- Brian Bolland
Not all memorable covers have to be tied to a fondness for a particular character, or be the most technically proficient art wise either. Sometimes an image can be so striking based on its content, that it trumps any other factor the actual artistry or nostalgia for a book or character can lend. I have read plenty of Swamp Thing books in my time, yet I have never read issue 153. Despite this fact, it is easily one of my favorite comic covers of all time.
The swastika is a symbol used through the ages by many different cultures, as far-reaching as Hindus to early Americans. As a symbol it was used in positive manner by these people, until the Nazi party decided to adopt it as the centerpiece of their flag. Since that period, it is mostly defined in western civilization as a symbol of evil, hatred, and race supremacy. This stark fact is what makes the cover to this issue so magnetic.
The first thing to note is the storyline of this book (written by a pre fame Mark Millar) is that Swamp Thing is summoned into an alternate time line where the Axis won World War II, and are in control of the United States. Swamp Thing covers usually worked in earth tones, as the character and his settings normally revolved around the glades and muck. This cover eschews that, and goes for the stark contrast of the greenish brown tones of our heroes body against the familiar colors of our flag. Seemingly crucified on a blue and white swastika adorned with the stars representing the states, which forms the center of a new American flag, still bordered by stripes of red lies a defeated Swamp Thing. To see our flag refitted into a new design is an attention grabber on its own, let alone when it is combined with a symbol that people generally find offensive. British artist Brian Bolland’s art also happens to be top-tier, so the striking imagery is bolstered by the finesse and detail of his style.
At some point I will crack open the copy of Swamp Thing #153 that I own and read it, and I will judge the story on its own merit. Even then, good or bad, I will always use this issue as a prime example of how a cover can be powerful enough to make you go right to that book on the rack, and buy it.