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Talking Swamp Thing With Executive Producer Mark Verheiden

We delve deep into DC Universe's spooky new series.

DC Universe’s Swamp Thing premieres tomorrow, delivering one of the most original and engaging superhero series we’ve seen in a while. We’ve reviewed the first two episodes here, but we wanted to take a deeper dive into the murky mysteries of the swamp. And who better to guide us than executive producer and showrunner Mark Verheiden?

Verheiden is a comic book writer who has worked on titles like Alien and Predator. He has also spent the last two decades working on a dizzying array of genre shows: Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Falling Skies, Daredevil, Constantine, and Ash vs Evil Dead, to name a few.

mark verheiden on all things swamp thing.

(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

We sat down to chat with Verheiden about comics, the horror genre, and the challenges of bringing Swamp Thing to life.

THE MARY SUE: What really sets Swamp Thing apart from other comic book shows is the way it leans fully into horror: both Southern Gothic and body horror alike What inspired the tone of the series, and what influences did you have outside the comic?

MARK VERHEIDEN: Well, the comic had plenty of inspiration, so there’s that. But if you go outside it, I think, you know, [executive producers] James Wan and Gay Dauberman and I really really liked the idea of practical effects in horror, so I think if you looked at John Carpenter’s The Thing … I could name the classics, the chaos of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or The Exorcist, or more recently movies like The Conjuring, Guillermo del Toro’s films, those are all very inspirational to me.

I tend to go for movies, if I’m looking for inspiration, that tend to get under my skin a little bit, and that kind of reach a place in you that’s a little more primal than say, just a slasher film. No slam on slasher films! And also, just as a fan of practical effects, we really wanted to keep that tone and, you know, I did Ash vs Evil Dead, where again, we really wanted that tone. Cronenberg’s The Fly was also one we talked about quite a bit.

TMS: As a comic fan, did you discover anything new about the character of Swamp Thing in the creation and production of the series?

MV: I think I developed more of an appreciation for the depth of where the series is gone in the comics world, in terms of the emotional story between Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane. I read those books when they first came out, I re-read a lot of them when I was on Constantine, and so I was revisiting an old friend when I came on this show, because I had been reading them for other projects, not for Swamp Thing.

And I realized that there was this world of “The Green”, of this supernatural world of this bizarre Southern Gothic that they invested in it. When you read them cumulatively, they really make an impact, so we really tried to capture that creepy Southern Gothic, middle of the swamp sweaty night, bugs and creatures out there. Not just horror, but there’s a certain strange beauty to it as well, which we wanted to capture. The combination of all those things I think was an inspiration for us.

TMS: So the series is called Swamp Thing, so naturally you expect him to be the protagonist. But the real center of the show is Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed). Did you always envision her as the protagonist?

MV: We did actually, the story lives and dies on Abby Arcane and her emotional journey throughout the first season. She’s a strong, brilliant professional woman who has come to Marais to solve an awful disease, but she also has an affection for Alec Holland (Andy Bean) which ends horribly in the pilot, and develops sort of a new relationship with Swamp Thing. In a way, it’s about a woman who comes to this town with preconceived notions, both with the town and the things she left behind.

She left for very dark reasons that we explore in the season, but it’s also about a woman who is having all new avenues of this world opened up to her because Swamp Thing is connected to other worlds that, as a scientist she never dreamed existed. The world of “The Green”, of plants, of the supernatural. Swamp Thing is Alec Holland, but he’s also those worlds as well, so the two of them working together explore this new realization that there’s so much more out there that either one of them knew before. And those are the themes we wanted to explore in season one.

TMS: Another aspect of the show I really enjoyed was Liz Tremayne (Channel Zero‘s Maria Sten), who is a local reporter and Abby’s childhood friend. In the series, she is re-imagined as a queer woman of color. Are we going to see more of Liz and her girlfriend as the series progresses?

MV: You do see more of her, and it’s part of her character that this town [Marais] accepts. And we like playing around with who our characters are and, I think one thing we have in this show that we were really mindful of was, a lot of really strong women characters, and we wanted to play with different aspects of these characters. And Maria Sten is awesome, she’s a force to reckon with, so it’s great to get her on the show.

Swamp Thing premieres on DC Universe on May 31st.

(image: Brownie Harris / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.