Thursday, February 19, 2009

Growth Rings as the Core Metaphor in Swamp Thing

Since that last post I’ve read the next two volumes – Love and Death and The Curse. Again, I feel like I have a lot to say but don’t know where to begin with it all. I guess the big thing I finally noticed is how there is a great visual metaphor used that reflects the structure of the plot.

Growth Rings. Much like the way new growth on a tree expands from the centre (as well as up) the plot for the series begins to reflect itself and grow to reinforce itself. Depending on how you look at it, these levels appear different. If you cut it open and look down, you see the rings forming into themselves, but if you tap it from the side you only see lines in sequence.

Having these stories in collected form lets me as a first time reader see the cycles and reinforcements much easier. I’ve got the collected firewood, so to say. But, I can imagine getting Swamp Thing month after month you would only see the lines in sequence (at first). Once you see where they come from you can adapt your perception to the wider whole. The lines are part of a bisected circle.

Anyway, growth rings are a great metaphor here, not just for the organic and organized nature of the larger plot that begins to support itself, but hey, he’s a conscious plant. What I have also come to notice is that this cyclical metaphor (here growth rings in a tree) are also used in Moore’s other works, particularly Watchmen and to some extent in Promethea. A perfect circle is symmetrical, and well, just open the pages of Promethea to any random pages and you’ll see the symmetry of the layout fairly clearly. In Watchmen, there are the cogs of the watch that Jon Osterman was working on when his father chucks it out. Again, the cogs are important in reinforcing the cyclical nature of time – something I’ll be exploring elsewhere in a bit more detail (I hope).

So where in Watchmen the circular cogs have specific points of contact that as a whole can create some kind of meaning (making a watch move and tell time, or how the heroes lives create some terrible and fragile peace) the growth rings of Swamp Thing show the organic progression from monthly comic towards comprehensive graphic novel.

Make sense? Perhaps I’ll find the time to write more on it.