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Plants are people, too.
I spent most of the 80s stationed in Germany and for a few of those years I lived in the barracks. Living in the barracks meant dealing with room inspections, and spending time worrying about those when there was beer to drink and radars to fix seemed silly.
So, I bought myself a six-foot tall house plant.
“Why did you buy a house plant, Eric?”
I’m glad you asked! I suspected that every time a sergeant or lieutenant showed up for an inspection, they’d spend all or most of their time talking about a six-foot tall plant instead of worrying about how I rolled my socks. I was right. My time spent watching The Magician and learning about misdirection did not go to waste.
Why do I bring up Murray the house plant? Because his name was Murray. I named him after a guy who never left the barracks and sat in his room watching his VCR. Murray was a plant person.
What brings Murray to mind?
This showed up in my RSS reader last week when I had better ideas for this newsletter than plant people:
Here’s the article the reddit post was pointed at.
When you stop and think that mushrooms are fungi, and then consider how broad “more closely related” can be, this isn’t a huge deal. But it’s fun.
And an excuse to talk about plant people.
I guess I have to start with the Ents.
I know, Lord of the Rings is fantasy and not science fiction, but you know what happens you annoy the Ents: they destroy your tower and wipe out your Orcs.
What I like the most about the Ents is that they’re effective at demonstrating the wrath of nature. When they finally become fed up with Saruman’s destruction of Fangorn Forest, they came down on him like a ton of logs.
Science fiction is often silly when it portrays sentient plant life.
What can you say about Day of the Triffids other than, “wasn’t that guy in Dallas?”
Yeah, he was.
There’s a meteor shower. The meteors have plant spores. They grow into monster plants. Hilarity ensues. The movie ends with the plants succumbing to Earth bacteria, which should sound familiar to classic sci-fi fans. I love old sci-fi films, but I’m not crazy about this one.
The book apparently ends on a darker note, which may have made the movie a lot more interesting.
Speaking of ending on a darker note:
Remakes are rarely better than the original, but 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers breaks the mold. This film is a lot of fun, and not just because it opens with Donald Sutherland arguing with a chef over whether or not a little black sphere is a caper or rat poop.
There’s a meteor shower. The meteors have plant spores. HEY WAIT A MINUTE.
Well anyway, having your friends and family replaced with plant people is terrifying, and this film sells it.
Disney+ just recently released a Halloween special that featured an appearance by one of my favorite plant people.
I picked this very issue up on the newsstand right around my tenth birthday. It’s about wounded Vietnam vets that become terrorists and kidnap an heiress. Man-Thing doesn’t so much save the day as add to the confusion. The story was obviously influenced by the Patty Hearst kidnapping earlier that year, which was a common strategy for Marvel.
Ten-year-old Ricky was blown away by this comic. It was dark. It was sad. it didn’t really end well for anyone.
Marvel’s swamp creature was only semi-sentient. He lumbered around the Florida swamps acting as a weirdness magnet, so the book acted more like anthology series than a superhero comic. Steve Gerber, the series’ author, eventually made Man-Thing the guardian of a gateway between realities. This is only amped up the weirdness and led to the introduction of Howard the Duck, which should give you an idea of just how bizarre this book was.
DC’s Swamp-Thing hit the newsstands around the same time as Man-Thing, but the earlier books hewed closer to superhero fare, with a talking swamp creature that saved the day by punching things. It was never as popular as Man-Thing, which is saying a lot because Man-Thing wasn’t really a big deal, either. Howard did better when he squawked off to his own book.
But nine years later, DC handed the reins (vines?) of an attempted restart of the book to a new guy named Alan Moore. (Maybe you’ve heard of him.) He did what he does and turned it into an a ground-breaking book, with roots in science fiction, horror and fantasy. The issue above had an appearances by characters that bared a suspicious resemblance to Pogo Possum and Albert Alligator.
Moore’s Swamp-Thing eventually led to DC’s Vertigo comics label, which gave us Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, John Constantine, and several other comics targeted toward adults and free of the insipid Comics Code Authority.
So, yay plant people!
Who’s your favorite plant person? There’s a comments thing down there where you can let me know.
See you Tuesday.