The Guinness World Record for the largest collection of Swamp Thing memorabilia consists of 797 unique items and belongs to illustrator and designer John E. Boylan (USA). His collection was verified in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA on March 21 2015.
I was fortunate enough to be able to ask Guinness World Record Holder, John E. Boylan, a few questions for this interview and he was gracious enough to provide me with some great answers.
STG What inspired your passion to collect all things Swamp Thing?
JEB “Good storytelling, other Swamp Thing fans, and enough oddball collectibles to stay intrigued. I was drawn to Swamp Thing, like many I imagine, by the beautiful art and writing. Once I started collecting single issues and chatting with other Swampy fans, I wondered what else was out there relating to Swamp Thing and found a bunch of great collectibles like, chalk, pencil sharpeners and furry slippers. Since Swampy isn’t the most popular/well known character, it seemed easy enough to track down these fun items. I found out quickly though that there were a lot more collectibles out there than I had thought.”
STG What was the process like for obtaining the Guinness World Record?
JEB “It was a long process. It took a while to organize the event; it took even longer to document my collection through photographs and spreadsheets. The folks at Guinness have a list of rules and requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to set/break a record. First, you have to apply through their website. Once your application is processed and approved, the next step is to find two Guinness worthy judges that can review your entire collection. The judges must be present for the entire review process. The review process has to be held in a space that is accessible by the public. The entire review event must be captured on video and photographed. Each item of the collection needs to be photographed and documented. I chose a local art gallery and had my entire collection on display. The review process took over three hours. The judges reviewed every single piece from the collection and wrote witness statements to validate the collection and their experience. When everything was said and done, I shipped Guinness 10 DVDs worth of data and 100s of pages of documentation. It was an amazing experience but I certainly didn’t realize what went into organizing and bringing everything to fruition. Before the Guinness process, only a few friends and fellow Swamp Thing fans new about my collection. Now, quite a few people know about my collection and it is interesting to get used to.”
STG What are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?
- Swamp Thing TV series crewmember jacket
- Swamp Thing/Dick Durrock wrist watch
- Swamp Thing sleeping bag
- Swamp Thing screen print poster from India signed by Charles Soule, only 100 were printed
- Original comic pages from Phil Hester and Kim Demulder
- Swamp Thing slippers
STG If you could give a piece of advice to anyone aspiring to get a Guinness World Record, what would it be?
JEB “Have fun. Do what you love. Be sure that what you are collecting and investing your time and hard earned money into, is truly your passion. If you want to set a record, you have most likely spent an exorbitant amount of time enjoying your collectibles. You will spend a lot more time with them once you get started on the record setting/breaking process.”
STG I hear you have a Swamp Thing tattoo as well, was that a part of the record? If not, it should’ve been because that’s awesome!
JEB “Thank you! Unfortunately, the tattoo didn’t count toward the record. I didn’t bother to ask why. I figured Guinness has probably answered that question many times and they have a good reason for it.”
STG What was the first comic that you remember reading?
JEB “I don’t recall the first comic I read but I have fond memories of having a good sampling of heavily used comics around the house. Batman, Superman, Sgt. Rock, Fright Night, X-Men, Wolverine and a bunch of random Marvel team-up books were some of my favorites. The X-Men graphic novel, “God Loves, Man Kills” had a strong effect on me as a kid. I was moved by the treatment of the mutants and imagery of their persecution. It was pretty heavy stuff to read at a young age but provided a great insight on social commentary. It also helped to set a positive tone toward comics, that they could be serious and profound as much as they can be goofy and fun.”
STG What is your favorite Swamp Thing comic story arc?
JEB “I have a few that I’m pretty wild about. Moore’s run of course is everyone’s go-to and I certainly have many favorites from his time with Swamp Thing (especially when he visits Gotham). I also enjoy Nancy Collins’ run. My favorite stories revolve around Houma and the Swamp. Seeing Swampy at home, dealing with non-superhero issues is always more intriguing than dragging him out for a cataclysmic event. I enjoy Morrison and Millar’s runs as well. They explored some really dark times for Swamp Thing. They helped to put the character back in a more horror focused genre. I hear mixed opinions, manly due to the fact that Swamp Thing doesn’t appear in the books, but I love series 3. Issue 3 of series 3, “Kill Your Darlings” by Brian K Vaughn is one of my favorites. If you haven’t checked that book out you should, it’s fun. Reading about the world of Swamp Thing is interesting. I enjoy seeing characters in his world living their lives when Swamp Thing isn’t around.”
STG What is your opinion of Wes Craven’s 1982 “Swamp Thing” film?
JEB “I watched the movie again this weekend in preparation for this question. It’s as goofy as it is glorious. The movie has its flaws but it also has a considerable amount of redeeming attributes. It was a victory that Swamp Thing was able to make it on the big screen.”
STG What do you think of the 1989 “Return of the Swamp Thing” film?
JEB “My favorite part of the movie is the audio commentary. I thoroughly recommend trying to sit through the entire movie, listening to the director obsessively complain about filming conditions and temperatures in South Carolina. It’s a funny film and I enjoy it but I can’t say that I revisit or think of it all that often. If you want to see Swamp Thing drive a jeep, you’re in for a treat.”
STG Were you a fan of the Swamp Thing television series on USA as well?
JEB “We didn’t have cable when I was a kid but somehow I did see an episode and I remember it being a lot better. It is pretty outlandish with questionable acting. Those attributes are the reason I love it so much, though. Oddly enough, I like the TV series more than the movies. Whenever I have the opportunity, I will play the first episode for friends who are not familiar with the show. The first episode is nuts and I wonder how the show survived after such an odd beginning. It starts with a person of short stature hung from a post in the middle of the swamp. Later, the short man is seen running through town with a hotdog bouncing around in his mouth. At the end of the episode, he is captured by Arcane and forced to watch a prostitute dance in an underground dungeon filled with mutate science experiments. The final scene is of Arcane shooting the short man in the head while the woman dances. Intriguing? Maybe. Weird as hell? Absolutely.”
STG I have always wanted more seasons of the Swamp Thing animated series on Fox, if they renewed or rebooted it, what would you like to see?
JEB “For the sake of Swamp Thing merchandise, they should reboot the animated series. A whole lot of merchandise was produced for a show that only ran for 5 episodes, but I digress… As much as I’d love to see a more elaborate and serious Swamp Thing cartoon, similar to Fox’s X-men series (1992–1997), I enjoy the lighthearted and goofy elements of the original Swamp Thing series. I’m drawn to Swamp Thing’s inner strife, reflection and complex interactions with others. Swamp Thing deals with more than inherent powers and superhero-focused themes. I think younger audiences would find it difficult to invest their time in something as thoughtful as a serious Swampy cartoon.”
STG It is rumored that Swamp Thing will be in an upcoming film based on the Justice League Dark comics. What are your thoughts on that, and who should play him?
JEB “Unfortunately, It was announced that Guillermo del Toro has removed himself from the JLD film project, putting things on hold for the time being. I think the new partnership between Vertigo and New Line Cinema, coupled with the spark that del Toro provided, will keep Swamp Thing and the rest of the JLD crew in the back of someone’s mind for upcoming films. Swamp Thing would work really well as a supporting character as well as a lead, making him quite versatile to lend a hand in any DC film. The notion of a JLD movie eventually seeing the light of day is a very exciting prospect. I am a big fan of Ertrigan, Zatanna, Deadman, Constantine, Spectre, etc.; the environments and sticky situations they could possibly get into seem limitless. As far as who I’d like to see play Swamp Thing, I’m not completely sure. I’d prefer Swamp Thing portrayed by practical effects as well as CGI. An actor in a suit would feel more natural. Someone with the skill set of Andy Serkis, who could provide a strong physical manifestation of the character as well as a great vocal presence, would be ideal.”
STG Would you like to see more practical effects or CGI for Swamp Thing in the film?
JEB “Both. After seeing what was capable with Groot in Guardians, I can imagine how amazing Swamp Thing will look when he gets back on the big screen. I think CGI will lend a hand in a beautifully detailed Swamp Thing but a practical suit would provide the convincing weight and movement that is sometimes lacking in 3D animated films. Side note: I’ve spoken to a number of other Swampy fans about seeing Groot in Guardians and I think all of us were in the theaters, elbowing and whispering at our friends, “if this is how they treat Groot, Swamp Thing is going to look amazing!” ”
STG How did your love of comics and Swamp Thing influence your career as an Illustrator and Designer?
JEB “Growing up, my mom used to draw my favorite cartoon and comic book characters for me. She was a fairly decent artist and I had a lot of requests for her. When I was 5 or 6, I asked her to draw a group of Smurfs and she told me to draw them myself, so I did. From that point on, it was clear that if I wanted drawings, I’d have to create them. I figured out how shapes could be broken down into figures and those figures into my favorite characters. As I got older, style and technique came into play. Line weight, proportion and materials were my main focus and I gravitated towards the artists that exemplified those skills. Like most comics fans I know, my level of fandom and collecting fluctuated throughout my life. I stopped collecting comics in college but always kept my eye out for artists that stood out.”
STG Where can we get more information on your collection and your illustrating and design work?
JEB “Two years ago, I started building a Swamp Thing database to serve as a reference tool for other fans. The database has taken the form of the website, RootsOfTheSwampThing.com. The site documents all of my Swamp Thing collectibles as well as multiple lists, collecting Swampy appearances, ads, articles, mention (non-visual), non-US editions and parody. The site is ever growing and has been a great way to communicate with and find other Swamp Thing fans. My illustration and design work can be found at JohnBoylan.com. ”
John’s record can be seen on the Guinness World Record site here.
You can also follow him on Instagram.