Swamp Thing 3.15: Feel the Burn

It’s dynamite. Five sticks of it. And he’s maybe eighteen inches away from it when it explodes.

The combined effects of the blast and the reflex muscles in his legs propel him through the door and into the swamp…

… but Alec Holland is already dead.

Hell is standing in the white-hot heart of an explosion, and feeling the skin ripped from your body in handfuls.

Hell is feeling tendrils of unknown chemicals piercing your flayed flesh like hot needles at 100 miles an hour.

Hell is being on fire, and feeling what even Dante dared not dream.

He can hear the roar of the explosion, hear the dreadful sizzling and bubbling and popping…

He is propelled, a blazing stringless puppet stumbling through the flames like some Catholic martyr...

Imagine pain — so intense it defies description — as countless unclassified chemicals seep deep into throbbing, fume-enveloped flesh…

Imagine what such terrible suffering can do to the fragile mind…

… as it drives the stricken body forward, clawing desperately at the cool night air in hopes of some small comfort…

Imagine relief — as the smoldering man-shape reaches the soothing waters of the ever-present bog…

… then disappears soundlessly beneath its bubbling surface…

Hell is a swamp that extinguishes and soothes…

even as its filth and rot mutate and pervert, like some obscene amniotic fluid…

nurturing a thing that should not be. 

… and he screams…

… and falls… 

… and wakes. And thinks: “What is it that comes with autumn?”

And knows: It is fear.

My ongoing podcast adventures watching
terrible non-MCU Marvel movies continues in
Ghost Rider 31.1: We Are Going to Have to Stop Finding Things Cool


The burning Alec Holland was played by stuntman Tony Cecere, who specialized in being set on fire. Just in 1984, Cecere did “burns” in A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Terminator, Ghostbusters and Rambo: First Blood II.

In the DVD commentary, Wes Craven says:

He was completely fearless. He never got burned. He taught himself how to do it by trying various chemicals on himself around the family swimming pool, I swear to God, and setting himself on fire. And he said, oh, whenever it would get too hot, I’d just jump in the pool.

He had discovered this special formula… You think fire is fire, and it’s all the same temperature, but actually, different things burn at very different temperatures. The industry had discovered that rubber cement burns at a relatively low temperature, but he found something that burns even lower, so he could do really long burns.

The entire outside burn was done in one long take, which involved Cecere bursting through the landing, falling to the ground, getting up again and running to the end of the dock. His eyelids were coated with the protective gel that he used, so he had to do the whole run across the lawn to the narrow dock and then into the water with his eyes closed.

The special effects team actually used too much of the gel, so when he bursts through the door, the fire is a lot bigger and hotter than they expected. Watching the sequence, you can compare the relatively controlled burn when he’s running up the laboratory stairs, and the supernova that explodes at the beginning of the outdoor shot. But Cecere made it to the water, and he came through unharmed.

The text in today’s post was excerpted from four issues:

  • Swamp Thing #1 by Len Wein (Nov 1972)
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing #1 by Marty Pasko (May 1982)
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 by Alan Moore (Feb 1984)
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing #25 by Alan Moore (June 1984)

A break from the bayou:

Following this post, I’m going away on vacation, so I’m going to take a little break from Swamp Thing for the next three weeks. You’ll still get some fun content during that period — I’ll do a weekend popcorn Doctor Strange post next weekend, and I’ve also recorded another Signal Watch podcast about the 2007 film Ghost Rider, which will come out during the break.

I’ll be back the week of May 23rd, to pick up Swamp Thing at the start of Act 2. To make sure you don’t miss my moss-encrusted emergence from the murky depths (or the Doctor Strange/Ghost Rider posts), you can subscribe to the email list, or follow Superheroes Every Day on Twitter or Facebook.

If you haven’t listened to the podcasts yet, this is your opportunity to catch up! Ryan Steans and I have been watching terrible non-MCU Marvel films for Ryan’s podcast The Signal Watch, and so far we’ve seen the 2005 Fantastic Four, the 2015 Fantastic Four, and 2020’s The New Mutants, with Ghost Rider coming out soon. We are hilarious and adorable and having a lot of fun, so check those out. I’ll see you on the other side…

My ongoing podcast adventures watching
terrible non-MCU Marvel movies continues in
Ghost Rider 31.1: We Are Going to Have to Stop Finding Things Cool


— Danny Horn

8 thoughts on “Swamp Thing 3.15: Feel the Burn

  1. I recently watched an ep of The Movies That Made Us on Netflix that was about Nightmare On Elm Street and the scene with Tony Cecere in the scene in which Heather sets Freddy on fire in her basement was interesting. It turns out they expected him to chase her to the foot of the stairs and tripping, but not to get up and keep chasing her up the stairs! What dedication!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I’m always amazed at and appreciative of what stuntpeople are willing and able to do. I appreciate the peek behind the scenes at how the stunt was done. Through the flames, it looks like the body is a little thicker, so I wonder if he was wearing some sort of padded suit as well.

    And good job stitching together the description of the burn from the various comics. It was very evocative!

    Enjoy your vacation, Danny!

    Liked by 6 people

  3. “Following this post, I’m going away on vacation, so I’m going to take a little break from Swamp Thing for the next three weeks.”

    Living the Joan Bennett life, I see.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. That’s some damn fine…
    comic book writing at the top, Danny!

    Usually you’re…
    …. sarcastic …. cynical … whimsical … dismayed …
    but this post here, along with the images, is …

    Love to see this …
    …. new side of your writing!

    Hope you have a refreshing vacation, without any problems in Sector 3.
    I’ll look forward to more cinematic capers when you’re back!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Enjoy the vacation! We’ll be waiting for your return, and the first manifestation of the Swamp Thing.

    My personal favorite as far as a character in flames is from 1994’s version of Frankenstein – – Elizabeth’s immolation, running down the corridor and setting it blazing, then plunging down to the stone floor of the foyer. Even Denethor’s flaming demise in LOTR runs a distant second (spectacular as it is).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Have a great vacation!

    And this is a great post. The more poetic installments of Dark Shadows Every Day always dazzled me, and it’s great to see that sensibility at work in this garland of excerpts.

    Liked by 1 person

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