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Interview: Kirk Scroggs on ‘The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid’

Today we have an interview with Kirk Scroggs, the creator of The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid. The elevator pitch for this book is “Wimpy Kid but in the DC Universe.” It’s a diary-type story about a middle-schooler who is part plant and part human, which results in lots of embarrassing bodily surprises, and it just came out in September as part of DC’s DC Zoom middle-grade line.

When did you first encounter Swamp Thing? 

When I was a kid, HBO must have played the 80’s Adrienne Barbeau movie fifty times a day, so I was aware of the character. But it was my love of Bernie Wrightson that led me to the comics. I was reading his work on the Creepshow comic adaptation and became a fan then I found out he designed Swamp Thing. I loved that it was like a cross between a spooky EC Tales From the Crypt comic and a superhero story.

Which parts of the original story did you think it was important to keep?

There’s an unpredictable, eerie edge to the Swamp Thing character and the swamp setting that I didn’t want to lose. And there’s some gooey green grossness that was a lot of fun to draw. I also wanted to keep the tragic Universal Monster quality of the original, so we still have Alec Holland’s backstory as part of the mythos.

The original Swamp Thing is pretty dark. How did you go about making a character that middle-graders would be able to relate to?

Russell Weinwright, Swamp Kid, is a good kid struggling to make it through the dark days of middle school while being completely uncomfortable in his own skin. This is a darknesss I think a lot of us can relate to. It might not be as grim of a backstory as Swamp Thing, but it’s up there. As for the Swamp Thing character, I thought it would be fun to start off the story with him being a sort of legend or a bogeyman lurking out in the woods, but as the story unfolds, we learn that he has his own tragic backstory and good heart buried under all that green mulch. Ultimately, he’s a mentor to Swamp Kid.

What was your favorite part about doing this book?

Just about every aspect of doing Swamp Kid was a dream come true. It’s DC! I think the ability to use all sorts of different media was a real treat. Sometimes Russell draws in his journal with pencil, sometimes ink, other times he has the whole set of markers! I hope that readers will be inspired to grab a spiral notebook and whatever drawing utensils they have on hand and create their own stories.

You have done illustrated chapter books before. How was this project different?

Swamp Kid is the most purely creative thing I’ve ever worked on. It’s so free form and spontaneous, with different art styles and media from page to page. And it is the project that’s most directly linked to my own experience in school. It looks like a notebook I might have been doodling in back in eighth-grade. It’s like a direct pipeline to my twelve-year-old brain.

Have you thought about doing a sequel or sequels?

I would loooove to do one! I think there are some doors left open in the first book—Where did Russell come from? How is he related to Swamp Thing? What’s up with the carrot finger?

Tell me about your next DC project.

This next one is going to be fun. We’re going full monster and bringing in creature characters from the DC vaults that have come and gone for the last fifty years. It’s called We Found a Monster and it’s about two kids who, you guessed it, find a monster. It’s a friendly monster, but they’re in a world that’s unfriendly to anything unusual, so they have to hide it, nurse it back to health, and try to get it to behave. The thing is, through the course of the story one of the kids is going to slowly realize that the other kid has some dark secrets of their own and just might be the keeper of a whole horde of monsters!

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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