One Swamp Thing adventure left Alec Holland to make an impossible choice.
The moss-encrusted DC hero Swamp Thing has one of the greatest ongoing stories in the DC universe history. One of his greatest adventures was also one of his most heart-breaking, and left Alec Holland's troubled hero with an impossible decision to make.
While Alan Moore is the best known writer of Swamp Thing, creator Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson also turned in some of his best stories. In their original run from 1972 to 1974, the creative duo explored many concepts that involved aliens, the supernatural, and monsters. In Swamp Thing issue #12 story "Eternity Man", Alec Holland's ethics were tested to their limits when he was placed in a position where there was no easy answer — and his decision proved tragic either way.
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In the prior issue of the series, Swamp Thing rescued a small group of people from the captivity of an apocalyptic professor and his ancient sentient worms. Following the destruction of the professor's hideout and the terrifying worms, the green giant was cast back out into the solitude of the swamp. While taking a look at his surroundings, he was drawn towards a strange pink light, emanating from a peculiar stone hidden behind the plant life. Once in possession of the stone, Swamp Thing suddenly found himself cascading through time itself and into the Jurassic Era.
While trapped millions of years in the past, Swamp Thing was lucky enough to be saved from the jaws of a T-Rex by a man. Given the time, Holland knew well enough that the man couldn't be native to this era and realized he was a fellow victim of the stone's temporal properties. But, when the man died in his efforts to save the Protector of the Green, the hero was left overcome with sadness at the loss. However, shortly after, the pink stone reactivates along with the dead man seemingly returning to life. His business now concluded, Holland shifts through time again.
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When the shift concluded, Swamp Thing was then dropped into Ancient Rome where he was set upon by some lions and chased into the Coliseum. There, he again encounters the mysterious man, who was then changed to look more modern with shorter hair. But the sight of the stone in his eyes proved it was the same man. Again, he was fatally wounded, and again the stone reactivated and sent Holland through time again. As the story continues, Swamp Thing learns a tragic truth about both the fellow time traveler and the stone.
When he was sent back to a 14th century European village, he overheard a sad and angry conversation between a man and woman. The woman felt betrayed that the man had used her for the now troublesome pink stone – which the man desired to use to live forever. However, the woman revealed herself to be a witch, who cursed the man to wander time alone, only capable of having his time loop ended by the hand of a friend taking his life. As the story progressed, Swamp Thing soon realized that he is that friend, and only by his hand can the strange man's suffering be ended.
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However, the conundrum tests the morality of Alec Holland. Up to this point, the story of Swamp Thing had been defined by Alec Holland's quest to reclaim his humanity, and he feared that killing this man would constitute murder. Although Swamp Thing felt pity for the tragic man's predicament, he could not bring himself to grant him his request. The final interaction between them was Holland refusing to go along, and the man sadly becoming trapped in the swamp, his body sinking to the bottom as Swamp Thing tried to help. Instead, the man's death would resume his heart-breaking curse forever.
One of the most interesting things about this story is it's one of the times in comics that a character's ethical code has been pushed to the brink of being harmful. In refusing to help kill the man and break his curse, Swamp Thing is forced to effectively allow the man's tragedy to repeat throughout his time loops forever. With so many stories that explore the importance of the superhero moral code, "Eternity Man" even went so far as to show that the code may not be infallible.

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