Oh, Auntie Warhol Readers, do we have a treat for you today. A private collector who wishes to remain anonymous recently held a reception for the senior staff of the Auntie Warhol Institute and the editors of this blog, at which we were shown this rare copy of a Swamp Thing comic circa 1974 which featured a guest appearance by a fictionalized Auntie Warhol.
The collector is not comfortable with letting us reproduce the comic in full at this time, but was kind enough to let us scan the cover and tell our readers what we read.
The storyline was roughly as follows. In Swamp Thing Vol 1, #12 (Oct 1974), “The Swamp Thing finds himself catapulted into various time-epochs by a mysterious gem with a seven-pointed star, and faces danger in each era.” In this 13th issue we read, we find that when the Swamp Thing made his final return to this time-epoch, Auntie Warhol hitched a ride back with him from whence they both happened to have previously been.
Well it’s comic fodder from there, government agents are hunting down the swamp thing, and Auntie helps him stand his ground by summoning a small army of feral cats to guard the wooded perimeter.
What is odd about this publication is that although the DC logos and various stampings from the time appear to be authentic, the covert art appears to be from the much more recent 13th issue of the fifth volume, circa Dec 2012, in which the woman pictured is not Auntie, but in fact a recurring character named Poison Ivy. And DC’s “official” December 1974 Volume 1 13th issue shows a different cover altogether, with no mention of Auntie, and although the plot does revolve around government agents hunting the Swamp Thing, in this version they catch him.
DC Comic spokespersons have thus far declined to return calls from the Institute seeking comment on the issue, as have representatives of Swamp Thing creators Len Wein and Nestor Redondo.
We interviewed owners, employees, and customers at a number of comic shops in the major markets to see what the street might have to say. A number of people told us that they had heard of a “lost” 13th issue, but no one had seen a copy or knew the alternate plot, except one person who said he thought he heard something, from someone who knew someone who knew someone who’d seen it, about cats.
However digging deeper we were able to find an intern who worked for the comic in 1974 who was able to color in a few details. He claims that as a point of superstition, they wanted to release two simultaneous “issue 13s”, so that neither would really be the 13th issue.
“[Swamp Thing artist] Nestor didn’t want anything to do with it, said it was just tempting the Devil, and that he’d rather just do a 13th issue and let it be. So yeah, he didn’t do the alternate cover, I don’t know where that came from. Len and DC did put out both issues. I guess they got someone else to do the other cover. But either they didn’t, or maybe they did, figure that whichever one came off the line first would be the 13th issue, and Nestor’s issue was scheduled to print second. I wasn’t privy to what all happened that night. Rumor is something about a fire, but that’s just a rumor as far as I know. All I know is I never did see that other cover until now.”
The story got juicier when we met Rafael Carlito, who claims to have been an acquaintance of Nestor Redondo at the time. Following is a complete transcript of what Carlito, who called us when he’d heard we were investigating, said on the matter:
“Nestor? Oh yes I know him, si. Oh, honeys, listen, first, I don’t want to out the guy. He’s sweet, and I love that Glynis of his — that girl is such a hoot. But girl let me tell you, back then I was doing drag on the circuit as Princess Raylita. I spent some time in New York with Candy [Darling] and Lou [Reed] and that girl Lou was into, and I remember Nestor being there. He came to see the girl we all called Auntie, one of Candy’s friends I think.”
Carlito laughed when we told him the intern’s version of the story of the 13th issue.
“Oh no sweetie, no. Nestor was totally into Auntie. He wrote that issue himself, usually Len wrote the story. He felt the cover was inspired, the best work he ever did. But Auntie didn’t seem happy to be written about, and Len didn’t like Nestor writing the story. So he printed it, I don’t know how many copies, but then Len ran his story with another cover Nestor had in the can for the ‘real’ run.”
We asked if there was anything to another rumor we’d picked up, that there may have been some argument about a lesbian scene in the comic between Auntie and Abigail Arcane. Carlito giggled and demurred, “oh I don’t know about that. But Princess Raylita’s parties were legendary, and Auntie did have a room at my place.”