DNA Swamp was a Belfast-based anthology which ran for three issues, from 1997. Although short-lived, its publicity department, DNA Design, and the ensemble of high profile creators left a lasting impression on the Ulster comics scene. It was intended to be published monthly, by DNA Design, and was run from various locations including the Ormeau Road and North Street Arcade. It was edited by Conor McGlone, Christian Kotey and John Farrelly. Full colour covers were provided by by Frank Quitely, Philip Blythe and Colin McNeill, and the first issue contained an interview with writer Alan Grant. The strips were generally of about five pages in length, and were both self-contained or ongoing, much like 2000 AD.
DNA Swamp enjoyed a close relationship with two comic shops in particular. The Talisman in Belfast hosted the initial launch party beginning a small tour, and featured the appearance of Alan Grant and Glenn Fabry as well as the creators. The tour later took in Needful Things in Galway, where Farrelly, Kotey and Blythe were later to lead a DNA Design Workshop. This was inspirational in the careers of other Irish cartoonists including Andrew Luke and Emmett Taylor. Luke later turned his journey into a full article in the second issue of Bob's. Kotey would later re-locate to Galway.
DNA Swamp was stocked in both comicbook stores and Main Street newsagents like Easons and NPO. However, the refusal of mainland retailer WH Smiths to stock it contributed to below expected sales. Funding from bodies such as the NICDA ran dry, and DNA Design were forced to call it a day, existing for a short while accepting commercial non-comics work.
Conceived of by Christian Kotey and Brendan Rice, the tale was written by Malachy Coney and illustrated by Kotey. Set in Belfast, 1999, the strip claimed, "Ireland's First Superhero...Has Returned." Coney's script was slowly paced to tie in with mythological Irish Gods, while Kotey's large visuals added to the epic proportions with a drawing style similar to Chris Webster. Blythe's rendition of Keltor in statuette nod was portrayed on the cover to Issue 2 when the strip was placed as the 'leader'.
Written by Tom Kline and illustrated by P. J. Holden, the strip mixed bio-chemistry with occult symbolism, and the summoning of a Witchunter in Chicago of 2194. According to Holden, the strip was conceived of as early as 1991 and showed up in the first issue of Domain, in 1994.
Lie Dreams of A Homo PacedermusEdit
A four page one off appearing in issue One, written by Malachy Coney and illustrated by Sean Doran, featuring the existential journeys of a baby elephant travelling spiritually through history's tortures, pop culture and religious archetypes. The strip is available to read on Sean Doran's website.
The Adventures of Long Coat and Leather JacketEdit
Two bounty hunters from Hell, in a gritty vigilante serial entirely executed by John Farrelly.
The two lead characters were based on Farrelly himself (Cote) and his best friend at the time, Sean Smith (Jack), when they were at college together and who habitually wore the titular garments. There the resemblance ended, though some autobiographical stuff found its way into the story. They were blessed (or cursed) with special powers that aided them in their quest to find and eliminate bad guys.
Farrelly prides himself on the lack of research he did for the series. "Everything was nonsense," he said in 1998. "Real bounty hunters don't just go out and act like vigilantes; there are protocols to observe; the law to be obeyed. Cote and Jack were nuts - they just did what they liked; beating people up, dragging criminals to justice, which was basically the way American superheroes acted. No Miranda warning, no search warrant, no evidence. Cops would just laugh at you if you were a 'bounty hunter' and brought a bad guy into a police station. 'Long Coat and Leather Jacket' was my reaction to the ridiculousness of the whole superhero genre. I just made stuff up as I went along."
Although only three episodes of the serial ever saw print, the series was conceived as a long story-arc where the characters were fully explored. "I wrote tons of stuff," says Farrelly. "Cote and Jack became these inter-dimensional time-travellers that had to recover artifacts from the distant past and far future and at the same time discovered more and more about their origins. Cote was immortal, as it turned out, and didn't want to be. I had fun killing him over and over in many gruesome ways. Jack, on the other hand, was obsessed with discovering the secret to eternal life; death frightened him. God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell, space and time - it was all in there. I like to think my sense of humour, the black comedy rose to the surface of what was otherwise an intentionally cliched 'bounty hunters from hell' tale. I'm told it was popular, though. We got fan-mail at DNA Swamp. Glenn Fabry and Alan Grant really liked the story and Frank Quitley did a cover for me."
"There's a funny story about the old 'bounty hunters from hell' tag-line, Farrelly says. "A born-again Christian wrote to DNA Swamp, starting his letter off with 'you poor, misguided boys' and said, having read the story, that we were heading for hell ourselves. I think he missed the point of the strip, actually. Just because I mentioned the word 'hell' was enough to set him off. There was far worse to come than that! I wouldn't have wandered into the realms of the Garth Ennis-ness, but it was pretty close. There was a lot of criticism of organised religion in later scripts and how it affected the human population."
Farrelly admits to using recognisable steroetypes on which to base the characters. "I wanted them to be corny. I showed my scripts to 2000ad writer Robbie Morrison one time and he said 'y'know, they're Vietnam veterans. That's corny. You should give them more contemporary combat experience.' He was kind enough to take the time to read my stuff and give me his opinion and I didn't have the heart to tell him that corn was the whole point.There were a lot of the buddy movies like 'Lethal Weapon' and '48 Hours' out at the time I started writing - the old Odd Couple schtick that's been done a million times before. But I like corn! I like Viet Nam vets and one-liners and grimacing and ultra-violence ('bullet ballets', I call it; choreographed mayhem). And I think people in general like cornyness. Bruce Willis and Stallone and Schwarzeneggar. If they didn't, Hollywood wouldn't keep hacking out the same old cliches year after year. I wanted to subvert the cliches subtly. Maybe I failed."
In any case, Farrelly hopes to bring Long Coat and Leather Jacket back to a comic near you soon!
The Fa'Acts O' Li'IfeEdit
A short Future Shock style piece featuring primitive linguistic narratives that appeared in the first issues. From a concept by Craig Smith and Paul McCullough, drawn by McCullough and scripted by John Farrelly.
"This story was a real mish-mash," said Farrelly in 1998. "Paul McCullough was this far-out, talented-beyond-belief artist who created some astonishing artwork - all writhing bodies and Boschian nightmare stuff. He showed me these pages of a story he'd done with Craig Smith that was unlettered. I asked him what it was about. He said 'I haven't a f***ing clue!' He couldn't remember! The artwork was too good not to use so I took the pages and looked them over, finally coming up with a story on the origin of a human-like species on a distant planet. It was silly and trite and a lot of fun and the real reason for its seeing the light of day was to showcase Paul's amazing artwork. One reviewer said it was the singular most weird tale he'd ever read. That made me proud!"
A short text story in two parts by Brian F. Cleland.
"I don't usually like text stories in comics but I thought I'd include this because it was so damn good," said John Farrelly, editor of DNA Swamp in 1998. "I originally wanted to adapt it as a comic strip, but there wasn't the time or the resources. Besides, Brian's writing was so good I thought it needed a home all of its own. Read it, I swear - you won't regret it."
Several ongoing and short pieces did not see publication, including a collaboration between Kotey and newcomer Stuart Luke.