Who's Arcane?

Who's This? Swamp Thing's uncle-in-law.
The facts: Anton Arcane is the uncle of Abby Arcane who would become Swamp Thing's long-standing romantic partner. His first full appearance was in Swamp Thing #2 as a mad scientist type, and he could have been a one-off as he dies in the next issue. But you can't keep a good villain down. First his Frankenstein-like creations resurrect him (see below), and then he returns again and again as a demon from Hell, most famously once inhabiting the corpse of Abby's dead husband Matt Cable, which was more than my 13-year-old brain could bear to think about. Considered Swamp Thing's archenemy, he would appear pretty often, and was the main antagonist of the 1980s movies as well.
How you could have heard of him: It was business as usual in the New52, with Arcane reprising his role as Swampy's biggest bad. At one point, he becomes the Avatar of the Rot, putting him on more equal footing with the Champion of the Green and also putting him at odds with Animal Man.
Example story: Swamp Thing vol.1 #10 (May-June 1974) "The Man Who Not Die!" by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson
So I wanted to experience the moment where Anton Arcane went from bad dude to actual monster. This is it. He's been dead for 7 issues, out of sight, out of mind, and it's time to bring him back. The original Swamp Thing series was all about using classic horror movie tropes (there's a Frankenstein story, and a werewolf story, and a space invader story, etc.), and now it's time for some, well I don't want to say undead exactly... some Re-Animator action. But maybe an undead curse too, something rooted in voodoo. Or else what is this story Swampy listens to at the top of the issue? What is Auntie De Luvian (ha! I get it!) talking about? A slave who cursed his evil master and came back to kill him from beyond the grave? She saw it with her then young eyes and never forgot it. Before Alec gets her point, he notices a couple of goblinny figures and runs after them and comes upon... Arcane's Un-Men!
The Boss Un-Man is of course, Anton Arcane, back from the dead and now looking like a flesh version of Swamp Thing, achieving peak archenemy status. How?
Ah Cranius. When you're just a head and fingers, you compensate by being brilliant (and also telepathic to home in on Swamp Thing later). But not too brilliant. Although I kind of think he remade Arcane into a monster on purpose. A misshapen king for a misshapen people. But look, broken bodies at the bottom of a cliff can't be choosers. It just makes Arcane want to steal Swampy's body even more, so he doesn't mind the monstrous look, it's the near-indestructibility he wants. His new synthetic body is no slouch, mind you, he swam to Lousiana from Europe!
I just now realized (and flipping through the issue bears this out) that they always make sure to hide his crotch area with shadows, angles and objects, so presumably, Arcane's gnarly dong is hanging out through all of these scenes. True horror. Fighting ensues, and one gets the impression that Arcane enjoys the physicality of his new skinsuit.
For some reason, Arcane says the word "slave" a couple times in casual conversation - as you might, you know, if you had enslave humanity on your bucket list - and the grave stones start to murmur. And as the Swamp Thing falls, the moans get louder...
I bet the yellowed grass isn't the only thing that shriveled, we just can't see it. And so yes, revenants of murdered slaves join the fray, first putting the guiltless Swamp Thing to sleep with voodoo vibes.
When he wakes up, Arcane, the Un-Men and the former slaves are all gone and the cemetery is as before... no wait! There's one notable difference...
Oh crap! New graves for the Un-Corpses! At least Arcane got a big monument one. And as our story winds down, Swamp Thing will also find Auntie De Luvian's grave. Just how many horror twists does the story need? AS MANY AS WEIN AND WRIGHTSON NEED, OKAY?!

Arcane would be back, because you can't keep a good villain down, and that's how we like it. I remember being haunted by the whole Matt Cable possession thing, but I've gotten over it. That gnarly dong though...

Who's Next? The Lord of Atlantis.

2 comments:

Floyd Lawton said...

When I first read the opening sentence my brain inferred that it was Anton Arcane that became Swamp Thing's love interest ;-)

I encountered a few Swamp Thing comics in my early teen years via bargain bins and my young brain also found them too intense to think about. Honestly they still freak me out at my current age.

I'm loving the expansion of Who's _____ as a regular feature, keep up the good work.

Siskoid said...

Thanks. Yeah, I try to keep a little mystery in the opener with a big of verbal gymnastics if I can.

And other times, it's dead stupid like "Who's the Princess of Gemworld?!

 

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