|First appearance||Cameo appearance: Swamp Thing #1 (November 1972)|
Full appearance: Swamp Thing #2 (January 1973)
|Created by||Len Wein|
|Alter ego||Anton Arcane|
|Place of origin||Hell|
|Notable aliases||The Dark Avatar|
Fictional character biography
Arcane is a scientist whose obsession with gaining immortality has led him to create monstrous creatures known as "Un-Men", as well as other monstrous biogenetic experimentations involving the dead. He was able to resurrect his deceased brother Gregori as the Patchwork Man. He is also a skilled magician, which he is able to channel through his horrific experiments.
Living in the mountains of Europe with his niece Abigail, Arcane is introduced after he discovers and lures the plant based hero to his castle home. Arcane sought to use his scientific and magical abilities to transform his body into Swamp Thing's form, while changing Swamp Thing back into Alec Holland. At first very grateful to be human again, Alec soon overheard Arcane discussing his evil intentions now that he could carry them out. Alec then succeeds in breaking the spell Arcane cast, and sacrifices his humanity, so Arcane becomes a frail old man again. Pursued by Swamp Thing, Arcane fell to his death, only to be resurrected by his Un-Men in a new body. He then attacked Swamp Thing twice more before truly dying, the first time as a hulking corpse-like Un-Man (only to be destroyed by the vengeful ghosts of African-American slaves who had possessed his Un-Men) and later as an insect-like cyborg piloting a massive dragonfly-like vehicle that is actually a tesseract (i.e., its interior is larger than its exterior). It is after his third death that his soul was consigned to Hell.
Arcane's soul later escaped from Hell and ultimately helped to summon the demon Monkey King into the world.
After a fight with Abigail that culminated in her leaving on foot to find Swamp Thing, Matt Cable (Abigail's husband) had an attack of conscience and drove after her. He had been drinking heavily and wound up crashing his car, leaving him mortally wounded. Ultimately Arcane managed to possess Cable's body, and with it gained access to Cable's godlike power.
In this body, he masquerades as Cable, claiming he has a new job at a company called Blackriver Recorporations and buying a mansion for them to live. Arcane combined his own magic with Cable's inherent psychic powers to alter reality and the employees of Recorporations were the resurrected souls of deceased serial killers returned from Hell. He finally revealed himself, tormenting his niece and causing havoc and insanity by altering reality on a massive scale. For miles around natural and unnatural disasters occurred, people succumbed to homicidal instincts and the resurrected serial killers returned to killing.
He once again battled Swamp Thing, accompanied by monstrous forms resembling Un-Men, after killing Abigail and condemning her soul to Hell, all the while declaring the earth as his now.
It was during this battle that Arcane found that the Swamp Thing was a plant elemental and thus possessed semi-magical abilities, allowing the Swamp Thing to combat him on a more even ground. The battle was enough for Matthew Cable to regain control of his body, and Arcane was exorcised directly back to Hell. Cable used his awakened power to resurrect Abigail's body, but not having sufficient power to repair himself, became comatose and finally died, whereupon he became Matthew, a raven living within The Dreaming.
Arcane next appears as a demon, having been promoted to this status by the Lords of Hell. He attacks Swamp Thing yet again, only to be defeated. In a later episode, Arcane temporarily repents of his evil ways after having briefly found God, who eventually banishes him back to Hell. Arcane is tortured by the demon Josephine, whom he seduces into helping him escape. Swamp Thing defeats the two demons, causing their forms to morph together, and when last seen, it is revealed that the Arcane/Josephine being is pregnant.
The New 52
In the wake of The New 52 (a 2011 reboot of the DC Comics universe), Anton Arcane is a regular antagonist in the monthly Swamp Thing comics. After Abigail was able to fight off the mental control of Sethe, Sethe revives Anton Arcane from the dead. as the avatar of The Black (aka The Rot), after which he tries to take over The Red (colliding with Animal Man as well) and The Green. Anton also has a son named William Arcane and Abigail is his daughter in this timeline.
During Animal Man and Swamp Thing's one year in The Rot, Anton Arcane and the forces of The Rot were able to take over parts of Earth. It was mentioned by Frankenstein that Anton Arcane had imprisoned someone beneath Metropolis. When the forces of The Red and the forces of The Green converge outside of Anton Arcane's castle, Anton Arcane unleashes corrupted versions of Maxine Baker and Abigail Arcane. Anton Arcane and The Rot's conquest of Earth is thwarted and undone when Maxine breaks the hold of the remaining Hunter's Three on her. After being defeated by Swamp Thing, Arcane is put in a Hell specifically made for him by the Parliament of Decay when nothing ever rots and all is forever pure. Abigail as the new avatar of the Rot comes to him demanding information about her mother. Arcane reveals that when she was a baby she already had power over the Rot and she accidentally killed her by 'filling' her with the Rot. To make him talk Abigail lets him feel rot but she now says he will never escape his Hell and will never touch rot again. Arcane says that when he touched it when she gave it to him he became stronger than he been in ages and he will escape and take revenge on both her and Alec Holland. As she teleports away Arcane rips out one of his eyes and throws it in the portal. On earth a boy is about to eat an apple when it turns rotten. He throws it away and Arcane's eye appears in it.
In Swamp Thing #36, vol 5, when Swamp Thing goes in the Rot to warn Abigail about the new realm of machines she initially assumes he is there because of Arcane who has escaped. It is eventually shown that he has returned to Earth, but since he is not the Avatar of Rot, he can only gain strength from consuming rotten items, like corpses and garbage, and as such is terribly weakened. He joins forces with the new realm of Metal, who promises him the power he lost, and his power does grow greatly in this time. He later poisons the Green from within, when Swamp Thing is weakened in an attempt to destroy it, but this fails when all the Avatars of Green are awakened and use their power to cleanse the green to its original state. Abigail challenges Arcane in the final war against Metal, and while she has the upper hand, Arcane eventually escapes.
In Futures End, it is revealed that five years in the future, a series of events conspired to ensure that all Avatars swore to stay off of Earth and within their own realms to prevent chaos. Arcane only agreed to this, if he was allowed to bind himself to Abigail forever, as seen when his left hand and her right are completely fused in a twisted embrace and when he calls her his "daughter-wife". In doing so, he allowed himself to leech off her power, as the true Avatar of Rot, and ensuring that Swamp Thing could not fight him, without risking harm or death to the one he loved. However, Swamp Thing has made the decision to destroy the Rot, using the power of a Life through a White-Lantern Ring. Arcane attempts to dissuade him, by citing the necessity of death and rot, but Swamp Thing counters it by saying that Fungi/The Grey and Bacteria/The Divided have already decided to take over the role of rot, while Metal will keep them in check. Arcane then tries to give up Abigail, but Swamp Thing believes that there is enough life in her to let her survive and in worst case, death is better than the hell she lives in. Arcane briefly tries to fight back, but Abigail makes her move to distract him, long enough for Swamp Thing to activate the White-Lantern ring and bringing about the death of Anton Arcane.
Powers and abilities
Anton Arcane possesses genius-level intellect. He possess the knowledge of creation of synthetic organs and skin through which he made his Un-Men. He initially wanted to create a body and transfer his consciousness into it so he could make himself immortal within a tireless form instead of in his normal aged, worn body. He also possessed many arcane artifacts. He possesses necromancy which enables him to control the dead.
In the New 52, Arcane was brought in as the avatar of the Rot just as Alec Holland is avatar of the Green. As the avatar he could manipulate rot, death and decay to his will. His main objective was to simply help the spread of rot but he caused a wave of carnage as he thought that killing was the best sacrifice for the Rot. He then found a way of allowing rot in a living being, causing decay before death. When Swamp Thing and Animal Man are trapped within the Rot Arcane uses this 'living' rot on everyone except those who have a strong enough connection to the Red (animals) or the Green (plants), such as Poison Ivy or Man-Bat. There are ways to prevent the living rot, such as using the Man-Bat serum, but only if used before being completely controlled by it. These rot zombies can be weakened or even killed with Alec Holland's bio-restorative formula. Arcane's Un-Men were normal people who gave themselves to the Rot.
In other media
- Anton Arcane appears in Swamp Thing, portrayed by Mark Lindsay Chapman.
- Anton Arcane appears in Swamp Thing, voiced by Don Francks.
- Anton Arcane appears as the main antagonist in Swamp Thing, portrayed by Louis Jourdan.
- Louis Jourdan reprises his role as Anton Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing.
- Swamp Thing (vol. 5) #9 (July 2012)
- Swamp Thing (vol. 5) #0 (November 2012)
- Swamp Thing (vol. 5) #11 (September 2012)
- Animal Man (vol. 2) #15 (February 2013)
- Animal Man (vol. 2) #17 (April 2013)
- Animal Man (vol. 2) #18 (May 2013)
- Swamp Thing (vol 5) #23.1 (September 2013)
- Swamp Thing (vol 5) #36 (November 2014)