Now this is hardly a definitive list…perhaps all of these aren’t the absolutely scariest moments from Swamp Thing, but these are the ones that have stuck in my head all these years. There are a lot more on top of these as well…I could easily have done 100 scary moments, most of which would have been with Arcane, but I think this is a pretty good variety of choice creepy scenes.
Needless to say, SPOILERS ahead:
Arcane opens his big mouth one too many times (Swamp Thing #10, May/June 1974, by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson):
After his apparent death in Swamp Thing #2, the mad scientist Arcane has returned in his misshapen, reconstructed body, intending to possess Swampy’s body and use its power to conquer the world! Fighting on a forgotten slave graveyard in the middle of Louisiana swampland, Arcane’s repeated claims that he’s going to “enslave” the world and be its “master” wakes the spirits of the departed slaves, who exact a terrible and deserved punishment on Swampy’s arch-nemesis.
Swamp Thing casts out a demon (Saga of the Swamp Thing #12, April 1983, by Marty Pasko and Tom Yeates):
Swamp Thing had been tricked: the young girl he’d been protecting was in fact harboring a powerful demonic force, which has since taken over Swampy’s body. However, as the captions tell us:
“Something struggles beneath the misshapen surface that is Alec Holland: a will to live. For what else could have kept him alive this long, against so many odds?”
And thus, through his own sheer force of will, Swamp Thing casts the demon out of his own body. Corny? Sure, but 22 years after its initial publication, that scene still sticks with me.
Swamp Thing turns into a big jerk (Swamp Thing #168, July 1996, by Mark Millar, Phillip Hester and Kim DeMulder):
Swamp Thing was already Earth’s plant elemental, a champion of the Green. However, at this point in his ongoing evolution, he had also gained mastery over the other elemental powers of the world: fire, water, air, stone…making him the most powerful and dangerous creature on the planet, his sympathy for humanity long gone. This becomes readily apparent when Arcane (yes, Arcane, seeking his own salvation) tries to appeal to Swamp Thing’s better nature by reminding him of his wife, Arcane’s own niece, Abby — Swamp Thing’s great love. Swampy’s response? “She was the one with the long white hair, right?”
Judith turns into a bird (Swamp Thing #48, May 1986, by Alan Moore and John Totleben):
Well, yeah, that’s pretty much what happens. Judith is one of John Constantine’s “army” of assistants, invading the caves of the Brujeria, who plan to wage war on Heaven. However, Judith betrays Constantine, promised wonders by the Brujeria is she just does their bidding. And as part of that bidding, the Brujeria…well, turn her into a bird, basically, in order to carry the message to begin the war. Part of the creepiness of this scene is that the transformation is mostly off-panel, with the occasional shot of intermediary steps of Judith’s changes, as the Brujeria provide narration:
“To commence, you must let the new legs grow down from the stump of the throat. They will scratch and hurt as they push through….”
Demons are just plain mean (Swamp Thing #144, July 1994, by Mark Millar, Phillip Hester and Kim DeMulder):
Swamp Thing is on the run, disguised as a human (his old, deceased, friend Matt Cable), and at the lowest point of his despair, Father Kelly arrives to lend him some support. Who is Father Kelly? A good and kind priest, dragged bodily into Hell to remove his positive influence on the community around him…thus tipping the world’s balance closer to evil. Father Kelly was let out of Hell for an hour, supposedly in answer to his prayers that he be allowed to help Swamp Thing…but after he’s sent back, the demon reveals to Swampy that he was only released to make Kelly’s suffering worse, by giving him a brief taste of freedom. It’s such a despairing view, that good people would be allowed to suffer in Hell, with no hope of reprieve, through no fault of their own. Upsetting stuff.
Swamp Thing gets all Lovecraftian on us (Swamp Thing #8, Jan/Feb 1974, by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson):
A secret horror lurks beneath the city of Perdition, a horrible, tentacled mass (called “M’nagalah”) that tells Swamp Thing that it created life on Earth, gave man the ability to do violence, and, having been brought to Earth against its will from the distance place in the stars where it lived, it seeks to build sufficient mass in order to rise to power when the cosmos is aligned to the perfect position. C’mon, this is Lovecraft all over…he’s even name-dropped in the story, for Pete’s sake.
Makes one wish Wrightson did more with the Cthulhu Mythos stuff. Oh, and M’nagalah returns during Swampy’s Challengers of the Unknown tenure in the late ’70s, as well as in the ’90s Trenchcoat Brigade mini-series.
It’s not the Winchester House, we swear (Swamp Thing #45, February 1986, by Alan Moore, Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcala):
This is a simpler scene, taking place in the Cambridge House, a house when the heir to the Cambridge Rifle fortune insisted that construction on the house never be stopped in order to keep the spirits of the weapon’s victims at bay. Of course, the project was long since abandoned, and, this being a Swamp Thing comic, there are ghosts all over the place…and in one room are two gunslingers having got into a shooting match over a game of cards. After a while, there’s not much left of the bodies….
Roy Raymond returns to comics (Swamp Thing #69-#74, Feb-July 1988, by Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala):
Television show host Roy Raymond is in his limo, complaining to his assistant Lipchitz that he needs something spectacular to get his show back on top on the heap again. At the same time, Swamp Thing, having abandoned his role as the Green’s protector, has wreaked havok on Earth, with new, flawed Swamp Things being generated as replacements. Raymond and Lipchitz encounter one such flawed creature, and Raymond becomes convinced that this is what he needs to make a splash.
Oh, splashes are made, but not what they were planning. The creature takes control of the limo, trapping Raymond and Lipchitz in the back, and over the next few issues we watch as the situation deteriorates…every last bit of food and drink is consumed, Raymond is delirious, cutting TV deals on a phone that doesn’t work, and the floor of the limo is flooded with human waste. Grotesque, horrible, sadistic, and just a tad bit dark-humored…Rick Veitch’s forte.
Arcane possesses Matt Cable (Saga of the Swamp Thing #27, August 1984, by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben):
Matt Cable, who has a problem with the drink, finds himself almost certainly mortally injured in a car wreck. Upside down, bleeding to death, he finds himself face to face with…a giant yellow fly. At this point, we don’t know who the fly is or where it came from…but c’mon, we know it’s Arcane. He’s returned from Hell, and needs a human body to work his evil in the mortal world. Particularly Cable’s body, what with his strange powers given to him from secret scientific experiments…which will give you the powers, as you all know.
And there’s only one way for the fly to get into Cable’s body…now, perhaps you’ve accidentally swallowed a plain ol’ regular fly before, by accident. It’s really gross, you cough and you choke, and you’re just plain ol’ disgusted, since you know for a fact that fly was just on some dog poop mere minutes ago. And that’s just a tiny little thing. Now imagine swallowing a foot-long fly, especially one that’s talking to you the whole time. Ew, ick.
Swamp Thing encounters Arcane in Hell (Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #2, 1985, by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben):
Arcane has been defeated by Swamp Thing, his evil soul sent back to the hell from were it came. However, Arcane has had a measure of triumph, as he had cast his niece Abby’s soul down to hell previously, leaving Swamp Thing no choice but to go to hell himself to retrieve it. While there, he encounters his old enemy, his body massively swollen with hatching insect eggs. As Swamp Thing turns to continue his search for Abby’s soul, Arcane cries out “how many years have I been here?” Swampy’s reply, delivered, it seems, with no small measure of satisfaction:
The other entries in this list weren’t in any particular order, but this scene is the one that sticks with me the most, which is in my opinion the most scary and disturbing sequence in the whole of Swamp Thing‘s many issues.
Any favorite scary Swampy scenes of your own? Drop ‘em in the comments section…I’d love to see them.