Welcome back to the Haunted MTL comic review column, Graphic Content, as we continue our special series that covers just Swamp Things! This week we cover the third issue of the comic which introduces a character who would become nearly iconic to the series as ol’ Swampy himself. So, what does Swamp Thing #3 offer?
Swamp Thing #3 (March 1973)
Swamp Thing #3, or “The Patchwork Man” is another issue credited to Len Wein as the writer and “Berni” Wrightson as the artist. The issue is a direct follow-up to the second issue. You can, as always, find this issue in the collection Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis. Please order it through your local comic shop!
The story continues the intense Frankenstein-vibes that have haunted the series since the first issue. Swamp Thing finds himself seeking a cure within the castle of Anton Arcane. He falls through a floor and is nearly rescued by the mysterious Patchwork Man, first seen at the end of the previous issue. Matt Cable, obsessively pursuing Swamp Thing, arrives in the same village where Swamp Thing is. There Matt encounters, conveniently enough, one miss Abigail Arcane, adopted niece of Anton Arcane. All the while, we learn more about the strange Patchwork Man, who is none other than Grigori Arcane – Anton’s brother and Abigail’s father – who was forged into a misshapen monster by Anton.
The plots converge when a disassociated Patchwork Man attacks Matt, carrying off Abigail, only to find himself confronted by Swamp Thing for the requisite fight sequence. The usage of the second person puts the reader in the head of Grigori, unable to communicate his thoughts to others, but they become clear to the reader, creating a sad, grim irony. Eventually, Swamp Thing and The Patchwork Man clash as Swamp Thing sees an imperiled Abigail Arcane. Their fight is ultimately broken up by a pitch-fork and torch-bearing mob, led by Matt. Soon enough, Abigail finds herself holding on for her life across a chasm at the site of Arcane castle when the two monsters come to an unspoken agreement to save her. The Patchwork Man falls to his apparent death, while Swamp Thing hands over Abigail to Matt and the villagers.
Wrightson’s Balkan setting is just vague enough to work but can be comically non-specific with signage in English, for example. Mercifully, the village feels modern enough and does not dip into Balkan cliches. It ultimately is the mountains in the background that does most of the heavy lifting on the setting, here. The work on the characters is fantastic as ever: Abigail is striking with white hair and a black streak, something that may look strange on the screen but works quite well in the comics. She is also drawn with the necessary sex appeal that would eventually work its way into a film adaptation of the series, where Heather Locklear would play Abigail. The real draw of this issue is the contrasting looks of Swamp Thing and The Patchwork Man, however. The hulking mass of Swamp Thing, generally expressed as monstrous within the comic is firmly rendered as heroic whereas The Patchwork Man, crude and misshapen, is at first glance quite horrific. His tragic truth, his life as Grigori, runs counter to the design in a very endearing way. By the end of the issue, you feel for the misshapen creation of Anton Arcane. Again, not unlike Victor Frankenstein and his Creature. Pitiable, sure, but still fairly gross.
Major foundations are laid down in this issue. The tenuous relationship between Matt Cable and Swamp Thing gets its first moment of their future, albeit strained alliance. Abigail is introduced and, in a somewhat strange turn, joins Matt to travel to the US, her justification sort of working. Overall, this is a fine issue, definitely stronger than the second issue, “The Man Who Wanted Forever.” The conflict is more compelling and Grigori Arcane is a more well-rounded figure than Anton Arcane was. Grigori is the heart of the issue, driving the narrative. Len Wein turns the focus from Swamp Thing to this new, strange monster, which is a good move given the relatively basic plot that the character of the Swamp Thing engages with. Swamp Thing, ironically enough, does not need to be the focus of Swamp Thing all the time.
As for where this series fits in with the lore of Swamp Thing, here is a very brief list.
- I definitely cannot say enough about Abigail Arcane, who after Swamp Thing and Matt Cable makes for one of the longest-tenured characters in the series and has romantic links to both of them. Linda doesn’t necessarily count because she spends a lot of time… well, dead.
- A fun fact about Abigail is that she is one of the few DC characters that ages in real-time due to her being part of the now-defunct Vertigo imprint. She is around 17 years old in this issue and was around 50 years old in 2005. Her age has probably regressed due to recent company and imprint changes, however.
- The Arcane family will haunt the pages of Swamp Thing for decades to come, but this is not the last time we see The Patchwork Man, though it won’t be until the 1980s. (Vol. 2 #59) We see Anton again here, in flashback, but he will not make a proper return until issue #10 of volume one.
- Look, I am going to bring up Frankenstein a lot over the coming weeks. So many nods: the angry mob with torches and pitchforks, sure, but there is also Grigori’s memory of Abigail as a little girl.
We are back to comic reviews in next week’s Graphic Content. For now, please share your thoughts on the column, issue, or just about anything Swamp Thing-related.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5
Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…
Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)
“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.
The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.
Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…
Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”
Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)
This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…
Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!“
Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!
And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.
Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 4
Wow, I can’t believe you’ve stayed the course through four whole strange story posts of these creepy comics collages. But this is the final frontier, the last segment, the standing ovation as it were. So here goes…
Creepy Comics Story 7: The Grave (shallow enough for ya?)
“It should take longer, it seems to all of them. Such holy flesh should not give before a blade so easily.” “His brow is growing so cold.” “Yes it would be. He’s dying.”
“My god… I’m not dead.” Put the shovel down. “Life is a no-win situation. Besides… You’re already dead!”
“I’m not dead. I’m not dead!… Oh, Oh my god… I can’t move… What’s happened to me?” Buried alive. Or maybe not.
“Dead?” Perhaps I am actually dead. I was expecting something… I dunno… different.
“I’m not hungry, I’m dead. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, in fact.” At least I’m not a zombie. That seems a small consolation right now though. “My organs are shutting down. It is a relief.”
“Three days have already passed.” We’re just sitting here, rotting. Like Norman Bates’ Mother. At least someone was kind enough to supply a rocking chair. “Oh, one last thing before I go… You’re doing my fucking head in.”
Creepy Comics Story 8: Adrift Afterlife (why you save the best gold coins for the ferryman)
How’d we get here? “I do not stand alone. I am sat in a boat.” “.. to be millions of miles away from any care in the world.” Was that the Ferryman? “Only liberty I know.”
“He does not remember arriving here, or if he has been here before. It is not the island he grew up on, though it feels so very familiar… He has been waiting for the night tides to come in, for they will bring starfish. He has always liked watching them cling to the beach before the current pulls them back into fathoms.”
“And the ocean brings him starfish… Perhaps his father had nothing to do with this place at all.” The ferryman stands on the far shore. It makes no difference now.
“Beneath the ocean, razor-sharp coral grows and plunges towards the surface, sent by a green place that would not like to burn.” “The sand is soft between his toes and he is not ashamed of anything.” The ghosts are here, contentedly it seems.
Thank you for joining us for these creepy comics collage art stories. But here’s where we have to leave it off. Trust me, it’s best that way. Besides I’m out of creepy comics to collage with.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 3
We’re ba-ack… Are you ready for the next creepy comics collages graphic story overload? After the last time and the intermission I wasn’t sure I’d see you again, but here we are, together again. You’d almost think we put something in the water – wink.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, the world was going to hell… or was it?
Creepy Comics Story 5: Alien Invasion (A Fist Full of Physics!!!)
“Elsewhere… months… earlier…” “It begins as a flicker pin-point of light getting closer ever closer until it takes form.” The sky is falling, damn you Chicken Little.
“…unconfirmed rumors of extraterrestrials have surfaced this evening following reported sightings in upstate New York earlier today.” There’s the news for you. Always blowing things up to increase viewership ratings.
“Then I would suggest a test immediately.” ‘K Doc, we get it; maybe there’s cause for concern. Guessing these aren’t friendlies based on intel, or that the government pissed them off. “Where’s William Shatner when you really need him?”
“Next morning… City Hall…” “A Fist Full of Physics” Blamm-o! “As if that’s some kind of homage.” It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I was feeling fine but now I’m not so sure. “All of this is on your head.” You can thank the world governments with their shoot first, ask questions later policies for that.
“The act was deplorable. It’s ramifications were permanent.” Doc looks unamused. “And the doctor drones on in his cold monotone… ‘Then we all die.’”
Creepy Comics Story 6: Werewolves (Londoners, eat your hearts out)
“Fables Werewolves… no one can hear you howl.” So now we’re elbow-deep in lycanthropy? This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder…
“… I feel so… disoriented… is this vertigo?” No, you wouldn’t be so lucky. Once bitten, twice shy. It’s The Change. Prepare yourself for the transformation.
“What now?” Enough with the damned interruptions already, can’t you see I’m at work?!
“Shall we start a war?”
“No! No! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! No!“
“I know one thing.” “Never will you suffer the indignity of this animal’s touch again.” The wolf seems somewhat offended by that statement. No really. And probably rightly so.
“Maybe it’s just an excuse, a fucking cop-out for when we inevitably fuck-up our lives and hurt people… We’re not cursed, we’re rotten, or mad or…”
“I don’t deserve this!” he howls. Stop blaming the werewolves for your own human indecencies. Teacups get broken and the London werewolves get angry.
Thank you for going all in with us over this series, there’s… one… more… final… huzzah… In the meantime, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.
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