We discussed the nefarious project with Swamp Thing writer Charles Soule.
If you’ve picked up a comic book in the last 10 years, you’ll have noticed that superheroes these days seem to spend more time fighting each other than they do the bad guys. And while that was fun for a while, we’re missing the days when the good guys would actually, y’know, be heroic and help people, as opposed to just beating the tar out of each other. That’s why we’ve got high hopes for DC’s next big initiative, “Villains Month.” This will see every September issue focus on one of that title character’s biggest villains, which sounds like a lot of fun – after all, there are a lot of baddies out there that are way more interesting than some of the good guys who have their own book these days (cough *Katana* cough).
One of these books is the always-enjoyable Swamp Thing, which will focus on Swampy’s classic nemesis, Arcane. We spoke to Swamp Thing writer Charles Soule about just who Arcane is in the New 52, what it means to be a villain, and why you never, ever mess with the Monkey King.
Swamp Thing #23. 1: Arcane, on sale September 18.
Arcane is a very appropriate name, considering how little-known the character is outside comic book circles. Could you give newcomers a quick primer on who this guy is, and why they should be excited?
Absolutely! Arcane is a pretty serious villain from Swamp Thing’s rogues’ gallery – he’s Swampy’s Joker, basically. In the book’s continuity, the idea is that the plant kingdom (known as the Green) and the animal kingdom (the Red) each have a champion on Earth, called Avatars. Swamp Thing is the plant avatar, and Animal Man, another great DC character, is the animal avatar. Arcane, on the other hand, is the avatar of the Rot, which means he’s this walking, talking (screaming, mostly) personification of decay. He’s super gross, and beyond evil. He’s several hundred years old, and he’s used that time to hunt down and brutally massacre one Red/Green Avatar after another. Over the years, he and Swamp Thing have tangled a number of times, and while Swamp Thing generally tends to triumph (it’s his book, after all), it’s almost always at a terrible cost.
In this particular issue, Arcane is stuck in this little pocket hell where Swamp Thing stashed him after their last epic battle. It looks like a gorgeous spring meadow, filled with butterflies, bunnies and sunshine – but nothing ever dies, which means nothing ever rots. For Anton Arcane, it is the worst. So, naturally, he does everything he can to escape, and that’s the main story of the issue. We get flashbacks to hundreds of years of Arcane history, some very cool guest appearances, and lots of intense, creepy action. It’s also self-contained, so you don’t have to know one thing about Arcane before you pick it up to enjoy it. What more could you ask for?
This line from Arcane's character biography on Wikipedia is awesomely weird: "Arcane's soul later escaped from Hell, and ultimately helped to summon the Monkey King into the world." Will you be addressing this fact?
Well, clearly that escape wasn’t all that successful, as Mr. Arcane finds himself in hell once again in my issue. It is with great sadness and regret that I report that the Monkey King does not appear in this story, but I did mention that there are bunnies and butterflies, right?
It seems like the heroes in comics spend more time fighting each other than fighting bad guys these days. Is this new project from DC a chance to bring the villains back into focus?
I think so. It’s also a chance to tell stories that focus on these awful, horrible, completely fascinating characters. They say a hero’s only as good as his villain, and DC has some great villains. I’ve been lucky enough to get some advance peeks at some of the other villains’ stories, and man, it’s fun. It’s an awesome change of pace – for once, the bad guys get to shine.
Who's your all-time favorite comic book baddie, and why?
Well, I’m not going to sell out my own story here – I think Arcane is plenty cool. However, I’ve always been partial to Lex Luthor as well. I dig evil genius types, and they don’t get much eviler or geniuser than Lex Luthor.
If you could be a supervillain yourself, what name would you choose, and what's your plan for world domination?
Before anything else, I’d see if the Monkey King was looking for an intern. If I could land that gig, everything else would fall into place – and he could call me whatever he wanted. You don’t second-guess the Monkey King.