Hello, my people! The Belser here to bring you the conclusion to my SWAMP THING/MAN THING expose. The last chapter was back in June but got a lot of positive feedback. Now we’re gonna discuss supporting characters and multi-media appearances( past and present) of these muck monsters! Enjoy!
Swamp Thing Supporting Cast:
Swamp Thing’s primary archenemy is Anton Arcane. Very much a comic mix of Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein, Arcane debuted as a faceless cameo at the end of Swamp Thing #1 and made his first fill appearance in Swamp Thing # 2 in 1972. Arcane is introduced as a decrepit old sorcerer living in a castle in Transylvania. While presented as a kindly but strange man, Anton developed a deep interest in biological science and has dedicated his life to unethical surgical experiments, sadism, decadence and attempting to re-animate dead flesh. His goal: immortality and world domination. As such, he becomes obsessed with the restorative abilities of Swamp Thing and sees it as the key to true immortality and power. He is often supported by an army of deformed henchmen known as the Un-Men, most of whom were Arcane’s own creations. He has done many acts of depravity to get Swamp Thing’s power:
1. He’s transferred his spirit into Swamp Thing’s body through sorcery.
2. He has escaped death multiple times, transferring his spirit into different bodies including a Frankenstein like monster, a rotting corpse and a spider creature.
3. He’s literally sold his soul to The Devil and became a demon.
In most media incarnations of Swamp Thing outside of comics, Arcane is almost always shown to be his primary enemy. Arcane is played with relish by veteran French actor Louis Jourdan in the 1982 movie SWAMP THING and its 1989 sequel, THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING. In the first film, Arcane is established to be a scientific ‘boogeyman’ who specializes in stealing the experiments of other scientists through extreme force. Both movies have Arcane portrayed as calm, cold blooded, and prone to delusions of grandeur. He is also quite egotistical, often referring to himself as a ‘genius’. He is quite suave, and he is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful scantily clad women. His plots are carried out by an inept but murderous paramilitary force at his disposal. The films are the first instance to show Arcane has being directly responsible for Alec Holland’s transformation into Swamp Thing.
This plot point would carry over to all other versions of Swamp Thing. Arcane was then portrayed on the 1990Swamp Thinglive action series on USA Network by Mark Lindsay Chapman. This Arcane is shown to be a bit younger than the Louis Jourdan version. He is also given a Lex Luthor type corrupt businessman while he still engages in illegal experiments. He even has a large mane of 80’s hair on a 90’s show.
Well, they say there’s someone for everyone. In Swamp Thing’s case, he has the lovely Abby Arcane. First debuting in Swamp Thing #3 (March 1973), she is his love interest and eventually the spouse of Swamp Thing. They even conceive a child together named Tefé Holland. One unique feature Abby possesses is her natural white hair with two overlapping black streaks. Abby is also blessed with psychic powers like empathy, telepathy and telekinesis. However, there were some drawback to this love affair. First, she was briefly married to would-be Swamp Thing hunter Matt Cable. Also, (and this is a biggie) Abby is the niece of Swamp Thing’s archenemy Anton Arcane.
Outside of the comics, Abby got her first live action portrayal in the movie THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING.
On the newDC Universe series, she was a CDC doctor with a dark past played by Crystal Reed.
The chain-smoking, working class wizard and occult private detective debuted in The Saga of Swamp Thing #37 in June 1985 and was created by Alan Moore. According to an article in Wizard Magazine, the look of the character was based on singer/songwriter Sting from the band ‘The Police’. Constantine and Swamp Thing have a long history together. John would often act as the Swamp Thing’s protector, guide, and voice of reason. Simply put, he’s Swamp Thing’s friend. It was John that introduced the Swamp Thing to the Parliament of Trees, who would give him the title of Protector of The Green. In fact, Swamp Thing even used John’s body to make love to his wife Abby and father his child Tefe. Constantine has gained a great deal of cult popularity and some people can argue that he has become more popular than Swamp Thing himself. Constantine received his own acclaimed solo series HELLBLAZER and he became a niche favorite for fans of darker comic book material.
This cult following has been helped by a 2005 live action movie starring Keanu Reeves and a short-lived (but critically acclaimed) NBC series starring Matt Ryan. The Matt Ryan version is now a part of the CW Arrowverse as a cast member of the show Legends of Tomorrow.
Man-Thing Supporting Cast:
Debuting in the same issue as Man-Thing himself, Ellen Brandt is the wife of Ted Sallis at the time of his transformation into Man-Thing. A brief origin of the character reveals she grew up in a loveless home which she had hoped to escape from. She met her husband Ted Sallis and married him as Ted began working for S.H.I.E.L.D. Unfortunately, Ted got lost in his work, causing Ellen to see him as cold as her father. She revealed her true colors by joining A.I.M. and plotting against her husband,. After Ted becomes Man-Thing and kills the A.I.M. agents, Ellen was terrified of his new appearance. In an act of revenge, he used his new abilities on her and burned half her face. Due to her role in his transformation, Ellen becomes the closest thing to an archenemy that Man-Thing has. However, many future stories have her helping him. One instance has Ellen recruited by Dr. Strange to help Man-Thing guard the Nexus Of All Realities from forces seeking its destruction and ,as a result, shatter all reality. She ends up merging with The Nexus itself.
Ellen Brandt gets the live action treatment in The Marvel Cinematic Universe as a henchwoman for the main villain in the 2013 movie Iron Man 3. Played by French actress Stephanie Szostak, this version of Brandt was a female soldier that lost her left arm during The War in Afghanistan. She was then part of the EXTREMIS project, regaining her arm and gaining fire-based powers.
Howard The Duck:
Throughout this article, you may have noticed the frequent mentions of a place called The Nexus of All Realities. The Nexus, as it turns out, is a gateway to multiple dimensions located in the Florida Everglades and Man-Thing is made to be its guardian. The basis of most Man-Thing stories has many different creatures (both alien and human) being sucked into The Nexus and placed into the Everglades where they deal with Man-Thing. The most famous example of this is Howard the Duck, who debuted in Adventure Into Fear #19 in 1973. Howard is a wise-cracking, cigar-smoking anthropomorphic duck who hails from the planet Duckworld and looks like a surly version of Donald Duck. Howard served as a secondary character in many Man-Thing stories. Like John Constantine, Howard received his own solo series HOWARD THE DUCK in 1976. Written by the character’s co-creator Steve Gerber, the comic’s satirical slant made many fans. One such fan was George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Lucas found the series to be “very funny” and praising its elements of film noir and absurdism”( Huyck, Katz, ‘ A Look Back at Howard The Duck’, 2009).
Lucas’ interest in the character led to the infamous 1986 cult movie Howard The Duck. The movie was a critical and commercial bomb and is often considered one of the worst films ever made. NOTE: Despite its failure, Howard The Duck is still an important part of Marvel film history because it was the first ever theatrically released feature film based on a Marvel Comics character.
Howard, however, has been given a second chance in The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character made a cameo in the post credits scene of 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy voiced by Robot Chicken creator Seth Green. The Seth Green version has returned for other cameos in 2017’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
SWAMP THING (1982)
The first film based on Swamp Thing was released on February 19, 1982. Filmed completely in Charleston, South Carolina, the film was written and directed by the late horror legend Wes Craven. Having made a splash in the horror genre with the 1972’s The Last House On The Left and 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, this film “differs in many respects from Craven’s usual work, in that Craven’s intent was to show the major Hollywood studios that he could handle action, stunts and major stars” (Muir,J.K.(1998) Wes Craven: The Art of Horror).
With a budget of around 3 million dollars, it was produced by Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan (who have been the executive producers of all the modern projects featuring Batman) and was brought in on-budget (a point of pride for Craven). The film follows government worker Alice Cable as she arrives at her new assignment: a top-secret bioengineering project in the swamps.
Part of the reason Alice arrives is relocate Dr. Linda Holland and Alec Holland. In this film, Alec and Linda are portrayed as brother and sister, not husband and wife. The Hollands are also given the background as being the children of a Nobel Prize winning scientist. The relocation is due to a rumor about an evil paramilitary leader named Arcane who wants to hijack their project.
In short order, Alice introduces herself to Alec who encourages her to admire the beauty of the swamps. The Hollands are working on a green glowing formula with explosive properties. Alec then shows Alice his prized breakthrough: a hybrid plant and animal cell that has never existed before. Alec’s intention is “develop a plant with an animal’s aggressive power of survival. A plant for the 21st century” Sometime later, Arcane and a group of paramilitary agents attack Alice and raided The Hollands’ laboratory. Arcane kills Linda and Alec spills the formula, setting him on fire. He runs outside and dives into the swamp to extinguish the flames and soon returns as a monster dubbed ‘Swamp Thing’ by Arcane. The rest of the movie consists chase scenes with Alice trying to escape and warn Washington of the events that have occurred.
While Swamp Thing is listed as the title character, the real hero of the movie is Alice Cable played by Adrienne Barbeau. Barbeau was already a veteran of the horror genre through her marriage to cult director John Carpenter, who put in movies like The Fog (1980) and Escape From New York (1981). Her character Alice Cable is a combination of Abby Arcane and Matt Cable. Part of her appeal for the movie was her status as a sex symbol due to her very large breasts. Swamp Thing in the movie is played by two men: Ray Wise as Alec Holland and the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing.
Durock, prior to this movie, was a 6’5 journeyman mainly known as a stuntman and character actor, who specialized in playing thugs in TV shows and movies like Any Which Way You Can and The Enforcer. Durock was initially hired as just for stunt work but the producers found that he was a decent actor. Durock explains ”I had no experience as an actor at all, other than playing on Rockford Files and a zillion other shows, but not as an ‘actor’ actor per se”(Harris, ‘A Chat with Dick Durock’, 2008).
NOTE: The original concept was to have actor Ray Wise in makeup for the closeups of Swamp Thing and use Durock for the wide shots. Swamp Thing would become Durock’s signature role and he would play the character for 2 feature films, a series of PSAs for Green peace and 72 episodes of the live action series. The costume in this film looks very much like a cheap green rubber suit but would get much better with time.
Ray Wise’s sensible performance as Dr. Alec Holland.
Louis Jourdan’s grandiose posturing as Arcane.
An excellent transformation sequence of Alec Holland into Swamp Thing achieved by great stunt work including an actor running full sprint while on fire.
A topless scene in which Alice Cable skinny dips in a pond while Swamp Thing watches on.
The end fight between Swamp Thing and Arcane, who mutates into a warthog looking monster after ingesting the Holland formula himself. The battle ends in Arcane’s death (or so it would seem).
The action and chase scenes are well-directed but the movie suffers greatly from a lack of budget.
THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989)
While not a massive success, the 1982 movie was successful through video rentals enough to warrant a sequel in 1989. Wes Craven, at this point, has become very successful with the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise and he was unavailable. The directing duties went over to Jim Wynorski, whose resume was entirely B-movies like Chopping Mall and Big Bad Mama 2. In fact, the only returning crew from the first movie are the two lead actors: Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and Louis Jourdan as Arcane.
The change in direction is evident as while the first movie played it straight, this movie is made for laughs and cheap scares. This movie shows Swamp Thing protecting the denizens n the swamps from the evil mutant creations of Dr. Arcane. Adding to the mix is Abby Arcane, who is played by 80s sex symbol Heather Locklear. Here, she was shown as a ditzy blonde California girl and she is Arcane’s stepdaughter, not his niece like in the comics.
Abby’s plot in the movie consists of her trying to investigate the mysterious death of her mother but she spends most of the movie playing the damsel in distress and making lame one-liners. The film marks the first reprisal of Dick Durock as Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing doesn’t really have much to do in this movie except rescue Abby (multiple times) and fight mutant monsters. Arcane returns as well, despite having been killed at the end of the first movie. Some brief dialogue explains that Arcane was found by his science staff, restored to human form and resurrected to life.
Arcane is joined by Dr. Lana Zurrell played by Superman alum Sarah Douglas. The film overall is simply late-night movie fare and not meant to be taken seriously. One reviewer called the movie “a cross between ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ with a light spritz of ‘Hairspray’ “.
–The opening title sequence set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Born On the Bayou. It serves as a retrospective of the Swamp Thing comics with different panels from different artists.
-The make-up effects used for the Un-Men, Arcane’s army of monsters creating by combining genes from various swamp animals and human beings. They include a leech monster and a cockroach/human hybrid.
-Swamp Thing’s many monster fights. Dick Durock had some of the best working punches in all of show business.
-The Swamp Thing costume (created by Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz) is far superior to the first film. It is much more detailed, given a darker, earthier shade of green and gives the character more muscle mass.
SWAMP THING (1990)
“The swamp is my world. It is who I am; it is what I am. I was once a man. I know the evil men do. Do not bring your evil here, I warn you. Beware the wrath of Swamp Thing”-Swamp Thing opening narration.
This was the opening narration for the live action series that ran on USA Network for 1990 to 1993. Swamp Thing was the first project to filmed entirely in the then brand-new Universal Studios Florida backlot ( the show was a big tourist attraction for years). Dick Durock returned as the title character wearing a modified version of Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz’s latex suit created for The Return of Swamp Thing His voice was also electronically altered into a basso profundo that sounded like he had fluid in lungs. Durock himself said the makeup was much easier on the show than in the films:
“In the first feature it took close to four hours. In the second feature it took close to two hours. By the time we did the series, which ironically was by far the best makeup and costume, we had it down to about 45 minutes”(Harris, ‘A Chat with Dick Durock’, 2008).
The work schedule was not as forgiving. Durock stated he worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for 50 straight episodes while wearing an 80-pound costume. His exact schedule was as follows: “two shows a week, three days each show, ten pages of dialogue a day. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and at the end of the day they hand you another thirty pages” (Harris, ‘A Chat with Dick Durock’, 2008).
The show had a much darker tone than the movies. The first season established that Swamp Thing has been around for some time and is constantly dealing with Arcade and his machinations. During that time, Swamp Thing becomes acquainted with the Kipp family, consisting of recent divorcee Tressa and her young son Jim. Jim does not tell his mother of Swamp Thing’s presence and he acts as a silent protector of the family. This season ends quite darkly as Arcane has Jim kidnapped and sent to a South American child smuggling ring, never to be seen again!!
The development came as a shock to star Dick Durock:
“The way they wrote him out was kind of a shock to me and everybody else except for I suppose the writers… That’s a hell of a way to meet your demise!” (Harris, ‘A Chat with Dick Durock’, 2008). NOTE: During the third season, Jim was said to have been found by his mother and sent far away to live with his father.)
The second season gives Swamp Thing a new friend in Jim’s older stepbrother Will Kipp, who stays on the show for the remainder of its run. From season 2 onward, the show becomes an anthology series with different characters coming into the swamp with problems of a sci-fi or supernatural nature. They encounter or get guidance from Swamp Thing and said problem is solved. Swamp Thing then gives the lesson of the day while descending into the swamp depths. The only real story arc revolves around Swamp Thing trying various ways to become Dr Alec Holland again.
MAN-THING: THE NATURE OF FEAR (2005):
Around the early 2000s, Marvel’s early superhero boom was at its infancy. Movies like x-Men, Spider-Man and Blade had gotten major box office and public interest. However, there were also a few duds along the way like Ang Lee’s Hulk and Daredevil. This film would fall into the latter category. Lionsgate and Artisan Entertainment released Man-Thing as a direct-to-TV movie on the Sci Fi Channel. Set in a town called Bywater, an oil tycoon named Fred Schist buys some ancient tribal land known as Dark Waters for development.
Dark Waters is said to contain a mysterious swamp spirit that protects those lands by severe means. Since then, 47 people have gone missing, some of which were found murdered with plants growing from inside their bodies including the town’s previous sheriff. Locals maintain the people were murdered by a plant-like monster. The following day, young replacement sheriff Kyle Williams reaches town to investigates the murders while trying to find an explanation for the missing people. Many believe that a missing shaman and Seminole chieftain named Ted Sallis is responsible, seeing as how he was the one Schist got the lands from and the first to disappear.
Other than being set in the swamps, the movie veers heavily from the source material.
• The setting is changed from the Florida Everglades to Louisiana.
• The movie is played as a flat-out horror movie with many grisly murders.
• Man-Thing’s powers change from burning those who “know fear” to being able to manipulate the swamp’s vegetation (like Swamp Thing).
• Man-Thing is made out to be the main villain of the movie. It is now a blood thirsty spirit of vengeance.
• The Nexus of All Realities remains but as a spiritual resting place, not an access point for dimension travel.
• Ted Sallis is portrayed as a Native American shaman instead of a scientist.
The movie was negatively received and a ratings failure. The cast consisted of bad Australian actors posing as Americans. The only actor of note would be Rachael Taylor, who has portrayed Trish Walker on Netflix’s Jessica Jones.
Other than the 2005 movie, Man-Thing has yet to be made the lead character of any other projects. The character has made a few appearances in animated projects like The Super Hero Squad Show, Ultimate Spider-Man and Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy. Man-Thing is usually shown as a member of an all-monster version of The Howling Commandos. The lineup of which is made of the other Marvel monster characters such as Werewolf By Night and The Monster of Frankenstein.
Man-Thing also gotten many mentions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During the first season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Man-Thing is said to be an individual of interest for SHIELD and was apparently imprisoned in a SHIELD prison called The Fridge. Man-Thing is said to have escaped during the Hydra Uprising.
Man-Thing also has had a few clear nods in the MCU film franchise:
• IRON MAN 3: the left side of Ellen Brandt’s face is severely scarred. The origin of the scar is never explained in the film, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki confirms that the scar on her left cheek is a reference to the scar Man-Thing created by his acid.
• THOR: THE DARK WORLD: The Nexus of All Realities is seen among Dr. Erik Selvig’s notes about other dimensions.
• THOR: RAGNAROK: It is shown that at one point, Man-Thing made his way to the planet Sakaar and, like The Hulk, became a gladiator in The Grandmaster’s Contest of Champions. The Man-Thing is eventually crowned Champion and his face is immortalized on the Grandmaster’s palace.
As this article is been completed, the SWAMP THING series has subsequently been cancelled before its first season has completely aired. The series will still air but there is no confirmed second season. Despite this news, I hope this article has sparked an urge to check out both amazing characters. The lesson to be learned from these legends: EVILDOERS, BEWARE THE SWAMPS! Until next time!!
Roy Thomas interview, Alter Ego #81 (October 2008), p. 20
Alan Moore, (1984) ‘The Anatomy Lesson, The Saga Of Swamp Thing # 21
Christensen, William A. “The Unexplored Medium (Wizard Magazine November 1993)”. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
Huyck, Willard; Katz, Gloria (2009). “A Look Back at Howard the Duck”. Howard the Duck (DVD (extra)). Universal Home Video.
Muir, John Kenneth (1998). “Swamp Thing (1982)” in Wes Craven: The Art of Horror. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0576-7, p. 95.
Harris, Will A Chat with Dick Durock Bullz-Eye.com (February 20, 2008). Retrieved on 6-27-09.