Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October is Spookey Month: Anton Arcane's Un-Men enjoy the refreshing taste of 7 Up, the Uncola

And in the interest of complete disclosure, I must admit I do, as well.  And why not?  7 Up is crisply delicious.  When one tires of those everyday, commonplace colas, it's pleasing to do what the Un-Men do and indulge one's palate with 7 Up, the Uncola, which isn't made using cola nuts.  7 Up is made using un-cola nuts:  lemons and limes.  So in this, the Un-Men and I are completely in agreement.  In all other things, however...

What kind of man deliberately creates monstrosities?  When Dr. Frankenstein attempted to glean the secrets of life, he meant to produce beauty but failed.  Anton Arcane, on the other hand, perversely sets out to make hideous things he then cruelly dubs the "Un-Men."  It's both a parody of the creation story-- God made perfection in 6 days, then rested-- and a misuse of science to tickle the fancy of an egotistical degenerate who wants to achieve immortality.  To this end, Arcane sends the Un-Men to the Louisiana bayou country to capture Alec Holland, who has recently become the Swamp Thing.

Marvelous!  Absolutely marvelous!  Just try making something like that out of a cola nut!  As we see in these exquisitely rendered Bernie Wrightson pages from "The Man Who Wanted Forever" in Swamp Thing #2 (January 1973), they succeed, at least temporarily.  But even this small achievement leaves the Un-Men lost in a world that never desired them.  In some ways, though, they are our children.  The unwanted, the living embodiment of our worst creative impulses, our vanity in thinking we might better nature itself, our ambivalent response to mortality.  In their nakedness, they are as newborns.  In their cruelty, they reflect their treatment at the hands of their twisted creator, as we do with our own petty crimes and misdemeanors.  Neither men nor women, they could only in the end become monsters.

Holland himself, his soul encased in plant matter and mud, provides a further tragic note.  This is before Alan Moore re-created Swamp Thing to suit his own needs-- the creature is not a transformed human, but rather a consciousness mistaken in its belief in that identity; it's a brilliant bit of revisionist storytelling that freed Swamp Thing from his ongoing quest to regain humanity and allowed Moore to take the tales along a more epic path.  But for our purposes-- and those of writer Len Wein-- this is definitely the soul of poor Holland trapped within a hulking, plant-based body, isolated not only from the humanity he desperately hopes to reclaim but also human society.  Lost in the night world of his new life, Holland now has more in common with the Un-Men than he does with Matt Cable, the human government agent searching for Swamp Thing just a few short miles away geographically, but a universe apart existentially.  Holland is also an un-man.

Now, let's all share the delicious taste of 7 Up.  The Uncola.  Why, it's even prettier than a cola.  Nuttier than a cola, actually!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!

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